We had our U.S. Presidential election this week. I’m sure there’s a soul somewhere on the planet that doesn’t know about it — and if so, he or she is blissfully unaware — but it’s unlikely that person will read this blog.
I’ve spent the last few days internally processing the election results and observing the words and behaviors of my fellow citizens. I both understand and respect the desire for massive change. It is apparent that our political system needs refinement. But it’s also become apparent that we have more work to do to be loving humans. And I admittedly have concerns about what is next for us, both in this country and worldwide.
I can’t imagine that it’s going to be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I care deeply about what happens for and to those who have disabilities or are minorities of any kind. I care because they need our help and deserve our understanding. And if I’ve got a website about kindness and compassion and love, and am raising someone with a disability, it’s probably a good guess that I’m swinging to the side of “let’s give them a bit more” when it comes to services and aid.
I don’t believe in lack. I don’t believe that by protecting what I have, I get more. I actually believe that by opening my heart and giving to others in whatever manner feels right, I get exactly what I need in the end and I feel better about myself in the process. I also believe that what I put out comes back to me (energy energy energy – I’ll circle back to this in a sec). Some call it karma. Some call it the law of attraction. When I put out good into this world, I am further blessed by its return to me.
This doesn’t mean that I am fool-hearty, that I write a blank check, or that I don’t believe in holding people accountable for the wise and honest use of our tax dollars, but it does mean that I believe that there is abundance enough to share. Oh, I can hear the cries of “I’ve worked so hard for what I have. Why should I have to help someone who doesn’t work as hard?” I get it. I’ve worked hard too, and I’m fortunate to be in a good place in my life. But I choose not to spend my free time judging the level of work of everyone else, and I choose to look for the best nature of others. I also believe that if I have to pay a little more for someone to get the same quality education I had, have access to a doctor for a legitimate medical need, or obtain services that will help them accommodate their disabled child, then I’ll do it!
Last, we all accept something from our collective good fortune as a country. You might be on the receiving end of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, for example. My family happens to be on the receiving end of autism support services. Through a combination of community services, our son’s education services, and medical insurance, we’ve been able to provide for his support needs. There are many others who require help from experts, just as Kane has, and there are many others who have even more significant needs than he does.
All of this leads to policy.
I want policies that help to provide the services that Kane needs and laws that protect him from discrimination. I need federal and state legislation to help provide this. One of the candidates in this election had a comprehensive disabilities policy, and specifically a strong autism policy. One of the candidates in this election did not have a disabilities policy and was caught on video mocking a disabled journalist.
These are enormous distinctions, made even bigger by the stories that are rolling in on the news and social media after this election that range from bullying in schools to harassment in streets. I believe that, based on the permissive views presented during this election, some people feel emboldened to act out on similar persuasions that they might have suppressed until now.
The fact that bullying exists at all is unacceptable. It both breaks my heart and hits a personal chord, because those with disabilities, minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone who is perceived as different than the majority are at an increased risk of being victims of bullying.
Regarding children with disabilities, Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center cites the following statistics:
- “Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.
- Researchers discovered that students with disabilities were more worried about school safety and being injured or harassed by other peers compared to students without a disability.
- The National Autistic Society reports that 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.
- When reporting bullying youth in special education were told not to tattle almost twice as often as youth not in special education.”
All of this leaves me feeling uncertain about what’s to come. Without a comprehensive disabilities policy, will the same supports be there in the future for us or others like us? Without an uncompromising willingness to care for the most vulnerable among us, how will they remain safe? Without compassion for those who are different, how can we mend as humans?
The morning after the election, Kane asked me why I was upset. I can’t tell you all of the details of what we talked about, but I shared with him how I felt while unsuccessfully trying to hold back my tears. I told him that the reasons people vote certain ways are complicated. I told him that for me it was an easy choice because of the policies I care deeply about. He asked me if I didn’t like the person who won, and I told him this:
“I don’t know him personally, but I don’t like his behavior. It’s unacceptable to say mean things about people just because they are different than us. In our family, we believe in love and kindness, and we believe in standing up for others.”
One more thing…
The energy around the election has been thick, and rightly so. People care deeply. And when people care deeply about anything, they tend to become impassioned by it, which means that they put their energy to it, be it positive or negative.
Energy itself is an interesting study. It permeates our surroundings in both ways we can see and in ways we can’t, in proven scientific methods and in mystical ways that we can’t quite explain. But there’s no denying that it can be felt.
There’s also no denying that, in this election, we have experienced a strong collective energy. It reminds me of the birth of a natural phenomenon, like a hurricane or a tornado or a tsunami. It starts small, and if all the right elements are there, it grows to become a powerful force. There are those who feel empowered by this energy and those who feel emboldened by it. And although passion is an important element of change, it also creates a charged force that, like all energy, has to go somewhere.
I’m not telling you what to do as part of this collective force. We are all part of it to some degree, because we’re all on this earth together as humans. I am, however, asking that you be aware of it. Be aware of the energy to which you’re drawn, the energy of others you take on, and the energy that you expend in thought and action.
Dissect it and explore it.
And then disconnect from it enough to get back to a peaceful center of being. Some do that through quiet, some through art, some through writing, some through music, some through nature, some through meditation, some through prayer, some through laughter, some through gratitude practices.
Whatever gets you to a place of peace, do it. So that you are reminded of your own soul connection and, in turn, your connection to the other humans walking this earth with you. Then, and only then, can you do your part to be an agent of change, using your personal energy for the collective good.
My hope today is that the passion each of you feels is transformed into something productive, inclusive, loving, and lasting for this world.