A recent post I wrote got a lot of attention. I’d dashed it out quickly, before starting work, as part of another blogger’s link-up. It was a sensitive subject: calling out Ann Coulter’s use of the R-word, and no sooner had I published it than I was bracing myself for the backlash.
I should have taken longer than a couple of minutes to write that one. I should have made it even more clear that I don’t have a political agenda, but a personal one to do my best to ensure this is as accepting a world as I can make it for my children.
And I know how ridiculous that sounds, and that I will never be enough change how people think and speak and treat each other, but I also know that I have to try. I know that I’m not on my own. And I know that I’d do anything to prevent my children being called that term.
The number of views on that post kept creeping up, until it far exceeded anything else I wrote. While I was pleased that so many people were interested in learning about why the R-word is offensive to the special needs community, I thought how strange it is that the most read post about my children is about something that shouldn’t apply to them at all.
I got comments that day, but they were all of a consensus with me. I couldn’t help but wonder about the ways my piece had been shared, and what other people were thinking and saying about it, but nothing negative came my way.
Another autism site occasionally takes my posts and publishes them for a wider audience. A few days after publishing my post, they shared it too. Here, the comments became offensive: I was a “cry baby”, I should “grow up”, “it is just a word”. There were supportive comments too, but what really stuck in my head was the person who insisted that I was “using a blog dedicated to handicapped children to score points against a Conservative woman (I) don’t like.”
I made a conscious decision not to respond to any of the comments there, and asked the site to no longer use my posts. I understand that some welcome debate, and encourage opposing views with the aim of persuading them to their own way of thinking. In this case, no heed was being paid to what I’d written. Assumptions were made about me, and what I had to gain from writing, that had nothing to do with the actual words I’d written. There would be no changing minds here.
But that didn’t mean that I forgot about the accusations made against me. I was angry and hurt. I’m offended by a person using the R-word be they a friend or celebrity, politically left or right. Am I using my children? I’ve always written this blog with the intention of sharing it with them.
This is our journey. We laugh, we love, we grow, we make mistakes, we reflect, and we learn. If what I write helps other people on their journey, I’m happy for that- but there is no ulterior motive here. This is simply the way we encounter the world, and how the world encounters us.
And yet those words stayed with me. They held me hostage. They made me question what I’d done, and if I should any longer write publicly. It would be so easy to stop, I have so little time anyway.
Even when I forced myself to write, just so that I wasn’t allowing someone else to make that decision for me, it didn’t stop the little voice in my head from repeating those things over and over. Then I got a comment from a new reader:
I’ve begun following your blog and I find it so moving, amusing, and delightful that I decided you needed to know! It seemed fitting to share it under one of my favorite posts. This makes me think of “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the play on perspective made my eyes tear up a bit! Though I have no children of my own, your blog makes me feel like I can handle whatever comes my way with grace, compassion, and humor. Thanks
That comment made me question if I’d handled this situation in a way that was true of what she’d said. Not really. I’d allowed myself to feel all the weight of negativity without sensing any of the light. Ignoring all the support and community to focus on a person’s opinion that is far removed from us. Who not only doesn’t understand, but won’t try to.
And if I stopped writing for any reason other than it was the right time for me and my family, I wouldn’t be living life on my terms. I thought about what I would want my children to do if they were attacked in a similar way, and found my own example severely lacking.
When I think about how I want them to handle whatever comes their way, I want it to be with grace, compassion, and humour. Do I want this reader to be right about me, or a harsh critic?
And what if, what if one day somebody were to call Pudding the R-word? Would I want her to feel held up by the way we see her, or weighed down by one offensive word?
Thank you to the lady who wrote that comment just when I needed it. Thank you to each and every one of you who take the time to read, and particularly those who comment. I don’t always have time to respond to them these days, but I am going to make sure that I pay attention to what you say. That I really feel your words, and give those the weight that they deserve.
Maybe then I’ll handle things that come my way with the grace, compassion, and humour that we’re all capable of.