Consider these two different quotes from two different Presidents with two different personalities:
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
— President Donald Trump
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff – you should get over that quickly. The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.”
— Former President Barack Obama
Beneath the obvious veneers, they’re saying the same thing. I’ll explain why.
As I reflect on The Life Autistic, it’s made me all the more aware that people are nuanced.
Nuance is a difficult thing: it’s hard to take the sum of a person’s attributes, characteristics, flaws, and strengths and find a way to balance them into a holistic sum.
Sadly, because it’s difficult — people take shortcuts. You’re either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ and when it comes to brushstrokes, people would rather paint broadly, sloppily. And that kind of lazy, maladroit painting is why we’re getting into such emotionally charged furors these days. Without getting into the zeitgeist, it’s become way more dangerous and consequential to put people on pedestals or in the trashcan and cast the nuances aside.
Ignoring this nuance is one of the most difficult things autistic people face.
We’re can be very logical, black & white, binary, whatever, but we’re also that way with inputs too. It’s unfair for us to be expected to deem (most) people as A/B, good/bad — and it’s jarring when we see others do the same, as if they’re ignoring or overriding their respective faults, strengths, and more.
That’s my first plea: it’s not that we disagree with you about people judgments just to be contentious. If you’re too positive, you’re missing negatives. If you’re too critical, you’re likely ignoring strengths. We know that there’s more to people.
Because we often suffer from the same kinds of broad brushstrokes from others.
Just because we can be socially awkward doesn’t mean we’re always so.
Just because we’re sometimes incredibly cold toward some people and circumstances doesn’t mean we’re heartless.
Just because we don’t often pick up on unstated hints doesn’t mean we’re dense.
Just because we’re good at some tasks some of the time doesn’t even mean we’re always good at the same all of the time — function is a fluid thing!
It’s easy to say that autistic people are robotic, struggle with social situations, tune people out, don’t understand idioms, or can’t determine boundaries.
But that’s missing the nuance: where many of us are incredibly human, socially adept, and idiomatically proficient.
So please, don’t insist we paint with one of two colors.
And in kind, don’t reach out for one brush and one color for us either.