“The Chasm of -isms: Hinduism and Autism”
I’ve been taking a big old break from blogging. Besides real life busyness, I am really not that into April for autism exposure.
Maybe it’s jaded of me to say, but families like mine are about autism 365 days a year. And the larger society is either accepting or it’s not. But we shouldn’t have to feel any obligation to keep talking about difficult things so that more people might be won over.
So yeah, this kind of exposure makes me grumpy. I respect the efforts of my fellow advocates, but at least for this year, am opting to stay away from the rhetoric.
We had a parent-teacher conference, where we also met A’s new physical therapist. The good special ed schools are able to avoid overburdening their employees, so that meaningful discussions can happen, and a mutually better understanding of our kids can be shaped out of those exchanges. Plus so many of the staff have their own personal connections to special needs (family members, outside ties to organizations, etc) that this stuff is not merely a paycheck to them. They are really living it, like we are.
Somehow, the conversation got weighty. We segued to talking about activities outside school, and how much of a challenge meaningful inclusion in cultural communities continues to be. I liked that no one in the room said the usual platitudes. They knew what a passion project our whole life and this endeavor is.
All day after that, I kept reflecting on thoughts about our community that have been percolating for a long while in my head. It has been like childbirth, to get to where gestation has finally produced a definable entity I can claim as my own. I’m going to say them in bullet point form for now because why not:
-It’s okay for families like mine to give up sometimes. The onus to practice consistent disability and LGBT inclusion seems to fall almost entirely on us, and that’s a path to exhaustion, and loss of faith in others.
-“There are many ways to be a practicing Hindu.” This loosey-goosey philosophy is ubiquitous, and it works until it doesn’t. For those of us not so deeply rooted in communal life, loosey-goosey means we are isolated, plain and simple. It’s common for well meaning people to disavow that a group think exists, but I can vouch from experience that it is there, and it functions very effectively.
-Inclusion is usually token. Pity and charity are not enough. They still center the abled, the straight, cisgendered, the high born, the patriarchy. So long as people believe that some are born to suffer because karma, this won’t change.
-We don’t have spiritual leaders who will mobilize on behalf of disenfranchised groups. They will speak about politics, what women should do and think and say, and so much more, but they rarely if ever give up privilege to make space for groups that tend to be devalued.
-People may not realize they are doing it, but they are okay with the rest of us creating separate enclaves so they don’t have to feel bad about how truly awful the mainstream environment is for us.
-If we create said enclaves, they will ask how they can be involved, and want to be in all the photos.
-We are mired in exclusionary practices. But the vapid Bollywood sheen of the past twenty years has allowed us to pretend otherwise.
-If the same effort that is harnessed to hunt down scriptural evidence to tell me I am wrong was applied to practicing non-fake inclusion and thus pleasantly countering our lived experience, we would be a better community.
None of the above cancels out how much I love and depend on my personal spiritual practice. But so long as my children have to lurk on the fringes of communal life, I will not be occupying a public space that they cannot share. In casual desi discourse, we fall back too easily on “that’s not what the Vedas/gurus/history teaches, so…”