Remote learning, as minimal as it is for special ed, has filled A with a disgust at how easy it is to blur the lines between work and play. He is having a classic case of fascination-revulsion about it. One of the issues is that it is all about work, and brings with it none of the sensory assault and absorption of being At School.
If, he seems to be pondering, he has to work, why is he not also able to do his other activities? Multiple times a day, he picks up his iPad and uses it to say, “What about aftercare?” (He means the after school center he loves so much).
What about it indeed. What about all the aftercare we are going to need as a society? How do we come back from the plague of (fundamentalist) church and state becoming so enmeshed that human rights are selectively applied, yet scientific data is deemed biased? How will we care for the planet after we have been so horrible to it that it has to infect us to get us to fucking listen? Where can we contain the magnitude of the almost nonsensical body counts? The trauma counseling so many will need and perhaps not be able to access? The schisms in our society that have made the pandemic experience so much harsher for the oppressed, and which may deepen? The in-home violence that is raging unchecked?
How will we heal our collective and personal wounds? How will we breathe again?
As daunting as it is has been to explain the realities repeatedly to A, I seem to need to hear the tinny voice of his iPad asking WHAT ABOUT AFTERCARE. I need it because his inability to process how the world has betrayed itself is right, and sensible, and grounded in sweetness and dogged innocence. I have gone from wishing he would stop asking, to listening for it.
I have been counting the Omer on Zoom with my wonderful Jewish friends, and the theme of each day (today’s is Chesed of Netzach, or love of endurance) has helped me reflect on how we can teach ourselves to hold more than one thought at once. This is how we build community–by welcoming the thoughtful clash of ideas, and learning to trust that we will survive the challenges of conflict. It is also true that we contain those contradictions within ourselves, so the light and the shadows within us can surrender the sense of painful internal division, if we are willing to let them both speak to us.
In turn, I cannot help reflecting on how it is now time for the figurative and literal monotheist that lives in the collective consciousness to listen to the other deities in our hearts. The guardians of the natural world, if viewed as the sacred feminine, need action and dominance to really stop for a while, so we can take time for the nurturing that we are conditioned to look upon as weakness. The earth is a pregnant mother, round in belly, and need do nothing but receive the gifts we love to pour into the lap of expectant life.
The fruit of my own womb is autism. And it is also going to need a lot of aftercare. I want and expect us to hold these two thoughts at once: that autism and a pandemic are a terrible pairing; AND that everyone is capable of rejecting the value system dissonance that led us to disability being such a strong marker for incurring social injustice.