People are looking for a group to be scared of.
Ladies, gentlemen, other august personages, I am the monster you are afraid of. For my entire life I have been. The reasoning changes, but I always come down on the wrong side of the line. I am always who the media, the talking heads, the papers, now the blogs, who the people you listen to tell me to fear.
And this makes being me terrifying. It makes being me unsafe.
First, it was being an abused child
from what they call a broken home. Abused children commit all sorts of violence, you see. We are dangerous and unpredictable because we grew up with violence and that is all we know. We are ticking time bombs, we have no empathy, our dysfunctional unstable home lives have made us fragile at best, cold blooded killers at worst.
So isolate us. Keep your children away from us. Warn every one that we are dangerous because of what our families are like. Make sure that everyone knows that we-not our abusers, but we-are the scariest thing on the block.
Do you remember all the news reports and such emphasizing the terribility of home lives of serial killers and mass murderers during these time periods? I do. I do in great detail-because I remember relating. And I remember staying up nights horrified that they were a glimpse into the only future open to me. I was 9 years old and scared shitless that my only career option was as a mass killer-because the media had everyone convinced that’s what happens to children with childhoods like mine.
And because the other adults around me made it very clear that I was the scariest thing on the block.
I was isolated. I was alone.
Then that went out of vogue.
For about 10 minutes I was safe.
Then another terrible tragedy happened, and they found a new scapegoat, and I was in an even more precarious position than before: the new problem was children and teens who were bullied.
I have been able to write about my parents. I have not been able to write about the bullying I experienced without being too triggered to function. It was that bad. Again, I was dangerous.
Again, people were telling their nice, ‘normal’ children to stay away from the bullied children. Isolating us-making us further targets. And making us more alone. Warning everyone that we were dangerous, the scariest thing on the block again-this time I was scary not just because of my family, but because I got locked into lockers by my peers. We are dangerous and unpredictable because we didn’t have the skills and characteristics to not be at the bottom of the pecking order of middle school.
So obviously the answer was to isolate us more lest we ‘snap’, to fear us and let bullies to their thing, rather than to do anything about bullying. We are damaged, terrifying, violent, dangerous, irredeemable. We are the middle school monsters of your nightmares.
Again, I was the middle school monsters of my own nightmares, too. Literal nightmares, I’m talking. Still everything around me was telling me that because of things outside my control I was destined to go out in a blaze of violence and take as many people as I could with me. That was the career path being offered to me. Never mind that I knew (and still know) exactly nothing about weapons more volatile than bows and arrows, never mind that I am reluctant to physically defend myself, much less be the aggressor, this is what life had to offer me.
Because I was a target, because I was different, I was still what everyone feared. Everyone was telling you to fear me. No one even thought about the bullied kids seeing these news reports. They just knew about you normal folks, and that you needed to be safe from people like me. They couldn’t tell you a single thing about the mass killers except that they were in this one category-so, literally, they told you a single thing-and that single thing was what made them dangerous.
It made me dangerous.
Isolate me. Make me alone. Fear me. Abuse me some more. Make me more dangerous. It doesn’t matter, I am unsafe no matter what you do. The news-all the news-says so.
And now. Now I am 30 years old.
I am still literally losing sleep, wondering if or when that transformation is supposed to happen. I know logically it will not happen. I know I have no interest in hurting anyone. I know the statistics on who actually commits this sort of violence. I know my history is not going to magically impart a knowledge of guns or explosives or a desire to hurt a large number of people. My anger and hurt do not manifest that way, they never have, and that is not going to change.
But now autism is the scapegoat du jour. Now every time someone does something violent, they are speculated to be autistic. And, just as some killers who were speculated to have crappy home lives actually did, just as the Columbine killers actually were bullied, there is a possibility that there will be a mass shooter who is Autistic.
But that does not make all of us dangerous. The immediate speculation makes my blood run cold.
It brings bile to my throat and a panic to my chest.
Have we learned nothing? Have the bullied children and abused children and medicated children and other scapegoats who have done no violence learned nothing? Passing the hot potato is a relief, but it is wrong.
Passing the blame down to another group without power hurts people.
They will be isolated. They will be alone. They will be hurt.
I do not want another child, a single other child, to be hurt by their peers for being ‘dangerous’. I do not want a single other child to be thought a ‘ticking timebomb’ by the adults in their life. They treat you with fear and they treat you with loathing when they are afraid of you.
I do not want another kid loathed because the media decided to pin the blame on their brain. I do not want another child being isolated, gossip about why to steer clear spread through whispers and subtle finger pointing.
I do not want another child to have nightmares like I did-like I still do-of being some sort of sleeper agent who has no other career path because of self fulfilling prophesies. I cannot even explain what this fear is like, and the fewer people who understand it, the better.
This has got to stop.
It’s to late to stop for my sake. The damage was done by the time we got to “bullied kids are dangerous”. But it is not too late to stop for the sake of today’s autistic children.
Author’s comment: The only thing we need to fear is how we choose to look at the world around us. Not one of us was or is perfect, and we never will be. There is no such thing that exists beyond an illusory ideal. We need to reconsider our knee-jerk reactions.