“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
— President Obama, August, 2012.
“I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.”
— President Obama, September, 2013
“I’m lost in all of this.
All I know, truly, deeply know is that we have to examine our own roles in it. Maybe that’s where I’m focused because it’s what I can think to DO right now and I feel the desperate need to DO something other than – along with – mourning. So that’s where I start.”
— From Untitled, June, 2013, following the murder of Alex Spourdalakis
There’s been a lot of talk in the news these past few weeks about the ‘red line’ as it relates to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. About who set it, where it lies, who should be responsible for enforcing it. For the purposes of this post, the answers don’t matter nearly as much as the questions do.
Where, as a community of people who are either on the autism spectrum or who care deeply for and about people who are, is OUR red line?
Who sets it? Where does it lie? And who is responsible for enforcing it?
Over the years, I have read blog posts by parents of autistic children that have made me profoundly uncomfortable. Posts that have made me question the judgement of people whom I considered friends. Posts that I viscerally felt described borderline abuse, but which elicited attention and praise for the writer’s “honesty” in baring their (and their children’s) stories no matter how “ugly” those stories might have been. Comments which were enough to make me question my conviction.
I have read posts by parents that made me cringe for their children. Posts that have made me say, “Well, clearly we have a different ideology, so I’ll move on and find a place where I am more comfortable.”
I have read and reacted to posts that have ultimately unraveled friendships.
So where is the red line?
When a mother tells the world in a post that she has, within days of writing said post, contemplated suicide?
When a parent films a child in a compromising position and posts it on the Internet, where it will live far past that child’s youth?
When the sole purpose of sharing the film was to prove how “violent” that child is capable of being?
When a father writes about administering a bleach enema to his autistic child?
When a mother writes about physically restraining and loudly berating her daughter with Asperger’s – in public – for acting … well … autistic, in public?
When a parent says, “I just don’t have the energy to do this anymore?”
When a caregiver photographs her own bruises – and posts them online – for no other reason than to show the Internet audience what her minor child has done to her?
It doesn’t take much to find every one of these online.
I would argue that every single one of them is a red flag.
But are they red lines?
How do we discern the difference between venting and crying out for help?
Where is OUR red line?
Where do we set it?
Where do we move from something making us uncomfortable enough to click away to it making us uncomfortable enough to say something to the person posting it?
Where is our responsibility to each other and, far more saliently, TO EACH OTHER’S CHILDREN to keep them safe, even if it’s, God forbid, from us?
Where do we draw the line?
Where do we allow ourselves to say, “This isn’t okay?”
Another mother killed her two children yesterday. Her son was autistic. Her daughter was not.
Another mother KILLED her children.
How do we make this stop happening?
How do we keep our kids safe?
Because by God, every human being deserves to be safe.
I don’t know how to keep processing these atrocities.
We shouldn’t have to.
HOW DO WE KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE?
Where is OUR red line?
Amended to add:
There is a great discussion around this post on Diary’s Facebook page, clarifying the post itself, making the point (emphatically, I hope) that I wholeheartedly believe that sharing our stories – thorns and all – is vital on myriad levels. Please see yesterday’s post for more on that, or check out Thoughtful, not Scrubbed for even more.
For me, this is about figuring out the difference between sharing / venting and crying out for help. Between telling our stories / honoring our family’s truth and disrespecting / abusing our children. I don’t know where the line is as a community. I don’t know where it is for each individual. I can only speak to where it is for me.
But searching for the line doesn’t preclude having empathy for those struggling to find their own. I DO draw the line at acts of violence. Period. As I said on Facebook in a conversation about empathy for parents who commit these atrocities …
“I think the distinction in understanding lies in the act itself. Yes, we can understand the stress that leads a parent to break. Yes, we can understand mental illness. But I can’t, under any circumstances whatsoever, “understand” reaching the point of harming my child. That’s where my empathy ends. Before that? leading to it? That to me is very, very different.
But when we talk about it all at the same time, it begins to at least appear that we are explaining away the murder of a child because of the challenges in raising him or her and that’s not okay. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”
I hope you’ll join us on Facebook. I think it’s an important conversation to continue.
Thanks to all who have so respectfully shared their thoughts.
If you ever find yourself entertaining thoughts of hurting yourself or your child, or if you feel that you are in danger from a caretaker and are able to communicate that to others, please, I’m begging, tell someone.
Childhelp® – 800.4.A.CHILD (800.422.4453)
National Parent Helpline® – 855.4APARENT (855.427.2736) (available 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., PST, weekdays)
US Dept of Health and Human Services Child Welfare hotlines by state (includes websites)