I am praying, very intensely, that I will never again have to write about this subject. My autism spectrum profile renders me particularly sensitive to anything of a hostile or confrontational nature, and the events of January 6, 2021 are certainly no exception. Too many tears have been shed, some of which I am fighting to hold back as I write this piece, mostly for those who lost their lives and their families, over the exposure of gross inequities between how Black Lives Matter protesters and violent mobsters have been policed, and for our fragile democracy. More anger than I can justify has been raging inside of me, manifested by more than one instance of yelling at the TV and by a shorter than normal fuse too easily set off by less than provocative occurrences. Too much noise floods my head, largely due to my inability to resist watching the ongoing news coverage, to long, unavoidable discussions with friends about what transpired and to my heightened vulnerability to sensory overload, a common challenge among those of us who are autistic. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, I see hope! There can never be too much of that.
Because I was fortunate to have parents who chose to raise me as an optimist, I have to believe that some degree of positivity can be extracted from the Capitol Hill insurrection, in spite of the wounds that were inflicted upon the heart of American Democracy when it came under siege. It all depends upon how we choose to look at our day that will live in infamy. Is the glass half-full, half-empty or completely empty in this instance? Democracy has prevailed, though at too high a cost, and misinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist individuals with malevolent intentions remain very real threats. Nonetheless, I choose the "glass half-full" frame of mind. It allows me to effectively cope with all of the emotional fallout. Both the optimist and the realist in me would have it no other way. Where the glass is not completely full, it is not as if I am in denial of the darker realities.
I take solace in the fact that the insurrection failed to derail Congress's official certification of the Electoral College vote. I was comforted by Vice-President Pence's statement the evening of January 6 that violence will never win. Though some in Congress remain objectors to the true outcome of the November 2020 presidential election, most are not objecting, and their votes won the day. Some who had been objectors came around to supporting the Electoral College and the will of the people once Congress reconvened, repudiating what the mobsters had tried to accomplish. I am able to derive a measure of positivity from these outcomes even though it is easy to argue that the insurrection's more troubling outcomes outweigh those that are more favorable. I also feel a sense of hope that a golden opportunity awaits us as a nation, an opportunity to use this calamity as an incentive to pursue reforms in government and changes in the way we think about each other which would make our democracy more robust than it has ever been. A little too aspirational? Perhaps. Though this is the optimist in me, coming out in full force. It helps to keep me whole.
Bullying is a sore subject in the autism spectrum community because of how much of it we have unjustly had to sustain, me included. And yet, I feel compelled to bring it up by virtue of its direct relevance to the Capitol Hill insurrection. As I see it, this attempted coup is, at its core, a bullying incident carried out on a monumental scale, targeted at the American people and our democracy rather than at a vulnerable individual. Regardless of who or what is targeted, bullies and insurrectionists share a common purpose: the pursuit of power at the expense of others. And yet, just as one can grow his inner strength and learn to rise above bullying as a result of having been bullied and survived (this is discussed at length in my book A Long Walk Down a Winding Road), so, too can our country lift itself up, emerge stronger for having done so and at least begin to heal. Again, the optimist in me, deriving hope from despair, and enabling the coping process.
Nobody deserves to be bullied, and acts of violence are never permissible. Those who stormed the Capitol Building and those in positions of power who incited or enabled the insurrection need to be punished to the full extent of the law. Otherwise, the attacks on our democracy will continue. Accountability can be an effective deterrent in this regard. So, too can exposing the lies for what they are, telling the straight and honest truth about the outcome of the election to the American people and redirecting public discourse to the issues and challenges of the day which we must confront together if they are to be properly addressed. Easier said than done, but these are important endeavors, granted the compromised state of our union. The shining city upon a hill of which President Reagan spoke is wounded, but she is still very much there and can be healed. Keep that hope alive and use it as a coping mechanism. And may God bless, and help, the United States of America.
Sam Farmer wears many hats, among these father, husband, musician, computer consultant, and autism spectrum community contributor. Diagnosed later in life with Asperger’s Syndrome, he writes blogs and articles, records coaching videos, and presents at conferences, sharing stories, ideas, and insights as to how one can achieve greater happiness and success in life despite facing challenges and adversity that often interfere in these pursuits. To learn more, visit samfarmerauthor.com.
“A Long Walk Down a Winding Road: Small Steps, Challenges, & Triumphs Through an Autistic Lens” is available on Amazon and can be purchased at all major booksellers.