Sometimes in life, extreme circumstances make it possible to identify with a person with whom doing so would typically be difficult to imagine. It goes to show that we have more in common with those who hold differing points of view than we probably realize. Today, as a progressive Democrat, I stand with conservative Republican Liz Cheney and I am very proud to do so.

We all have reasons for believing what we do. How we were raised, the people who surround us and our life experiences play into it. The inevitable result is a diversity of conflicting viewpoints. And yet, in spite of the hyper-partisanship and deep divisions exhibited in our political discourse, I can see in Congresswoman Cheney values that I hold, which I know many others hold and which render us patriotic Americans.

Truth over lies. Honesty over deception. The rule of law over lawlessness. Reality over conspiracy theory. Being who you are no matter what the consequences vs. being less than who you are in order to conform with those with whom you associate regardless of what they believe. These values supersede political ideological differences and speak to a higher purpose, one of morality, of integrity, of democracy and of basic human decency. Not only do I stand with Representative Cheney because of these shared values, I champion her conduct because it comes from a place of inner strength, of resolve and above all, courage. Commonality alongside sharp partisan disparity. Looking beyond the political divide that tries to come between us and acknowledging what really matters, and what can bring us together.

Much has been said about the GOP's "one big tent in which everyone is invited". Plenty has been said about their objections to "cancel culture". And yet, Congresswoman Cheney has been the target of multiple attacks, simply for calling it the way she sees it, culminating in her removal from her now-former leadership position. So much for the big tent that invites you in, and for any willingness to agree to disagree, an attribute I would hope to see more of in our elected officials.

But what irks me the most, because it is such a sore subject among those of us on the autism spectrum, is all of the bullying. Too much of it, and remarkably, within the Republican Party's own ranks. Conversely, what brings me solace and cools my anger is to see Representative Cheney stand on principal, act with decency and not waver, knowing what was at stake the whole time. That's rising above bullying at its finest, even though it led to expulsion from her House Republican Conference chairmanship.

I can certainly identify, having been bullied several times myself, and risen above it every time. One such bullying incident comes to mind. During my sophomore year of high school, I spent spring break at an athletic academy in order to up my game ahead of the upcoming tennis season. As with Cheney, I was dealing with a bunch of people, my roommates in fact, who were arrogant enough to believe that they were in the right and I was in the wrong. In my case, they equated being superior with the assumption that they were better at tennis than I was. They based this assumption on their observations of my quirky, idiosyncratic mannerisms, often associated with autism, and on how much I struggled to catch all of the tennis balls they were swiftly throwing at me, one immediately after the other. Viewing themselves as being in the right and me as being something less, they felt entitled to exert power over me, just as the House Republicans who subscribe to "the big lie" probably felt when they forced Cheney out of her party leadership position.

When I was talking on the phone with my mother about what was going on at the athletic camp, she asked me if I wanted to leave halfway through because of how I was being treated, to which I emphatically replied "no." What was I going to do, let the bullies force me out when my singular objective was to take to the tennis court and bring my skills up to speed so that I could be at my best for my high school team? No, that doesn't fly. So I pushed through, resolute, and focused on my goal. Likewise, Liz Cheney has hardly been forced off her truth-telling mission in spite of all of the animus that continues to be leveled against her and no longer being House Republican Conference chairwoman. In fact, she continues to feel emboldened and arguably has only just gotten started.

Never let the bully win, ever! Understand that many who bully others are in need of help, perhaps because they were once bullied and now see a need to "even the score" but are going about it the wrong way. Take a stand for what you believe in but do so while listening to, not viciously attacking, other voices and perspectives. Accept, love and be who you are, at all costs. If you allow yourself to become less than who you truly are, then the world misses out on the real you!

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. 

Published on May 14, 2021