‘It Could Happen To Many Of Us’ is the title of an article at Ragged Edge about a guy diagnosed with bipolar, who wasn’t a terrorist, but got mistaken for one, and was shot and killed. I read it, and I’m once again aware that I’m one of the “many of us”. My repeated near-misses with law enforcement, all outside of such volatile settings as airplanes, have made me cautious about leaving the house on my own.
This past year, I decided that it was a pleasant, slightly-drizzling day, and that I would wait outside for my staff to come. I took my cane, rather than my wheelchair, because it was only a short distance. I didn’t take my keyboard because I didn’t want it to get wet. I sat down and enjoyed the day. Soon, though, people were walking up to me and asking me if I was okay. I nodded, and they went away. But then the police came. They also wanted to know what I was doing there. Fortunately, the second policeman to arrive knew me, and my staff drove up while they were still questioning me.
But this wasn’t the first time, or even the last time, that my appearance (autistic, ticcy, generally unusual) has aroused “concern” among good citizens.
In my many encounters with the police, I have sometimes been viewed as a potential threat, who needed to be locked up for the protection of other people (even though I was not hurting anyone). Other times, I have been viewed as a threat to my own safety (because I dared to leave the house looking like I look — should have known better, apparently), who needed to be locked up for my own protection. (Which is why I am unfortunately waiting for the above story to be used as an excuse for forced drugging rather than a re-evaluation of prejudices.)
I have not yet been viewed as a potential terrorist (except perhaps by Lenny Schafer). But given the descriptions of potential terrorists (who are to be shot in the head, apparently) that are being circulated, it would just take being in the wrong place at the wrong time, given that the descriptions would pick up many autistic people and people with other neurological oddities. Which is why I continue to never leave the house alone, despite being very fond of taking walks and exploring places, and why I dread air travel (in which, for an inspection on a recent flight, I was forcibly separated from the support staff who could explain my behavior to anyone) altogether.