I’m still dealing with asthma problems and those are my top priority at the moment. It’s been difficult to turn my ideas into words lately, except in direct response to others, and even that is incomplete. But a few things:
Working within an organization and critiquing its power structures, even harshly, are not mutually exclusive.
Communities that can’t handle dissenters aren’t real communities, but can certainly grow into them if they learn to handle dissent by doing something other than a Chicken Little routine.
Good allies don’t threaten to cut off their support every time they hear something that makes them uncomfortable.
Conflict won’t destroy a community, but thinking it will just might. So will incessant pettiness.
Critiquing the priorities and power of a group that someone belongs to might just be a sign they care about that group, not a sign that they are evil incarnate or “infighting” or all that crap.
Critiquing power structures that benefit certain people above others is not the same thing as saying these are bad people who must go away and leave us alone and that we don’t appreciate them.
Having impure motives doesn’t make someone wrong or wholly evil or to be castigated for those motives while ignoring some of their real points, focusing entirely on speculating about people’s motives is a good way to avoid issues though.
At the same time, it’s not always our job to reassure you that you’re not evil and awful and stuff. At some point just decide that as axiomatic and move on to something constructive like figuring out what’s right and wrong and trying to do what’s right.
Disagreeing on how things should be done doesn’t mean people can’t work together or that the entire community is falling apart at the seams.
Sometimes a person’s disagreement comes out forcefully because they’ve been hiding it for a long time, knowing what kind of reaction they’d get if they said anything. Doesn’t make it less valid.
Anyone who thinks the web is or should be a comfortable safe place like their living room hasn’t been paying attention. (Edited to add: Anyone who thinks everyone even has a living room, or that everyone’s living room is comfortable and safe, hasn’t been paying attention either.)
Communities aren’t about liking each other, they’re about bothering to do things for and/or with each other even if you don’t like them. Likewise advocacy involves sometimes gritting your teeth and doing things alongside people you don’t like, rather than sitting there grumbling about why you don’t like them (and by “don’t like” I’m talking personality conflicts here). Even if they’re grumbling pettily about you.
Just because someone agrees with you on one issue doesn’t mean they have to agree with you on everything.
Nobody has a right to be comfortable, for certain values of ‘comfortable’ anyway. Your feelings being hurt shouldn’t determine large-scale political stuff.
Someone disagreeing with you doesn’t suddenly mean they’ve taken every single stance against you that is possible to take, it just means they’ve taken at least one stance that might conflict with some things you believe in.
Disagreement won’t tear apart a community. “You’re with us or against us” thinking will. Responding to disagreement in a Chicken Little sort of manner will. The sort of thinking that gives rise to “You’re with us or against us” and “The sky is falling” was in existence before the dissenter in question ever opened his mouth, and is a serious problem that needs to be worked on if you want your community to last. And the very existence, magnitude, and nature of the reaction he got, proves he had a point, and you don’t have to agree with him (or anyone else) 100% to notice that.
This sort of thing is too petty and stupid to make lasting enemies over (although some people sure seem to be trying, and it ain’t Larry who seems to be trying the hardest to make enemies here), and it’s why the autistic community doesn’t stand a chance until people move beyond petty personality conflicts and into shared principles.
I’ve seen this all before. I’m not at my most articulate right now, I’ve mostly been struggling with breathing all day in between trying to comment sometimes. But all I’m struck by is how Larry saying one little thing seems to have set off something that already existed within this community and that was just waiting to ignite. And that thing that existed worries me a whole lot more than anything Larry said. Don’t see dissent as a threat, see it as a source of strength. Don’t issue with-us-or-against-us ultimatums and lash out and bicker yourselves to death about who said what. Otherwise you’re doomed even if you never do get open dissent of this nature again: If this community is that fragile it’ll be ineffective in ever getting things done.
Breathing trouble has a funny way of shaping one’s priorities really fast. And I know that I would rather not literally waste my breath trashing people I’m mad at on a petty personal level and feeding the flames. I’d rather respond to the parts of this that I can find that are constructive and get on with trying to do the right thing. I have limited energy and I’m not going to waste it either lashing out at people or coddling and reassuring people who as a whole have some combination of more air, more energy, and more political power than I have at the moment. They can do that for themselves. You can turn this into a constructive discussion to make this community stronger. Or deal with the consequences of not doing so. It’s your choice. I have to go to bed.