Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Social Acceptance

 I don't have the typical family---although I couldn't even tell you what the "typical" family is supposed to look like.
I'm number 4 of 6 and I grew up with the knowledge that we are all different. There was no denying this concept. This wasn't even something my parents had to teach me.
It was just a fact of life.
My little sister has never spoken a word in her life. She is autistic and she has a short temper if her routine is tampered with. Her facial expressions aren't always socially normal and it is pretty easy to notice her physical handicaps upon meeting her.
 But who decided this? Who decided what the social norms are? Because what if a thousand years ago, it was normal for people to rock back and forth and hum loudly and walk around with what we could label a 'semi-disgusted look'? What if what was normal back then is not in the slightest bit socially acceptable now?
 At the age of 10, when I was well-equipped to love those human beings who were different than I was, a little brother came into my life and introduced me to a whole different scheme of normal vs. abnormal.
Because although he has a chromosome disorder, he is very high functioning. In so many ways, it is different than watching my little sister grow up. Because he can understand when people are making fun of him. He can communicate and receives love easier than she can.

Although they both can technically communicate, they are different. And on top of that, I am different too. I was given challenges, much different than theirs', that sometimes create socially abnormal thoughts in my head. In fact, sometimes I react in 'socially unacceptable' ways.

But what is normal? And who decides it?
Although each of us (besides my little brother) contain similar genetics, we are all completely different people who react to situations uniquely.

I think this realization is one of the reasons I work so hard to keep an open mind when people share their opinions. Sometimes I am surprised when I find myself agreeing with an opinion I didn't think I'd ever agree with. But the idea that we are all the same just isn't cutting it. Societal norms and cultural beliefs aren't always our personal norms.

And that's ok. It's ok to feel strongly about something but to understand where the other side of the argument is coming from. Life isn't black and white. 

I could say this about my opinions on Ordain Women or vaccinating or eating/exercise or trauma or addiction or pornography---although my opinion on pornography is probably the least likely opinion to budge. 

This vaccine debate has been confusing and hard for me. I've expressed my feelings about my belief in vaccines and have gotten retorts relating to a person's unique experience with a vaccination that their child reacted to. I have also had people speak about how a family member has died due to non-vaccination.
I get it. I do. I get that we all have opinions. But isn't there some line in the middle of all this madness where we sit down and realize that everyone is trying to make decisions based on what they believe to be best? Isn't it ok to speak respectfully and not assume the other side of the argument is being conned by the devil himself?

I get that this isn't always the case. We have a personal duty to judge each situation we are in and decide whether it feels safe for us. I'm not trying to tell you that I think you should put yourself in a situation where you are unsafe or outside your personal boundaries.

What I am asking is that we open our eyes a little wider and look at the people around us. Are they normal? Abnormal? And what makes us label them that particular way? Does our label have to do with our safety or with society's views on what we should/shouldn't tolerate?

Above all else, I find it odd that our general society accepts the notion that if you don't agree with someone, it is ok to blindly view them as less informed than you. I find it odd that an emphasis on love and acceptance isn't the most important thing we focus on in our society. Because how do we know that someone is less informed? Who are we to decide where their beliefs came from and how valid they are?

My mind is circling with these questions and I don't have all of the answers. I just have a view in my head of what the world would look like if we were more accepting of other people, in all of the different and unique "norms".
And I can tell you, that view looks particularly inviting to me.

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