Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 26, 2013

The arrogant illusion of ‘normal’

Charles Romans
The Independent

ASHLAND — Normal really isn’t what most people think it is; the reason for that is each of us judges normal based on ourselves.

Behavior patterns are considered normal if the predominant percentage of a group accepts that behavior. We see the problem with normal when comparing different cultures all the time; we call it culture shock because what the larger percentage accepts in one culture might not be accepted at all in another culture. Based on that, we should realize that normal is much more flexible than what we might believe.

Incompatibility and disagreements are to be expected, though hopefully resolved — but hatred is another thing entirely. Hatred is especially reprehensible when it is directed at a child because children haven’t reached the same socially developed level as adults are expected to have reached.

Adults should be examples of what society strives to be for their much younger counterparts. Adults should know and make allowances for the vagaries of what society thinks of as normal.

Unfortunately, some people believe that their view of normal is the only valid perspective, and that they somehow have the right to judge, belittle or attack those who deviate from their view.

There was an anonymous letter dropped at the house of Karla Begley in Ontario, Canada, that was filled with hatred and venom. Begley’s son, Max, is autistic, and apparently someone in her neighborhood thought he was not normal enough to be allowed outside in the neighborhood or, in fact, even in his own yard. The letter was filled with curses and slurs about Max that I don’t need to reprint here because, unfortunately, we have all heard them at some point. But the anonymous author of the letter went well beyond insults.

Apparently this person’s hatred had poisoned their own spirit and pushed them beyond any sane response to something that violated their narrow view of what was “normal.”

The person (or persons) who penned this letter compared the autistic young man to a wild animal and criticizes the mother for letting her son go outside of her home.  It tells her that she has a “retarded kid” and should “deal with it properly.”

The letter writer also insisted that he (Max) scared the normal children, and even goes so far as to suggest that Begley move out of the “normal” neighborhood or — and this is the depth to which no even slightly rational person should ever sink — the letter tells the mother she should euthanize her son.

Some figures indicate that one in every 88 children fall within the spectrum of autism. This terrible piece of terrorism was a single occurrence in Begley’s Ontario neighborhood.

So which, really, is more normal? Is it the child whom is part of a much larger group, and whom numerous individuals have described as being a sweet child? Or is it the person(s) who is part of a much smaller group that anonymously attacked a child who was not hurting anyone simply because he wasn’t like them?

If it is a numbers game, then Max has the advantage. He is the more normal, if such labels even need to be applied.

The fact that someone who hates so deeply felt as though they could be justified in writing such damaging and hateful things is truly disturbing.

From where does that authority originate? Is it from God, who counsels love and service to others?  No. Is it the law, which in most countries provides for the common welfare of all citizens? No. So, in the end their perceived authority comes only from themselves ... from one person, or perhaps two. Definitely not the predominant percentage and thankfully not the normal they claim to represent.