The Death of Community?
Is there any hope for the future of the country when we have lost the ability to empathize with our neighbors?
“No compassion for these transients here. My compassion is saved for those that deserve it.”
- Brian St Germain, West Hills
Sydney, one of my three youngest daughters, has returned from her first year of college with an expanded interest in political engagement. She had asked questions about how neighborhood councils get input from their neighbors and then advise the City Council about pending legislation, so I invited her to join me at a Northridge East Neighborhood Council meeting, of which I am an elected member. Since my wife had another appointment, we also brought along her two triplet sisters, who are on the autism spectrum.
While Zoey and Morgan’s disabilities are severe, they are still members of the community and we refuse to keep them hidden away. Our family has become extremely adept at sensing impending breakdowns and will quickly remove them to a more private area if they are about to become disruptive. This rarely happens.
I will be the first to admit that Zoey’s quirky behavior can be annoying, after all, I did take the triplets on a car trip up the west coast. This includes non-verbal vocalizations that she makes, particularly when she is happy and especially when enjoying food. While eating a slice of pizza that was provided before the meeting began she was making these noises when the lady in front of her turned and asked her to stop. Sydney explained that this was just something that her sister does and that she was trying her best to help her stay quiet. The lady later asked: “Is she coo-coo?”
Sydney is very protective of both her sisters, but she was left at a loss by this question. She seethed inside wanting to say something more than the simple “no, she has autism” that she uttered, but was left at a loss by the display of ignorance. Autism is not a mental illness, but the lack of knowledge about the subject was not the biggest problem; the wording of the question was insensitive and it was simply rude to be asking it. It showed a lack of empathy for Sydney in her role as…