Though the ideas from early American Putirtan culture are hundreds of years old, some of that type of thinking can be found in today's culture as well with regard to how disability is viewed and more specifically how autistics are treated.
The authority during the Salem witch trials was practically in a state of paranoid frenzy due to the fear of having their authority challenged. They were not only concerned with punishing the accused but wanted no trace of them if the accusation proved false. This would prevent the potential for them being charged with falsely arresting people or with abusing their authority.
It says here:
"Dunking is a form of torture and punishment that was applied to scolds and supposed witches.
In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway."
After the notorious Salem witch trials:
"Reversals of attainder and compensation to the survivors and their families
Title page of A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale (Boston, 1702)The first hint that public call for justice was not over happened in 1695, when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the handling of the trials by the Puritan leaders in Chapter 29 of his book Truth Held Forth and Maintained, expanding on Increase Mather by stating, "it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a witch, which is not a Witch". For publishing this book, Maule was imprisoned twelve months before he was tried and found not guilty."
Although, today's courts are often described as favoring the presumption of innocence, factors such as economic status, race, and the presumption of ability and competency heavily influence the outcome of a court trial (being viewed as less competent encourages a guilty verdict). Even social skills and how likeable someone is cannot be ruled out as being influential.
With the overwhelming influence of modern technology and the opportunities that present for networking, communication on the Internet largely impacts cultural views as well as how people vote on public policy. Furthermore, the fear encouraged by eugenist in the past century has greatly influenced our cultural bias against disability. This bias is even more pronounced with a disability relating to competency and mental stability. All this combined with the fear-mongering recently from autism advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks, causes autistics to receive a lot of negative attention.
Similar to the ways supposed witches were presumed guilty of crimes and sentenced without an opportunity to defend themselves, autistics who assert themselves on the internet regarding public policy which affects them are often treated with no respect and little if any opportunity to express themselves.
With that in mind I've written some ideas/questions regarding cultural views about disability and more specifically how this influences the experience of autistics that advocate their rights on the Internet. Here are the questions:
How often has the person living with someone who has a disability ( a parent, caretaker, etc.) had more opportunities to voice their view about the disability than the person most directly affected?
How often have non-disabled people been justified in harming a disabled person due to the public's empathy of what is seen as the able person's burden? How often is this done in relation to the frequency of the disabled person having the way they were being abused, understood and validated?
How often are the expressions of frustration from the abused disabled person accepted in a public discussion? How often is it ignored? In contrast how often does the person living with someone with a disability (parent, caretaker, etc.) express frustration for their perceived burden and have that be accepted and validated? What crimes against the disabled has this acceptance led to?
Based on what is known about something, in particular, that can be called autism (that which can be cured/removed/fixed), how often are people with conditions with a similar amount of information known about that solution (or the lack thereof) asked if they want that condition cured?
How often does a discussion that involves issues that are most relevant to a particular group of people include having them provided the least opportunity to express their views and have that view be respected? How much more often does that happen when this is related to a disability? What about with a developmental disability? How about in relation to autism?
How much is understood about the lives of adult autistics when they were children? How much effort goes into learning about that and how much is simply presumed? How do convenient presumptions affect communication? What does making convenient presumptions reflect about the person making them when someone they live with has a communication disorder? How much better could they (the person with the disorder) communicate with the people in their lives if those people weren't making convenient presumptions?
What role does shame play in someone's emotional development? What about academic development? How much is being done to ensure that autistics will not need to be ashamed in the future no matter how competent they are perceived? What are children learning about the importance of competency and will they feel proud when they arrive at the standard cultural expectations (or the ones of their family) or will they always be ashamed of what they haven't achieved and try to degrade others in order to achieve that sense of pride? Who is ultimately served by this striving to achieve?
What do the money and time spent on the gambling everything on the fix or cure in relation to what is spent on encouraging self-esteem and empowerment reflect about the value others place on these people? What does the money and time spent on the gamble to fix them in relation to what's spent on education and vocational training reflect? What about nationally? globally? community efforts? individual households?
Note: Nothing encourages injustice more than the false claim that justice is being served.