When I was a girl, I never understood respect for authority. I was not wantonly rebellious, or mean, or desiring anarchy, or even "disrespectful"- but in terms of any social cue related to it, I never really had any belief in it or any understanding beyond some bare rudiment. On the other hand, I understood respect for expertise, or life, or creative work, or ability. I loved my parents and knew they had knowledge and desire to take care of me, so I would listen to them because it was, logically, right. I respected my teachers because they were there to teach me, and knew things I did not. I respected the work of a master crafter because I knew that the person who made it loved the work and cherished it, along with the expertise the one who made it had. So, if a person in authority loved the work, then I was very content with that, and trusted this person.
There are the times I got it wrong: When my teachers or parents were in error on details, I was quick to correct them- even when I was in the elementary grades. I did not realize that I might hurt anyone's feelings. I never understood any social rules about this. Then, when I needed directions explained several times to me, people in authority might take me for being disrespectful and defiant: perhaps, they were still hurt over finding out that I had seen an error they had made in some detail, and perhaps, they believed that I knew a lot about social things, or about understanding directions that were given in terms of social cuing or other socially-based and unspoken directions that I really did not know- and they assumed as a result that I was being difficult. I did not know why they thought this, so I was just frightened and also certain I would be harshly rebuked for asking and asking until I learned what I needed to know. Still, my desire to know was greater than my desire for not getting hurt, so I took my licks and asked away till I leaned what I needed to know. I used to think that learning was painful at the beginning, in any subject, because of the constant rebukes I got from many quarters. I was never a quiet person, contrary to the stereotype often held about girls on the spectrum.
Today, I went for a walk with another woman on the spectrum who is also not quiet, and like myself, has asked many questions, over and over, till she learned what she needed to learn. We are both outgoing, intelligent women as a result, and both of us have endured the rebukes to reap the benefits of having that knowledge. I was glad to meet her, and I am happy to reflect on it.
In the last month, I have begun to learn about feelings at a new level. In particular, sometimes a person in authority wiill have an insecurity about being in charge, and not want to be found not equal to the task- or the person will just feel embarrassed to be corrected publicly. I am learning not only to try to let things go till I can say something privately (when I need to say it at all- [and seeing the "big picture" which would help me determine when I need to, is easier in some situations than in others]), and where neeced, to put it in such a way that the person knows I appreciate his or her strengths, or otherwise is allowed to save face. This is embryonic for me. I finally can feel "respect' in a new fashion- a caring thing, and not a fear of punishment-- or a cruel, arbitrary thing demanded of one by force.
There are those who only care about those who "like" and "respect" them- so they do not like those who appear to fail in these areas. Of those who appear to show disrespect, there are some who are difficult people, and who undermine others just to see if they can do it. There are also people who are wired to do the right thing, but may ask questions and say facts instead of feelings, in a desire to be right and help others be right- and because it just feels better. The first kind of people are disloyal; the second kind are loyal to a fault, if that is possible. The first kind are coming from pride and arrogance; the second kind are not coming from that place. I am learning to look at the big picture to tell one kind of person from the other. I hope the typical people who read my blog will begin to look, too, if they are not yet used to this. Autistic people often get blamed for trying to "play people" when they are honestly needing directions. If one takes only a five-minute slice of the behavior, it can look the same. Do take longer, and look at a several-day slice of this behavior to see the difference. When I was a girl, I did not understand authority- but many in charge did not understand me, either.
We are neither stupid not defiant. If we do not understand, let us ask you- and be prepared to be appreciated. Answer our questions, and be patient to give us the detail we need to understand, and we will respect that you did- as a master crafter or an artisan is respected.