A Survival Guide To Politics For The Autistic

Today marks the first day of Early Voting in Arkansas. It’s an exciting time. We get to have our say on everything from the smallest office in town to President. I will cast my vote later this week and it’s none of your business how I’m voting. That’s not what this is about.

Instead I want to address something that hasn’t been discussed this season but needs to be brought up. There are few subjects more stressful for the autistic than politics. After all, politics is a subject laden with conflict, with extremes, with an entire minefield of norms that we’re lost on. We do not handle any of this well. So I’m writing this essay in the hopes that my peers on the spectrum will know that it’s ok to feel how I know we’re all feeling right now.

So here are a few tips.

First and foremost, it is completely fine to be disconnected from the election. That is a right you have under the law. We live high anxiety lives. If you want to avoid the election outright, go for it I say. I don’t often get to disengage due to working at a newspaper but I know the feeling of needing to. I take breaks from social media for this reason. So if you’re not able to handle it, feel free to focus on something else. Your health is more important, I say.

That said, if you’re like me and you are interested, use your autism as a skill. We are exceptionally good at logic and reason. Research is our gift. Become the best informed voter you can. Look up every issue. Know what every candidate stands for. Figure out what you believe. You have the capacity to contribute something vital to the public arena.

Once you figure out what you think, don’t let peer pressure change it. I’ve known voters whose choices I didn’t agree with. I didn’t try to alter their opinions. I know what I stand for. So should you. There isn’t a correct way to handle this. There’s only what you truly think. Voting is an act done in public but it’s a private decision. Stand firm in it.

If you want to best avoid peer pressure, here is a really great trick: Do not discuss politics publicly. This is the safest idea in the world and it is ignored constantly. Discussing such a contentious subject in mixed company is an idea up there with running drunk with the bulls. If people try to goad you, walk away from the discussion. You don’t need the stress. It doesn’t mean you’re less of a voter. It means you’re aware of how to survive in public.

Lastly, know that this season will soon end. This won’t go on forever, though it seems to in the US. Once it’s over, channel that energy into fighting for the specific causes you care about. I fight for disabled rights, especially on this blog. You can do the same. Because in the end, the presidency will ultimately be a bit of a stalemate I fear. Instead, focus on what you can change in your community.

In the end, this is a private matter. Contribute how best you see fit!

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