Friday, October 21, 2016

Bil's Declaration of Political Independence

I found it so hard to find a good title for this post about "Bil", my 50-something brother in law who has a developmental disability called autism.

Bil spends hours in his room, watching television.  But it isn't all for entertainment or to fight boredom.  Bil enjoys listening to political talk and news shows.  He has enjoyed these shows for years.

But he didn't vote until recent years, because no one really made the decision to find out if he was interested in voting.

When my husband and I moved Bil up here last year, we got him registered to vote.  He registered in the same political party as his mother, whom he has lived with all his life. That was not surprising. In many ways, he never showed much independence from the way she thought.  He watched the networks she watched for news.  He watched the talk programs she watched.

In the New York Presidential primary this April, he voted (we know this, because he told us - not because we asked him, because it is none of our business) for a candidate his mother would have supported.

But, a couple of months ago, he had an annual review at the agency that provides some services for him.  His mother, and my husband (who is Bil's guardian) came also.  By then, it was certain who would be running from each political party.

And there, he made a startling pronouncement, out of nowhere, while everyone discussed his progress.  It was the most surprising off-topic comment of his life.

He was voting for the "other" party's Presidential candidate, for a candidate his mother detested.

The people who work with Bil were pleased.  Very pleased.  Not because of who he was going to vote for, but because he had broken with his mother.  And indeed, according to my husband, Mom shot him a not-to-pleased look.

As he progresses in the program he is in (a topic for another blog post) he is slowly starting to show signs of independence - of trying to find his own way.  Most of us separate from parents as teenagers, finding our own way.  But Bil never did.  In some ways he never fully grew up.

I only think this is going to continue.

This may make it more difficult in some ways once Mom can no longer take care of him - he listens to her in situations where he won't listen to anyone else.  But he has the right to his own political opinions, and, in fact, his own opinions, period.  Opinions he has formed, not opinions handed down from someone else.

And yes, he will vote on election day.


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