With all my reflection of my past, another ‘what if’ arises to play with my Asperger’s mind. This one goes back to late 1986, early 87 when I attended Queen Mary College in London. During that time, I was feeling very angry towards the United States after receiving a letter that for me at the time was the straw that broke the camel’s back and had me declaring that I hated my country. That event was the Veteran’s Administration refusing to give me any of my Veteran’s Education money on the grounds that my course of study wasn’t approved.
I told my immediate friends, both American and British, about my feelings and all of them were very sympathetic towards me. However, I toyed with the idea that I should tell my story to the college newspaper. I thought it might be a good story about how an American veteran is being so badly treated by his country. I’m sure that many a British student and a good number of Americans would have been surprised an impressed at what I had to say. So why didn’t I?
The main reason was that I was afraid of being thought of as an attention seeker. This was something I was accused of being in my childhood and in my young adult life, I went too far the other way out of fear of being thought of as such. Furthermore, there was the two extremes of British politics at the college. On the left, I would have been seen as a martyr against the Imperialist American state. The positive being that they would have jumped on my story as proof of how America treats the working class, even though they served the country. I know I would have been caught up in that furor. Meanwhile, the right would have been quick in their attempts to discredit me. They would have tried to make me out to be some whinging crybaby and downplay the validity of my accounts. Not that I feared anything from them really. Then of course, it would have put the other American students in an awkward situation, again, I wouldn’t have cared too much about that. However, most would have said nothing in public while secretly wishing me that it all would work out for me.
Another thing to note would be the fact that I would have said something a few British students might not have liked. See, during my year at Queen Mary, there was this stereotype by British students that all American ones were filthy rich. That surely didn’t apply to me and because of that, I would have attacked that stereotype. Some British students would have taken offense to that. I don’t think the college administration would have been too happy with me either for accusing the college of thriving on the myth that all American students were rich. In my defense, I would have likened myself to Fredrick Douglas, an escaped slave who spoke for the abolitionist cause. When he was talking about slavery in the South, he was a hero but when he spoke out against prejudice in the North, it didn’t sit too well with people. It might have been the same with me in regards to the US and the UK.
In hindsight, I think that I should have told my story to the college paper, warts and all. I would have gotten it all off my chest and not have been such an angry young man. I realize now that most of my anxieties over why I didn’t do it wouldn’t have impacted much on my story and it would have explained a lot to people about me. It wouldn’t have been attention seeking either and I think that people might have been generally interested in what I had to say. Of course, if there were blogs thirty years ago, it would have been that much easier.
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