23 December 2012

Grief

Trigger Warning: Extreme internalized ableism, eugenics, ableism, violence, murder, suicide.

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Grief

That's the most accurate word to describe my current emotional state. I am in a state of profound grief. I am in mourning.

On 30 November 2012, twenty-three days ago, 25 year old Christopher Krumm stabbed his father's girlfriend Heidi Arnold, a 42 year old math teacher, in front of the house she shared with Christopher's father in Casper, Wyoming. Later that day, Christopher walked into a classroom in Casper College nearby and shot his father James Krumm, a 56 year old computer science instructor, with "an arrow using a high-powered bow." (News article.) Then he stabbed his father and himself, killing both.

Christopher Krumm identified himself as autistic. His suicide note (same source as link above) claimed that he never had a love life and was fired or forced to quit from four different jobs. The direct quotes from the suicide note that have been pulled from the Associated Press article include the following statements:
"[I] always had to subsist as a sort of bottom feeder."

"I am extremely bitter and frothing with hatred toward my father. I am resentful that my country did not castrate him."

"You should not have allowed my father to breed because he was genetically predispositioned toward having Asperger's Syndrome and put me at greatly increased risk for having it (and in fact I do). How could you hold his right to breed over my right not to be born?"

"Despite having a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering I have not been able to solve the novel problems I need to solve at work."
These are the consequences of internalized ableism. Because Christopher Krumm lived in a society that fed him with messages that he was less than, conditioned him to believe that disability in general and autism in particular are defects that ought to be prevented, and neglected to embed systems of support for him, he internalized these forms of oppression and he began to believe them as true. He espoused eugenics as a means of eradicating autism as an unwanted phenotype or genotype, and he wished he had never been born. And then, Christopher Krumm murdered two people and killed himself.

Christopher Krumm's story has been overshadowed and largely erased in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtorn Connecticut, and even after the shooting in Portland, Oregon, and the stabbing at the school in China. But his story is important and must be told.

I cannot condone Christopher's actions. I will never accept or justify violence for any reason whatsoever.

Yet I grieve for Christopher as much as I grieve for James Krumm and Heidi Arnold, as much as I grieve for the twenty-six victims at Sandy Hook, the twenty-three victims in China, and the two victims in Portland. I mourn for him. I mourn for all of them.

What might their lives have looked like?

Two of the children who were killed at Sandy Hook were autistic. One of them was killed alongside his aide. And part of me wonders what kind of world they would have grown up in had they lived.

I do not believe that Christopher Krumm would have believed what he did and then committed murder and suicide had he not been raised in such a profoundly ableist society.

In an alternative reality, Christopher Krumm would never have internalized ableism so thoroughly that he chose to commit acts of violence. In an alternative reality, Dylan Hockley and Josephine Gay might have  come to age in the Autistic community with knowledge of and access to Autistic culture. As much as Christopher Krumm was a perpetrator of horrific crimes, he was also a victim. The choice to end his life and to take the lives of two others was his, but it was not a choice he made in isolation, without any outside influences or other external factors that drove him toward it. That choice and the reasons he gave for it could only have occurred in the context of the absolute worst kind of internalized ableism.

This is not the kind of world I want my friends and their children to age into.

I have decided for this holiday season and for the New Year to make a simple request of my friends, acquaintances, and readers -- the Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking anthology was released a little over a week or so ago, and is now available on Amazon for purchase. I have compiled a list of some schools, libraries, and other centers to which I would like to see copies of the anthology donated (possibly in my name), in the hopes that the more the voices of Autistic people combating ableism can be heard and made accessible, the less the chances that tragedies like Christopher Krumm's will occur. Among a sizable list, I have included the libraries of the colleges where his father taught and where he attended.

Will reading an anthology prevent someone from committing murder? I don't know. But the voices challenging the ableist hegemony need to be made available in as many places as possible, because these are the voices of the future. These are the voices of our community. Take a look at the list. It's in a Google Doc to allow people to edit it, by moving the contact information of recipients to a separate column so that all of the targeted recipients can receive a copy eventually. You may add addresses of additional places to the wishlist column as you see fit. But spread that link.

I do not want to mourn for more lives lost. 

Grief is a hard, hard thing to process.

But this is my attempt, however small, to begin the process of recovery and healing from this grief, to begin moving forward, to begin to wonder what I can do to change the world, even if only a bit, for the better.

5 comments:

  1. Dear Lydia,
    I am purchasing several copies of this book for schools in my area; should you need me to send one to a school on your list - please let me know. I'm hopeful that your contacts that are connected with these communities will step forward? (Again, if you have too many schools that don't get covered-let me know and I'll send one of mine there).

    I am hoping you understand that your idea should spread beyond ...to other institutions that impact autistics. (I am well aware of places in Vermont in dire need of developing an advocate vs. an abelist approach to autistics.)

    As usual, your essay forged activism. Thank you for using your voice in such a powerful way.

    Laura King

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    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you for responding here. I would love if you would send one to a school on the list. Some of the places on the list are ones to which I have personal connections; most are not. They were, however, chosen intentionally.

      Loud Hands should indeed be made available everywhere! Every school, institution, government agency, service provider, professional or clinician, etc. should have at least one copy!

      I believe there should be at least one Vermont address already on the list.

      Lydia

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  2. I think there is a potential lesson of perspective here, as you express empathy for this young man, as it seems you can relate to the ills of society that may have led to his criminal actions although you do not support or condone those criminal actions.

    This perspective is not much different than those that express empathy for circumstances of the individuals that do not gain access to or find appropriate mental health support in society, some who terrifyingly kill their children and themselves as they see no where to turn to for support in society to take of their children with disabilities.

    It's okay to have empathy for other humans beings, and the averse conditions that humans encounter in life, regardless of where life may lead them.

    But, for another potential perspective, it is also possible that this young man also had some type of mental condition or even organic brain disorder, that distorted his way of thinking. There are no reputable person's in society suggesting that people with Asperger's syndrome should be removed from the population. The young man identified that is what he wished for not that of which he was opposed against.

    It is of up most importance that individuals that struggle with these kind of difficulties find support in life, and can feel free to share these kind of emotional stories, without criticism from others. This is the same for people on the spectrum as it is for parents on or off the spectrum that care for those individuals on the spectrum, through struggles and joy.



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  3. Lydia, I've just been linked to this blog by a friend and wanted to let you know that I found this piece profoundly moving. Thank you for working through your pain in order to share this thought provoking piece of writing with us.
    Anon
    P.S.: Hoya Saxa! (I'm SLL '84) ;-)

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, Anonymous. Always great to connect with other Hoyas, even through the internet!

      Delete

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