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."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.
"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."
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.