Trigger warning: Discussion of murder of disabled people, ableism, and exact quote of potentially triggering public statement.
Not human anymore - Is this what "ally" means?
I have flesh and eyes and bones and a beating heart,
big and strong enough to be beaten and broken a thousand times
and still sew itself back up.
I've spent nights huddled against myself, unable to move or breath,
staring with wide eyes at words I didn't know could be spoken,
shaking because no reassurances, no apologies could soothe me.
I have hands and lips and feet and a suffering soul,
and words waiting on the tip of my tongue to spill over
in a bold declaration that I am a person full and whole.
But what makes me human?
They talk about us without us, erase and debase our names
by defiling the stories of our murders and revising the truth;
in their eyes, we remain silent, invisible all the same.
I've sat at tables in rooms full of people who should have known better,
but instead of saying that murder is wrong, they urged sympathy for the murderer,
not for her innocent son who she killed, but for her.
Pretty words don't change the meaning when they're talking
about making my kind extinct, when our deaths become propaganda
points for political purposes. But we are human beings.
They omitted it, but the victim here, he had a name and
a life that was violently taken, without his consent, because of his brain
being a little different. His name was George Hodgins.
He was part of our world, with colors and tastes and sounds and smells,
saw beauty, suffered pain, longed for love -- but they don't want you to imagine him
seeing his mom with a gun to his head and wonder how he must have felt.
In the absence of his name, they can write his story without him.
They can choose who can be human.
He had flesh and eyes and bones and a beating heart,
and hands and lips and feet and a suffering soul,
and those don't mean a thing, when his life means nothing,
when they won't decry his mom for the bullet she shot.
So if those don't matter, what are we? Not human anymore,
not half-human or subhuman, our lives not worth living or protecting,
our murders not worth condemning but implicitly condoning.
Is this what "ally" means? If they claim in words to be our allies
while they say in words that George's name is unimportant in the story
of his own murder, their words are only words, no truth, all lies.
This is what it means when their sympathy is for his killer.
This is what it is to be Autistic when their empathy is for her.
This is what it feels to be stripped of self, made not human anymore.
I have flesh and eyes and bones and a beating heart,
big and strong, been beaten and broken a thousand times,
and now the taped-together pieces of my Autistic heart have started to come apart.
This was written in response to the Autism Society's statement about the murder of 22 year old George Hodgins, an Autistic man whose mother shot first him and then herself in early March 2012. I have included the ASA statement below.
March 17 Letters to the Editor, Mercury News
Cuts to adult disability support are devastating
The tragic story of Elizabeth Hodgins, who last week took her own life and that of her 22-year-old son with autism, leaves us truly devastated. While this incident is an anomaly, it shows that high stress on parents is very common in the autism community. We fear that stories such as these will continue if families still feel hopeless in their struggles.
According to the Mercury News, Hodgins was exhausted trying to find a program for her son. Like most states, California provides little or no appropriate support to individuals with developmental disabilities once they turn 22. In addition, California has cut $1 billion in developmental disabilities services during the past three years, and the Department of Developmental Services will cut another $200 million within the next year.
We cannot wait long for change. Autism diagnosis is experiencing a staggering growth rate. Today, 65 percent of all state regional center intakes relate to autism. The divorce rate among parents with a child with autism is as high as 70 percent due to the pressure.
President and COO Autism Society of America
President Autism Society of California
Update: The Autism Society issued an apology.
March 20, 2012
Autism Society Responds to Tragic Death of George Hodgins
By Autism Society
(In response to the March 8 article, Sunnyvale mom kills autistic son, self, police say).
A letter from the Autism Society called “Cuts to adult disability support are devastating,” was published in the San Jose Mercury News on March 17 in response to reports of a woman murdering her son with autism and then killing herself. Since the article was published, some individuals have questioned the Autism Society’s motives for not mentioning the victim of the story, George Hodgins, 22. We apologize if our letter offended anyone.
It was wrong of us to not mention Mr. Hodgins by name, but this in no way was intended to lessen the value of his life or justify the killing of an innocent individual. Killing is wrong without a doubt, regardless of whether stress or pressure on a family is the culprit. If parents are dealing with stress and in a desperate state of mind, they should call their local police department or local crisis hotline for immediate help. We stand with those who mourn the tragic death of Mr. Hodgins and encourage all to remember the valued life of Mr. Hodgins in their thoughts.
The Autism Society is here to help. Call us at 1-800-3autism.
good one Lydia.... :) ty ZoeyReplyDelete
Lydia, thanks for writing, I hope people will learn to see things a lot differently soon.ReplyDelete
I think Esoteric said part of this a lot better. Specifically, the part about the Society claiming to represent us.ReplyDelete
"Bereft promises made unto me, I always remember watching them fade.
Upon winds of blackened torment, The promises' I couldn't see.
For they are just words, And your words are empty."
This song is findable online, I am sure, and perfectly describes in sound what it is really like to live as an autistic adult from the lower 60% of wealth distribution in today's Western world.
By the way, Scott and Marcia, there is exactly the following evidence to support the claim that actual cases of autism within society are growing:
Please stop using Autism Speaks-style weasel words to make out that autism is some kind of growing threat to your precious normalism. With people like me basically waiting to die, these people would not be alive for a lot longer if autism could in fact somehow make one a threat to neurotypicalism and normalism. Because with the amount of fear, hate, and self-estrangement these people put into my life, the words "let's do it to them before they do it to us" sound mighty sagely to me right now.
But then, I feel as excluded in every community. Here I am jumping up and down trying to get heard, and its like even the so-called autistic community are busying themselves nailing up boards around my little corner. Why I even get up in the morning is a question I want an answer to yesterday.
I have autism too. I feel sympathy for the mother. Maybe that's because I have PTSD too and know what it's like when mental illness combined with overwhelming life circumstances tears all your sanity to shreds. I nearly killed myself a few times. I had a severe breakdown that caused me to withdraw from the world for nearly two years. I almost ended up homeless. For several months, I heard voices and saw things that weren't there. I worried I had schizophrenia, which made me even more avoidant of society and people. If I had a child in my care, I no doubt would have been a jeopardy to her or him during that time.ReplyDelete
I also know there are many women who have a mental illness like myself, and just like I did for far too many years, struggle with the shame and sigma of mental illness as well as far too few mental resources available to them. These are women who, like myself, can not turn to their families for help. Their families either don't understand mental illness, are resentful or embarrassed that a family member is asking for help or, as would be the case of a profoundly disabled child in one's care, simply not able to help. I know that terrible isolation. I lived in it for many years. It nearly killed me.
I woudl like to point out many autistics have mental illness. There is a strong correlation between autism and depression and anxiety disorders--mental illnesses that can, if not treated, can get so severe that the individual becomes psychotic, like mine did. Like autism, mental illness affect families. Like autism, our society is failing people with mental illness egregiously. Moreover, mental illness is a genuine, recognized disability in its own right. So when you talk about disability and exclude mental illness, you in fact being an ableist in your own way. And as someone who was scared to get the treatment I needed for many years due to much of the callous ableism heaved onto mentally ill people, I resent that coming from an fellow autistic.
So you'll have to pardon me when I say with all Aspergian frankness, I cannot condone this sort or response to this man's deaths. I very uncomfortably sense that I am being told I should feel sympathy for the son but I'm wrong if I feel it for his mother, and because of what? Because autistics are more valuable than mentally ill people? Moreover, I have to ask this: forget this trumped-up outrage over whether this is about them seeing us autistics as human, do YOU value autistics because they are human or because they have autism? What is of more weight with you? Honestly? Because if you say it's our personhood and our humanity that should matter more, then by reason and decency you must feel sympathy for his mother too. And rather than try to make her out to be a monster, recognize that her own humanity was shredded by the cruelty of mental illness and a society that failed not just her son, but her as well.
- Cade DeBois, dx'd with Asperger's and PTSD in 1999, @lifepostepic
Firstly, I never mentioned mental illness in this post because that is not the topic of the post. My boyfriend is Autistic and has a mental illness (Bipolar Disorder), as do many of my close friends who are also Autistic.Delete
Secondly, neither being Autistic (as someone suggested that Elizabeth may have been undiagnosed Autistic) or having mental illness is an excuse for murder.
Thirdly, I have never claimed that Elizabeth did not have real struggles or that she did not receive the support she ought to have received.
Fourth, lack of support is still not an excuse for murder.
Fifth, anyone who murders anyone else should be condemned, regardless of their own neurology or mental conditions or those of their victim.
Lastly, this post is in direct response to people who have explicitly and implicitly stated that while ALL sympathy should be given to Elizabeth, there is no room for ANY sympathy for George.
Hi Anonymous -Delete
I am also autistic, have a mental illness, and am an abuse survivor (at the hands of someone who also had a mental illness; I totally don't think that excused it).
I could NEVER intentionally kill another human being and I hope that even at your worst, that's not something you'd have done either. I don't see any part of your story that includes you going out, buying a gun for the purpose of shooting another person, and going ahead and doing it. That's a whole world different from being suicidal. It's even a whole world different from getting really upset and hitting people. Most people with mental illness are not dangerous towards others; we're far more likely to be murdered than murder.
Conversely, most people who murder other people - even most mothers who murder their children - totally understand what they're doing. Sure, they may be stressed out or even in the middle of a mood-related mental health crisis, but most suicidal people still understand that it's wrong to murder someone. Most mothers who kill their kids in the course of attempted murder-suicides and live - that is, they either thought twice about taking their own lives or were rescued - are brought to trial and convicted for this very reason.
I'm sorry this woman was depressed. I really am. If she'd have just killed herself, I would totally be writing blogs talking about how sad it was that she didn't get help. But my sympathy is sort of eclipsed by the fact that she decided to murder her kid, just as my sympathy for my own abuser is eclipsed by my anger at them for abusing me.
I share much of the sentiment you have stated. There is a big difference between cold bolded murder, a crime of passion, and a crime of compassion. A psychotic break may have allowed this mother to believe taking her adult "baby" with her was the right thing to do. Post partum depression leads to this thought pattern all too often. It is sad..but not the same as someone who kills their baby because they are a burden or too stressful. The motivation is the difference.Delete
I have Autism, PTSD and BPD, I have a lot of empathy for anyone that is forced by suffering to commit suicide and I fight against stigma about mental illness, I don't see any prejudice on this post, I see the necessary mention of the innocent person that was murdered and forgot, the person that died and no one mentions.Delete
She could be in pain, she could have killed herself and only herself, there is no excuse for murder. Enough empathy for her, let's have compassion for him.
This post is not even accusing her but asking that the people that are murdered to be remembered, people are not even saying his name.
There is never an excuse for murder. But I wonder if this woman thought she was doing her son a favor by taking him with her? Meaning that maybe she believed that once she was dead, her son would be alone with no one to care for him, and thus even worse off. I know people who have suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, people who have killed themselves and people who could think of nothing but suicide when they were not receiving proper medication. The stigma and shame attached to mental illness keep people from getting proper treatment, and the fatality rate attached to these kinds of disorders is appalling high. But anyway, none of this excuses murder, and it really doesn't make it OK for the Autism Society to exploit this double tragedy or make it an occasion to insult autistic people.ReplyDelete
i have no words - just stunned, sad silence.ReplyDelete
thank you for writing this. it's beautiful, it's heartbreaking and most of all it's something we all need to to hear, feel, internalize and carry with us as we move forward.
george and all of those who tragically came before him can never be forgotten.
(and i hope you'll send it to mr badesch and ms eichelberger.)
again, thank you.
With all due respect, some of the lower functioning autistics do border on human. There was an article about a mother's struggle with her 20 year old son who is extremely violent, destroys everything in his path and has no understanding of anything around him - that is something that a family dog wouldn't do. My boyfriend who has very mild Aspergers sometimes loses it and it is terrifying to think he could hurt me or his family because he can't control himself during a meltdown. What a family with someone with violent autism has to deal with has to be terrifying. I understand it is not their fault but the mother still has to put up with being a punching bag for her own child, see her house destroyed, fear for her other children or any people that may come in contact with her son - that kind of stress could easily push someone over the edge.ReplyDelete
I'm not saying murder is a good solution but living with someone who in all likelihood does not understand that you are their mother and could kill you in a second for no reason is stress beyond anything imaginable. I do feel sorry for the mother. I can't imagine living your entire life living with a complete stranger who could harm you or your family without any cognition. I'm sorry if this makes me not "PC" or "ableist" but no one should have to live with the stress and fear that living with someone who has no comprehension of their environment brings. These families need help and support not condemnation.
Ok so I think you understand that this makes you ableist, but it also just isn't logically consistent.Delete
If "violent" autistic family members are not human and you don't really care about their feelings? Don't live with them. You don't have to. They're legal adults. Tell the state to find them a place to live, wash your hands of them, and move on. Maybe you might feel guilty about abandoning them, but you should feel even guiltier about killing that person.
And please, PLEASE break up with your boyfriend if you're remotely concerned that he could hurt you or your family. If he can't control his behavior during a meltdown sufficient to avoid hurting people he shouldn't be in an intimate relationship
First of all, it IS ableist - no scare quotes needed - to assert that a person is "bordering on human." This is exactly why the "low-functioning"/"high-functioning" way of talking about Autistic people is so problematic, as it so easily leads into the kind of dehumanizing way of talking about some Autistic people. And really, when you're comparing a human being compared negatively against a dog, I'm pretty sure that "dehumanizing" is the right word for what's going on here.Delete
Second, I, at least, have not seen anything that establishes that George Hodgins was violent or dangerous to his mother or the people around him (nor, for that matter, that he did not know who his mother was in relation to him). This is not to say that even if he did act violently or self-destructively it would have been acceptable to murder him. However, if you are jumping to the conclusion that he WAS violent and destructive, that is stereotyping because he was (a "low-functioning") Autistic, that is stereotyping, and it is not okay. It's not about being "politically correct." It's about the fact that we're having a discussion about a murder victim, and you're coming on here and essentially victim-blaming, saying that the victim's merely being Autistic means that he was necessarily all these horrible and dangerous things and thus that his murder was automatically understandable, even if you won't go so far as to claim it was justifiable.
This is harmful. It is harmful because uninformed neurotypicals read and hear these statements, and think less of Autistic consciousness and Autistic lives than they did before, and this will factor into how they treat us. It is also harmful because the Autistic people reading this - many of us already struggling with internalized ableism and trauma - are confronted again with the fact that we are not valued and we are not safe, and even without someone in our lives who we suspect might actually consider killing us for what we are, this thought can be very triggering. You talk about Autistic people not recognizing the people around them or the harm they can cause, but, if you read what I'm saying here and dismiss it as "politically correct" and continue to stereotype and excuse the murder of Autistics, you are doing the exact same thing, and willfully so.
Edit: "When you're comparing a human being negatively against a dog..." etc.Delete
So if an autistic person killed their parent, that would be ok right? And no I don't think it is ableist to be concerned about the violent behaviour of some(obviously not all) autistic people. No family member should have to live in fear of their loved ones. I don't know George's situation but I've read and seen enough cases of parents who are dealing with children who are violent towards themselves and others and because there are so few resources they have nowhere to go. I understand how frustrating it must be to live in fear of someone without any ability to get help for them. I'm not saying merely being autistic is a reason to be murdered - I just think this woman was pushed beyond her limits from the stress of having to deal with an an adult who the development of a young child and will never significantly progress.Delete
My boyfriend has never been violent - but I've seen him throw chairs and hit walls during a meltdown and it's scary as hell. I can only imagine what it must be like to live with someone who is constantly like that. And aren't you discounting the value of animals? Animals have emotions and attachments and rarely are violent without cause. Some of the cases I've seen, the person has no connection with anyone and if they got violent and killed their parent I doubt they would care or even understand.
No, it would not be okay for an Autistic person to kill his or her parent (or partner, or spouse, or friend, or sibling...), because murder is wrong, no matter who does it and no matter who the victim is. How does "It's not okay to murder Autistic people" imply that it's alright to murder people who are not Autistic?Delete
You have admitted that you don't know the particulars of George's situation, and yet you persist in believing that George was necessarily violent and incapable of progressing, in believing that his mother was and had reason to be afraid of him... because George was Autistic. That is stereotyping, and it is ableist. You have no proof to make that statement besides "I know one Autistic person who's violent and have heard of others," and - I can't believe we still have to repeat this! - If you know one Autistic person, you know one Autistic person. Also, however carefully you phrase it, however many disclaimers you put, what you're saying is still letting a murderer off the hook on the basis of her victim's identity, and that is all kinds of wrong.
Also, who are you to say what connection an Autistic person feels to the people around them or how they would react in any given situation? You are making that determination on their subjective state from your external observation based on your filter as a neurotypical person. You do not know. You do not know how George Hodgins felt about his mother, you do not know how the average Autistic person feels about their relatives and friends, you just do not know, so please do not pretend you do.
At the risk of overusing this excellent quote from a friend of mine, "I refuse to walk in someone else's shoes until they recognize that I have shoes!"
As Shain noted, there's no evidence that George was violent.Delete
Plus let's go a little deeper and look into what's acceptable even if you are stressed beyond your limits and totally can't live with your child in your home anymore:
Don't live with your child in your home.
Seriously. Just don't. Nobody can force you to live with this person. There are places they can live. Maybe not all of them are good, many are downright shitty. Maybe people will judge you for abandoning your kid. Maybe your kid will be sad that you're not around anymore (although I don't see why you'd even hesitate here if you're going to assume that someone actually has no feelings, an assumption that very frequently turns out to be wrong by the way). Maybe bad things will happen to your kid now that you're no longer around to protect them.
But you know what? It's probably better than getting murdered. I can't believe you don't understand this. When you're pushed to the limit and can't stand someone anymore, you still don't kill them.
Observing someone who has rages (and, by the way, seriously, speaking from experience if you find your boyfriend's rages scary you should not be dating him, it's not worth it, even if he's never actually hit you), doesn't give you some sort of special insight that we lack. Many Autistic people already know what it's like to live with absolutely terrifying or otherwise intolerable people. Many of us have been the targets of repeated abuse and violence from people who lived in our homes. It's just that we still understand that the best response to this where possible is to stop living with that person, not to murder them in cold blood.
Oh and also as to your comment about "discounting the value of animals," that's really only an okay thing to say if you weren't clearly buying into a hierarchy in which "normal" humans are worth more than animals which in turn are worth more than "some" Autistic people. Especially if you aren't a vehement animal rights activist. It's not "devaluing" animals to object to putting humans lower on a value scale than a life form that it's perfectly legal to, for example, kill and eat.
Right, so if the situation were reversed and an autistic child murdered their parent there would be such an outcry to remember the victim? I think not. I think it would be "oh poor kid, the mother must have made him do it." I'm making assumptions based on my own observations and from articles about George's situation - and whether he was violent or not, he was still someone who needed a lifetime of constant care. Everyone knows how stressful it is for parents of babies and toddlers, this mother has had this stress for the entire timespan of her son's life, and it is not insignificant.Delete
So where exactly are these people supposed to go if not with their families? To be warehoused in institutions? To be a burden on some other family member? That is probably the fate that this mother feared for her son. I'm not promoting murder, but not all killing is murder. Killing in self-defence is not murder, killing if you cannot comprehend right from wrong is not murder. I don't know this mother's mental state but to automatically call it cold-blooded murder without knowing her mental state is irresponsible. Depression, psychosis may have made driven her to it - it is a tragedy all around. Instead of hating this woman, where is the push for more services so that parents don't fear a fate worse than death for their children? Where are these children supposed to go if the parents can just give them up - to institutions? To foster care where they'll end up in institutions because their chance of adoption is minimal.
Also from what I understand, most autistic people can't control themselves during meltdowns, at least that's what most blogs I've read have explained it as.
Do not EVER refer to a human being as a burden. If you had any kind of idea about the historical and cultural baggage that that carries, you would not say that about anybody... especially given the history it has with people with disabilities.Delete
Autistic people deserve services. But we also deserve to live in a world where our lives are not held hostage by our supposed loved ones and caretakers for services, and considered disposable in their absence. Institutionalization is awful and dehumanizing, and we as a society should be moving away from it and other forms of coercive treatment. Still, when the options at hand are coercive treatment and being murdered, there's no dilemma there. And no one is allowed to say for anyone else (let alone an entire group of people, categorically, as your post comes dangerously close to suggesting) that they'd be better off dead.
If an Autistic child killed his or her parent, the media coverage would pretty much mirror your views on Autistic people - we're dangerous and violent, we're unable to comprehend the world and the people around us, or some combination of both. It would not be sympathetic. Pitying, maybe, but that's not the same thing, as anyone with a disability knows all too well.
If someone murders a baby or toddler, they are (rightly!) vilified as a childkiller. This is both because small children - no matter how obnoxious or stressful they may be - are human beings and human life is inherently consider, and because a decent society values protecting the vulnerable and shuns those who hurt them. The same two categorizations also apply to people with disabilities, the latter due sometimes to inherent impairments and other times to societal conditions. And yet, I'm still waiting for the day where the murder of a person with a disability will in no corners be considered a mercy, an understandable act, or otherwise justifiable, and will be considered at least as loathsome as the murder of an adult, if not a child.
The narrative we've gotten is not one of a mother with a serious mental illness who lost touch with reality and snapped (which would, more than likely, be loaded down with all kinds of other ableist beliefs after being filtered through the media and such). There's also nothing to suggest that this was a matter of defense of oneself or others (and no, I don't consider murdering someone to be defending them from the horrors of living with a disability, so don't even go there). The facts, as they're presented, are that Elizabeth Hodgins was stressed and, instead of seeking help, took it out not just on herself but on someone whose only contribution to this situation was existing as an Autistic person. On these facts, a lot of the non-disabled world is saying, oh, poor, poor Elizabeth Hodgins, how could she ever have been expected to do any better?, and on these facts I and other people actually affected by this mentality are saying, Too bad, stress happens, you still don't murder people.
Meltdowns range from person to person, because, again, Autistic people aren't all the same. Some - in fact, many - Autistic people will never have violent meltdowns at all. We CAN learn to handle our meltdowns, either minimizing their severity or finding ways to avoid the things that trigger us. But being in situations where the people around us are hostile to us - treating us as dangerous, or incomplete, or inherently stressful, or unworthy of life - isn't conducive to learning how to cope. I would think not thriving in situations where people hate us would be pretty intuitive, but, hey, I thought that about the inherent value of human life too, and apparently less people hold to that than I thought, so what do I know?
So you endorse killing people so that they won't go to an institution or be a "burden" on a family member? Do you really think either of these situations is worse than death?Delete
Death. It's this thing where you're not alive anymore and things can never get worse but also can never get better. You don't have a life anymore because you only got one and that one is now over because someone decided that your time was up.
I have not been in an institution but I know a few people who have, and I'm pretty happy that nobody decided to kill them to "spare" them. It's not a "fate worse than death." There are whole worlds of horribleness that are still not as bad as dying. I don't see how this is not straightforward. People can leave institutions. They can't come back to life once they're dead.
You really need to think about what you say before you say it. You are talking to people who have actual direct or secondary experience with the "system." You think WE are the ones who haven't "thought it through," that we don't realize that maybe a disabled adult (and George was an adult) whose mother leaves or commits suicide might be in for some bad times, including possibly institutionalization? I assure you we have. And we are telling you that it's still not as bad as being murdered. JUST TRUST US ON THIS.
Let me make this very clear: people who think like you and talk like you are exactly why parents who feel like they can't take care of their kids anymore, kill their kids. Because everyone around them seems to be buying into this sort of depraved BS about how it's somehow more acceptable to kill someone than just say "I can't do this anymore" and leave it in the hands of others. Human beings die because of this sort of thinking. If I were you, I would wait a day before responding to anything in this thread and just THINK for a bit about what you're saying and who you're saying it to.
Finally I'm not really sure what this afterthought about "most autistic people can't control themselves during meltdowns" is about, but just so you know, "most" autistic people are not physically violent during meltdowns unless provoked. Some are, but many non-autistic people get violent when upset as well; the most violent people I know are not autistic. And nobody here would say that anyone has an obligation to tolerate a situation that's actually frightening, whether or not the person frightening them can help it.
Why shouldn't I refer to someone as a burden - some people are burdens. That doesn't mean that their families don't love them, but it does mean that taking care of them is difficult and stressful. Yes it is a burden having to take care of someone who can barely speak, wears diapers, doesn't acknowledge who you are and can be violent. Taking care of a person like that is difficult, it is stressful and yet, families do it because they love them. Some people cannot handle the stress, they snap. Someone who is so distraught that they think that death is preferable to life is someone who is mentally incapable of forming the intent to commit murder.Delete
Yes there are things worse than death. Yes, some institutions may be good, others are nothing but warehouses where people are locked and drugged. That is a fate worse than death to many people. There is a reason people sign orders to not be resuscitated because they realise there are worse things than death.
Parents don't kill their children because of people who think like me. Parents are stressed beyond their means because of the daily stress and burden of taking care of a permanently disabled child without being provided any support or respite. They go to their autism societies and are told that their children are precious little snowflakes and if they break your furniture or your ribs then it's your fault and they're just expressing themselves.
And no, I'm not going to take time to think - which I think you mean to come back apologetic and spout the politically correct crap you want me to spout. I don't discount the need for more services and supports but I also don't discount the enormous stress that comes with raising a child with these sorts of disabilities.
This argument really isn't about being "PC" or whether any particular person was under a lot of stress. I'm willing to believe that any suicidal person probably was under a lot of stress. In fact, I have repeatedly said that I don't strongly condemn people who decide that caretaking duties are too stressful and that they don't want to do them anymore. I do strongly condemn people who make this decision and then kill the person they are taking care of.Delete
And what seems to be the sticking point here is whether it's actually worse to stop taking care of someone than to kill them. This is an empirical question with an objectively ascertainable answer.
Whether an institution is worse than death is a question that can be answered by going to people who have been in institutions - including horrible, abusive ones - and asking them whether they would rather have been killed rather than sent to an institution (granted, there are people who can't answer that sort of question, but most institutions have at least some residents who can communicate using language to some extent).
These are the ONLY people fully qualified to say whether an institution is worse than death or not. Not you, not me. Your naive opinion based on nothing but your own speculation and what you've heard on blogs is not particularly relevant.
I don't need you to agree with me. If you want to come up with some weird argument that it's okay to kill someone to spare them from an experience that other people have had and said is not worse than death, feel free.
Something doesn't automatically become a fact just because you say it is. Yes there was a homicide, whether it was murder or another form of homicide is a debatable issue.Delete
It also doesn't matter if some people have had positive experiences with institutions, homelessness, etc. It matters what was in the mother's mental state and in her mental state, having her child locked up or on the streets was unbearable. She was not in a rational state of mind and I don't expect her to have made a rational decision.
Yes, I can think of many instances where death is preferable to life, that doesn't make me weird or heartless, just realistic. Someone, for example, who is terminally ill may choose death and someone else may choose life. In this case, this wasn't a rational decision. The number one fear of parents with children with severe disabilities is what will happen to their child once they die. Our society offers woefully little solutions and this woman was driven to the brink because she saw no hope.
George didn't deserve to die, neither did his mother, what they needed was hope and society failed them, it is a tragedy all around.
No one has produced evidence to support the belief that Elizabeth Hodgins was legally insane when she killed her son, other than the fact that she mentioned she was stressed. Legally, the presumption is that a killer is sane, or, in other words, that they knew the difference between right and wrong enough to know that they were doing was wrong when they committed the act. "Stress" by itself is not being out of your mind. If every person who was stressed out when they hurt someone would be considered not guilty by reason of insanity, we'd have a lot fewer people in prisons and a lot more in forensic psychiatric units. Suicidality is also not necessarily the same as being legally insane, given the definition of insanity mentioned above. And the legal definition of insanity IS what's relevant here, as legality is what separates murder from other types of killing. Until I hear something more than "Oh, she was stressed, and she killed herself, so obviously she can't be held accountable for murder," I'm going to keep calling what she did murder, as most people would if they weren't so invested in the "dealing with Autistic people ruins your life" myth.Delete
Also, with regards to the autism societies comment - what parallel universe are you living in? You might like mine better. In the world I live in, in autism societies - or at least the ones that parents are more likely to hear about and seek support from - people like me are portrayed as empty husks, embarrassments and tragedies in human form that replaced our parents' "real," normal children. In my world, most of the mainstream autism societies publicly take the same view as you on the murder of Autistic people, and even make similar threats of their own. Here, these organizations try to find eugenic cures that would prevent the existence of more people like me, while ignoring the regular abuse, neglect, stigmatization and even torture of Autistics who exist today. Can we trade realities please?
Calling someone a burden is a problem because of what that mentality leads (and has led!) to - which, if you're not up on your history, includes what, if it was applied to another group such as one based on religion or race, would be described as genocide. There is still good law in the United States - decided at the height of the eugenics movement - that says, because of the "burden" imposed by people with intellectual disabilities, it was constitutional to sterilize someone against their will (in effect, preventing more people like them from being born, which fits under the international definition of genocide) if they were the third of "three generations of imbeciles." If you really want to find out why talking about disabled people as burdens is unacceptable, especially in the context of discussions about killing disabled people, try googling Aktion T4 and see exactly what that led to. I don't know why I have faith that the death of a quarter of a million disabled people based on the belief that they were burdens will make you reconsider how you talk, let alone think, about our lives, but hey, I can hope.
Finally - just to reiterate - You do not get to decide on someone else's quality of life and what should be done about it. Elizabeth Hodgins wasn't within her rights to make decision, nor was any other parent who decided that their disabled child was better off dead. If a person decides that their own life is not worth living, it's sad, but it's their decision, because they and only they can know the reality of being them. The same can't be said of an outside observer doing the same about someone else's life, and to attempt to make those kinds of determinations is paternalistic and, yes, ableist.
I thought we lived in a society where people aren't presumed guilty before being proven so beyond a reasonable doubt. Had she lived, the type of homicide that she committed would be a question of fact for the jury to decide. No, mere stress is not enough to negate mens rea, but if she was suffering enough stress that she was no longer able to discern right from wrong then that would be. Again, that is a question of fact which is never going to be determined as both parties are dead. Deciding blankly that she committed murder is ableist in it's own way, who are you to decide that she was sane or insane or that her mental problems were insignificant?Delete
I never said that autism societies and our societal support is adequate. I blame that for this tragedy. I think the existence of the JRC is disgusting. If there was sufficient support for families than these kinds of situations would only truly be carried out by cold-hearted monsters. As far as "eugenic" cures I assume you refer to prenatal testing and that makes no sense to me. If a parent is not capable with dealing with a severely disabled child, isn't it better that she be given the information so she can abort the pregnancy rather than have a situation like this? Oh wait, we women are just incubators with no rights and feelings of our own and should be forced to carry pregnancies so that you can feel better about yourself.
I use burden as the word that it is. I don't support eugenics, prenatal testing is not eugenics it is giving a woman all available information so that she can make an informed choice(yes women are capable of this). Genocide is going out and killing living people (women by the way - living people). Preventing pregnancies does not kill anyone, and prevents homicides like this from happening.
And no, I don't get to decide how someone else lives or dies. However, parents make decisions for their children all the time, sometimes life or death ones. Some people are incapable of making decisions into adulthood and have guardians that do it for them. Not that this case is an example of this. You are just like me - an outside observer, making judgements based on your own opinion, just because mine differs doesn't make it more valid. I wish that this situation did not happen, I wish that society cared more about providing people with disabilities opportunities and supports and protections. I wish families had options so they do not feel hopeless. I fail to see how having compassion for both victims makes me some ableist monster.
Legally speaking, "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't apply to the presumption of sanity. Insanity is an affirmative defense to a crime - that is, a defendant accused of murder must assert and prove that they were not able to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time they committed the crime. If there was any doubt as to actually killed George, then yes, she would be entitled to a presumption of innocence, but that's not the case. Also, no, defaulting to the belief that someone knew the difference between right and wrong when they acted is not ableist - ableist being defined as prejudice or discrimination against someone on the basis of disability. This smacks pretty heavily of derailing.Delete
I am strongly pro-choice. My nearly-absolute belief in bodily integrity extends to reproductive freedom as well as the right to be free from abuse and murder on the basis of disability. Given a choice between impinging on the right to choose and anti-eugenics policies where the two conflict, I would without hesitation side with keeping the right to choose. The thing that makes me sick is that I have to make that decision at all - that I live in a world where people like me are considered undesirable enough so as to be screened out from the outset if possible. At the same time that I would vehemently oppose any anti-abortion law even if it were tailored to protect against eugenic abortions, I also wish that society would come to appreciate our value and take as given that we deserve to be here, to the point where this wouldn't even be a question. I am disgusted with the organizations who claim to represent people with disabilities that not only refuse to take a stand against the assumption, that, of course no one wants us, but actively reinforce it, instead of helping to creating a world where that isn't the case.
Genocide does have a broader definition than active homicide of existing group members. What distinguishes genocide from any other kind of large-scale form of violence is the intent behind it - that people of a certain type no longer exist, and never exist again. This is why a policy of preventing births within a group is written into international definitions of genocide, and why, if disability was internationally considered on the level of race, religion or ethnicity for the purposes of genocide law, eugenics would be considered a form of genocide.
You can't talk about a group of people in a way that has been used to justify atrocities and say that it exists in a vacuum, because it doesn't. This whole conversation boils down to the fact that large swaths of the dominant culture consider our murders justifiable, or at least less heinous than other murders, because we're just too hard for nondisabled people to deal with. It's clear that (a somewhat diluted and often euphemistic version of) the same mentality that led to crimes against disabled people, as individuals and as a group, is still an issue and can't afford to go unaddressed as a result.
I am an outside observer too, but unlike you I recognize that and say that only the person him or herself - not anyone else - gets to make that decision. One of our beliefs supports the right to human worth, dignity and self-determination without discrimination on the basis of disability. The other doesn't. Therein lies the difference. Unless you would say that it would be understandable or within the rights of a parent of a neurotypical and/or able-bodied child to kill said child because they were stressful or, in the parent's opinion, had a life not worth living (in which I think there are some other problems here...), yes, I do think you're an ableist (along with, you know, calling disabled people "burdens" and "bordering on human").
As far as I know, sterilisation has been abolished/made unconstitutional in most developed countries, which leaves only abortion as some sort of genocidal action. This is a ridiculous comparison and incredibly insulting to women as well as victims of genocidal regimes that have suffered unspeakable brutality. Pre-natal testing isn't a policy of eradication - it is giving a woman all available facts. Testing for Down's Syndrome as well as other genetic disorders exists today and some parents still choose to have children with these disorders. Others, who don't think or don't want to cope with that kind of life, choose not to.Delete
You act like severe autism is a minor issue and the main issue is discrimination against autistic people. Discrimination exists and often unfairly, but tolerance takes time to build in society. However, severe forms of autism in themselves cripple a person. Some people need 24 hour care every day. Some lack impulse control and act on their natural anger and sexual urges inappropriately. Some may wander and become lost or killed because they lack self-awareness. This isn't minor stress for a parent, it is enormous and those without the financial or family support to be able to obtain care and respite are under great deals of stress that they may not be able to deal with. It isn't the person's fault but having to take care of someone constantly wears a person down and without support it takes a very strong person to be able to do it.
There isn't enough support out there. Autism societies either push the "accept every autistic behaviour no matter what" mantra or promote expensive and worthless quack "cures." Schools try to get out of providing care as much as possible to save money. Therapists charge ridiculous amounts of money for therapies that aren't proven to be effective. Once the child reaches a certain age even those minor supports are mostly discontinued and a family is left to deal with them on their own.
I never said it's the parents' right to kill their child. I think that some people are just unable to cope with the huge amount of stress that comes with having a child that needs constant supervision and care which is where society needs to step in and provide support. I don't think this is solely an issue of autism but of every condition where there such constant care is required. I may be ableist but at least I'm being realistic. Blaming the mother will do nothing to bring her son back nor will it stop the next homicide from happening.
Sterilization has NOT been declared unconstitutional in the United States. Many states have passed their own laws banning sterilization, but as far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned, sterilization on the basis of some disabilities is permissible.Delete
Please, go ahead and tell the U.N. that you don't like their definition of genocide, which explicitly includes a provision about "preventing births within a group" in its definition of genocide. You'll probably be happy to know, people with disabilities are not as of yet included in that definition. But as far as I'm concerned, the same mentality that underlay the eugenics and euthanasia programs of a century ago - which was a form of violent genocide - and the things that followed them is alive and well today, and that is what's responsible for 94% of fetuses screened for Down Syndrome, that is why "wrongful birth" lawsuits for the birth of people with disabilities are actionable in a court of law, that is why organizations put all their money, all their efforts and all their thought into "cures" to solve the problem of our existence and not into helping the people who need it today. It feels like hate and it is terrifying.
Yes, some disabilities are impairing as well as socially disabling. But it does absolutely nothing to help people with disabilities, to make the conversation all, or primarily, about nondisabled people's stress, annoyance, or discomfort with being around people with disabilities (and a LOT of the things that nondisabled people are uncomfortable with are NOT impairing, while a lot of the things that they tell disabled people to "just get over" really are). You want more services for people with disabilities? Great, so do I. But in order for that to happen, AND in order for people with disabilities to no longer be abused and murdered, the dialogue about disability has to be taken away from the privileged nondisabled perspective, and the focus - of parents, professionals, educators and the general public - needs to be on the actual needs and well-being of people with disabilities themselves. The ableism that says that people with disabilities are stressful, burdensome individuals whose murder is understandable is the same ableism that allows people to focus their efforts on coercive treatments and far-off eugenic cures instead of the things that would make people with disabilities the happiest, most functional, most independent people (still!) with disabilities possible.
Blaming a murderer for murdering will not bring someone back from the dead. However, how we talk about it WILL influence what happens to other people in the future. If we talk about how it's *understandable* to kill someone who's just so very hard to deal with, and, oh, of course we're not saying it's okay or anything, but let's not be judging here or anything!, then that communicates that it's okay to view and treat people with disabilities as having less worth than other people. If, on the other hand, the murder of a person with a disability was treated as being as heinous as any other murder, these things would happen less, and people with disabilities would not have to worry about how safe they are around the other people they know. If you're going to be a "realist," then realize that reality isn't static and unchangeable; the way individual people act and speak about things will change that reality, for better or worse; and that you have a part in it. If you ignore this, or choose knowing the facts to actively do and say things that make things that much worse to be a person with a disability in this world, then yes, you are ableist and you are helping to maintain an ableist reality.
Since when has the UN or any non anti-choice organisation defined voluntary abortion or prenatal testing as a genocidal act? Yes, fetuses are screened for Down's Syndrome as well as many other genetic disorders so that parents have as much information as possible so they can make the right choice for them. I don't see it as a negative thing that parents who either cannot handle a child with severe disabilities or do not want such a child are not lied to or denied information by their doctor. Parents who are prepared to deal with their child's disability, on the other hand, are given time to prepare. There is no systemic movement to encourage people to abort fetuses that show genetic abnormalities.Delete
Yes I agree people with disabilities need to be part of the discussion and there need to be as many opportunities as possible for people to be happy and functional. There is too much focus on genetic treatments and unproven therapies and not enough on providing people services, education and acceptance. However, there will always be a small population of people that cannot be functional, that will need a lifetime of constant care. They and their families need a different, yet not less important set of services. I can't see how you can't provide both, yet our society provides neither. People sympathise because they know that if they were in that situation, they would be on their own.
Yes, there are situations where society's panic over certain disabilities contributes to a person's mental state. But people are generally not driven to kill someone based on societal attitudes, it is usually severe clinical depression or psychosis with that attitude being the centre of that person's mental illness or it is depression due to the hopelessness. Telling people to change their prejudices does not work. Gay rights were largely opposed until people saw their friends and neighbours come out and confront their prejudices. Currently, our society provides disabled people enough to only marginalise them and keep them as the "other," and that's what needs to change.
Currently, the U.N. does not recognize disability (or sexual orientation, or a number of other groups, for that matter) as a category for genocide protections at all - an oversight that I don't believe is correct, where the mentality is the same in all cases - "the world would be better if ____ people did not exist." And whereas I fully believe a number of individual people and families don't have the material or psychological resources to deal with a disabled child (which is right up there with bodily integrity in my mind as to why there shouldn't be any legal action to prevent women from ending pregnancy on the basis of disability), there is most definitely a very prevalent belief that, aside from any concerns about services, the world would be better off without people with disabilities. That can't be erased by good intentions or compassionate-sounding ways of framing it. The fact is, with the technology to do it, the rest of the world would get rid of us, and do it gladly or at best unthinkingly. It's all that we who are alive right now can do to convince them that it is a PROBLEM, to be pursuing and then doing this and celebrating it, that it's a whole segment of the population devalued and then just eventually gone, and that we're, all of us, worth so much more than that.Delete
The thing is, as this murder has demonstrated, the nondisabled people closest to people with disabilities - our teachers, our doctors, our aides, our therapists and even our families - know what we are, and for many (I would like to believe this is not the case for the majority, but there are still too many people to whom this does apply) our status as people disabilities do not convince them that all people with disabilities deserve the best, but justifies in their mind treating us as less than they would a nondisabled person. If the people who are supposed to love us, supposed to protect us and supposed to know better in fact do not confront their prejudices, and can be and in too many cases are the people who do us the most damage... well, then, we can give up right now, or we can explain as many times as we have to that all people with disabilities are human, and deserve the same amount of respect, protection and recognition of worth as anyone else, and do everything in our power to make sure that this is legally and socially recognized. The mentality of ableism causes the marginalization of people with disabilities which causes more ableism and on and on, and both problems have to be addressed if real and lasting progress is to be made. And, though it's only one piece of a large problem, once society either gets rid of or seriously revisit how it currently conceptualizes functioning levels, and what it means in terms of how different disabled people are valued and discussed, we'll be that much closer to a world that is actually hospitable to all people with disabilities.
Genocide requires a systematic and deliberate intent. The availability of abortion and prenatal testing is not even close to meeting that definition. What happened during the early 20th century in the eugenics movement would perhaps qualify but parents being given information and then making the choice as to whether or not to continue a pregnancy does not come close. With prenatal testing there isn't a target group unless you consider every genetic defect to be a protected class. Should parents either be lied to by doctors that their child has a potentially serious condition or should they be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy? Because that is the implication of making abortion and prenatal testing into some sort of criminal violation. In "pro-life" countries and some states in the United States there is just that sort of situation, where parents know that their child will die shortly after it's born and are forced to continue the pregnancy, risking the health and life of the mother to watch their child die.Delete
You seem to think that prejudice is the only factor in whether a parent chooses to continue a pregnancy of a disabled child, or n the cases or homicides that the only factor is prejudice. Yes, there is discrimination and marginalisation. There is also the reality of life with a person with severe disabilities. I doubt someone would commit suicide if they thought killing their disabled child was perfectly justifiable. There will always be people whose disabilities are too severe for their families to cope with. Our society offers no help to these families which is why a lot buy into the quack cure mentality. Disabled people should not be treated as less but they require a completely different set of supports than people without or with mild disabilities. We currently do not provide those supports and leave families on their own to cope. To act like prejudice is the only issue and that families that have to care for their child around the clock ignore the real problems that these families are dealing with.
Ok so I think you understand that this makes you ableist, but it also just isn't logically consistent.ReplyDelete
If "violent" autistic family members are not human and you don't really care about their feelings? Don't live with them. You don't have to. They're legal adults. Tell the state to find them a place to live, wash your hands of them, and move on. Maybe you might feel guilty about abandoning them, but you should feel even guiltier about killing that person.
And please, PLEASE break up with your boyfriend if you're remotely concerned that he could hurt you or your family. If he can't control his behavior during a meltdown sufficient to avoid hurting people he shouldn't be in an intimate relationship.
But you are wrong for what you doReplyDelete
I have flesh and eyes and bones and a beating heart
I breathe the same air as the rest of you do
I am human like the rest of you
Even if you chain me down to beat me to the point of death
Even if you try beat me down with words to the point of suicide
I won't lose or bow down to what you do to us
Not after seeing the rest of my kind being mistreated
Not after seeing you all start a HOLOCAUST on my kind
Not after you took the life of George Hodgins with no remorse
You label us with the infamous Star of David all behind our backs
You say that we are all condemned by God himself
That God only created us to die painful deaths
But if he created us just to die by your hands
Why did he create us in the first place?
Why did he create me to have ambition, hopes, and dreams like you all do?
I guess this is a taste of what our savior Jesus Christ felt
Being blamed and judged even when we did no wrong
Being crucified for evil that we have not even committed
However because he was not forsaken
I am not forsaken
My kind is not forsaken
We have God on our side and he will deliver us
So you can try to treat us poorly
And continue the Holocaust you have so wanted
Killing off millions of us in the name of humanity
But you will all receive retribution for your actions
From the Almighty God
From the Christ whom you have crucified and wronged centuries ago
For God protects his true servants
The persecuted who suffer in his name
The persecuted who die in his name