This Is Why I Am Angry
To the people who say that I am too angry, too bitter, too harsh, and too unforgiving --
I read three things this week that made me furious enough to want to hurl my laptop across a room and into a conveniently placed wall.
These things infuriate me.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network published a report (PDF) finding widespread discrimination against disabled people in need of organ transplants. Cases like those of intellectually disabled Mia Rivera (who was eventually granted a kidney transplant) and autistic Paul Corby (whose request for a heart transplant was ultimately denied) provide damning evidence to support an indictment of ableism that kills.
The United Kingdom sponsored a three-year study entitled Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities, that found over 1200 avoidable deaths of mentally disabled people, more "rapid" and "premature" life and death decisions in the cases of mentally disabled people, and issuance of do not resuscitate orders because of a person's disability. The title of this news article is "Doctors put lower value on lives of the disabled, study finds."
In other news, the Earth revolves around the sun and Barack Obama is the President of the United States.
We already know how little our lives matter, if indeed, they matter at all. This is not news to us.
Steven Simpson is dead and his murderer will be serving a paltry term of three and a half years in prison.
On 23 June 2012, it was Steven Simpson's birthday and he was throwing a party to celebrate with the people who were supposedly his friends.
Eighteen-year-old Steven was autistic and gay, and had a speech impairment and epilepsy. He was bullied horrifically at school. He lived in his own apartment and went to school at Barnsley College.
Twenty-year-old Jordan Sheard knew Steven, but not well. He and two other friends showed up at the door uninvited, but were let inside anyway.
Sheard dared Steven to strip down to his underwear. Steven did. He was doused in tanning oil.
Partygoers chanted, "Light it, light it, see what he does!"
Sheard retrieved a cigarette lighter and set Steven on fire--specifically, he held the lighter against Steven's body and he flicked it on beside Steven's genitals.
According to another partygoer, Sheard had written homophobic messages of "gay boy" on Steven's forehead and "I love dick" on Steven's body while he was drunk, before he was set on fire.
Steven's neighbor, Shaun Banner, came by to check on him. Instead he found himself ripping off the young man's burning clothes, injuring himself in the process, and dousing him in a cold bath while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
Steven died two days later in the hospital from his burns, which covered 60% of his body. His father was with him.
Sheard tried to blame Steven for setting fire to himself.
The prosecutor wanted Sheard to be charged for hate crime. The judge disagreed.
Sheard was charged with manslaughter.
An infinitely lesser charge than the charge of murder.
And he was sentenced to three and a half years.
Three and a half fucking years.
For cruel, hateful murder in which the victim was targeted specifically because of his disability and his sexuality.
For fucking murder.
This, this is why I am angry. This is why I am fucking angry.
There is no room for dialogue or polite, civil discussion about murder, and the only justifications you could possible claim for why such "civil discourse" is necessary lie within the nexus of your own privilege, the privilege that means you don't have to worry about someone attacking and murdering you at your own fucking birthday party and then receiving a slap on the wrist.
If you are straight, if you are able-bodied and neurotypical, and one of your supposed "friends" were to murder you so viciously at your own birthday party, you can bet everything you hold precious that the perpetrator would be charged with murder and sentenced accordingly.
But you don't have to worry about that happening to you.
I am angry not because I want to be, not because I enjoy it, not because it somehow makes me feel good that I could at any moment be the victim of a half-dozen hate crimes, but because the society in which we live has decreed that these things are simply part of life. That these things are acceptable. That these things, indeed, must be accepted. And I say, fuck that noise.
What does legal progress mean when we can still be murdered and our murderers receive sympathy for "a mistake," for "a prank gone wrong?"
The news coverage of Steven's death and Sheard's sentence has noted that representatives of the National Autistic Society and UK-based LGBTQ rights organizations have condemned what happened as a travesty of justice, have condemned his murder -- and let's make sure that we call this what it was, and it was a fucking murder -- as a hate crime worthy of punishment and prosecution as a hate crime.
But what if Steven were poor? What if he weren't a university student? What if he were a person of color? What if he were trans* in addition to being gay? What if he hadn't been a white man?
I would hope, I would hope that those same condemnations would be happening. But reality tells me otherwise. I know that his case, that his life, that his death, that his murder, would not receive half of the attention that it has from the media were these not also facts.
And even so, even despite the privilege Steven had as a result of being white and male-identified and male-presenting insofar as we can determine, his murderer, the piece of human filth who stole his life in a calculated act of cruelty heaped upon other cruelties, has essentially been exculpated by a legal system that won't recognize what he did as a hate crime, let alone punish him accordingly.
If you aren't outraged, there is something wrong with you.
If you aren't devastated, there is something wrong with you.
I am accused all the time of being too angry and too brash and too harsh.
I am told every day of my life, both explicitly and implicitly, that my life is not meaningful, that my life is not valuable, that I should be grateful for having been allowed to live.
To be dead is better than to be disabled.
"I'd rather die before letting that happen to me."
"If I got paralyzed, I'd kill myself."
In the wake of the Steubenville rape trial, what does it say about our society, about the perverse pervasion of rape culture, that the mainstream media has worked long and hard to mourn the loss of opportunities and a future for the rapists without making any mention of the potentially life-long catastrophic consequences on the woman they fucking raped?
When our murders are rhetoricized as accidents, as pranks gone wrong, our murderers are exculpated for fear of the privileged, non-disabled majority that the offenders won't have another chance, won't have other opportunities if we condemn them so much for these things.
But murder is murder, isn't it?
If you are white, straight, upper-class, Christian, college-educated, neurotypical, and able-bodied, (and particularly if you are a man, male-identified, or male-passing) then you have every reason to trust the justice system. To trust that the police will be there to support you and investigate crimes committed against you. To trust that prosecutors and judges will take your seriously and bring appropriate charges against people who have harmed you.
As you change each of those attributes to some other quality, the likelihood that you can trust this system exponentially decreases.
Why do missing white children receive a plethora of media attention, while missing Black children receive hardly any at all?
Why are mothers who murder their non-disabled children vilified roundly in the media, while those who murder disabled children are romanticized and excused from blame?
This is why I am angry.
This is why you should be, too.
I am not exaggerating or hyperbolizing when I say that our lives are at stake.
For as long as disabled people can be murdered by their doctors, by their family members, by their supposed fucking friends, and these horrific crimes merit at most a slap on the wrist and usually hardly any consequences at all, I will continue to be fucking angry.
Their lives deserve absolutely nothing less.
You know what the worst part was? There were terrible people on a forum I lurk where they were trying to make excuses that it was manslaughter.ReplyDelete
That was beaten down for being the lie it was, so he switched over and said it was manslaughter but that he claimed the sentence was too low and he meant to say that all along.
I say the normal people are like parasites on this planet, as through out history you can see the SELF DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF THE NORMAL CONDITION.From the romans, right up to most of todays goverments. All us autistics, whether mild or severe, only want one thing, for everyone in the world to respect the planet they live on and also respect their other human beings. All normal people want is to get rich quick and destroy everything in their path in their stupid idea's of progress. Take religion, it was formed to bring love peace and harmony into the world, but has now become a complete shambles of it origanal cause, as corruption is riff and it has been proven that as much as they want love peace and respect, they are also the BIGGEST cause of war and conflict in the world. ALL US AUTISTICS SHOULD UNITE AS ONE AND TAKE OVER THE RUNNING OF THE PLANET AND ITS AUTHORITIES SO WE CAN START PUTTING RIGHT ALL THE WRONGS THAT NORMAL PEOPLE HAVE MADE OVER THE LAST FEW THPOUSAND YEARS. IF YOU AGREE THEN DONT JUST STAND THERE, STAND TOGETHER AS ONE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN! ACTI0ON SPEAK LOUDER THAN 10,000 WORDS, FACT!ReplyDelete
When I read about Steven's murder...when I read that the $#@! prosecutor said, basically, that the murderer didn't *try* to kill him, he was just setting him on fire after all, I was mad beyond belief.ReplyDelete
How the fuck can setting someone on fire be a prank?
I am chilled to the bone. How can entering a person's home and killing them deliberately be anything but murder? Even if he killed someone while intoxicated, it should still be considered murder II at the very least! Manslaughter is for accidental death, and there isn't anything accidental about dousing someone with a flammable liquid and then playing with a lighter. I'm furious, too, and any decent person SHOULD be.ReplyDelete
Using pornographic pejoratives to describe sex crimes can be part of the problem. Uncivil language leads to uncivil behavior. People are categorized, accordingly, with the type of pejorative use of language that is used to get a point across.ReplyDelete
The F word is a rape of language. F*****g raped is a disgusting way to describe a disgusting crime.
It is part of freedom of speech, along with daily doses of f*****g pornography that reduces humanity to a s** act.
Everything becomes acceptable when everything is acceptable, even putting tanning oil on a happy innocent young man and lighting him up. People increasingly think less about the consequences of their actions to gain attention from others.
The choice not to accept it begins in how one communicates the message that it is not okay.
It is all contagious; an effective immune system begins in saying no it is not okay. And why it is not okay. If someone had been brave enough to say no it is not okay to light the boy up at the party, as a perverted choice of action, it could have saved his life. I would have never been invited, because they would already know I would ruin their party.
The laws in England are no longer suitable to deal with the perversions of humanity, where the flags for borders of human behavior are no longer raised, and the world is increasingly becoming a meat market instead of a meet market.
There is still a very long distance to reach the standards of perversion in countries like Somalia. The Western world is headed in that direction; incidences like this are a reflection of that.
It is ironic that refusing to participate in anti-social behavior is often viewed as anti-social behavior. Anti-social behavior is "the new black", at least in some avenues of modern culture, as it becomes the social norm and no longer viewed as anti-social behavior.
The language used in this article is an already toned down reaction to what happens to us. It is easy for the privileged to say that if we change the language people will act with civility.Delete
I say: you are fucking wrong! I will concern myself with what is happening to us, not with the language my people use to react to the injustices committed against us.
*Going to the store to get a What Amy Said t-shirt.*Delete
My comment was most specific to the "F" word and the culture of rape. The two words together are disgusting in any paragraph describing this particular crime.Delete
Unless one has been raped they also have a certain level of privilege in another area of life. I do not speak for myself but I do speak with empathy for those that have fallen victim to that crime.
For all practical intents and purposes this young man was raped to death, in a hate crime with sexual overtones, in a culture that is increasingly losing the ability for empathy for others for the "us over them" whoever us or them may be at the point in time one is pursuing whatever suits their fancy at the exclusion of empathy for others.
The rape culture is no more acceptable when there is a joke to get a laugh or when one is engaged in the empathy of anger to generate additional anger among their peers.
Perhaps someone who has been raped could explain it better than me. And yes, I'm sure one could find someone somewhere that doesn't take offense to it, but that doesn't lessen the association with the culture of rape.
I am 100% sure that the author of this blog intended no message of intentional offense per the culture of rape, but it is the same for some that casually joke about rape among their buddies, as only a joke and nothing intentional to hurt anyone's feelings. Very often it is rape jokes about men in prison, which is also part of the culture of rape.
Beyond this there are enough words in the English language to express extreme anger without resorting to pornographic pejoratives.
I am by inherent nature a visual and literal thinker so I do not enter into that territory, not by choice but by the way I experience Autism.
My experience of the language is the visual image of exactly what is stated. It's not much different than the picture I get when someone states the phrase "Hacking Autism".
I see a Machete every time no matter how often it is stated, but all I see is the Machete chopping letters of an abstract concept, because I personally observe the word Autism literally as an abstract concept, and not something that is either identity or discrete in definition.
Perhaps I see it this way differently in this discussion because some others may experience the strong emotions with the words instead of the vivid visual images that come into my mind.
I do not expect Lydia to change her language, and would be shocked if she did because of my perspective on this issue, however I have a rigid sense of justice that is not that far off from what Lydia often describes on this blog.
It's part of why I keep coming back, I can relate to that rigid sense of justice, and enjoy adding to it. :) As Lydia often similarly relates I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to stretch perspectives.
If one resorts to personal attacks against me for my discussion of the issues at hand, I am likely accomplishing that goal, here and on many other avenues of the internet. :)
Perhaps that sounds strange but it is how I experience Autism and how I have experienced it since I was a small child when I defended our cat when my sister cried that he killed a bird, by responding it is only his nature, he is a cat not a bird. :)
As Lydia said, You are fucking wrong! I will concern myself with what is happening to us, not with the language my people use to react to the injustices committed against us.Delete
Why don't you try telling a rape survivor to tone down their language when they talk about "The fucking bastard who attacked me"?
Yeah, I shoulda figured Kate would show up representing the Tone Patrol. Way to miss the point.ReplyDelete
https://www.change.org/petitions/office-for-judicial-complaints-judge-roger-keen-apologise-and-commit-to-protecting-lgbtq-disabled-youth Not spam, it's a petition to get Roger Keen to apologize for describing Sheard's awful behaviour as 'horseplay'.ReplyDelete