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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ableism and Mass Murder

This morning I went for a walk with my beloved and aging lab Kate. We stopped in our usual shady spot on the Onondaga Creek walk. I was facing the water as was Kate, our backs to the path. I heard a bike approach and stop directly behind which is unusual. My first thought was is this person going to kill me. I shook my head mad at myself for having such an irrational thought. Then I thought again. While my fear disappeared as fast as it appeared I felt the sting of disability based bigotry. Today, most typical people have no clue what ableism is. Most people when they hear the term roll their eyes and mutter something about political correctness run amuck. Some get angry. How dare I equate ableism with other racially based crimes. More than once I have heard "The KKK never set a cross aflame at your home". When it comes to disability rights, the anger is an ever present under current to my presence and the presence of those with a very different body. Anger is like a snare trap ready to snap at a moments notice. The smiling look or offer of help when declined can turn violent in a heart beat.  In Japan, we saw the most violent form of ableism. Others I respect saw it to. A few of us have written about it. I suggest the below links:

The hate crime in Japan graphically and horrifically demonstrates that people with a disability are prone to being the victims of violence. That violence includes murder. How many more people need to die before ableism is acknowledged as a global problem. The violence I refer to takes many forms. Hollywood knows films that kill disabled characters for their own merciful fend of life resonates well with audiences. Police in the United States have killed  host of people with a disability. Parents who murder their disabled children are given light sentences for their crimes. Donald Trump openly mocked a disabled reporter from the New York Times. Most recently the video of a man trying to help an autistic client of his was shot. The police bemoaned the fact they missed the man with autism. They tried to kill him. Yes, their intent was to kill a man from a group home with autism that was playing with a toy truck. This sort of violence is spun in a myriad of ways. It also appears as if the massacre in Japan has lost the media's attention. There is no live coverage on CNN. It appears as if the next big story to get media saturation is the Democratic convention. So much of honoring or valuing the victims in Japan. I can anticipate it now. Stories will become increasingly infrequent and then cease all together. In less than a year few will remember. I will remember. My people were needlessly killed.

While it is easy to second guess, there is no question the massacre in Japan could have been prevented. The fact is that here and in other industrial nations we do not value the human rights of people with a disability. We do not think of human rights and disability rights to be one in the same. We do not think people with a disability could be and are victims of hate crimes. Virtually no mainstream media outlet includes a headline with the words "hate crime" when reporting about the mass murder in Japan. Look at the time line I have created based on reading dozens of stories.

Uematsu was employed by the facility on apart time basis starting December 2012. He had temporarily worked at the facility the previous summer.

April 2013 he was promoted to a full time position

In 2014 he began to make comments to his fellow employees that indicated deep animosity and hinted at violence against the people he was employed to care for.

"Don't you think that it is meaningless for disabled people to live?"

"Don't you think  that it is better for the disabled to die?"

In February 2015 he started to distribute fliers to houses in the area that boldly stated "It is useless for disabled to live".

On February 15 he tried to deliver a letter to the official residence of the Lower House speaker in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward"

On February 18 he told staff member where he worked he would "carry out the mass murder of severely disabled people at any time if I receive an order from central government". 

On February 19 Uematsu was forcibly hospitalized on an emergency basis.

On February 22 he admitted that something was wrong with him. He was transferred to a different hospital and released on March 2.

Things get hazy here. Uematsu was supposed to live with his parents. Contradictory reports abound. One consistent theme remains clear. He continued to make threatening remarks about killing people with a disability. In short, for well over a year Uematsu made remarks that were clearly hateful and threatening. No one investigated. No one followed up post forced hospitalization. No one has made an effort to know what if any medications he was taking. The only mention of medication is related to marijuana and that he tested clean of usage. He has expressed no remorse. He readily admits to the murders.

Replace the word disabled with black or any other other minority group. I find it hard to believe an investigation would not have taken place. There is  much bigger story here. A bigger story that no one wants to engage in. Like Lydia Brown, there is no question in my mind ableism is not about bad words but rather its violence.  In no uncertain terms Brown wrote:

Don't. Dare.
We are not some innocent angels untouched by the realities of the world around us. 

We are not unaware or oblivious to the existence of others, let alone of hate.
We know hate and we know violence, because it is written on our bodies and our souls.
We bear it, heavy, wherever we go. Ableism is the violence in the clinic, in the waiting room, in the social welfare lines, in the classroom, in the recess yard, in the bedroom, in the prisons, in the streets. Ableism is the violence (and threat of violence) we live with each day.
Ableism is the constant apologetics for family members and caregivers who murder their disabled relatives -- they must have had it so hard, it must have been such a burden, you musn't judge unless you've walked in their shoes. (In the last few decades, more than 400 disabled people were murdered by relatives or caregivers, and those are only the stories we know about.)
Ableism is the fact that a police officer who shot an unarmed Black man with his hands up decided it made more sense to claim he was actually aiming for the Brown autistic man holding a toy truck beside the Black man.

Think about this long and hard. Everywhere I go I am hated. My presence is a never ending afront to others. Few want to kill--I hope. But never am I expected. I am never wanted. Never.  My existence is a tragedy. My life lacks value. I suffer daily. Hollywood reinforces this repeatedly via films like Million Dollar Baby and most recently Me Before You. I attend academic conferences and am routinely the only wheelchair user. Conference organizers never know anything about access. Call the hotel I am told. I also hear a lot of sorries. Sorry I am told I have never had a wheelchair user board a plane, train, bus or check into a hotel. Sorry I am told by zip cars we never had a customer request a car with hand controls. Our nearest car is in St. Louis. I want to see the local AHL hockey team play. I call the gate because you cannot order tickets online like every other human being. I must call the box office so "superior service can be provided to our special guests". No one returns my call. There is a never ending string of violations. Many are small and I have lost an ocean of time over the years. I have however avoided physical violence. For that I consider myself lucky. For if I have learned one thing it is that no one is kind to the handicapped as I was once told by a relative. The reality is the world is consistently hostile to the presence of people with a disability. I have seen the very worst of humanity on a regular basis. I have seen the worst parts of the best building because that is how I routinely enter building. The backdoor, side door, and special lift is an ever present and far from subtle fuck you. I have been subjected to cruelty. I have been yelled at, spit on and once had a very drunk man urinate on me when I was in a lift. What I refuse to do is bend or yield. I am a human being. I do not care one iota if others hate me. What I am and will always be is a human being like those that hate the fact I exist. That hatred can be ever so pleasant in the form of Peter Singer, a do gooder that turns violent because I have refused "help" with the door or it can be a man in Japan who apparently slit the throats of 19 still un named human beings in Japan. The ugliest side of humanity is an ever present part of my life. Today I felt primal fear. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Perhaps a typical biped will yet again tell me what to do because I clearly have no autonomy or control over my own life. 


grrrrraham said...

Powerful stuff. One thing about that doesn't seem to be mentioned in social media threads is underpinning notions of eugenics that shape the justification of killing. Lest we forget, the Nazi regime used disabled people as guinea pigs for the Holocaust. We were the first group to be gassed in mobile units under the Aktion T4 programme. Hundreds of thousands died, mainly ppl with learning difficulties who were incarcerated in institutions like the one in Japan. There are dreadful historical parallels. And the narrative of eugenics and euthenasia lives on.

william Peace said...

Graham, You are correct in all you note. This history is simply not taught at most universities. Disability history and Eugenics are certainly not taught in virtually all secondary schools. When I teach bioethics more than a few students are shocked by what I have hime read. All question why was I never exposed to this history.

grrrrraham said...

Have you come across? Liz Crow is a disabled artist and activist.

william Peace said...

Graham, Yes, I have seen the short film. I show it in my bioethics class where I teach. Highly effective in a class room setting. Appreciate the link.