On the 15th of January, the Daily Mail (which admittedly doesn’t have the highest journalistic standards) published a lovely little piece by a woman name Carol Sarler with the lovely little title “Why can’t we face the truth? Having an autistic child wrecks your life…”
Let me just start by saying…wow. Seriously. A big wow.
This piece is written by a woman who *does not* have an autistic child. Nope. She has a friend who has one, though, so, like anyone who has stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, she’s an expert.
She says that “brave and devoted mothers…have clung to the positives brought into their lives by their children” because when one child with autism is born, then “three generations of lives – I include his own – [are] wrecked, for ever, by his cussed condition.” Yep. Thanks for telling me, dear sweet Carol, that my life is now “wrecked.” It’s good to know that I’m “brave and devoted.”
That’s not enough for her, though. She points out that the parents can’t lead a “normal” life – “how many shops – or, indeed, how many customers – are going to tolerate a child who screams, bites, defecates and destroys everything within reach?”
Ah, I love people like this. The assholes. The ones who believe that anyone with any abnormalities should be locked up, hidden away. Let’s not modify ourselves and help those who are in need. Instead, we should force them to leave the public life and hide themselves away. A Kennedy at heart, perhaps?
Carol’s point is that she believes in eugenics. “…As the debate rages over the possibility of a prenatal test for autism, with abortion then optional. And, so far, most of the argument leans towards such a test being undesirable and unethical.” She even goes on and states that she never asked her friend for her opinion because “…it is hard for a mother retrospectively to wish away a living child who, come what may, she loves. But looking on, as a relatively dispassionate observer; looking at the damage done, the absence of hope and the anguish of the poor child himself, do I think that everyone concerned would have been better off if Tom’s had been a life unlived? Unequivocally, yes.”
To her, it seems to a simple equation: she doesn’t want her life to be “ruined” by her friend having a seven-year-old autistic son. And while she claims that their lives are ruined, we never hear from them and we never see their point of view. It’s her points. Her opinions. Her being a total fucking asshole.
Not sorry for the language. It needed to be said.
When people like Carol can go around making statements like this, we’re mere steps away from letting people with disabilities be sterilized or put in camps or killed. Why stop by letting them be removed from the womb before they’re born?
I’d like to ask her how she feels about testing people for other diseases. If we know a child is going to have cancer, should we abort it? Because, you know, why let the parents get attached if the kid is just going to die later? And what about physical abnormalities. Those make people’s lives harder, too. Why should parents be forced to use wheelchairs for their children? Hmmm? Perhaps we should develop a test to help us determine who is most at risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Because, you know, those people are also a burden on their families and society as well. Why let them live?
Oh, wait, because we’re not a barbaric society who kills what it doesn’t understand. We don’t destroy for the sake of our own ease. We learn to accept and work with what we’re given in life. We love our fellow men and women. We support those who need support and spend our lives in the service of others, not constantly worrying about ourselves. At least, that’s in an ideal world, right? The kind she wants to create through hatred and fear, not love and compassion.
According to dictionary.com, filicide is
- a person who kills his or her son or daughter
- the act of killing one’s son or daughter
ASAN, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is offering an anti-filicide toolkit. It’s both horrifying and necessary. In fact, according to ASAN, since 2010, more than 70 people have been murdered by their parents.
“A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the “burden” of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten.”
The advice in the toolkit is extremely helpful, but it’s also extremely sad. The fact that people have to be told that they should condemn the murder and mourn the victim…that it’s bad to imply that it’s better to be dead than disabled…that filicide should not be called ‘mercy-killing.’
Why do we need to tell people these things? Why isn’t this common knowledge?
Go and check out the ASAN page. Read their toolkit. Share it. Make it common knowledge.
I don’t believe I have to write about this.
Another person (this time an award-winning autism blogger) questioned “how much a parent who has ‘reached the point of desperation’ can be blamed.”
I don’t want to be picky about this, but I’m going to have to be.
If you’ve reached your breaking point, get help. If you have to abandon your child to the state and face charges for it, then take that option.
Murder is not an option.
I don’t care that the blogger said that “you have to wonder what happens that an otherwise loving mother can feel like this is the only option or that this is the best option.”
No, you don’t have to wonder. You know – she’s feeling beyond overwhelmed, and she probably has some sort of mental breakdown. I get that. It happens. But even then, it’s murder. And in this case, the murder seems to have been at least partially planned. The mother, on YouTube, said that she was thinking of “pulling a Thelma and Louise” before she tossed her kid off the bridge.
It also doesn’t help when “experts” like Dee Shepherd-Look (a psych professor at California State University) make statements like, “quite frankly, I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often…these children are really unable to be in a reciprocal relationship and the moms don’t really experience the love that comes back from a child.”
What. The. Fuck.
Now, I know that I may be in the lucky group. Simon loves hugs, he loves attention, he interacts (albeit in very limited ways). But even when that interaction and communication was more limited than it is now, I would never consider murder as an option.
Do we also consider murder as an option when someone is deaf? Blind? In any other way impaired? I mean, what is the deciding line for it, in the opinion of this “expert”? Who gets a free pass to kill a child? Because if it’s just when you hit a certain level of frustration, I think every child would probably be dead before the end of their teens.
Murder is not an option.
Autism is not – and should not – be a death sentence.
Oh, and go sign this petition!
Lately, Simon has been on a Christmas movie kick. He watches “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” (one of my favorites), “Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays” (not one of my favorites), and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
I have nothing against Rudolph, except…well, the message is a bit disturbing. Rudolph is forced to fit in – to literally cover up who he is and what he is (by donning a black cap over his red nose). And when it’s revealed that he’s not “normal,” i.e. not like all the other reindeer, then he’s shunned and kept from participating in society.
Until, of course, Santa needs him.
Then suddenly his difference is worthwhile and acceptable. More than acceptable, really. It’s something to celebrate! Go different people! (But only if that difference it helpful and benefits us!)
How is that any different than what Richard Dawkins said in his tweet when he declared that only some people with disabilities shouldn’t be selectively weeded out through eugenics?
Haven’t heard about it? Here’s a little piece from Huffington Post –
Dawkins tweeted that if someone found out that their fetus had Down Syndrome, they should “abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”
When someone brought up the Autism spectrum, he said, “People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute. Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respect. DS not enhanced.”
Seriously? Seriously? We get to decide which disabilities should be allowed and which ones shouldn’t? And what about people on the spectrum who do not have “enhanced” abilities? What about people who are more severe on the spectrum and need help to live?
Dawkins says that he thinks that there’s a “profound moral difference” between deciding to abort a fetus and stating that “this person should have been aborted years ago,” but I struggle to see the difference. Is his position that, once the person is born, then it’s okay to deal with the disability, but if it’s known, we should avoid it? What about physical disabilities? What about being an asshole? When will we get a pre-natal test for assholes?
(Please do not take this blog as any sort of stance on abortion as a whole…this is purely about eugenics and those who believe that we should chose who lives and dies based on their perceived value to society…)
I followed a link about a cat because, well, it’s Caturday, and there’s a law that says you must. Or so I’ve been told.
It led me to the tale of Mercury the Kitten.
Mercury, at a very, very young age, lost his two front legs in a weed whacker accident.
But now he struts around like a t-rex, happy, content, and able to do anything and everything he wants to do. He’s one cool cat.
Then I scrolled down to the comments section because sometimes the comments are the best part of a site. And that’s where I saw it. A posting from “kim moore.”
Kim posted: “youre so wrong i actually rescue animals and have kids and 5 cats of my own and they r spoiled rotten i think keeping this kitty alive is selfish and its cruel what does a cat use more than its front paws ? it makes me cry to see this cat some people dont know when to pull the plug people think euthanizing an animal is is so horrible its painless and reserves a spot in life people keep pets around like this for selfish reasons……..its an adorable kitty but get over the selfishness already and no not everything or everyone should live theres a time when it turns into cruelty” (And, yes, I purposely kept in all her misspellings and grammatical errors because, hey, if nothing else, we can pick on that.)
Keeping in mind the kitten in question is not having any problems. The kitten in question is a happy little kitten who doesn’t seem to even really know that’s there’s something wrong with it. The kitten doesn’t seem to think there’s anything cruel about its existence. It plays with string. It plays with kitties. It runs around on its back legs.
Other responses tell her “you sound like quite a bad person” and that she’s “way beyond wrong.” One person (named Kate, but I swear it’s not me!) even told her, “You are the cruel one. You are the selfish one. Everyone DOES deserve a chance at life.”
Another person pointed out that they were born with a disability. “…it’s really too bad that someone didn’t put me down when I was a baby. Those optimistic bastards…how could they have known I’d find a full, happy life?”
The responses from other people give me hope, but then there’s an immutable fact to also keep in mind.
“Kim” said it.
She believed it.
She is not alone.
Like back in August of 2013, when there was the “letter from a pissed off mother” who suggested that a boy with autism be euthanized.
Like the fact that a number of people with autism (and those of us who love someone with autism) were outraged when Autism Speaks again presented people with autism as a burden – ““I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams….And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain,” says the video campaign.”
Like an unnamed (because I really can’t/shouldn’t name him) college professor who, when a counselor told him that he needed to make accommodation for a student who was going blind, asked, “But aren’t there special schools for those kinds of people?”
I honestly just cannot comprehend the mindset of some people. Do they not realize that everyone is different? That everyone has different abilities and problems? That one day, sooner or later, they will either be dead or very possibly relying on someone to help them get through life? Will they choose euthanasia when it comes to be their time? When they break a leg or develop a severe allergy or other condition that makes them unable to live like a “normal” person?
While some disabilities and conditions are fatal, there should always be hope, and there should always be at least a modicum of understanding for those who are different, for those who are atypical, for those who are not identical to us.
In the case of “Kim’s” Caturday posting, I can’t help but think she got selfishness confused with compassion. Luckily for her, while she might have the selfish part down, a lot of other people have the compassion.
Once upon a time (about a week ago now), a “pissed off mother” wrote a letter that went Internet-crazy.
Obviously, this letter was just a wee bit upsetting to all of those who have children with autism or other developmental disabilities. It took me a while to form a response, but now that I’ve calmed down, I wanted to respond. It *needs* a response.
First, I can’t blame this mother for sending it anonymously. If I had written something with punctuation that was that bad, I wouldn’t want anyone to know I had written it either. (Joking. Humor helps, right?)
But to get to the serious part, I feel sorry for the mother who wrote this letter. Genuinely sorry. Sorry for her and the life she leads. The life she’s going to lead.
She needs to think about the lesson she’s teaching her children. She needs to remember that her children will be the ones picking her nursing home. And that’s not a joke. I’m not being facetious. The letter she wrote shows a distinct lack of caring for those who aren’t “normal” or behave oddly. According to one Alzheimer’s website, the risk of someone developing a form of dementia is one in 14. If she is that one in 14, her children will fear her and revile her, just the way she has taught them to. She shouldn’t be surprised if she finds herself in an inexpensive nursing home with no visitors and no one coming to her grave after she dies alone.
We reap what we sow. She has made it clear that those who are imperfect are not worthy of love or even simple human dignity. She will have that experience herself one day, and perhaps by then it will be far too late for her to change her mind or teach her children differently.
That’s why I feel sorry for her and the life she leads. I also feel sorry for her children. Perhaps none of them will ever learn to appreciate the simple things in life or even life itself. She won’t read this. And she wouldn’t care or understand even if she did. And for that, there is no cure. She will suffer forever.
My son may scare her, but he has empathy. He would feel bad about scaring her. She, on the other hand, scares me. She doesn’t feel bad about scaring people. And she doesn’t know why that’s wrong.
Autism can be coped with. What’s wrong with her, however, can’t be. She may be able to pretend she’s normal sometimes, but her letter makes it clear that she does not possess human emotions. And for that, I feel sorry for her. I have to hope that other parents of autistic children can find it in their hearts to feel sorry for her, too. Because while her letter might shock us and hurt us, we have the strength to move past it. And she never will.