I already wrote a blog entry called When I Die. That one’s about how I want to be remembered. So this entry is about “If I am killed…”. In that event, which I really hope doesn’t happen, this is about how I want you to remember the person who killed me.
I don’t want you to blame “mental illness”. If it’s my parents, which it most likely won’t be, I don’t want you to claim that my father’s “Asperger’s” or my mother’s “bipolar” drove them to it. I don’t want you furthering the stereotype that “mental illness” or autism is an explanation or excuse for murder, by pitying the “sick” person who did this instead of condemning the act equally no matter what the person’s diagnosis.
I don’t want you to blame anyone’s desperation, either. If all the services in the world evaporate tomorrow, I don’t want to be at further risk of death than I already am from the lack of services. Saying “Desperation at lack of services made them do it” gives people the idea that this is at least a marginally, slightly acceptable act. It justifies acts like the nursing home murders in Hurricane Katrina. And if you think that you are just being compassionate, and that your “compassion” won’t harm anyone, you’re fooling yourself utterly. The more people say “Desperation made them do it,” the more risk I and everyone like me are at as soon as the going gets tough. There’s evidence that talking about these things in terms of the desperation of caregivers leads other caregivers to do things like this when they’re desperate.
I don’t want you to hate the person, but I do not want you to explain away what they did, either. The fact that I am autistic should not enter into any explanations of why the person did what they did, unless it’s meant in the exact same sense as killing me for being a lesbian. The murderer, if not already dead, will already be crafting some kind of explanation that paints them as, if not saintly, at least something close. I, and every autistic person who survives me but may not survive murder by their own “caregivers”, don’t need you helping them on that account. You don’t have to explain and excuse someone’s actions, to be compassionate, and in fact explaining and excusing their actions may be the opposite of compassion and love.
People have told me that this is black-and-white thinking, blamed the way I feel about this on my being autistic, told me how ugly it is that I think this way. No, this isn’t ugly. Murder is ugly. And no, this isn’t because I’m autistic, my views on this have been formed in part by the views of non-disabled parents believe it or not who don’t want their children put in harm’s way either. Fight for all the support systems you want, fight for all the positivity about autism you want, even do it in my name if you want, but do not ever claim that these support systems have failed my caregivers in the way that they have failed me, and do not ever claim that you are doing it because my caregivers weren’t supported enough and therefore they killed me. That insults all the people who have nothing and somehow don’t go around killing each other, and it, no matter how many disclaimers you put on it, is excusing the killing of people like me over the killing of ordinary people. If you think it won’t be used in that fashion, you are again fooling yourself.
I’m not saying this as someone who has never faced murder at the hands of a caregiver before, either. Because I have. Not once but several times. If I had died, my death would have been invisible, although it might have eventually turned up in a database like this one which includes data from several institutions I was at. You would probably not have heard of it, and it would have been an “accident” even when it was deliberate. And if I didn’t die, maybe it’s so I can tell you that some things are beyond excusing, beyond explanation, beyond anything even remotely right, and they should be treated as such. I do not hate the people who tried to kill me (they were not, by the way, family), but not for one moment do I excuse a single thing they did or explain it in terms of the burnout, desperation, and so forth that they would surely have described it in terms of.
Buy Four Sight and read the poem “Reflections from an Institution’s Graveyard” by Dave Hingsburger. Read everything else, too, but especially that. If the girl in that was a ghost, then, well, I’m some form of ghost too, only I’m alive enough to write about it, and I’ll quote:
“You thought I couldn’t
You thought I wouldn’t
But I do, I did, I will
I felt you kill
And love you didn’t.”
Murder is not love, and it’s not a single bit more explainable when it happens to a disabled person, nor a single bit more explainable when the murderer happens to have a label of mental illness. Every time anyone accepts those two things as explanations, they are doing a disservice to disabled people and to people with psychiatric labels. And these explanations are not compassionate, they’re deadly. Find some other way to show compassion, some real way. I’m with Ragged Edge on this one: Call it murder and don’t excuse it.
Why am I so adamant about this? Because I’m aware that, unlike a lot of people, I’m relatively well-positioned to be next, and I can’t afford the kind of fake “compassion” that would make that more likely.