This Friday disABILITY LINK will be sponsoring a vigil to honor those that have been lost due violence from family and caretakers. This will be one of a number of vigils held across the country. These were prompted by the loss of George Hodgins, a man who was shot and killed by his mother for being autistic. This focus of this tragedy was somehow shifted away from the vicious slaying of this person with a disability to his mother and, basically, justifying her action. “It’s understandable, she had it so hard” or “what else could she do?”might have been heard in regards to this incident. The public’s willingness to accept the death of a person because they are viewed as a “burden” is completely unacceptable.
We’ve seen too many examples of people with disabilities, specifically people with autism being dehumanized lately, sometimes even by organizations like Autism Speaks, that are supposedly designed to advocate for people with autism (despite the fact that nobody with autism is involved in the running or decision making of that organization). Trying to make this violent act out as a “mercy” or “compassion” killing makes others view this as an acceptable alternative. If you had a child that had an ear infection and cried too much, would it be acceptable to kill them? What about a grown man who is unemployed and had to move back in with his family? We see outrage over parents who kill their non-disabled children, regardless of their age, but when a person with autism or any other “severe” disability is killed by their parent you see more sympathy for the murderer rather than the murdered. We try to put the person before the disability in the language we use, the media needs to put the person who was killed before the person that killed them.
We are PEOPLE with disabilities. We are not burdens, problems, issues or deserving of death at the hands of those that are supposed to love us unconditionally. We cannot make disability a condition on which it is acceptable to kill another person because they are seen as an inconvenience.