Sunday, 13 December 2015

Walk in OUR Shoes - Accountability

Submitted by Erin Schroeder; Originally published on Hands in Motion

[CN: Filicide, Abuse, and other various instances of Ableism]

When an Autistic child or an adult dependent is murdered by their parent or caregiver who should be held accountable?  This is a question I have to ask myself every time one of my brothers, sisters, or variations thereupon within the Autistic community is murdered, a tragedy that takes place far too frequently.  It is so very easy for me to lash out at the obvious target, the parent or caregiver who committed the murder, the person who stole from our community a life so very precious and disgraced it, but that would be too easy; to blame only the murderer is to let everyone else off the hook, it is to ignore the circumstances that lead up to the heinous act, and to let the guilty walk free.  When one of my peers, my family, is murdered, there are more people to blame then I can spare the time to count, from the people who laid the groundwork of fear and hatred and pity, to the people who ignored the warning signs and fed the murderer's sense of self righteousness, there are so many people to hold accountable. 

Far too often the ones who truly deserve to be held accountable, including the murderer, are pardoned, their actions treated as reasonable, merciful even, and the blame is shifted onto the ones who have suffered the most, the victim, and the community that fought for them.  Too often the victim is described as a burden, a hardship, an unimaginable grievance, one so horrible that to put up with them for even a moment makes a person into a hero, a saint, and gives them an excuse when they choose to steal that innocent life away.  Too often we in the community blame ourselves for the loss, counting ourselves as guilty for not having done enough to prevent a tragedy that we have faced so many times before, bearing the shame of having failed to protect one of our own, of having failed to recognize the signs, of having been distracted from the opportunity to intervene by our work elsewhere.  Too often Autistic people take the blame for our own murders and those of our community, while the people who deserve to be held accountable are showered in praise for their "brave" actions, their "kind" words, and their "touching" spread of hatred and fear.  Too often we are murdered and there is no one willing to rest the blame where it belongs.

If you are reading this from the perspective of someone who is not either a part of our community or a true ally to our community, then in all likelihood you are one of those who deserve to be held accountable.  If you ignored the warning signs, the martyr parent, the blatant abuse disguised as therapy, if you defended and supported these things, then you are accountable.  If you listened to the people who spoke over us, if you gave them the funds to bind and gag us, if you spoke of what heroes they were while they practiced eugenics against us, then you are accountable.  If you shared the article that poured praise upon a decent human being, if you wrote the story of the astounding achievement made by one of us when we "overcame" our own neurotype in order to do a fun activity, if you used kind words to strip us of our humanity, then you are accountable.  If you took part in the abuse, if you ignored us when we said no, if you told us who we are was wrong and forced us to act like you, if you restrained us and told us to use our words while we were so clearly shouting, if you stole our voice and our autonomy, then you are accountable.  If you sold the chemicals, if you praised the killing "cure," if you didn't report the poison that was offered, then you are accountable.  You are accountable for the pills forced down our throats, the guns held to our heads, the rags tied 'round our mouths, the water in our lungs, the scars we inflicted upon ourselves while grief stricken over the loss of yet another of our own, for all of that and more you are accountable.

When one of our own are murdered the media cajoles us, "you need to walk in their shoes," they insist, but not the victim's shoes, no, they would rather we walk in the murderer's, and in those of everyone else accountable for the tragedy.  The shoes of murderers are not shoes I wish to wear, nor are those of the others who must be held accountable, I would much rather walk in the shoes of the victims, the shoes of the innocent whose lives were taken without provocation, I would rather spend a year walking in their shoes than a day walking in a murderer's.  For once I want to see the general public walk in the shoes of the Autistic community, to empathize with the victims rather than the murderers, to grant us the dignity afforded to every non-disabled individual, that of being mourned when after death, rather than before.  It is a common lie that Autistic people are so self involved that we can't understand how others act towards us, and it's a lie that has excused the most horrendous of things, not the least of which is the fact that the public can't take a moment to empathize with us except for in one of those poorly made videos and games that are somehow meant to simulate the experience of being Autistic yet never come close.  Listen to our voices, acknowledge our existence, walk in our shoes, maybe then you'll stop condoning it when we are abused and murdered, maybe then I will no longer have to hold you accountable for every death I'm forced to mourn.