Reader Responses: #VigilForGeorge Blog Event

We asked our readers for responses to our blog posts covering the murder of George Hodgins and the larger issues of violence and murder against disabled people in general.  We recognize that although we have a substantial staff, there are other voices out there, crying to be heard.  We aim to give as many of those voices a platform to be heard as possible.  Without further ado, we present the first of our reader responses.

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Too Much Trouble

by Sarah Rizzuto

Saving Danieal was just too much trouble.
~Lynne Abraham, Philadelphia District Attorney

For Danieal Kelly
(1992-2006)

Danieal was just fourteen
when she was found dead
in her urine and feces,
all bone and bedsores
infested with maggots.

Forty-two pounds, weight
of a four-year-old, but she was not
a typical child. She used a wheelchair,
had cerebral palsy and was a waste of time.

I was two pounds when I was born
to the streets of Calcutta and parents
I’ll never know because even government records
are poor. I could’ve starved like Danieal, but my parents
knew enough to leave me for adoption, to another pair
of loving arms. I was never left guessing their motives
for leaving me. My father always told me your parents
must have really loved you. It’s not easy to give up a child.

Danieal remained with her mother, homebound,
isolated from classmates. I wonder if her mother ever told her
cerebral palsy was unbearable, as if she was suffering.

As if the four social workers on Danieal’s case
could do no better than to dump her off
like the wishbones of turkey dinners
when the wishes have been snapped off.

Why bother when co-workers report
she appeared happy and well cared for
the day before she died.
When Danieal’s five-year-old brother,
begged his mother to call an ambulance
for his obviously dying sister.
Danieal was too much trouble.
When I need air, I take the train
to New York city, without telling my parents,
and send them a postcard, knowing

they’ll still welcome me home.
My father questions me:
Did you think I’d be mad
and I say no, hoping
I’m telling the truth.

When I crave chocolate
I count on Hershey’s with almonds
or a bag of purple M&Ms my father leaves me
in case I get hungry. And when I cough so hard
my roommates think I’m dying,
I call my mother who’ll drive
half an hour to give me Nyquil.

How could Danieal’s mother sleep knowing
she was killing her daughter?
My parents scrounged and saved
so I can have the luxury of thinking
I’ve been spoiled rotten.

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Are we ''worse off''? I don't think so. Not in any meaningful sense. There are too many variables. For those of us with congenital conditions, disability shapes all we are. Those disabled later in life adapt. We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures  peculiarly our own. We have something the world needs.
~from Unspeakable Conversations by Harriet McBryde Johnson 

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Next up, we have a wonderful blog post from Sarah at Kitaiska Sandwich.  In her blog post, Sarah discusses “Death with Dignity” and the cultural attitudes and oppression which spur parents and caregivers to murder their disabled children.

‘”Until we can agree, as a society, to provide the support that all people need to live in dignity—to provide support for living independently, support for getting out of bed in the morning, for being included in the community—we have no business facilitating “death with dignity.”’

Mourn for the Dead, and Fight Like Hell for the Living

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Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg sent us several excellent posts on the recent spate of murders of disabled people.  Below is an excerpt from a post discussing the continual devaluation of disabled lives, and how lack of services is not an excuse for murder.

Because the problem isn’t the lack of services. The problem is the devaluation.

And how do disabled lives get devalued? There are so many ways, it would be impossible to list them all here. But let’s begin with language, because language is the way that we understand, well, everything. What is the language that people use to describe disability and disabled people?

Burdens on their families. Burdens on the taxpayers. Tragic suffering. Waste of money. Not fully human. Should never have been born. 

What do you think happens when you dehumanize people? What kind of culture do you think you are creating? What do you think the outcome will be when people are treated to a constant and unrelenting stream of words like that?

I’ll tell you what happens. A four-year-old boy is murdered, and people blame his disability.

This Is What You Get

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I will choose what enters me, what becomes  of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,  no ethics lives.....This is my body. If I give it to you I want it back. My life  is a non-negotiable demand. ~from "Right to Life" by Marge Piercy

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THe following is a comment from on our last post in this series, The Death of Al Bing.

thank you so much for this. even though I have a disability I have a lot of privilege in not needing to put my safety in the hands of staff, in fact I have worked as an aide for disabled people for a few years and now for elderly people with dementia (the population is different but a lot of staff attitudes are similar).

I am so sorry Al was allowed to die, but I’m not surprised that it happened. in my experience staff are constantly encouraged to ignore the requests and feelings of the people they serve. we aren’t encouraged to treat them like our customers/employers, but to do what we’re told to do by a supervisor. the things we’re told to do aren’t always based on the comfort or safety of the resident, but on what’s easier–yes, some people exaggerate needs or symptoms (although so do some people without disabilities), and some people genuinely are confused about what’s going on, but it seems like we are almost always encouraged to think this the case, just because it’s easier than treating something as a legitimate complaint.

this medicalizes disabled people in a way that other people are not medicalized. if Al didn’t have support needs, he could take himself to the hospital, whether or not he had a reason that was good in someone else’s eyes. because he lived in a group home, people doubted his judgment. not only is this a disrespectful attitude that takes away disabled people’s freedom, it can kill.
~ By Amanda Forest Vivian in our comments

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We’d like to close with a link to a poem by Lydia Brown.  Her poem, entitled “Not Human Anymore – Is This What “Ally” Means?”, is a powerful reminder of the way society still sees disabled lives – as pitiful, tragic, and ultimately disposable.  Lydia read her poem at the vigil at Washington DC, and our staff was lucky enough to get some of it on video.  You can watch the video (captioned) below.

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One thought on “Reader Responses: #VigilForGeorge Blog Event

  1. When children do face removal from their disabled parents, those parents may encounter barriers to meaningful participation in their legal cases, the report says. For example, financially struggling parents may have to rely on a court-appointed attorney with no special knowledge about the effects of disability.

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