Brutality: Poem by Erin Lewy

by Erin Lewy

Brutality

I swim in a sea of words
Sharp enough to kill

To justify abuse, brutality
Handcuffs, tasers, guns

To serve and protect
Applies to very few

The rest of us know
This is a killing sport

Crimes against us ignored
And more perpetuated

Shoot first and ask questions later
A battle to the death

Lives seen as less worthy
Extinguished in the name of justice

Our deaths dismissed,
“Understandable, considering.”

People excusing themselves
Calling murder mercy

And brutality justifiable
In the face of fear and hate

So strong that the only recourse
Is death, meted out to eliminate us

To erase that we were even here
Lest anyone face

True justice for what has been done
In the name of the law.

Editor’s note: In light of the sensitive nature of our upcoming post, we will be taking an intermission in posting until Monday, April 16 and continuing our coverage then.

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Vigil Report: Virtual Vigil and Boston

by Erin Lewy

I was fortunate enough to attend vigils for George Hodgins both virtually and in Boston.  Each left a lasting impression on me.  At the virtual vigil, we were lucky enough to have a video connection to DC.  While we weren’t able to see much, we received audio of Ari Ne’eman’s words.  The experience was powerful and left me feeling connected to a larger movement, underlining exactly why I was there and energizing me for Boston.

Ari’s words, clearly from the heart, were never written down.  At the Boston vigil, there was a lot of impassioned, off-the-cuff speaking too.  I was ultimately able to see the autistic self-advocacy movement first-hand, from M., who spoke passionately about disability from within her faith community in New England, to “Squid,” who missed the bulk of the virtual vigil but came with the intent of lighting a candle at home and reading the names of four hundred and fifty eight murder victims with disabilities.

Thankfully, video will be available from several vigils, including the vigil in DC.  When this footage is made available on YouTube, we will bring it to you, so that you can experience what several of us did on the night of Friday, March 30.  A crowd of thirty filled Farragut Park in memory of George, a number which we were all proud of.  Still more spilled out in virtual space, expressing our fear, sadness and outrage.

Through these vigils for George, I realized that we were all handling our fear and sadness to the best of our ability.  We came together, over a period of two days in eighteen cities across the United States, to mourn and also connect.  I felt this the most strongly when I met the director of Second Thoughts, an organization in Massachusetts fighting the good fight against a “Death with Dignity” act being proposed on the 2012 ballot.  I am fortunate to have such a resource close to me and yet also terrified that it is necessary.  As our conversation turned to euthanasia and assisted suicide, it was underscored for me that there are people in the world who think it’s perfectly valid to ask us all to disappear, to die with “dignity” and leave the fit, the healthy, and the “normal” in peace.  With such a law on the books, I know that my people could easily be coerced and worse, and suddenly these acts would be legal.

As I thought about my own challenges in reaching the Boston vigil, from inaccessible streets to a terrible lack of direction, I was heartened that I had made my way.  I made several connections which I know will continue to blossom over time, and really, in the face of sheer tragedy, there is nothing more I could ask for.  Through this project for George, I have found the community I was desperately seeking, and though we are bruised and battered we are never broken.

People gather with candles in Boston Common to remember George Hodgins and other people with disabilities murdered by family and caregivers.

Photo by Burton Pusch

We Will Not Be Silenced

by Erin Lewy, Organizer

When the question of theme arose during disscussions for this blog, one answer was given by many voices: We will not be silenced. We will not hide ourselves, our scars, our pain, or the history that they represent. We will celebrate our triumphs and mourn our losses loudly, where people can see us.

We write in honor of everyone who has been silenced during the course of our fight for equality. We write in honor of people like George Hodgins and Tracy Latimer, murdered by their parents- the very people charged with their care.

We write with the full knowledge that it would be less messy for everyone if we just shut up, if we didn’t examine our history and the people who have shaped it, if we did just like Jerry Lewis has told us to and stayed in our homes, if we just went away. We honor these pieces of our history, and we’re here to make new history, to stand up in the face of brutality and erasure and say that we are still here, loud and proud, and you cannot silence us; you will not. We were here, we are here, and we will be here, telling you our stories and refusing to disappear. We are a community, one that is vibrant and alive and here to shine as bright as we can for our youth, for their parents, for our allies. We will not be put away and we will not be silent.

Our silence has been encouraged, cultivated, via everything from the eugenics movement to police brutality and worse. We face violence and death if we dare to speak the truth; even murder by our own mothers and fathers.

We can do nothing in the face of such utter depravity, such unfairness, but stand up and be as loud as we can.

That’s what we decided when we heard of yet another murder this month, of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old autistic man. Murdered by his own mother, who ultimately will never face human justice because she took her own life, it may seem that George no longer has a voice here. But we will not allow George to fade into obscurity. We will not allow his name to be erased from our history. George’s murder puts fear in our hearts and fire in our bellies. We will be a beacon, speaking his name and telling his story to the best of our abilities. We will remember George, and Tracy Latimer, and all of the people in between them. These are our people, and we will speak out for them. In the face of claims that George’s murder is the tragic story of his killer, we have no choice but to speak out, as loudly as we can, and tell you that we do not accept this narrative. We are here to honor George, and as such this blog project is dedicated in his memory. Through the tragedy of his death, we have formed a group of activists, advocates and writers impassioned enough to challenge the stereotypes of disabilty and to show you all the many facets of our community, our struggles and our history.

In the coming weeks, we will introduce ourselves to you. Beginning on 3/30/12, the day of many national vigils in honor of George and other people with disabilities who have been the victim of murder, we will bring you a new entry which looks at the issues of murder, assisted suicide, violent crime against and abuse of people with disabilities. We will post until each of our staff has had their say, including our proofreader, who could not remain silent any more than our writers could. We will show you who we are, and the things that put fear into our hearts, the things we face every day but refuse to be stopped by. The things that are swept under the rug, the things that need to be talked about, faced, and known.

We are a diverse group of people with disabilities from all walks of life. We have one thing in common: we are ready to speak. For us, the time is now. It may never have been more true. We are here in honor of George, and we will not be silent.