George was shot and killed by his mother. She also shot herself. The media reported the murder-suicide as a tragedy but soon the conversation turned to how the parent stress, and frustrations with the task of finding and secure appropriate services for her son – aging out of school – caused her to “snap” and shoot him.
There is no doubt that states need to improve the services for the disabled. But lack of services cannot be used as an excuse for murder. Had George been non-disabled, his mother would have received little compassion; nobody would say her actions were “understandable”.
Worse, George was hardly mentioned in the story of his own murder. He was a non-speaking autistic who had good moments and bad moments; he could type some words and sentences; he liked to do things, he probably enjoyed small pleasures – just like any of us. Yet, he had to face his own mother pointing a gun at him.
In the aftermath of the murder, nobody was talking about George, about his life and his dreams, which I am certain he had. Instead, there was deep understanding for his mother.
Wasn’t his life worth living? Isn’t mine or the lives of all disabled people?
I did not know George. But like him, I am non-speaking and I can type. I wasn’t much younger than him when I found my voice; like any human being I have dreams and a whole range of emotions. I’ve had them forever, even when I could not express myself in a way that non-disabled people would understand.
Unlike George, I receive services from the state. But I am always on the edge because cuts come heavy and often. Were I to lose my services, would my life not be worth living anymore?
Sadly, George is only the latest of a number of disabled people being murdered by their families. They are soon forgotten, their lives only remembered as a burden to their killers.
I refuse to let them be forgotten. They were human beings with the basic right to life; they were their own people and they had dreams. Their lives were worth living. I want to remember them and their lives.
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