Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Concerned Citizen Placing Her Concerns Where They Belong

I tend to err on the side of sympathy. I refuse to believe in an absolute evil and am usually the one pleading “Hate the sin, not the sinner,” and “Yes, what they did was wrong, but…” And I’ll admit that I initially felt sorry for Issy’s mother—sure, no mother should ever murder their child for any reason, and all life is precious, but Issy’s mother was only human, and humans are weak creatures prone to irrational behaviors, but mental illness makes people do things that they wouldn’t normally do, and she couldn’t help it, but she needs support and sympathy, not jail and condemnation, but…
But, ultimately, the needs of the victim outweighs the needs of the criminal, and what Issy Stapleton and all children with disabilities need is for the world to know how absolutely, utterly, completely not okay it is for any adult to bring harm to someone in their care for any reason whatsoever.
A part of that is not being sympathetic towards those who do bring harm.
See, sympathy sends messages. Sometimes, these aren’t quite the same messages that we set out to send, but the messages are just as real, regardless of their intent or lack thereof. Sympathizing with an attempted murder sends the message that it was justifiable for that person to do what they did. “Justifiable” often gets translated to “okay,” even though those words aren’t technically synonyms. “Justifiable” also implies “this circumstance means that it makes sense for that person to do what they did.” The victim themselves cannot be separated from the overall circumstances, which implies that the victim being who, where, and how they were at that moment makes it justifiable for their lives to be taken from them. Thus, the message “Well, it’s not okay, really, but, in these circumstances, I can kinda sorta see how it happens…” very quickly gets translated to “That victim deserves to get killed.” It may not be the translation one was aiming for, but it’s the message that gets sent, and that message has very real consequences.
For one, it’s not particularly healthy for anyone to believe that who they are is deserving of being killed, and it is especially not health for a child to hold these beliefs.
There’s also the fact that justifying one attempted murder implicitly justifies many others. Lives have been lost and are continuing to be lost due to that exact implication.
And that’s a greater tragedy than autism or any other disability could ever come even close to being, regardless of how “severe” or “violent” the presentation.
 People need to believe that they are worth living and being kept alive; people need to believe that they are valuable enough, great enough, worthy enough, just the way they are, for it not to be okay for someone to bring harm to them, that they matter enough to be protected and defended and cherished. Sympathizing with abusers and murders erases these messages.
 Issy Stapleton, you are valuable, great, worthy, and you deserve to be protected from harm. Whoever you are out there, regardless of how “troublesome” your “behaviors” may be or how “difficult” you are, the same applies to you; you are valuable, great, worthy, and you deserve to be protected from harm, and you have the right to get away from people who attempt or who do bring harm to you and to seek help, to be listened to, to be cared for, and to have your concerns taken seriously.
I apologize profusely if anything that I may have posted on any internet forum or social networking site has ever sent a message of it ever being “okay” that someone has brought or attempted to bring harm to another person. Surely, I had never intended to imply such things, but intentions are not reality; consequences are reality, and the reality of it is that people are dying because of justifications and well-intentioned-but-misplaced sympathy.  
This is a reality that we can change. It was once “justifiable” to burn a woman on a wooden stake in fear that she was a witch; it was once “justifiable” to keep a person as a slave and to beat them for trying to escape. But people started putting their proverbial feet down and demanding, “This is not okay!” And things changed. This is not to say that women are never burned at stakes or that slavery does not still exist—they are and it does—but these things started happening a lot less often when people stopped deeming them justifiable. The same can happen with the filicide of disabled children.
So here’s me strapping on Issy’s shoes and putting my foot down. Sure, Issy’s mother is human and mentally ill and stressed and overwhelmed and everything else under the sun, but she does not deserve sympathy. What she tried to do, and even what she ultimately did do, was and will never be okay. Issy deserves better. We all deserve better.

Written by Paula Gomez

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