Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Broken Back


After a week of illness I informally deemed "the new black plague" and end of semester finals, I thought Friday's tragedy was the straw that would break this camel's back. You see, I loathe guns. I will not have them in my home, regardless of their purpose. I'm not exactly sure when I formed this strong opinion, but know it began at least by my adolescence as I remember having this debate in civics class. Ironically, I grew up in a home with handguns and hunting rifles. I have no traumatic stories to tell that explain my great dislike of guns. Yet I do, very strongly, dislike weapons and see no sign of changing this perspective.
So when I finally came out of my cave of academic study and heard the news, I thought I would crumble. More senseless death, of children no less, in the name of someone's barbarous argument that it is their "Constitutional Right" to carry and stockpile these killing machines. I have grown weary from the argument. Little did I know, however, that this story would become personal and downright paralyzing.
The media, in effort to sell the story, figured it had better give us the big answer: Why? Why would this young man have done such an unspeakable thing? In reality, because the shooter is also dead we will never know. But let the speculation begin. The media was going to give us that BIG answer, though completely unfounded.
ABC was the first news network to start the rumor. An anonymous relative supposedly said the killer was autistic and had a personality disorder. Within moments, that misinformation went viral. ABC had "dirt" it so desperately needed to stand out from its competing networks. Soon after, ABC removed that information from their website - presumably it was misinformation. But it was way too late. Other news media, bloggers, commentators, you-name-it stumbled on that misinformation and had begun to spread it like wildfire. There would be counters to this misinformation, but it would fall on deaf ears. You see, saying "we don't know why" doesn't sell papers or increase sponsorship. People want answers. And they are ready to accept those answers regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They are especially ready to point blame at something other than "the gun."
Today, I continue to read the horror stories. Not the shooting details. I simply refuse to patronize the sensationalist news media with their nonstop speculative commentary. The families deserve much better. No, I am reading about the "witch hunt" demonizing autistics - the ongoing pleas to stop autistics from hurting others - to limit autistic rights - the nonsense connections from someone who knows someone who knows someone with an autistic family member who was "just like" the shooter. The well-meaning bloggers who plead for better "mental health" for people "suffering from autism."
Autism, though still in the DSM, is considered a neurobiological disorder by the specialists and researchers who are forefront. It is a different wiring system in the brain that causes the individual to process differently than what is typical. Symptoms of autism do not include premeditated violent behavior.
Autistics and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Attributing autism as a motive to this heinous crime is no more valid than attributing Adam Lanza's maleness, human-ess, or the fact that he lived in Connecticut. Though all of these things are true, they do not motivate one to murder.
Today I live in fear because of a rhetorical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I fear that I cannot safely go Christmas shopping without the possibility that a "legal" gun owner might go on a killing spree. Leaving our home increases the likely-hood my family will die by gunfire. I fear my family may end up collateral damage so that gun enthusiasts can continue to stockpile assault weapons.
But I mostly live in fear for my autistic child. A victim of abuse by the hands of "typical" people, my child, who values life above all, is now the target of a media frenzy.
Today my back is broken and it is difficult to have hope.

3 comments:

Paula C. Durbin-Westby said...

http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/mother-with-asperger-syndrome-grieves.html

Liz said...

For an exhaustive (but probably not complete) list of responses to "autism did it", see the post below. I've added yours.

http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2012/12/gun-violence-and-the-search-for-a-scapegoat-autism-edition.html

Liz said...

Thanks for writing this. I am keeping a running account of the responses to the media meme, "autism made him do it", at

http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2012/12/gun-violence-and-the-search-for-a-scapegoat-autism-edition.html.

I have added this post.