Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Right Condolences: An Autistic Activist's Response to the Santa Barbara Massacre

The recent deaths of the students in the University of California is a deep tragedy so much that every person who hears of it can feel profoundly affected, and certainly these students loved ones deserve to be respected and understood in a courteous way.  Unfortunately, there are those out there who would use tragedy for their own purposes, thus undermining the magnitude and vastness of this occurrence.  In an age where the media sensationalizes just about everything, people like me tend to be dragged into our own pool of misfortunes from these events.  Every recent mass murder, whether in Oklahoma state, Sandy Hook, or Columbine, even though valid studies show absolutely no connection to Asperger syndrome and violent crime, and autistic people are more likely to be victims of violence.  And when autistic people are associated with these events by media pundits, it simply increases stigma and violence against them.  What parent, may I ask, or spouse, child, sibling, niece, or nephew, would want their own suffering and grief to be associated with violence and intolerance?  Who in this world would want to have guilt for their own grief over their flesh-and-blood child or the like? 
                The fact is that any repressed minority group, whether gays, blacks, or Hawaiians, has been connected to violent crime.  How often have we heard of “a black man” who has robbed a convenience store or committed a murder?  Televangelist Pat Robertson once said 99% percent of the world’s crimes are committed by gays when they make up 1% of the world, and these proportions surprisingly enough were used by Hitler to describe the ratio of Jews in the crimes committed.  For autistics, these events include Sandy Hook, Santa Barbara, and the Oklahoma state bombings.  None of these speculations were by reputable professions.  They were by media pundits who have perpetuated the assumptions of the average citizen.  I have heard it argued that these speculations are meant to prevent future shootings, but since the Sandy Hook massacre, have these types of incidents stopped.  Alex Plank, founder of the autistic social network Wrong Planet wrote in response the Sandy Hook massacre that the search for a reason that the search for the source of these crimes should not be the search for a scapegoat.  What’s more, why are these “sources” always the ones who face higher levels of unemployment, lack of education, and alcoholism than the general population, when neither Elliot Rodgers, Timothy McVeigh, or the Sandy Hook shooter have ever been diagnosed?  
                Giving condolences and comfort to the loved ones of the victims is not the same thing as searching for a scapegoat.  Stigmatizing people with Asperger syndrome will not heal the pain and grief of Cheung Yuan Hong’s, George Chen’s, or Weiham Wang’s loved ones, nor will it give the closure they may desire or renormalize their lives.  The deaths of these nineteen- and twenty-year old students should never serve as a leeway for escalating current life-threatening violence of living people with hopes and dreams and loved ones like Hong’s, Chen’s, or Wang’s, and just happen to be autistic.  The truly unfortunate flaw of many is that the people we love are not always appreciated as they should be until they are gone, and I hope that all people of this world will learn to truly appreciate their loved ones that they hold dear, whether or not they are autistic. 

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