Monday, September 15, 2014

The Elephant in Room

I did a little experiment this week. I commented on a story about Kelli Stapleton. For those who don't follow news, Kelli Stapleton attempted a murder-suicide of herself and her 14-year-old autistic daughter, Issy. She was well-known in the parenting circles, and a friend to many people I know. Like many such stories, this one has gathered a very specific rhetoric, the "for Kelli" crowd and the "anti Kelli" crowd. That rhetoric has become so strong and loud, it has drowned out any other ideas or voices, and everyone is expected to pick a side and then be torn to shreds by the other.

It isn't a very useful conversation.

Murder is not acceptable. Attempted murder is just murder that fortunately wasn't successful, so as far as I am concerned for these situations, the same thing. Murder was the intent. You don't kill people. I don't really care what excuses you try to give for that as a defense. It isn't one. The fact that I even have to say this shows how loud and strong this "for Kelli/anti Kelli" rhetoric has become.

What I found interesting in my experiment is the complete lack of interest in talking about the broader issues, about anything constructive, or about Issy. Every time, the conversation was turned back to "Kelli bad!" or "You're making excuses for Kelli!" I don't want to talk about Kelli at all. Plenty of people are already doing that.

I want to talk about Issy.

The subnote to the "for Kelli" contingent is often a call for "services for the family" and "support for the family." This often seems to be mistaken by the anti Kelli contingent as "support for the parents," when it appears what is meant is something more generalized as services.

Support is actually more than just services. Support is about acceptance, community, and feeling loved and welcome. That is what is needed.

However, what I suggested- and was choked out by the rhetoric- was that we don't need this primarily for the family, and not having it for the family is not an excuse to murder anyone. The person who needs support is the person with the disability. Issy needed that support. She needs that support. She didn't get it.

All too often, persons in our communities who are different, who have disabilities, don't get that support. You send them off to whatever is available for as long as you can afford, and hope. There is little mechanism for intervening and advocating for them if that is needed to keep them safe. Not just the Stapletons, people- in general. We need to talk about getting people help.

Getting that support in place, and in the community, is constructive and supportive long before we get to murdering them. Reduce the exposure of vulnerable people to abuse, violence, and murder, and you might find fewer are victims of abuse, violence, and murder. Reduce their frustration and help them learn and grow, treat them with respect, and you might find less frustration and instability in the first place, all around. Give the support, and the world becomes manageable.

Put the focus on the people who really need the help and support, and the other issues fade back. Improve the lives of people who need a little extra care and service, and their lives actually improve. It's an amazing thing.

But no one wants to talk about it.

And lest you think the static is just in the Stapleton case, check out the other cases in the news. If you want to see extremes in making excuses, check the case of the murder of Jude Mirra. Check out the rhetoric in the murder of Robbie Robinson (you have to search his mother's name, Angie Robinson, to find the stories... how sad is that?) Look at the story of Randle Barrow. Think of Alex Spourdalakis. These are just cases involving autism- but autistic people are not alone in this, they are not the only people being murdered, and their disability blamed. Where were the communities? The advocates? The interventions? The understanding? Read the way the articles are written- they feed into the pro-murderer/anti-murderer rhetoric. The murdered people are often barely mentioned, their full names subsumed under that of their killer.

Support isn't just services- there needs to be an entire social mountain moved.

We need to think about how we support people and think about each other. We need to learn what acceptance really is. We need to start with ourselves, because you can control the way you think, you can take responsibility for yourself. As we tell our kids and ourselves all the time: your are responsible for your body and your words. Learn how. Start now.