Murdering the disabled

From the September-October 2016 issue of News & Letters

People with disabilities were killed on July 26 in Japan’s deadliest mass murder since World War II. Ten women and nine men were stabbed to death and another 26 injured, at the Tsukui Lily Garden care facility in Sagamihara by former employee Satoshi Uematsu.

DISABLED WHEELCHAIRUematsu had previously been detained after writing a letter expressing his desire to murder hundreds of “disabled people with severe difficulties socializing as well as severe difficulties at home.” He described his intended crime in detail. Clearly, there should have been a heightened security consciousness at the facility. Yet only one guard was on duty that night. The victims were helpless, and would have had no context for dealing with the killer’s rage.

The dereliction goes deeper. The very fact that a person who had been hired and trained to work with the disabled developed such a hateful and dehumanizing view is a commentary on the way society chooses to “warehouse” the disabled and ignore the full humanity that each of us possess. Differences become “severe difficulties,” and our humanity is relegated to the dishonest ping-ponging of state budgets and bigoted politics, which often amount to another form of murderous hatred.

In the U.S., Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposals—where he insists on slashing services to those who need them most—has something in common with the murderer in Japan. It’s his total disregard for humanity.

There are times when I wonder how much poorer my life might be if my disabled daughter weren’t with me. The lack of support creates real barriers between people with different abilities.

The murderer Uematsu expressed pride in his “ability to kill.” This is an ultimate expression of the way our society, in general, relates to those with a disability. They are often seen as a burden, as an expense, their humanity treated as a luxury in good times and a drag in bad. A genuine revolution will overthrow this dehumanizing relationship, and the differently abled will have the right to a living situation in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

–Suzanne Rose

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