It was depressing reading. All I did was look up the words "Robert Latimer parole" on Google and I found hundreds of entries. One of which was a newspaper article on a website that had the capacity for people to respond. Almost every letter was in support of Latimer and the one's that were 'con' were more about family support and the needs of families who have children with severe disabilities than they were about the murder of a child.
When I was on the road in England I saw a man with a severe disability receive amazing care. The carer with him knew exactly how to position him so that the movement he did have was able to communicate meaning. He chose what he wanted for lunch. It took nearly ten minutes for the choice to be made, but he made it. Deep inside his disability, he lived, had preferences, and she knew how to call him forth - let him free. To casual observers he'd be a bunch of bones and slightly less than human - to those with eyes he was fully human.
The Latimer parole controversy hit while I was overseas and I heard none of it until I got back. An email came into my work address about a 'response' to Latimer and to the public outpouring of support for him. Then I did the search and found that the Canadian public's response - each letter claiming to know Latimer's heart, claiming to empathize with him. What fraudulent, cheap emotion! What disability loathing trash! What blatent prejudice masquarading as compassion!
When I worked in an institution, years and years ago, I met a woman with a profound disability. Few were interested in her, few attempted contact. But I was just out of university, just freshly trained in 'behavioural' approaches. I wanted the challenge of teaching someone with such a significant disability. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that chocolate had the capacity to increase IQ! Patsy learned. She was called out from the land that she lived in to make contact with the world. There was someone home in there. I've never forgotten that fact again.
I took an acting class, one Saturday on the road, during the time of the Latimer trial. It was called, appropriately, 'Acting for Amateurs'. The teacher had us BE a tree, then BE the wind that blew through the branches. Then we had to BE a rock in a brook. Now BE the water that flow over the rock. And we all did as we were told we swayed our branchs, and whoosh the water. It was fun. Then we were asked for suggestions. One woman had love for birds, so we all worked at BEING the bird. I then suggested that we all BE Tracy Latimer. There was silence and discomfort, the teacher then said, "We can BE something that's not there." Excuse me but we were just a frigging rock and we can't BE Tracy Latimer. These are the people who are writing letters - people who can feel compassion for Robert while feeling nothing but pity and loathing at the mere idea of Tracy. Forgive me but I have no difficulty in calling bigots, bigots. Hitler 'sold' the murder of the disabled as compassion, their existance as burdens ... it's a good technique ... clearly still works.
"You don't know what it's like to have a child with a significant disability." No, I don't. But I have cared for them without wishing them dead. I have spent two years in a wheelchair and seen the 'I'd rather be dead than be you' look in the eyes of two footers who fear disability above all else. I have sat in movie theatres and wished normal children dead. Please, don't tell me that if I had a kid with disability I would suddenly understand Latimer's decision to kill his child. Please don't tell me that ultimately Tracy was responsible for her own death, that it was her disability that motivated him. You don't know his heart - neither do I - I don't need to, because it's HER heart that matters.
So, I add my voice to the few that have spoken up against Latimer, against the tidal wave of prejudice that he has called forth.
Thankyou to the Parole Board who asked difficult questions and took a difficult decision.