The letter was horrific and hateful ... it violently suggested the end of a life, the harvesting of organs ... the final solution to the problem of difference in the neighbourhood. People are reacting with shock. Outrage even.
For the last several years I've been reading about the increased hostility towards people with disabilities in Canada, the UK and the US. Images of several people with disabilities, killed by gangs, killed by neglect, killed by families come to mind. Reading of studies that show the people with intellectual disabilities who live in the community live in fear, knowing from personal experience that people easily demote me from a person with rights to 'thing in the way, hearing from others with disabilities horror stories about life out in public.
Hate crimes against people with disabilities are on the rise.
We knew that, first from statistics, then from personal experience.
I'm supposed to be heartened because so many people have rallied around this child and this family. I don't. I have lost trust. I believe that people are upset at the clear expression of disphobic and ablest attitudes - in the same way that people are horrified when people use racist words and express violent racists sentiments, but go about practising a quiet racism on a daily basis.
Those who decry the words of the letter - after you get over being all righteous about the words used, will you be fighting for employment rights for people with disabilities? The writer says that this young man will never be employed, well, shock, people with disabilities are disproportionately unemployed - where are the adaptive workplaces, where are the supports for people who need them to work, where is the consumer demand for seeing diversity in the workforce in stores, restaurants, government offices?
Those who are horrified about 'normal girls' not dating him. Where are you in ensuring that integration and inclusion happen such that people with disabilities have real opportunities for developing friendships and relationships with people regardless of disability status? Where are parents demanding that there be more kids with disabilities in the classroom so that their child comes to understand diversity in a real way while young?
The person who wrote the letter did a favour for the bigots ... "I'm not so bad as that?" "I'd never say those things out loud." "I guess I'm pro-disabled because I think killing them is going a bit far."
What the letter writer has done is alert us all, in the disability community, to the depths of hatred that exists towards those of us with disabilities. It should be an alarm bell sounding ... this is what's already here, imagine what's coming.
To that mother and to that child - I'm sorry you had to experience that, I'm sorry that those words were ever said to you, I hope that behind all the tinsel of media hype and the 'outrage' of others ... you know that there is a core of support behind you. Not temporary, not fleeting ... the disability community is here, we know what you are facing, we know what you are fighting for ... I guess I'm saying, though you may feel it, you are not alone.