Requiem for the Disabled
I was recently released from Jefferson Headache Clinic in Philadelphia, just prior to the start of the Democratic National Convention that was being hosted in the city. I’m at my parent’s house now recovering from the five-day in-patient hospital stay where I received an infusion of ketamine to attack my chronic migraine. I’m a little loopy, still in some pain, but more than anything, I’m exhausted. I will write a more detailed post about my stay in “Headache Camp“, as my story seems to have lots of patients asking more questions of their doctors.
I didn’t plan on writing anything so soon after coming home. But this post isn’t about ketamine or even migraine. It’s about disability. More importantly, the largest mass killing in Japan that occurred in a home for the disabled, only hours after I was released from the hospital.
One can almost become numb to the day to day news of ISIS killings, unexplainable racial slaughter, cops being killed in retaliation or lone gunmen unexpectedly opening fire in public. It’s happening in the US and abroad. Lately it seems to be a daily occurrence.
Writing about these tragedies is not my normal range of issues for engaging with the community. My platform is health, living with pain and educating others about chronic migraine. Yet the tragedy in Japan overlaps with issues I fight for.
In case you missed it, a 26-year-old Japanese man and former employee of a home for the disabled, entered the facility and killed 19 people and injured 26 more. There were 149 residents in the building with ages ranging from 19 to 70 and only nine employees were on duty during the attack in the middle of the night.
It seems that the man was working alone, with no terrorist ties. It is unclear whether his departure from the facility in February is because he quit or was fired. Since then he was working as an art teacher like his father before him. Neighbors and friends were shocked by the news. According to CNN, the suspect had previously taken “a letter to the Japanese legislature outlining a society in which euthanasia of the disabled was accepted.”
The suspect’s hatred of the disabled rings familiar as one of Hitler’s agendas. His reign of terror is mostly remembered for the massacre of 6 million Jews, but starting in 1939, Hitler called for the “mentally retarded, physically handicapped, and mentally ill,” to be killed. In the end, 200,000 disabled were murdered in six facilities through a program called T-4.
I felt this attack hit me because I forget sometimes that I am disabled. Certifiably disabled. Being disabled is defined by “having a physical or mental condition that limits movement, senses or activities,” (www.dictionary.com). I receive Social Security Disability benefits, both monetary and medical. There are days, weeks or even months when I am physically and mentally unable to perform many tasks, but I don’t need 24-hour care, like those murdered in Japan.
Like with all senseless violence, I shuddered when I heard of these latest victims. It reminded me that I belong to the same community. We’re not normal, we need help, there are physical and mental ailments that separate us from “the normal.” It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s nothing to be murdered for. We can still be contributing members of society in our own ways. From telling our stories in online communities to maybe just planting a flower in the garden of a care facility. No one person’s life is more important than another. We in the pain and disability community need to support each other in any way possible. Whether it’s writing letters to victims’ families, educating others on our own disabilities or advocating for our rights and benefits.
If you want to lift your voice to support those affected, visit this page on Legacy.com, which honors those who have passed on. http://www.legacy.com/ns/japanese%20disabled-care%20home%20attack%20victims-obituary/180778397. Send a message or have a candle lit. It’s the least we can do.
Feel free to borrow any part of my message:
As a disabled American who advocates for those who don’t have a voice, I am truly saddened. Every life matters, even if they suffer from “defects.” This horrible man believes that only the physically and mentally perfect should be able to live, when in reality, he is more disabled with hatred in his heart than anyone he could have possibly met in this care facility. These victims will not be forgotten.
-Katie M. Golden