this post was first published on my personal social media accounts on the 29th of July, 2016, three days after the sagamihara murders.
cw mass murder, ableism, “euthanasia”, suicide mention
on tuesday in sagamihara, japan, a man named satoshi uematsu murdered 19 people and injured another 26 in a residential home for disabled people. uematsu used to work there, and he sent a letter to authorities monthst before the murders saying exactly what he was planning to do. in fact he’d intended to kill 470 people; he wrote that “I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanised, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities.” he called them mercy killings. he thought he should be financially rewarded for erasing disabled people from existence.
tell me your stomach doesn’t go cold when you read those words. are we so used to thinking of euthanasia as a unilaterally good thing? when does suicide prevention become dying with dignity? why do we consider some lives worth more, more livable, than others? the youngest person he killed was a 19 year old woman.
satoshi uematsu probably did not kill out of fear or hatred or disgust. in fact it’s very possible he thought he was killing out of love. he thought he was doing society a favour. he thought we would be better off dead and that everyone else would be better off without us. he worked alongside us, in our homes. and yet you will find that disabled people are not surprised by this, because often the people who are most dangerous to us are those who love us, who live alongside us. we are killed by our parents and lovers out of love and kindness and exhaustion and frustration and resentment and self-interest. and then our murderers are sympathised with, for having been put in such difficult positions as having to love a disabled person and make space for us in their lives.
uematsu used a knife to commit the murders. he slit their throats while they were sleeping. he chose one of the most intimate ways to kill. this was not dispassionate. he was not aiming from a distance with a gun, he was not killing swiftly and indiscriminately. he was killing slowly, and purposefully, and premeditatedly, and closely, and violently. he knew exactly what he was doing. he may have been mentally ill (although, despite being involuntarily detained to a mental health ward for two weeks, he was not diagnosed with anything other than marijuana use) but the murders he committed were not a product of mental illness. i am mentally ill and i wake up every day and kill no one. mentally ill people are not murderous by nature, and mental illness is not an explanation for systematic oppression and incredibly, hopelessly toxic social norms. he thought that disabled people would be better off dead, that it would be a kindness. is that supposed to be surprising? death-before-disability is also the primary message of the film “me before you”, which is in cinemas currently. i have heard many people refer to that film as inspirational, tragic, beautiful. a local feminist collective organised a group outing to attend the film. i thought about going. i thought about going in my wheelchair. i went out dancing with a friend recently, in my wheelchair, and about every five minutes a stranger stopped me to tell me i was brave, inspirational, asked to take a photo with me, said they cried when they saw me. i was just dancing, i was wearing green lipstick, i was being silly and young. i am not brave for dancing. i should not have to be brave for dancing.
uematsu prioritised murdering those who “could not communicate well”. i am disabled. i cannot communicate well. i’m still not sure what exactly is causing my frequent attacks of paralysis & other accompanying probably-neurological symptoms that cause me to slur my words or be unable to talk at all, unable to move, and spasm/shake uncontrollably, sometimes choking, sometimes drooling. it might be TIAs. it might be uncharacteristic cataplexy. my rheumatologist thinks it’s multiple sclerosis. since i’m diagnosed with ehlers-danlos syndrome and i’ve been having problems with my neck vertebrae lately, it may well also be craniocervical instability and/or chiari malformation – essentially faulty connective tissue causing my skull to sink into my spine & compress my brainstem.
yesterday i had the worst episode i’ve ever had and i honestly thought i wouldn’t ever be able to talk again. which is intense and frightening, yes, but plenty of people can’t or don’t talk and they get by fine. i have worse symptoms. i have constant pain, both chronic and acute, and sometimes i am not lucid, and that terrifies me. there are other ways to communicate – slower ways, but no less effective. except that most people don’t want to slow down enough to listen to disabled folks. from a distance, maybe, but not up close. we can be inspiring from far away but in your families & homes we’re a burden, we’re pathetic, we’re exhausting, we’re dangerous, we’re potentially violent, we’re not worth the effort. we’re not even worth media coverage. my entire disability feed for the last few days has been almost nonstop sagamihara & i was trying not to think about it like i tried not to think about pulse, because my heart is already too full. but my community did not settle. we got louder. we got still more upset. because nobody else is sharing our grief and fear and outrage. not one single non-disabled person i know personally has spoken on this. which is understandable – there is too much trauma in the world already to share every part of it, and i live an ocean away from japan and the u.s. and the seemingly endless flood of (racialised) mass killings. we are queer, we are trans, we are poor, we are inured to traumatic news. and yet everyone i know spoke about pulse, because we had to, because we were grieving and we needed to find love in each other. nobody grieves for sagamihara. the silence is overwhelming. what happened in japan? who’s satoshi uematsu? why is the disabled community suffering, and who has noticed?
bill peace wrote on his blog that the silence “is what makes ableism so frightening. People, typical people, think life with a disability is worse than death. I plan to go out to lunch with my son, We will likely stop at a cross walk and wait for a light to turn. A biped will likely stand near me. That biped might be thinking “shit, if I were paralyzed I would prefer to be dead. That guy should be dead. He sucks up too much health care dollars”. This is what scares me. The silence. How many silently wish we people with a disability did not exist.”
last week i had a conversation with my mother and she told me that she didn’t know me anymore, and that she had loved [deadname] and not me. am i dead? am i undead? is that because i am trans or because i am disabled? what part of my body is wrong? what part isn’t? i’ve been suicidal for a while. i’ve had ptsd since i was very young, i’ve had my share of traumas, and i am in constant, unrelenting pain. my joints dislocate in my sleep and from gravity. i have to learn how to put them back in myself over and over because otherwise i’d spend every day in the emergency ward. i bruise from my cat’s paws. i can’t wear most clothes because fabric hurts. most painkillers have no effect. it’s hard and exhausting. i’m trying very hard to stay alive. i am lucky to have some beautiful people in my life living with me and loving me and giving me reasons to live, to have a life worth living. my family lives in switzerland, twenty minutes from the dignitas clinic. i am suicidal, i have thought about euthanasia. i am 22. i try to live. i am often happy. and yet every time i feel like i’m making progress i slip again. my whole body is always slipping downwards. everything is so heavy.
my heart goes out to sagamihara. my heart goes out to tokyo. my heart goes out to japan. my heart goes out to fellow spoonies, to the fellow chronically ill, and terminally ill, and mentally ill, and neurodivergent, and disabled. my heart goes out to my fellow undead who are trying to keep on & on. my heart is overfull.
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