this post was first published on my personal social media accounts on the 31st of July, 2016, five days after the sagamihara murders.
cw sagamihara, mass murder, ableism, “euthanasia”, assisted suicide, nazism
listen i’m not here to guilt people for not hearing or not posting about sagamihara. thats part of the problem and it’s not individual. but i am terrified, i am furious, i am so fucked up about this, and the silence from mass media & activist circles alike is fucking me up worse with every day that passes because the disability community is NOT being silent about this. the disability community is screaming. we have been screaming since tuesday and we have been getting louder and louder and now it’s sunday and i’m beginning to truly think it’s not going to change.
i have a LOT of intersectional identities ok? and every time there’s a community-wide trauma like this i’m used to certain forms of reactions. maybe it won’t be covered in the newspapers, or maybe the newspapers will be saying oppressive bullshit, but activist groups will be talking about it, socially conscious individuals will be talking and organising rallies and vigils, maybe eventually facebook will create a profile photo variant. and i don’t always engage! because i am a fucked up kind of person and i dont really need to be seeking out fucked up shit to think & talk about all the time. when pulse happened it rippled across the world and we felt the aftershocks here and we cried out and for the most part we were heard. after sagamihara the disability community cried out, is still crying out, and noone is listening… it’s not that i’m scared because sagamihara isn’t getting coverage, that noone is talking or caring about it. i’m scared because sagamihara is getting SO MUCH coverage, but only from disabled people. SO MANY disabled people are talking and caring and suffering over this. and the people who would call themselves abled allies are still, en masse, silent.
it’s worse, it’s so much worse, because sagamihara was not just a hate crime. i’m not questioning the horror & importance of other hate crimes, but this was not just a violent bigot who hated disabled people and wanted to punish us or make us afraid. this was someone who worked in a “caring” capacity, as a staff member working in a residential facility for the very same disabled people he ended up murdering. he worked there for four years. he did not hide his intentions – in february uematsu approached a member of the japanese parliament with a letter extolling his arguments for widespread “euthanasia” against disabled people, his beliefs that guardians and parents should be able to legally murder the disabled people in their homes. he expressed his frustration with the fact that there are 800 million people with disabilities worldwide and “money is spent on them [that] should be used for other purposes]”. he dreamed “of a world where disabled people with severe difficulties socialising as well as severe difficulties at home are allowed to be peacefully euthanised”. he wrote that “the disabled can only create misery”. he noted that he admired hitler. he promised to “obliterate” 470 disabled people and outlined his plans. he hoped to be found not guilty, and financially rewarded. he emphasised that he would not harm the staff.
in belated response to the letter he (apparently) was briefly hospitalised but then deemed “not a threat”, released after a fortnight, and since then continued to harass and threaten the tsukui yamayuri-en facility so often that they had to install security and were in frequent contact with police. their staff members had been patrolling their workplace and assigning staff to accompany their residents whenever they left for a walk. we could have stopped this. we should have stopped this.
and the silence afterwards. the silence. the lack of response, the lack of understanding in what few responses there have been. someone commented on a profile photo mourning sagamihara and said that it wasn’t a hate crime, that uematsu was mentally ill so that made it an intracommunity issue (by the way – when he was hospitalised the only thing he was diagnosed with was marijuana use), that he’d written the letter in the hope that he would be stopped, that the incident at sagamihara was actually just a stunt to protest in favour of legal euthanasia so doesn’t that make it ok? the commenter was an occupational therapist. these are the people who “care” for us. these are the people who kill us.
it’s been called “one of the worst crimes committed on Japanese soil in modern history”, as “Japan’s worst postwar mass killing”. and yet the wikipedia page is terrifyingly brief. satoshi uematsu doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. media reports are brief and unsatisfying for the most part. CNN, SMH, The Guardian, report that uematsu “was personable and good with children”, “an outwardly polite young man” who “always smiled”, “was very mannerly and polite”, “a really nice young man”, “a fun-loving young man who enjoyed karaoke and beach parties and wanted to quit smoking”, “liked to feed stray cats”, “once dreamed of being a teacher”, “there were no signs”. there was every sign.
legal euthanasia. he said afterwards, to the families of those he killed, that he had “saved those with multiple disabilities”, that “the disabled should disappear”. he saved us. by killing us. he said in the letter that he knew his stance was “eccentric” but that “thinking about the tired faces of guardians, the dull eyes of caregivers working at the facility, I am not able to contain myself”. the dull eyes of caregivers are more important than the lives of disabled people. and disabled people, after all, are better off dead. we are a burden and a drain on society. our lives aren’t worth living, even when we are not in pain, even when we are not dying. the film “me before you” – in cinemas now, airing in the wake of sagamihara – is about a young, rich, handsome, white man who is determined to access assisted suicide, or “dying with dignity”. of course, the phrase “dying with dignity” is used because the other option is “dying with indignity”. dying in pain, incoherently, in blood and shit, degeneratively, or after technical brain-death. legally assisted suicide helps those who are already dying to “die with dignity”, and prevents carers and spouses who aid in or fail to prevent the controlled suicide of their loved ones from being prosecuted for murder. (it also prevents carers and spouses who murder their loved ones from being let off lightly under false claims of euthanasia.) what is the protagonist of “me before you” dying of? nothing. he is quadriplegic, paralysed below the waist. ah, but you see – he needs help going to the toilet, and so the only feasible option is death.
legal euthanasia. the nazis also had a euthanasia program. they murdered 300,000 physically and mentally disabled people, and called it “mercy killings”. these murders were driven by much the same kind of terrifying ideology as other identity-based nazi campaigns, with one key difference. the first casualty was targeted because his parents wrote a petition to the fuhrer begging for permission to kill “The Monster” (as they called their child). his name was gerhard kretschmar. he was blind, a congenital amputee, and prone to convulsions. he was five months old.
it is not assisted suicide when the victim does not want to die. the legalities of assisted suicide, and of euthanasia, are somewhat complex and vary regionally. involuntary euthanasia is illegal everywhere. “non-voluntary euthanasia”, however, is legal in quite a few places, and is of course entirely different. for example, one of the requirements of legal non-voluntary euthanasia is that the parents’ consent is obtained.
my sister died at five months old from spinal muscular atrophy. i didn’t know until recently that my parents knew it was happening and had brought her home from the hospital with the intention of removing her nasal intubation and allowing her to die at home. i found the body the morning after. my mother said that there was a silver lining: “if she’d lived, she would have had to use a wheelchair”.
i use a wheelchair.
uematsu targeted those who could not work, who needed help around the home, who could not communicate well.
i cannot work. i need help around the home. often i cannot communicate well.
uematsu tweeted a message at 2.50 am, just after the attack had ended. he said “Wishing for a peaceful world. Beautiful Japan!”…the occupational therapist who i spoke to in a facebook thread ended the conversation by saying “i hope you find peace”. many of those grieving for the dead have expressed hope that they “rest in peace”, but what is peaceful about this? why should we be peaceful, or silent? is the world more peaceful with the absence of commentary on this hideous thing? is the world more peaceful with the absence of disabled lives?
a man killed 19 people on tuesday. he slit their throats with a knife, while they were sleeping. he injured 26 more. it took him 40 minutes. sources vary on what kind of disability care tsukui yamayuri-en provides: most seem to agree that the residential home services people with a wide range of physical, intellectual, visual, and acoustic disabilities, although some articles reported that it was a home for “the mentally impaired” or a home for “people with heart problems”. we don’t yet know who the victims were. the youngest was a 19 year old woman. is she at peace? the people who approached tsukui yamayuri-en to attempt to leave flowers at the facility were initially “politely turned away”. currently outside their gates there is a small plastic fold-out table, heaped with flowers. a sagamihara resident said that their town was “peaceful and quiet” and that the crime was “unthinkable”.
is it unthinkable? we create films about it. we convict parents who kill their autistic or physically disabled children (including adult children) with “manslaughter”, recommend probation, call it “altruistic filicide”, and the media coverage reports that these murders occur “out of love”. did satoshi love us? parents murdering their disabled children is such a frequent occurrence that there are articles titled “yet another disabled child killed by family”. in one case the court ruled that a mother who murdered her three disabled children (while her husband took their one abled child on holiday) had been “overwhelmed by the enormous challenge of coping with her children”. the family’s solicitor stated that “her love, commitment and tenacity in the face of the overwhelming responsibilities such care entailed was extraordinary”. the film “me before you” has various taglines: “live boldly”, and “push yourself; don’t settle; just live”. of course these instructions are directed not towards the disabled protagonist of the film, or its disabled audience – they are directed towards the abled romantic lead, and the abled people eager to be “inspired” by this tragic romance. the protagonist calls his suicide a “gift” to his lover.
sagamihara was not like other hate crimes. violence and murder committed against disabled people is not committed by people like omar mateen, by hateful strangers, by organised bigots. it is committed by those who love us. by those who are in our homes. by the people we trust and surround ourselves with, who “care” for us, who are our “carers”, who are still silent. who silently condone.
your caring is killing us.