I rarely post twice in one week, but a few people have asked me if I read the letter that’s making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter and cyberspace newsfeeds, the one where the woman anonymously suggests her neighbors should euthanize their teenage grandson because he has autism.
I saw it. This is to say I scanned the vicious content, closed it, and promptly forgot about it.
From what I remember, the note—signed “One pissed off mother!!!!”—recommends the family move and take their “wild animal kid” somewhere in the woods, where his “whaling” won’t disturb her normal children.
Whenever I see things like this—missives of astonishing, mind-numbing intolerance and rage—my brain literally starts to call up images of butterflies and rainbows and warm cookies. I’m not even kidding about this. It’s like I don’t even have the necessary mental bandwidth to comprehend it, to take it in or make sense of it.
I mean, I’m sitting here typing at my desk and the sun is streaming through the windows and my sandy-haired son with autism just popped his head in the door to announce that whole milk has eight grams of protein. He is wearing purple gym shorts and a patch over his right eye to help correct something called amblyopia, or a lazy eye.
Euthanize? Who? What? Euthanize a child with a neurological disorder for making too much noise while people like Charles Manson and the Boston Bomber and the man who kidnapped three girls and held them hostage in his house for a decade languish in a climate-controlled cell eating three squares a day?
This just does not parse.
I’m not trying to open a discussion about the death penalty here. I don’t really have an opinion about who should live or who should die based on their crimes. But I do know a boy like Jack, a boy who sees Wednesday in shades of blue and worries about the wind chill factor and loves to eat Fruit Loops on Saturday mornings should not cease to exist because his spectrum disorder is uncomfortable, is disruptive.
This reminds me of the terrible Newtown tragedy, when the young man who broke into a small-town school in Connecticut and opened fire on children and teachers was said to have Asperger’s. Again, people asked me if I was outraged, if I had any thoughts about it. And again, I really didn’t. Honestly, the absurdity of assuming someone is capable of such destruction and horror because they are on the autism spectrum was like saying my oldest son Joey is going to grow up and be an astronaut because he has green eyes. There is simply no connection.
All I can think is that at some point in her life, maybe someone shamed and humiliated “One pissed off mother!!!!” and told her she was worthless. Someone told her she made too much noise. And now she feels like she needs to quiet others.
The way I see it, at least this woman reached out. At least this so-called neighbor put fingertips to keyboard and typed away and pushed the print button to reveal the prejudice and rage and ignorance that circles her mind. Because now there is opportunity. There is a chance.
A chance to tell the world, look there are ten million of us to every one of her. Millions of teachers and neighbors and cashiers and librarians and camp counselors and karate instructors and brothers and a sister named Rose who think autism is kind of the bee’s knees. Those who believe people like my little boy Jack are important, valuable—who send him license plates because he collects them and e-mail pictures of their vacation in Africa because he’s interested in howler monkeys.
People who care about him.
It’s also a chance to build a bridge and deconstruct the hate; to talk and say he just loves Justin Timberlake and kale is his favorite food and he is so excited to shop for new school supplies. To say, he’s not much different from me and you. To say, I am his mother and I could not breathe without him in my world.
“One pissed off mother!!!!” wants quiet, but I say let’s make some noise instead.