Tag Archives: murder

Justice

I’ve been thinking about the concept of justice a lot lately. About what it is, what it means, and the best way to achieve it. It’s an interesting subject to me, but I don’t have any easy answers.

I live in the US, and in the US it seems to be taken as a given that justice = punishment. It is a highly binary society, steeped in ideas of good vs. bad and punishment vs. reward. When someone is bad, we get justice by punishing them, and this seems to be very rarely questioned. And, honestly, having been raised in this culture, in a family that fully embraced the punishment ideals, I am not immune to this idea. I also think that this punishment thing taps into the desire to *hurt them back.* This is something else that I am not at all immune to – when someone hurts me, often my very first desire is to hurt them back. So if I have been hurt by someone’s actions in some way, the idea of them enduring some form of punishment can be very appealing. And, honestly, when a person does a terrible thing, particularly a terrible thing that ends in the death of an innocent person, punishment should definitely be a consequence of their actions.

However, is that justice? If I want justice, is that how to get it? Are consequences for the perpetrators enough?

This is not simply an academic question. The autism community seems to be rocked by tragedy entirely too often. A type of tragedy that I keep hearing over and over and over again, and I’m sure you have too. It’s the one where the headline goes, more or less, “Parent kills autistic child.” And everyone blogs about it and we try to make enough noise to be heard above all the people acting like killing an autistic child is maybe less bad than killing a “normal” child and we cry out for justice. Over and over, we want justice.

Eventually in my life I learned that their are other ways of looking at justice than simply punishment. One way is restitution. There are plenty of cases where I like this idea, but in the kinds of tragedies we deal with, is restitution really a thing? Nothing can ever undo the damage done when a child is murdered. This is not an act that anyone or anything can make up for. It’s done, it’s over, that’s it. What kind of justice can we have in this sort of situation?

Increasingly I think I want to look at justice as bettering the world in some way. Hurting the parents who do things like this certainly makes me feel better, but does it make the world better? Does it make it so that these things don’t happen anymore? Not really.

Crying for better services is certainly something important, but it carries the dangerous subtext that lack of services somehow makes killing one’s child a reasonable decision, which is not the case. So while we need better services, no doubt about that, I’m not so sure they are part of justice.

Want to know one thing I think would be just? Something that would make these situations ever so slightly less terrible? If, when something like this happened, the headline simply read “Parent kills child.” If we didn’t need to add in that “autistic” thing. If a child could simply be a child, and the world reacted to a parent killing their autistic child the same way it reacts to a parent killing their neurotypical child – as opposed to how it is now, when so many people seem to believe that the loss of an autistic life is less terrible and more understandable than the loss of a neurotypical life.

That would be a step towards justice. A small step, but at least it would be something.

I’m not sure what other conclusion I can draw here. I don’t know how to achieve justice for murdered children, autistic or otherwise. All I know is that I don’t want it to happen anymore.

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Last Week

So last week most of the internet noise in the autism sphere was about Alex Spourdalakis. In case you don’t know, he was an autistic teenager who was murdered by his mother and his caregiver. The murder was premeditated and violent.

I sort of wanted to blog about it, but sort of didn’t. I don’t want to ignore it, but I also don’t know what to say. I still don’t. It’s just so terrible. The whole thing is a bit of a mess in ways I don’t want to get into, but you can read some more about it here if you want to. The short version is that he was murdered because he was autistic.

That’s not where it ends, though. This is just another example, out of entirely too many, of children murdered by their parents due to their autism – and the general response being sympathy for the parents/killers. When a parent kills their child, it’s usually understood that it was a terrible thing to do and everyone feels bad for the poor child. Unless the child is autistic, apparently. Then it’s all about how hard it was for the parent.

This article spent most of it’s time talking about how challenging it is to parent an autistic child and passing the blame to other people or groups. As if the only reason his mother chose that route was because of the failure of other groups.

I don’t really want to get into that as it’s part of the whole mess that you can read about if you want to. What I do want to say, what lots of people have been saying because apparently we live in a society where this actually still needs to be said, is that it is NOT OK to murder your child, no matter what.

Much of my blog is about wanting respect. Wanting to change society so that there is more room for people who are outside the usual standard of what is “normal.” How can I even hope to do that when a premeditated and violent murder will garner sympathy for the killer, if the victim happened to be autistic.

So I don’t really know what to say. I don’t think I have anything to say that hasn’t been said already, by people who are more eloquent than I. Nonetheless, I think it’s pretty clear that we need to talk about this. I find myself wondering how well known this case is outside the autism internet-o-sphere. How many people who are not connected to autism in some way know that this is a thing – both the murder and the sympathy for the killer?

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