Thursday, July 28, 2016

Who were the disabled people killed in Tokyo?

Last night I saw a social media link to a story that included photos of people killed in recent mass shootings.

I clicked on it, thinking for a second that it might include photos of the 19 adults killed in a Tokyo home for people with multiple disabilities while they slept in the early hours of Tuesday Tokyo time.

It didn't.

A quick search showed that when 49 people were killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, their photos, names and details about who they were as people, appeared in media two days later.

Do you think there's a news outlet that covered the Tokyo massacre that has attempted to secure photos of the victims as a way of telling their stories?

I don't think so. 

To be honest, the social and mainstream media reaction to the deaths has been muted relative to coverage of other mass killings. 

Yesterday, science writer Emily Willingham suggested why that might be the case in this Forbes piece: This Is What Disability Erasure Looks Like.

Willingham notes that the suspect, who had worked for years at the home he targeted, made no secret of what he intended to do, even warning the country's parliament back in February.

"I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized," he wrote, outlining his plans to "wipe out 470 disabled" people at night time, when staffing was low. He tried to pass the letter to the speaker of the lower house of Japan's parliament and was hospitalized for two weeks as a result.

But the facility that housed the vulnerable people he threatened to kill, Willingham says, appears to have not been adequately warned and prepared.

"What if his letter had instead referenced his intention to kill children or teachers or restaurant-goers?" she asks. "I'm guessing that authorities would have paid a lot more attention to it."

The reason, she suggests, is that as a culture we are quick to accept messages that suggest people with disabilities are less than human. Messages such as: "Better dead than disabled."

The reason we post photos and tell stories of innocent people killed in massacres like this is to assert their humanity.

I wonder how far news outlets will go to do that in this case? I, for one, am waiting.


I am sick and horrified of the attacks in Japan. My heart goes out to those innocent people killed by this evil man. That the identities of those victims have not been released, may be more a cultural thing in Japan. Though the perpetrators of that subway gas attack about 10 years ago are documented all over the place, finding the victims killed in it is not so easy to find.

This has been the case in this country, where those doing heinous crimes get their names bandied a placed in ignominy but not well known, nonetheless, whereas the victims are forgotten, if they are not famous already. We have been working on changing that. Not so successfully, as I still know perpetrators names better than our victims, even as I make the effort to change that. Many don't bother to try. Most don't.

It is a sad FACT that most people do not equate most disabled lives with abled ones. Caveats upon condolences of the death of anyone disabled are standard fare from the most well meaning friends and family. And they mean those caveats. It's a fact of life that people do not value most disable people as much as they do able.

Alot of it has to do with the facat that the very definition implies a lesser person. The prefix "dis" in front of "abled" , the word itself resounds in a certain way, and we are most all taught that it is important to be able, particularly to care for self, provide for self. To be dependent for the most part, is not a good thing in most societies, unless one has earned that position through certain envied channels.

You and so many advocates, particularly those who are disabled themselves have become activists in changing this course, and I support you fully. I want a banner with the names in Kanju printed on it of the names of these saints who were among us that were slaughtered by pure evil which does indeed exist in our world, everywhere, and I will place that banner in my living for the rest of my life.

I hope people will chose a name, have it placed and framed, and kept in their house, as they frame so many sayings, adages, slogans and other things that catch their imaginations. Kanji framed makes for beautiful decor, and can think of nothing more deserving than those names rather than simple words taking that place.

Update: The Guardian correspondent told me that the names of the victims are not being released as per the families' wishes. I am trying to find out if this is at all related to the stigma of disability in Japan.

However, this beautiful story was just posted in which a father of one of the women injured tells her story.

This is an unprecedented vicious attack on the most vulnerable people in society.
I think it will take some time before we grasp the whole picture of this tragedy.
It seems to me that there are multiple aspects of the term "disability" involved in this case.