Say Their Names

by Suzanne Kamata, Beacon Broadside, 1 August 2016

Ms Kamata writes movingly about how the double standard applied to people with disabilities extends even to the worst of events.

I keep waiting for someone to say their names.

After a man drove a truck into tourists on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, last month, killing eighty-four and injuring at least 300 others, photos of victims appeared on websites and in print publications—a healthy-looking blonde-haired family in white shirts and sunglasses, photographed against the sea; a little boy playing at the edge of the water; two young women, embracing on a bench. Their names were published. Their jobs. Reading through the list of the dead, I discovered that one woman, Rachel Erbs, was involved in her town’s basketball club.

“Look what that terrible man did!” the list seems to say. “These people were vibrantly alive, they were beautiful and active and their deaths are a tragedy! They should be remembered by all, and mourned!”

On July 27, twenty-six-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care facility for the disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, broke into the residential area in the early hours of the morning. After restraining staff members with zip ties, he proceeded to slash the throats of disabled residents, killing nineteen and injuring twenty-six. His motive, according to a letter that he wrote and sent to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima, was to relieve exhausted parents and unenthusiastic caregivers of the burden of looking after the disabled.

Who were the victims? What were their names? What did they look like? What kinds of activities did they enjoy?

According to a report in The Japan Times, “The nine men and 10 women killed ranged in age from 19 to 70. Police have not disclosed their names on the grounds that their relatives do not wish to have them identified due to their disabilities.”

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