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Disability hate crime: then the rest is silence

by Paul Russell, News Weekly, 13 August 2016

Mr Russell is the Executive Director of HOPE, an Australian group opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

He reflects on the low quality and quantity of coverage of the murder of 19 disabled people in Japan in July.

The media characterised the attacks as “senseless” and “incomprehensible”. At one level, this attack on innocent defenceless people by a lone madman is, indeed, “incomprehensible”. But for my many friends in the disability community it is, perhaps, an extreme example of the kind of prejudice that they experience all too often; a chilling and visceral reminder of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that is never far from them and that echoes through history.

The killer was clearly deranged. But to dismiss the reasons he gave for what he did on that basis would be an implicit endorsement of his actions; silence is consent, compounding the grief.

In a letter the killer sent to the Japanese Parliament some time before his heinous actions, he wrote: “I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanised, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities.

“I believe there is still no answer about the way of life for individuals with multiple disabilities. The disabled can only create misery.”

He also cited an economic benefit to the destruction of disabled people and went on to describe precisely how he would go about his crimes.

Syracuse, New York, disability activist and academic Bill Peace wrote on his blog: “This hate crime and mass murder led to a sleepless night for me. What took place could have happened in any nation. It could have taken place in Omaha, Nebraska, Cambridge, England, Paris, France, or Syracuse, NY. As I read story after story I felt a chill go down my spine when I read the following words: ‘He was just an ordinary young fellow.’

“I have no doubt he was an ordinary young fellow. That is what makes ableism so frightening. People, typical people, think life with a disability is worse than death.”

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