I know I’m far from the only person who is deeply saddened by the events in Newtown, Connecticut last week. When I heard of the loss of so many innocent lives, I didn’t even know how to react. I had to fight the urge to drive to my son’s school and bring him home, to be able to hug him (even though he hates it) and know for sure he was okay.
I don’t want to make this situation about me because it’s clearly not about me. It’s a week before Christmas and families are trying to fathom their lives without their children. Nothing I have ever gone through can touch that, and I’m grateful.
This tragedy has brought up a lot of discussion about gun control, mental illness, parenting skills, and a slew of other topics. This is a good thing; we need to have these conversations, even when doing so is difficult.
But I think we also need to remember that a lot of elements go into the creation of a human being who can do something so unthinkable, so awful. It’s not just about guns or mental illness or how he was parented. It’s not just about video games or how he may or may not have been treated in 3rd grade or whatever. While all of those things could have played a role, none of us knows exactly what was going through his mind.
Over the weekend, the conversation turned to autism and the guy’s “possible history of Asperger’s.” A theory that, as far as I can tell, was invented by someone in the media with no evidence whatsoever. Elsewhere on the internet, mother shared a story about her own son’s struggles with mental illness and her fear that he could grow up to do something just as terrible. I watched and listened in horror as people called for kids with autism to be euthanized, as they blamed the shooter’s mother for owning guns, as they screamed that mental illnesses don’t exist.
As most of you know, my son has Asperger’s Syndrome. I have PTSD. Both sides of my son’s family have various quirks and diagnoses and oddities, as I’m sure most families do. There was no way any of that could have been predicted, just as 20 sets of parents couldn’t predict the terrible fate awaiting their children last Friday.
Jayden heard some of the ranting about autism on the news late Saturday night. He came running to my office, something that’s rare these days, and sat down in the chair next to my desk.
“Mom?” he said. “I have a question. Are autistic people more likely to be violent or go crazy and kill people?”
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I’m not violent. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But now people are going to think I’m some kind of monster.”
As much as I wanted to assure him that there’s no way that will happen, he’s right. People make assumptions all the time.
Well, X event happened to me and *I* didn’t need medication.
My parents didn’t talk to me about what I did wrong; they busted my ass!
Asperger’s is just a fancy name for bratty kids.
When things go wrong, it’s human nature to look for answers. We want some kind of definitive reason why something bad happened or ideas about what we can do to prevent it. We want to feel safer during times (like right now) when even sending our children to school seems dangerous.
I don’t have those answers and I doubt anyone else does. I just know that pointing fingers and villifying innocent people who haven’t done anything wrong isn’t productive, especially in situations like this.
No child is born evil. No child grows up to become a psychopath without some major environmental factors influencing his or her development. And the fact that some children are born with disabilities, whether physical or mental, does not mean that those children are any more or less likely to harm someone else.
My son is not a monster. He is an amazing, compassionate teenage boy who happens to struggle in a number of areas. And I resent the reporters who have used the horror in Newtown to make him question his own motives and capabilities as a human being. I resent the fact that I can’t feel sorrow for the families who are dealing with unfathomable loss because I’m too busy being outraged on behalf of my child, who has nothing to do with this. I am pissed off to see the number of my own friends who are willing to jump on Facebook and make blanket statements and assumptions about autism based on nothing.
But mostly I’m angry because I feel helpless and vulnerable living in a world where kids aren’t always safe and people don’t always make logical choices. And there’s nothing I can do about it.