Disability Day of Mourning 2020
DDoM is here again, and it’s always a strange day for Autistic people well-versed in Autistic/Neurodiversity Movement culture who don’t live in close proximity to fair-sized populations of Autistics who share the traditions that come with those things, including observing DDoM. My closest vigil is in Boone. I have a car. I could afford the gas. In theory, I could get there, but nothing about the six hour round trip feels appealing today. I’m tired from my regular life, the one where I spend the bulk of my time with people who don’t have the strong disabled identity I do and may not even qualify as ADA disabled. I decided, instead, to feel a little guilty about staying home and a little isolated observing the occasion among people who don’t.
Away from any kind of public ceremony, I have found myself with time to think about what DDoM means. On its face, it’s a chance to remember the people lost to filicide. all very vulnerable and killed by people they loved, trusted, and knew, many to most very young. All the deaths are heartbreaking, but the loss of children is especially so. Our world was their birthright. As they were robbed of their lives and futures, of the treasure of getting to experience human existence fully, across the lifespan, we were also robbed of the chance to share it with them. They deserved better, and we did, too. It’s important to remember them, the children, the adults, the ones who had their time stolen while they still had more living to do, their lives more than their deaths as much as possible. Individually, as people, they deserve it. Murdered by the very people in their lives who would normally be expected to mourn their deaths, many of them don’t have anyone outside of our community to remember them and wish they were still here. If we adopt them as our loved ones and count them among our community’s ancestors, they are, in some sense, still around.
It’s also important to remember them collectively, to remember why they died, because they were victims of ableism. Their memory serves as a reminder of ableism’s logical conclusion, why we must always stand up to it, and that the Neurodiversity’s radical promise of every person’s full humanity and legal and human rights is the only way to go. We need to remember where compromising on the rights or welfare of the most vulnerable members of our community to protect or improve the lot of people who are perceived as “high functioning” or more fully human tends to lead. Indeed, we need to remember that death is the fruit of every form of bigotry. The suffering our community has experienced should lead us to be good allies in other people’s struggles to be safe and free.
All that said, I hope we can remember the victims of filicide, and read the growing list of names, but also look beyond them. I hope DDoM can also be a time for reflection on everyone swallowed up by the institutions, past and present, people stuck controlling and coercive family situations, victims of abuse and neglect, living and dead, Autistics who are desperately poor, and the holes in our community where people chased out of our spaces on the internet, or, worse, dead by suicide or eating disorders should be. I hope we can remember every Autistic person cut off from us or forced into a life smaller and less than it could be.