Why Are We Sympathetic To The Murderers Of Disabled Children? – The Establishment

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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13 Responses

  1. Gabriel Conroy says:

    From the article:

    I urge you to reject those poisonous narratives. Reject it just as surely as you would if you read a sympathetic article about a kind, wonderful father who couldn’t deal with his non-disabled two-year-old daughter’s very frequent temper tantrums (two-year-olds really can be so difficult), who “just snapped” one day and killed her.

    One thing that really horrifies me is that I can see how easy it would be to snap even in that scenario. Not exactly sympathy, but not exactly something wholly different from sympathy, either. Having said that, I recognize that the ableism Elizabeth is talking about might make killing more likely for me to “see how easy it would be.” Her point isn’t invalid at all.

    It’s just that …One reason I choose not to have children is that I don’t trust my own temper. I can see me snapping. I really, really hope I would never do anything to harm a child–and I really, really believe the harm would be limited to yelling at the child to get away from me (yelling is not a harmless thing, in my opinion, but it’s also my opinion that yelling is several steps short of the kind of abuse Elizabeth is talking about)–but I limit my interactions with children anyway as much as I can. I really can’t stand the noise and the pressure and constant demands they put on you for attention. I just have to get away. Which is pretty easy for me because not having children, I can control just how much I have to interact and when I have to be around them, I usually have an escape route if I need to cool off. And if I don’t have an escape route, I can tolerate it for a few hours even if the noise, etc., becomes too much. But then I really have to leave or get out of there. Not all people have my kind of issues (I hope) and I realize that many of those who do either lack the same self-knowledge or lack the same opportunities to avoid being around children, or maybe they became parents too soon before they knew better. And so I can see how snapping happens and how when I hear these stories I sometimes feel something “not wholly unlike sympathy.” That makes me in some ways a horrible person and I have to live with that. But the reason I think this is relevant to Elizabeth’s essay is that something like my own reaction is probably on some level driving the soft narratives the discusses.

    And to repeat. The father in that ableist hypothetical commits murder and the parents of children with disabilities in the apologetics-driven narratives that Elizabeth rightly condemns equally commit murder. Killing children is not justified and we should reject, for exactly the reasons Elizabeth outlines, the narratives that say “it’s a little more okay if the child has a disability.”Report

  2. NoPublic says:

    It’s a short putt from here to banning abortions of children with severe physical or mental defect though. For every mother that can be that supportive there’s one who just cannot.

    The autism linkage in the article also brings the neurodiversity angle into things, whereby you have people who actually are neurodiverse being told by the medical establishment that they’re “broken” or “defective” or “Ill” when really they’re often just different. They see forcing cures or treatment on autistic children as eugenics or genocide of sorts. See also cochlear implants for the deaf.

    Medical ethics is a thorny thicket.Report

    • Kim in reply to NoPublic says:

      If you think that rape is an appropriate social response to “I’m horny”, then yes, you are broken or defective or ill.

      Anti-cure and anti-treatment of autistic children is just a few steps away from endorsing allowing them to attempt to rape people. [Yes, I am aware that not all autistic kids are rapist little fucks]. And you just know it’ll be the woman’s fault if it does happen.Report

      • NoPublic in reply to Kim says:

        If you think that rape is an appropriate social response to “I’m horny”, then yes, you are broken or defective or ill.

        I’ve somehow missed the epidemic of autistic persons raping. Could you provide some context here?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to NoPublic says:

      @nopublic I don’t think it is. At least, not obviously.

      She is requesting the same degree of deference to disabled children as non-disabled children. Since abortion remains legal for non-disabled fetuses, it would be so for disabled fetuses.

      Now, I guess it does say “If we’re going to ban abortion, we shouldn’t make an exception for children with disabilities.” But she doesn’t want to ban abortion in the first place.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        She is requesting the same degree of deference to disabled children as non-disabled children.

        I think that’s part of the negative critique, tho. It’s that sticky point where ideals confront the reality of who we – all of us imperfect human animals – are. Ideally, murder is murder is murder… The reality is that people aren’t ideal.Report

  3. notme says:

    Meh, liberals think abortion is great so I don’t understand why they’d be upset if folks abort those with genetic defects.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to notme says:


      Show me one liberal who has ever said, “Abortion is great.”Report

      • Francis in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy: the distinction between ‘Abortion is Great’ and “The Availability of Abortion is Great” is pretty thin. And for more than a couple of my acquaintances, getting an abortion was great. The boyfriend was abusive / the living situation was intolerable / carrying the pregnancy to term would have interfered with major life goals.

        Not everyone wants to or is in a position to carry to term and give up the baby for adoption. Women who want to do that can be commended, but women who chose to abort should not be condemned. For many of them, abortion was great.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Francis says:

          And for more than a couple of my acquaintances, getting an abortion was great.

          Not great like ice cream, tho, right? More like Great in the way getting your wisdom teeth pulled is great.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Francis says:


          @notme ‘s statement was “Liberals think abortion is great.”

          Not some people (whose political persuasions we don’t know) think a particular abortion was hugely positive in a particular context.

          Liberals think abortion is great. I bet if you ask 100 liberals to fill in the blank… “Abortion is _______”, none of them would choose “great”. Hell, if you gave them 10 chances, I don’t think any of them would ever say great.

          But this is notme we’re talking about so I really shouldn’t even be paying him mind.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:


        Show me one liberal who has ever said, “Abortion is great.”

        Well, I hate to say it, but I’ve heard* a certain type of liberal say abortion is great (not many!) because having one is the exercise of a woman’s right to choose. It’s equated with political expression.

        More generally, it seems to me most liberals think abortion is a less-bad option than (being compelled) to take the fetus to term. That is, having an abortion is a shitty experience which very few people celebrate.

        *My wife was an abortion counselor at our local abortion clinic for years so I’m indirectly part of the community.Report

  4. Kim says:

    We have a few reasons we’re sympathetic to someone who murders a disabled child:
    1) “It’s hard and it wasn’t what they signed up for” — This is the despicable reason.
    2) “There’s no place for the kid to go” — This is a presumed “you can’t deal with this in alternate ways, say adoption”, which is somewhat reasonable.
    3) “We don’t think that disabled kids deserve to live, if it’s going to cost us XYZ” — this is perhaps the worse reason.
    4) An implicit “this kid is bad/evil” — I’m not going to say that it’s horrible to want to kill your child. Certainly when someone says that they’d have shot their son the terrorist, we listen respectfully. If it was your child the rapist (constantly attempting to rape people despite being really bad at it), well, you’re the parent.
    5) The “disabled kid has a horrid life” trope — again, alongside 4), this winds up being sometimes true, but not always.

    I do want to say that murder is short and quick. We should not be apriori more sympathetic to someone who kills someone who is disabled. But I don’t always consider murder to be immoral, so perhaps I’m a bad person to pitch this to.Report