A parade of sparklers from last summer, about a thousand years ago.
I think it is me who is regressing this January. We did a lot, learned a lot, and worried a lot in 2012. I am wiser but much less brave than I was a year ago, having gone from sending our boy away to camp for a whole summer to being reluctant to send him to school for even a day. Sickness and Sandy Hook (not to mention a totally dysfunctional Federal government) make me think we are more vulnerable than ever and while we have a plan (as of yesterday) to get him healthier I haven’t the slightest clue how to rebuild our confidence. We were always wary of the outside world; now the outside world is wary of us. When we ventured out over the holiday season I noticed that I stopped using the word “autistic” to explain odd behaviors – in fact I avoided saying anything at all to anyone about him, and made more of an effort to avoid eye contact. I am ashamed that I want to be invisible, angry that people are spreading ignorance and fear about autism and appalled that I have allowed it to affect my behavior. Still, we go out a lot and, like many parents these days, we do our best to show and tell our children how much we love them. And, quite literally, we hang onto them a little tighter than we used to.
I don’t want to but I have to weigh in on the Sandy Hook tragedy. I doubt we will ever truly know everything that led that young man to do what he did, but I feel the need to reiterate what the Autism Society of America has already said: that mass murder is not a symptom or a behavior of autism. His brother mentioning autism in a description of the gunman doesn’t mean there is a causal relationship between what happened and the alleged diagnosis of autism, it only means – maybe – that he was a person who may have needed more support than he was getting. In today’s America, that could describe a whole lot of people, the vast majority of whom have not opened fire on anyone.
But I am appalled that the ability to do just that – open fire – on anyone, anywhere, is seen as a founding-fathers-given right to Americans. We have lost our understanding of what gun safety is and the value of a good background check – which in this case would have done little good, but that is not true of some other events in this year of seven (yes, seven) mass shootings. But limiting the number and type of weapons available to a single individual might have made a difference in the scope and horror of this event.
Don’t let the media – or anyone else – turn the tables on the real issue and blame a disability instead of political cowardice on the fronts of health insurance and gun safety. I join the chorus of voices calling for increased gun safety and a stronger mental health safety net for all Americans.