This is a grim, dark, murky post. I’m sorry about that. I’m going to discuss a serious problem. It may not be a universal problem, but it hits close to home because I saw it on my television screen frequently on the nightly news. I lived at Ground Zero, after all–a place in which this happens–often. And continues today, long after I’d left.
(Deep breath.) Here we go…
For nine horrendous and catabolic years, I lived in Dallas, Texas, USA. I say “catabolic” because I never thought a city could eat me alive, but it did, and I escaped, narrowly, finally, as a mere vapor or hologram of what I could be. This had much more to do with the overall cannabalistic vibe that permeated the whole metroplex, which in itself should–and probably will–get its own post.
But not today.
Today I’m here to talk about the weather. (And children.)
Summers in North Texas are legendary. The temperatures rank among the hottest in the nation, second only to Death Valley. It’s like sticking your head in an oven.
In fact, you can boil eggs and fry hamburgers on the outside surface of your car.
Imagine what the inside of a parked car feels like.
And from here, I’m issuing a dire Content Warning, for those sensitive to the wellbeing of children, because the rest of this post is about an extremely grim subject related to a gross violation of it. No hard feelings toward those who don’t have the stomach for it and need to back out now.
During my first summer in Dallas, I began to hear reports of children being “forgotten” and left in the back seats of cars while their parent (usually–but not always–a mother) went inside to work or shop. After what sometimes added up to hours later, someone–either the parent themselves or a Good Samaritan passerby–would notice the child, and call the authorities for help.
More often than not, it was too late. The child’s life had already expired.
Immediately, I began to get more than a little suspicious. Who forgets their child in the back seat of a vehicle? Don’t children make noise? (I know they don’t make noise when they’re asleep, but kids have energy, too, and I imagine that once they’re awake, they’re not likely to fall asleep again until at least their afternoon nap, right?) Since this usually occurred in the morning (with the child found sometime in the afternoon), isn’t it part of the morning routine to bring the child to daycare or something? And if not, wouldn’t the parents bring them into the store (or wherever) with them? I admit, I’ve never had children, so I can’t issue a firsthand-experienced opinion, but it seems more than a little odd to me.
It seemed like throughout the months of June, July, and August, when the temperatures reach a scorching zenith, these reports became incredibly–and again, increasingly suspiciously–frequent. Again, I can only play the theoretical game, but I imagine that if I had children, and had I ever come close to forgetting about them in the back seat (maybe they were sleeping or especially quiet for some reason), and then heard these reports, I would hope that they would serve as a sobering, heartbreaking reminder and strengthen my resolve to put post-it notes on my steering wheel or incorporate my child into the top tier of my mental checklist or something. If it can happen to anyone, I would take great measures to ensure that it didn’t happen to my family.
But rather than dissipate, these reports became frighteningly more common.
What was going on here??
Things have changed a bit since those days (we’re talking 15-16 years ago), but back then at least, it was incredibly insensitive (at best) or absolute taboo to even think about implicating the parents. They had “suffered enough” (the stock phrase, which I suspect was sometimes true and sometimes not), so no one dared open up that Pandora’s Box…
…a sentiment which I suspect a few malicious (even if desperate or deranged) parents were banking on.
It’s unthinkable, really, but apparently, it happens. Some parents “conveniently” erase their children from the family equation.
This suspicion came to a pointed head when I heard yet another news story of a young child discovered to have perished in yet another hot car. As the story went, the family had returned from an outing and everyone had taken a nap. There were several children in this family, and the report said that a boy of toddler age and his slightly older sister had climbed into the family’s SUV parked outside.
Somehow, the two children had unlocked the vehicle (by themselves), climbed in, and then, somehow, the non-disabled sister had gotten back out and gone into the house, while her younger (“special needs” was all they said) brother was still inside. Oh, and the doors were found locked on that big SUV.
This story sent my spiny senses tingling. Something was wrong with this story. The facts just didn’t add up. I saw pictures of that SUV; it was way too big for small children to climb into by themselves. The little brother would have been way too heavy and not yet strong enough for the little girl to hoist him up into the vehicle.
This reeked of parental action, or perhaps deliberate inaction.
Since discovering that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum and venturing into the conventionally-unheard and unknown community of the disabled and marginalized, I’ve become distressingly aware of just how often variously-disabled people are mistreated, abused, even eliminated altogether. It’s deplorable. It’s inexcusable. It’s downright shameful. It’s unthinkable.
But tragically, it continues.
One would think that after a rash of stories like these that invariably pop up every summer (to the point where our state has taken to putting messages reminding parents to check their back seats and conduct head-counts of their children to prevent these situations from happening!), that perhaps the incidence of stories like these would take a relieving downturn. But nope, the statistics didn’t seem to budge; it happened again and again, year after year.
And it seemed to involve disabled (“special needs”) children disproportionately.
I no longer had to scratch my head and wonder what the hell was going on. I had my theories then. I still do. My suspicions are more solid now. The evidence is piling up.
The mainstream media tend to ignore the rampant abuse and murder of the disabled, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It does, and it happens more often than I ever imagined.
Many of these instances are cases in which the parent(s) are purposefully eliminating their children. They don’t want to “deal with” the “headache” anymore. They may be facing bankruptcy in light of the expense (and lack of financial support) involved in raising such children in the US. They may have lost their jobs (it was a horrid economy back then, after all), and to make matters worse, they also probably lost their health insurance at the same time, since most health insurance coverage in the US is tied to the company one works for.
Any one or combination of these factors might be at play here.
That’s not an excuse. It doesn’t come close to justifying anything. But it might be an explanation. Not an acceptable one, mind you.
Murder is still murder. And to do this to a helpless, innocent being is… I have no words–at least, none strong enough to express how I feel.
I understand, but I don’t understand.
It’s clear to me now, but it’s not a picture I want to see.
The truly saddening part is that the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. It took forever for the law enforcement authorities to catch on to the cover story.
“We forgot,” the parents cry. Some of them are telling the tragic truth, and their stories are heart-breakingly genuine; my heart really does go out to those people. I have no words for how sorry I feel for those people.
Others, however, are putting on a convincing act fit for a Grammy.
Society takes this at face value. They don’t dare question. They speak in favor/defense of these parents. “They’ve suffered enough,” goes the mantra.
People who know better (or at least suspect), who suspect malicious intent on the part of those parents and caregivers, don’t get a space on the Editorial Page. Their viewpoint is not politically correct enough. Perhaps it’s too offensive (the whole idea that this even happens is offensive). Or could it possibly be, in a few cases, because the protesters’ viewpoint would offend a few too many people? People who might be in a similar situation, with “special needs” kids, and who might have, even momentarily, considered doing something similar?
Regardless, their thoughts may never been put to paper and if they were, those letters would never be published–and again, that’s if they didn’t bite their tongues to silence themselves first. Because after all, it’s unthinkable.
Well, it may be unpleasant (to say the least), and it may be taboo, but I’m talking about it, because that’s the first step to eliminating it. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. So as tough as this is to write about, I’m writing about it, even if that’s all I can do. I’m trying to help take that first step by acknowledging it.
Because until it gets acknowledged, these perpetrators can continue committing their horrible atrocities, the truth can continue being swept under the rug, society can continue to go about their business, under the sanitized, false illusion that we live in a decent world, a world where “people would never do something like that”.
The problem is, they do. And they need to be called out on it. This needs to be exposed for what it truly is. This has to be treated like any other violent, malevolent crime (at the very least). They need to be prosecuted like any other criminal. They need to serve serious time. They need their lives ripped apart, where it counts.
This phenomenon can’t continue. It has to change. Now.
I don’t claim to be any kind of authority on this subject (I’m far from it). I’m not trying to hijack anyone else’s voice, nor would I want to. But some of the people with stories to tell are no longer with us; they’ve been purposely extinguished; their voices will never get to be heard.
And no one else (in the non-disabled community, that I have seen so far) is uttering a peep–not the other parents and caregivers of disabled people, not the so-called “advocacy” “charity” groups, not the local or national governments (including law enforcement, the court system, the legislature, the Ad Council who puts together all those Public Service Announcements–you know, the ones who tell us to drink milk, stay in school, and stay away from power lines), not the news agencies…no one. All of the powers that be remain stubbornly and eerily silent on the issue, preferring to look the other way and blatantly ignore the elephant in the room. You can practically hear the crickets.
That kind of willful shoving of this issue under the rug is unacceptable. That kind of non-action sends the message that these kinds of atrocities against fellow human beings are understandable, justifiable…even condoned.
Because the majority of these people don’t have disabled people in their care. But they know that anyone could find themselves in such a position. A genetic twist here or a car accident there or maybe a moment too long without oxygen during a difficult birth, and poof! You’ve got a physically or mentally disabled person in your care.
The lack of discussion about this topic leads me to believe that the world is hatching a bunch of latently narcissistic people. People who don’t dare speak too loudly against these terrible behaviors because they secretly empathize with the perpetrators. They don’t want to elicit public support for harsh punishments lest they find themselves in a similar situation, faced with the same “dilemma” (to conveniently “get rid of” another human being, or not? That is their question). They don’t want to wag any fingers lest they find those fingers wagging back at them someday.
Evil is only possible when good people sit back in silence and do nothing, right? Well, I may not be on the American Ad Council, but this has been my PSA (Public Service Announcement) for the day.
I’m sorry for the depressing subject matter. It’s just that I couldn’t stay silent.