hometown (an indictment of sunnyvale)

content notice: death, murder, filicide, death of disabled people, death of children, gun violence, Fire, suicide, ableism, ABA, murders of George Hodgins, Tracy Latimer, and Daniel Corby.

the thing about my hometown

is that all my friends from outside of it

know it as the place someone was killed.

 

his name was George Hodgins

he was shot to death by his mother

for being autistic.

 

this happened nearly at the same time

my hometown was debating whether or not

to allow a firearms store to set up shop

half a mile from the middle school.

 

you can look all of this up,

if you like,

but i can also just tell you:

i come from a city of 140,000 people in the Bay Area,

about an hour south of San Francisco.

it is called Sunnyvale,

full of tech bros and good true-blue liberals.

 

our culture is not one of guns,

of strong belief in the second amendment,

we scorn what we say are those backwards towns in the south,

where they don’t know what’s what.

 

Elizabeth Hodgins,

the coward,

shot herself after killing her child.

 

i am, somehow,

supposed to have sympathy for such a cowardly monster,

i am supposed to feel sorry for her,

i am supposed to understand.

 

the sun, the sentinel, the merc,

they all published articles and letters sympathetic to her,

they all tried to impress the moral and ethical normalcy of her act onto their readers,

they quoted spineless monster enablers

(or monsters themselves in the making),

as saying how loving and hardworking she was.

 

let me tell you,

it is hard raising a disabled child,

it is hard to see how society tears at your kid until they tear at themselves,

it is hard to see how your child’s body and mind trick them until they don’t know what’s true or not,

 

i’ve seen the toll this takes on people,

felt it reflected back,

because knowing your pain causes your parents pain,

knowing how it hurts them,

that’s a hell on earth all its own.

 

but there are many disabled children out there,

so many humans who live full lives,

whose families love them,

whose parents and siblings and caregivers struggle everyday,

but would never,

never,

never,

not ever

think of killing their child.

 

george was 22 when he died,

i am almost 21.

 

i may not make it to 22 —

my mind tells me to kill myself an awful lot,

i’m part of groups that a lot of people would like to see dead,

and i’m honestly scared of living somewhere with a kitchen, because i might accidentally set myself on fire or slice my hand open and bleed out while cooking dinner —

but if i die it won’t be my parents who killed me.

 

maybe it’s that i’m not a parent,

but i fail to see how,

if you watch your child grow up in a world that hates them,

in a society that fails to help them, help you,

in a country where you can’t guarantee they’ll have healthcare or housing once you die,

how does that anger turn on them?

how does it not turn towards the people who have denied them personhood and rights?

 

because how i see it,

all those parents who killed their kids,

all those Elizabeths Hodginses,

all those Robert Latimers and Patricia Corbys,

couldn’t have done what they did out of love,

because if it was love, they would have killed every doctor who denied their children care,

took a pickaxe to the stairs of every building their child couldn’t enter,

shot every person who made a rude comment about their child in the street,

and point-blank executed every quack “therapist” who wanted to force their child into a dog clicker-training, conversion-torture “therapy” under the guise of “help.”

 

i know that i am not supposed to believe in monsters,

that such creatures do not exist,

that we are all children of g-d,

some led more astray than others by irrational hate,

but i cannot reconcile how Elizabeth, Robert, Patricia,

how they were anything other than monsters.

these monsters and their spineless monster enablers,

they’ll call it mercy killings,

they’ll say they’re saving these children from a lifetime of pain.

 

but i know parents who did the same thing,

not with murder,

but with activism.

 

i have seen the testimony of so many brave people,

parents of disabled children,

parents whose children’s medical bills total more than the worth of their house,

parents who know that,

even with everything in their favor,

their child will not make 18.

 

i have seen people who never asked to be anything more than a mother or father,

people with no interest in advocacy,

people who just wanted to live their boring lives in small towns,

stare down the government cronies in Washington who wanted to rob them of their children,

take away the small chances their kids have of survival,

believe that dead children are an acceptable casualty to give billionaires a few more tax cuts.

 

that is what it means to want to save your children,

because your children can be saved,

and go on to do so much more.

 

i cry to heaven for George,

i cry that i am so inextricably tied to his murder,

in the circles i run in,

my hometown is synonymous with death.

 

Sunnyvale taught me its values:

civic pride, participation, liberalism, human rights,

but it wasn’t until i left that i learned about radical justice.

 

my hometown is hallowed ground,

it is not a place of honor,

and i know it will never dedicate a memorial to George.

 

there is no justice in places like that,

where murderers get found not guilty in death,

where nobody speaks of this,

nobody knows.

 

i know.

i remember.

and all i can do is work for justice,

for George, for Tracy, for Daniel,

for all of our dead,

and for all of the living,

for the adults who fight for ourselves,

the parents fighting for their children,

the kids fighting for themselves,

all of in the hopes of not one more,

no more names to mourn,

i hope and pray and fight for us all

as we struggle on.

 

thank you to lydia x. z. brown, who i met in-person for the first time a few weeks ago, and whose conversation inspired this.

in honor of George, Tracy, Daniel, the over a thousand other victims of ableist filicide who we know of, and the uncountable more that we do not.