I’ve been asked my opinion on the Saylor case, and given that so many other bloggers in the special needs world have posited an opinion, I guess it’s time for me to make my thoughts known, as well. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, first read up on it here. And while you’re at it, check out this article and this editorial, too.
I’m appalled. I’m sickened. I’m angry.
But I’m not surprised.
A lot of folks are up in arms…Why weren’t the officers better trained?…Why didn’t they heed his calls for his mother?…Why did the theater employee make such a big stink about him hanging around for a few extra minutes?…Why didn’t the eyewitnesses – who were quick to speak up about the details after the fact – not intervene in the moment?…Why didn’t the grand jury indict?…Why didn’t the department seek out an independent investigation?
Lots of questions, very few answers – it would seem.
But as a mom who lives every day knowing that the ugly world outside my house is very different from the beautiful world inside it, I’ve got a theory. I’m pretty confident that I can answer all of those questions with one simple sentence.
Most people don’t give a damn about people with disabilities.
While my feed reader has been blowing up with blog entries about Ethan Saylor, I’ve also – just in the last week – read posts by my blogging acquaintances about children in special education who were abused at school and others who were left on school buses. Sadly, those stories are all too common.
I have a search set in my Google Reader for stories related to Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, and rarely does a week go by that there isn’t at least one story about a person with either CP or T21 who has been treated badly. Physical abuse, stolen wheelchairs and law enforcement dust-ups are common in my reader.
And then there’s Twitter.
I have hashtag searches set up in HootSuite for Down syndrome and cerebral palsy and for all the righteous indignation from people that of course they aren’t talking or even thinking about people with Down syndrome when they use the r-word, I can assure you that there are plenty of people who do have people like my child in mind and use Down syndrome as an insult in itself. Here are two examples just from the past twelve hours:
being the coolest guy at shennanigans is like being the smartest kid with down-syndrome #waiting
— Drew Mendelson (@RoflSaurusDrew) April 2, 2013
I remember somebody said oomf look like ah chicken with down syndrome…..Lls.!
— -lady ‘ LAMBERT !™ (@_KiaaBrianna) April 2, 2013
The reason this case is getting so much attention is because he died – if he’d lived, most people would have forgotten already.
I don’t know all of the details of the Saylor case, but what’s been reported doesn’t pass the smell test. An innocent young man is dead because a handful of people thought a $12 movie ticket was a big deal. But as easy as it is to point fingers at them and scream for justice, I don’t think doing so is going to help. In fact, focusing on a few people who, if we’re being honest, likely didn’t want Ethan to die and will have to live with the fact that they were responsible for the rest of their lives, misses the big picture.
Despite the hype, the death of Ethan Saylor wasn’t just the fault of a stubborn movie theater lackey and three ignorant moonlighting deputies.