Like so many in the disability community who have heard this news, we were horrified to begin the July 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by reading of the murder of 19 people with disabilities in a residential institution in Japan. Japan Today reported the following details of the “stabbing rampage”:
The man arrested over a stabbing rampage in which 19 people were killed Tuesday at a residential care facility near Tokyo has told police that he wanted to “save” those with multiple disabilities and feels “no remorse” for what he did, investigative sources said Wednesday.
The sources have also found that Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old former employee of the facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, sought to buy time by constraining at least two facility workers with binding bands before launching the attack, which also left 26 people injured.
As a result, it took more than 40 minutes for workers at Tsukui Yamayuri En (Tsukui Lily Garden) to make an emergency call to the police after Uematsu entered the facility by breaking a window at around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Uematsu told investigators that he “tied up” facility staff and made them hand over the keys to the residential areas. The 19 victims—nine men and 10 women ranging in age from 19 to 70—were all found in the residential areas, which are divided into eight sectors, each having self-locking doors.
Most of the victims were stabbed in their necks, with some stab wounds as deep as 10 centimeters. Other wounds were also found on their chests and throats. They were apparently attacked when they were asleep.
Los Angeles Times reports also stated that Uematsu attempted to deliver a three-page letter to Japan Parliament Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima’s residence, revealing his views on euthanasia and his murderous plans:
The hand-written letter, which was obtained and released by the Mainichi newspaper, begins abruptly, with the writer saying he “is able to kill 470 disabled people” and a disclaimer that he realizes his threats defy common sense. Uematsu said he reached the conclusion that his plan to kill the disabled should be put “into action” and that “looking at the exhausted faces of the caretakers and the lifeless eyes of the employees of the caretaking facilities makes me feel for Japan and the world.”
The disabled, he wrote, “live as animals, not humans and many must succumb to a wheelchair for life while often being shunned from their own families.”
He said his goal was a world “where the severely disabled who cannot manage life at home or be an active member of the society can make the choice of being euthanized with the consent of their guardians. The disabled are only capable of creating unhappiness.”
So far, I’m aware of two disability rights leaders who have written powerful articles in response to this mass killing, the largest in Japan since World War II. Lydia Brown wrote:
We know hate and we know violence, because it is written on our bodies and our souls.
We bear it, heavy, wherever we go. Ableism is the violence in the clinic, in the waiting room, in the social welfare lines, in the classroom, in the recess yard, in the bedroom, in the prisons, in the streets. Ableism is the violence (and threat of violence) we live with each day.
Ableism is the constant apologetics for family members and caregivers who murder their disabled relatives — they must have had it so hard, it must have been such a burden, you musn’t judge unless you’ve walked in their shoes. (In the last few decades, more than 400 disabled people were murdered by relatives or caregivers, and those are only the stories we know about.)
For Lydia’s full article, go here.
Dave Hingsburger wrote:
His statement to the police upon turning himself in that ‘it’s better that disabled people disappear’ isn’t a deranged rant by someone out of control, it’s a calm statement of fact that echos the sentiment of many in society. People with disabilities know this sentiment, we hear it, we experience it and we have come to fear what it will do. Our lives are devalued, are needs seen as special and therefore burdensome, our rights are declared to be gifts rather than guarantees.
But there’s more.
A specific, targeted attack aimed at eradicating a group – a mass murder of a group of people because of who they are, and no where does anyone speak of hate. No mention of this as a hate crime against people with disabilities. No. Where. I have not read every paper of course, but in my searches on the Internet the only time that ‘hate crime’ has been used to describe this event it’s by a disabled writer on a disability blog or on a Facebook post.
For Dave’s whole article, go here.
Yes, the disability community knows violence and hate, alongside other communities whose members face these realities. I hope that we can grieve together and work together for a better world.