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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Judge Not, Continued

Over on his blog Carnal Thoughts, Angelo Muredda wrote a very thoughtful and articulate response to my post Judge Not. To recap, that post, via a winding and roundabout path that touched on both assisted suicide and the murders of autistic children by their parents, was related to the issue of how our society supports neither the raising of children — disabled or not — nor the adults who choose to take on the work of rearing the next generation.

Before I address Angelo’s otherwise excellent post, though, I do have to address this bit from his piece:

And I shared these thoughts on Voynar’s blog, or tried to, only to find that my comment was not approved. Interesting.

Since my comment was not deemed fit for public consumption, and since I love nothing more than grandstanding on minuscule soapboxes to audiences of 3, I’m sharing it here, for prosperity and out of general interest. If you’re at all curious about either Voynar’s commentary or her apparent comment-screening process, by all means, drop her a line. Just don’t expect your comment to get accepted.

I need to state here clearly: Angelo, it’s certainly true that from time to time, I forget to check for pending comments that need to be approved. So far as I know, the only reason any comment gets held up in pending is if you don’t provide your name and email address, or if for some reason you are being temporarily moderated (never happened on my blog, but has from time to time over on The Hot Blog).

In this case, though, I can tell you that there is no comment from you being held in pending that I can find. I even checked the spam folder, just in case you got netted in by that. I don’t know what happened to your comment, but I could not find it on our server. However, my email address is readily available on the site. So rather than assuming I was censoring your comment, and writing snarky comments about me — and assuming motivations on my part that do not exist — you might have thought about just dropping me a line.

I wouldn’t even have known you wrote a response to me on your blog if you hadn’t posted to Twitter, and even then I just found that mention today. I was off Twitter and most work stuff for the long holiday weekend, and since then have been swamped with last-minute details for my daughter’s upcoming wedding, so didn’t see your post until tonight.



I’d like to respond to Angelo’s thoughtful piece. You should go read it in its entirety over on his site first, or this won’t make a lot of sense. Besides, it’s an articulate and compellingly written piece, and you should read it because he has some things to say that might make you think.

… Back? Okay, so. Angelo, you say in your post:

There’s a logical blind spot in this discussion that troubles me: your argument seems to be implying that there’s a main side that empathy ought to fall with in the non-voluntary euthanasia debate, and that is with the parents who take their children’s lives for the “why” reasons you’ve listed. It worries me that “why” as you’ve defined it here is entirely “why did I take my child’s life” and not also (let alone primarily) inclusive of “why should I die” from the child’s perspective.

I think perhaps we have a miscommunication here. I never said, nor do I believe, that a parent who kills an autistic or otherwise disabled child (not talking here about cases of confirmed brain death, obviously) is committing an act of assisted suicide. Stephen Drake, in responding to Roger Ebert, brought the Katie McCarron murder case into the discussion of assisted suicide and Jack Kervorkian.

I wasn’t clear enough before, so let’s be perfectly clear here in defining what we’re talking about and where we agree: in a case where a child, disabled or not, is killed by a parent, we are not talking about a parent “assisting” a terminally ill child in dying, or committing suicide. We are talking about murder, which is by definition not consensual in any way. There’s no two ways about that, that I can see.

Therefore, there’s no reason to be “inclusive of “why should I die” from the child’s perspective,” because there IS no why in those cases. The child shouldn’t have died, period. That issue wasn’t what I was discussing. The question I was raising is: Why do some parents kill their children (disabled or not)? And how are we as a community, a society, failing to support parents in the crucial role of raising the next generation? And shouldn’t we be doing a better job of that?

You went on to say:

It seems important to talk about their will or the lack thereof, if you’re going to be commenting on “assisted suicide,” as you say at the start of this piece — both assistance and suicide require an agent to say “yes” or “please.” There is a lot in this piece about parents being able to ‘express’ themselves and ‘say’ what they feel openly and without fear of reprisal, and it’s a powerful plea; there is nothing comparable in this piece about children having their lives terminated without having their ‘say.’

Actually, I didn’t say that I was going to be commenting on assisted suicide at the start of the piece. What I said was:

So, I started out today by reading this piece on the Hot Blog about Roger Ebert writing about this Jack Kervorkian movie on HBO, and how that pissed off this guy Steven Drake from Not Dead Yet, an activist group in the disabled community. For the record, I am generally in favor of assisted suicide, so I started to write a piece about that. But then I went down a couple rabbit holes that explored some other ideas that I found equally intriguing to think about and write about, so here you go.

I then followed that thread through some autism parent discussion boards, which led me to the Autism Speaks video and the response to that, and THAT, Angelo, was the part that actually inspired the post to begin with: how angry and passionate the discussion was, how other autism parents judged the moms in the video, the things the moms in the video had to say about feeling alone and unsupported. Unfortunately, on the way to explaining how I came to write about that video, I took a side road into discussing briefly the Katie McCarron case, in which a mother murdered her autistic child, seemingly, simply because she did not think her daughter could be made “normal” or “neurotypical”.

This case, as some commenters have rightly noted, is less about caregiver support than other cases, and more (so far as I can glean, anyhow) about a mother who believed her daughter was irretrievably damaged or imperfect and that she would never be “normal” because she was autistic. She did not assist her daughter to commit suicide, she murdered her. THAT is another kettle of fish — and another discussion — entirely, and in retrospect, even though Drake brought the case into a discussion of assisted suicide, it admittedly was NOT the best case for making a point about caregiver support. Mea culpa.

All that aside, though, I stand by everything else I said in that post with regard to the need for us to stand back from judging others harshly, and to attempt to understand the “why” behind a parent murdering a child — any child. I wouldn’t argue that there aren’t some people out there who are just mean, sadistic, abusive and selfish people who kill their kids. But there are also parents who buckle under the weight of too much pressure, or who snap in a moment of mental breakdown and do something they regret for the rest of their lives. For me, it’s the difference between, say, Susan Smith, and Andrea Yates.

These are the cases I’m most interested in, because those are the situations where we can actually look at the causes behind a tragedy to see where we as a society failed to support a family. Looking at those cases, learning from them by trying to understand what happened, can never bring a murdered child back. But if we learn from a tragic circumstance, we can maybe save other children — other families — from similar fates.

Wouldn’t it be better to support families in getting through dark times to a better place, than to bury a murdered child and put a parent behind bars? That’s what I’m asking.

Anyhow, thank you, Angelo, for your thoughtful response and for the points you raised, particularly for sharing at the end about your own experiences as a multiple congenital amputee and people’s reactions to you.

For what it’s worth — and this is not excusing those people who’ve said things you found hurtful — I’d have to say that for people who are not living with a disability, we see a person confined to a wheelchair, and we think to ourselves that we cannot imagine how we would live, or want to live, if something happened to vastly change our own ability to get around and live our lives as we wish to. If we had a terrible car wreck, or a disabling stroke, or fell off a horse and were suddenly paraplegic, however would we cope?

We imagine that we could not, but the reality is, that people can and do. Roger Ebert, who started all this by writing about that Jack Kervorkian movie, probably would not have chosen to have all the medical problems he’s dealt with, that took away his speaking voice and have rendered him relatively fragile, compared to the physical body he had before all that. Nonetheless, his voice as a writer, his use of his blog to talk about issues that matter to him, and to generously share the perspectives his life lessons have taught him, are an exercise in the graceful handling of an adverse situation he was dealt. Through his illness and the way he’s handled it, he’s touched countless lives in ways that he never would have through his film criticism writing alone, however prolific he might be in that field of endeavor.

Perhaps you’ve also unknowingly had some positive influence on those with whom you’ve had negative encounters, Angelo: made them think, reconsider, ponder that maybe their perception of what it means to be disabled is completely off the mark. Certainly, your expressive and thoughtful post gave me some things to think about, so I thank you for taking the time to write it.

P.S. If you have further issues commenting, please drop me a line at to let me know so we can figure out why.

One Response to “Judge Not, Continued”

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