Sunday, December 16, 2012

Liza Long, You Are Not Adam Lanza's Mother

While many who read the viral article, 'I am Adam Lanza's Mother, it is necessary to consider the opinions of autistic people.  This article presents the view of Liza Long, the parent of a child with some sort of an unknown mental disorder.  Despite the fact that her child, Michael, does not have a clear diagnosis, the article is presented as a view on autism, furthering the stigma towards autistic people.  

Autistic people are generally not violent people.  Violence is not a symptom of autism. We are not Adam Lanza.  In fact, we are more likely to be victims of violence then we are to be perpetrators.  We are Casey Albury, whose mother's threats of violence were ignored until it was too late.  We are Marcus Fiesel, wrapped in a blanket that was duct-taped shut, and placed in a closet until temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  We are Ulysses Stable, who was murdered by his father - who deemed him a "burden."  We are Matthew Graville, abused, tortured, and eventually killed by his brother.  We are the hundreds of other autistic people killed by people who were supposed to protect us.  When people kill us, it's rarely remembered and often excused.  I am all of these people, their deaths ring in my head.

But I am not Adam Lanza.

I value people's lives.  I scream and cry when I see dead animals.  I have never seen a dead person, but I can imagine the experience would be traumatizing.  Killing people is not something I could ever do.  Adam Lanza was a disgusting human being, but he is not disgusting because he is autistic.  He did not kill those children because he is autistic.  Autism doesn't make one lack compassion.  Autism doesn't make one go into a school and murder people.

Now, back to Liza Long's article. 

I do not doubt that there are children in this word who are violent - and finding out why these children act violently and taking steps to protect their family is certainly necessary.  I do not like Liza Long's article, however.  I do not like Liza Long's article because I do not trust her as a reliable narrator.  I do not like Liza Long's article because she is so adamant in her reliability as both a participant in the events and a narrator.  I do not like Liza Long's article because she splices the memory of her sentences with phrases telling the reader that her tone was "affable, reasonable."  If her child is autistic, as she states is a possibility, there is a possibility he is reading her tone in a different manner than she is meaning it.  I do not like Liza Long's article because she lambasted her child publicly. I dislike the fact that she threatens to forcibly institutionalize her child because of a suicide ideation, as someone who has been not allowed to leave a mental institution despite the fact that it was incredibly triggering to me and only made me have meltdowns.   I do not like how she refers to her meltdowns as 'fits.'  I do not like how she essentially hypothesizes that her child will become a mass murderer.  I dislike how the entire article ignores the abuse (at the hand of Michael's father) that she talks about on her blog.  I especially do not like Liza Long's article because she has publicly admitted to fantasizing about killing her child: "I thought of Abraham, knife poised above the body of his innocent son. Why does God give us these urges, then tell us not to act on them?"  Liza Long has given me lots of reasons not to trust her.

I do not know if Liza Long presents the events she talks about reliably.  Perhaps she does, and her child has behavioral problems that certainly need to be addressed.  But these behavioral problems are not the cause of autism.  Threatening to kill someone is not a symptom of autism.  More likely, it's him responding to abuse.

However, I dislike the enthusiasm with which people latch onto the stories of parents at the expense of autistic (or perceived autistic) children, lamenting the horrors of autism and praising the mothers for being so "brave."  Sometimes I wonder if they have forgotten the autistic people who were murdered by their parents.  Many of the parents of these people also demonized their children and convinced people their children were to blame.

But then I remember the world has never known of these murders - they have never even crossed many people's minds, and if they have, they have been excused as being a problem related to the lack of mental health services or the difficulty of raising an autistic child, rather than an institutional problem related to the demonization of autistic people.

There is certainly a lack of mental health services, and this is something that needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of hurting the many autistic people who are not violent.  Not at the expense of people like Casey Albury, Marcus Fiesel, Ulysses Stable, and Matthew Graville.  Not at my expense.  We were never Adam Lanzas.


  1. I'm not defending that this woman crossed a line by posting her son's pic with the piece, but L.L. never said her son was autistic. She was speaking about her son in the context of having a mental illness, but she did not specify a diagnosis. In fact, the child, as yet, has no diagnosis. Whatever her situation is -- real or imagined, whatever her reliability is, it's clear that her piece was an outright cry for help and I think that is what so many people responded to. Yes, her piece was dramatic and slanted to her own view, but what came through was her total desperation. I mean this is a woman who thinks that her only recourse with a mercurial son, is to call the police. She is definitely out of resources, overwhelmed, and out of her depth. What's also true is that "Mommy Bloggers," sometimes get rewarded with increased traffic and notoriety for being sarcastic or acerbic about their parenting life and their children (instead of the usual "children are a miracle" stance.)Sentences like these,"I thought of Abraham, knife poised above the body of his innocent son. Why does God give us these urges, then tell us not to act on them?" are usually attempts at humor.

    I feel for everybody in these situations and just wish there was less judgement and attacks and more offers of assistance for those who may need extra patience or guidance or tools (both the child and the mother in this case.)

    1. Given that Adam Lanza is being presented as autistic, and the fact that she mentioned him possibly having autism within the piece, she should have known the effect it would have on autistic people. I think the piece would have been slightly better if she'd left out the diagnoses, although it still would have been awful in many ways. I disagree that it was necessarily a cry for help, or even written out of desperation, and I think that's a pretty naive way of looking at things. A cry for help would have been done under a pseudonym. A cry for help wouldn't have hurt the people she supposedly is trying to help. I disagree entirely. This wasn't a cry for help.

      I don't believe jokes about murdering your children, especially when they are of a population that is often murdered by their parents, is really funny.

      When someone contributes to stigma of an entire group and treats people with no respect, judgment is completely necessary.