Is selling the story more important than the people it hurts?

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Does the news need to blame someone so much that they don’t care if they stigmatize a whole group of people who have done nothing wrong? Tonight I received a text from a colleague asking me if I heard the Sandy Hook killer had Asperger’s Syndrome? I thought I was going to be ill. I really thought the news had let go of that. I remember when the shooting happened, and a diner owner had reported that to the news. He said the mom had told him once (years earlier) that her son was being tested for Asperger’s Syndrome. TESTED!!! Tested does not equal a diagnosis, and even if it did, it does not mean that was the cause for the shooting.

The shooters own brother said he had been diagnosed with a personality disorder. That could mean so many things, but again did not mean Asperger’s Syndrome. And just so we are clear, when the brother was interviewed by, he was interviewed under anonymity because he was under orders from the investigators not to disclose information to the media. All of the sources I have searched up weren’t credible enough to say for sure or even to say “could be” or “might be” or “we have an inkling” that the shooter had Asperger’s Syndrome. Where were the interviews with the shooter’s therapists and doctors? You know, the ones who were actually treating him.

Having a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I know first hand the stigma he faces in our world without having the national news pointing a finger at him. I thought our society had out grown away from the mentality of the Salem Witch trials, but I guess I figured wrong. When a tragedy happens, everyone wants to point fingers and come up with an easy solution to the problem, even if that solution could ostracize a whole group of citizens unfairly. As long as it doesn’t affect us, why not, right? Wrong! It’s time our society grows up and realizes that not everything can be wrapped up nicely in 30 – 60 minutes like a television show. As a society we need to get off our social media and start educating ourselves on the world around us.

I am not saying that the killer wasn’t mentally ill, but that’s all that needed to be reported. Putting a name to his illness without 100 percent proof is unconscionable. Yet, tonight NBC news did it again. My colleague pointed out that the information was coming from the shooter’s father and that this time it was a major news show that was airing it, so she trusted the validity. It made me wonder too, so I went on to watch the interview. The only problem when I watched the interview is that the interview wasn’t with the father of the shooter. It was with a reporter who had interviewed the father. In other words, it was one reporter interviewing another reporter on his interpretation of the father’s words. Might I point out that the shooter’s parents were divorced, and it was the mother who had been seeking out the mental health help for her son, so now we have a reporter interviewing another reporter on his interpretation of his interview with the father who was actually giving his second hand knowledge of what the mother had learned year’s earlier. Have any of you played the telephone game as kids? How well did that information get passed around the room? Well, these are adults playing that game, yet it has major affects on a whole group of citizens from around the world.

Instead of pointing fingers at individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and causing them to be feared like the witches were in Salem, or the Jewish people and the Japanese were during World War II, or even how the Muslims have been since 911. We are so quick to blame a whole group of people for something one or a few might have caused. It is soooo much easier and quicker. Instead we need to educate ourselves about mental health issues and find ways to help each other, instead of judging each other. The time and energy it takes to point fingers and gossip, people could put that towards lifting up their fellow citizens.

I read Frankenstein recently to a group of my college ESL students. I had never read Frankenstein before, and it brought me to tears. The monster wasn’t evil and ugly, society made him evil and ugly. Even his own master turned against him because of how ugly he thought he was. He didn’t bother to get to know him and love him, instead he banished him and sent him out in the cold to die. We do that to people everyday and then people cry out “what’s wrong with the world”? We all need to take a look in our own mirrors, including myself. Not one of us is perfect, and if we quit striving to be perfect and accept each other for who we are, we might be able to walk out of our glass houses and get to know some truly amazing people that we have been building up walls to protect ourselves from.

My husband did not want a child who was different and walked away and started a new life, pretending the first one never existed. He tossed his kids out, just like Frankenstein did his creation. No one ostracizes him! When I searched for positive, male role models in my community for my son, no one stuck with it because it’s not easy to work with a child with special needs, it’s easier to be a big brother to a child who is “normal”, or to go to a foreign country for one week a year to volunteer. Those make better Facebook photos. I never thought I would have to be afraid to say my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, but now due to sensationalized reporting, my son and a whole group of innocent people, have been stigmatized even further. I can only pray that awareness and education will one day reach others in society and that we stop hating a community for what one person did.

How do you define the man in your life? Fool or Hero?


In a recent conversation with my mom, I could sense her concern on how others perceived my father, not just my father in general, but also my father as a man who had Multiple Sclerosis. At first I didn’t understand her worries because I only saw my dad as my loving, devoted father, I never defined him by a disease, just as I wouldn’t want others to define my son as Asperger’s Syndrome, or my daughter as PTSD, or me as a divorcee of an abuser. If people did only see my dad for his Multiple Sclerosis, then they missed out on knowing a great man.

No matter what life threw at him, he always handled it with dignity and stride. I asked him the year before his death how he did it. Every time I came to visit him, he always greeted me with a huge, loving smile and would ask about me. Me? He never wanted to talk about what the disease had done to him. He went from a vibrant, hard-working man to many years later barely being able to leave his bed. My amazing mom was always by his side, making sure his every need was taken care of; yet, the first thing out of their mouths was how was I?

My dad was not perfect, who is? What I do know is that from the minute he said, “I do” to my mom his first priority was always taking care and honoring his family. Six and a half years ago when my ex told me (on our 18th wedding anniversary/Father’s Day) that he was tired of being a husband and father and either I do it all or find someone to take his place because he had better things to do in his life; I remember being in complete shock by his words, and the worst part is my 13-year old daughter over heard him. I remember asking him “What kind of man abandons his family? My dad lost his first business right after I, one of five children, was born. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career. After that he developed Multiple Sclerosis. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career and started his own upholstery shop in his home, so he could provide for his family. When the MS took over and he could no longer work in his shop, did he walk away? No, he sought out another career (in his sixties now) and went back to college, so he could run a tax service out of his office. My dad never gave up. He was a real man and father.” My ex husband stood looking at me with dark, callous eyes, like a dementor from the book Harry Potter, who was about to suck away my soul, and said “Your dad wasn’t a man, he was a fool.”

I knew right then that my ex could never be a real role model for my children, as he showed me who the real fool was. My father may have already passed on, but my children knew him. He was their role model. They drew the above picture of him while I was still with my ex. When I asked my oldest son to draw a picture of family, he drew his grandparents. His version may have had my dad’s wheelchair, but it didn’t show my dad being helpless and defeated, it showed him the way I will always remember him: full of love for everyone that walked into his life. My parents taught me what love is.

When I was in college I was brutally attacked and I was so ashamed I never told anyone. My attacker began tormenting me and I decided I could no longer live with the shame anymore, and decided to end my life. Before I did, a co-worker, I barely knew, reached out to me and told me whatever was eating at me could be worked out. He told me if I ended my life, my oppressor won and the people I loved lost. He convinced me to tell someone; I went to my dad. I expected him to yell and scream at me and to be so ashamed, but instead he was calm, loving and gave me a huge hug; he told me he loved me and always would. He said there was only one thing that could change the way he looked at me, and that was if I ever gave up. He said I could fall on my face a thousand times, but the time I decided not to get up again, and try again, was the day he would walk away from me.

Those words carried me through the last twenty-five years. I have people constantly say they think I’m brave for surviving a sociopath, but what other alternative is there? My dad taught me that we are more than then the blockades that are thrown in our way. I work hard every day to honor my father, not a fool, but my hero; if I can pay it forward one way for him; I know it would be to help others see that obstacles are never so enormous that we cannot work to find a strategy around or through them. My journey has not been an easy one, and I’m confident there will be more barriers along the way, but life is always a work in progress, and as long as I am moving forward and making a better future for my children, myself, and others around me, then I have lived. Truly lived.