Monday, August 20, 2007

In memory of Christe Reimer

On August 14, 2007, Christe Reimer, aged 47, died after her husband, it is said, kissed her, then threw her over a fourth floor balcony.

Christe, according to this report, had been seriously ill for some time. Amongst her numerous disabilities, Christe was partly blind, had uterine cancer, and weighed only 75 pounds. According to her caregiver, she could barely walk at the time she was killed. According to her sisters, nonetheless, she was "doing well."

Her husband, Stanley Reimer, who has been charged with second-degree murder, has said that he killed his wife because he was desperate. According to court documents, he was desperate because he could not afford to pay the bills for treatment for Christe's neurological problems and cancer. In other words, he seems to be saying, there was nothing else he could do.

But Cilla Sluga, an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, does not think so. In her post about this case, Stanley's desperation, no matter how extreme, no matter what the circumstances, does not - can never, never will - justify Christe's murder. In any case, Cilla points out, there were alternatives - she wonders why, for example, he didn't declare bankruptcy or become an advocate for universal singler payer health care. And then again, he could have drawn the legislature's attention to his situation.

No, Cilla argues, there were - always will be - options. As she sees it, the death of not only Christe but of others - too many others, among them Ruben Navarro, Emilio Gonzales, Edith Rodgriguez, Katie McCarron - who have been murdered, abused, neglected by family members or medical staff, is not a story about the country's healthcare crisis, as some believe. "It is about a man who murdered his wife because she got too expensive and became too much of a burden to him," she believes.

In closing her post, Cilla argues that activists and advocates for people with disabilities must do more than document and yell about neglect and murders by medical staff and families. She proposes that we take this conversation out of our communities and into the streets, and scream out against the abuses and killings of people with disabilties "by the people they should trust the most."

But whose street do we head for, whose house - is there only one - and what do we say when we get there? At whom and what will our words be pitched at? Stanley Reimer, apparently, kissed Christe before throwing her over the balcony. He kissed her then threw her. Kiss and throw. Throwing Kristie, then, is not everything he thought. The kiss, it seems, is also significant. It marks a disruption of sorts. An alternative to the throw. A disturbing reminder, perhaps, of another way of being, in relation to Christe. A reminder that it could have been otherwise.