There are lots and lots of reasons that I wanted to write Reasons For Listing – both artistic and intensely personal – but I think some of the reasons are encapsulated in the story of Gary McKinnon. If you don’t know McKinnon hacked into the US’s military computer system and, as a UK citizen, is fighting extradition to the US (and has been doing so for the last five years, some sort of fast track extradition there then).
Oh, and he has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Now I’m more than aware that saying someone has Asperger’s Syndrome still leaves the proverbial ball park fairly open. But the alarm bells should be ringing. Particularly when it has been voiced in America that McKinnon will “almost certainly be exposed to neglectful care” in the American prison system.
There’s a whole ball of issues here – not least the UK’s extradition policy and how the legal system deals with those with Autism (and indeed other related conditions).
But there’s also the fact that I can’t help but feel totally appalled by how a vulnerable person is being dealt with. Which is not to say that I condone McKinnon’s actions but that he is vulnerable. Full stop. After he was today refused permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court McKinnon’s lawyer called the treatment “inhumane”. And that’s certainly not hyperbole.
I can’t begin to imagine the impact that this is having on McKinnon and his family – or will continue to have. I was saddned but not surprised to hear McKinnon’s mother report that he is “suicidal”. And a glance at the statistics of suicide of those with high-functioning autism (of which Asperger’s Syndrome is a form) should suggest that is a real, and frightening, possibility.
In writing Reasons For Listing I’m not writing about the specifics of anyone other than the fictional Joseph but I am writing about some of what McKinnon’s story suggests.
As for McKinnon – make your voice heard.