healthcare, Military, rants

Repost: EFMP… There’s nothing “exceptional” about it.

I am rerunning this post that appeared on my original blog, back on March 10, 2013. I am no longer an “Army wife”, since Bill retired in 2014. However, we know the lifestyle and this post got tons of hits… plus, it came up last night as we were remembering how I was FORCED to join EFMP because I had taken antidepressants. And then, once we got to Germany after I had dutifully enrolled in EFMP, Bill got a shitty email from some uppity guy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, wanting to be “apprised” of my “condition”.

We were laughing about it, though, because unlike “Big Army”, the National Guard didn’t give a fuck about EFMP. They cut Bill’s orders for Germany before I ever visited the medical people in DC, so I probably could have skipped the whole thing and totally gotten away with it. Of course, that was in 2007, and things have probably changed.

Anyway… Bill was funny last night as we were remembering that time because he said, as we remembered the email, “No, you don’t. We’re already here. Fuck off.” He’s obviously benefiting from my “charms”, which have rubbed off on him. To clarify, no… that’s not what he actually said. Bill is very good at politely telling people to fuck off. He basically told the guy to leave us alone and they complied. But thirteen years later, he might say it. That makes me proud. So here’s the post from 2013. Maybe it will be interesting/helpful to someone while I wait for fresh inspiration.

Back in 2007, my husband was deployed to Iraq.  We were also planning to move to Germany.  Because Germany is not in the United States, I had to do some things to prepare for the move.  One of the things I had to do was get a physical.  I was really dreading having to do this for a lot of reasons.  First off, I’m not a big fan of going to the doctor’s office.  I especially hate going to military doctor’s offices.  It’s a pain in the ass to set up the appointment.  Military medical providers tend to talk to their patients as if they are either children or in the military, even if they are civilians.  I also had a very traumatic incident with a military provider in the 1990s that continues to haunt me today.

Anyway, I had to get this physical and then I had to be screened for the Exceptional Family Member Program, a supposed benefit for military families.  Basically, what EFMP does is allow a servicemember’s command to consider the medical and educational needs of a family member before moving their “sponsor”.  I have already ranted about the term “dependent” to describe spouses.  My husband is considered my sponsor.  How’s that for demeaning?

So I got a friend to help me set up my appointments.  I saw a physician’s assistant who turned out to be really kind and patient with me, especially after I told her about my first and last disastrous attempt to get a pap smear when I was 22 years old.  She thought I had high blood pressure, but it turned out my high readings were caused by white coat hypertension.  That was proven by 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, which involved wearing a sphygmomanometer for 24 hours.  As soon as I stepped out of the military hospital, my blood pressure readings dropped to normal.

Finally, I arranged to be screened for the EFMP, which I had been told involved having a doctor look at my records and determining whether or not I had any conditions that warranted special consideration as to where my husband could be assigned.  From 1998 until 2004, I took antidepressants and went to therapy for depression and anxiety.  The worst of my issues were from 1998-99.  I chose to stay on antidepressants while I was in grad school mainly because I didn’t want to feel shitty while I was dealing with such a stressful time of my life.  At the time, I had no idea I would ever marry a military man.  I could have gotten off the antidepressants earlier than 2004.  I got off them because I dropped civilian health insurance and was hoping I might get pregnant.  I got off the drugs with no incident and didn’t even miss them, except they helped me keep my weight down.

What I didn’t know was that my time on antidepressants would come back to haunt me.  The EFMP required that I submit ALL of my medical records for the past five years.  Those records included my therapist’s notes about my depression, which were very personal.  I suppose in retrospect, I could have removed the records from before 2002.  I didn’t think to do that.  I showed up for the EFMP screening and was left sitting in the waiting room in the pediatrics department of the local military hospital while the doctor looked at my paperwork.  She finally came out and told me I needed to be in EFMP because I’d had depression and it might be risky to send me to Germany.  She listed the reasons she thought I was at risk.  I might have trouble adjusting to culture shock.  I might get depressed if my husband got deployed (even though he was already deployed when I met with this woman).  I might have problems with the fact that Germany isn’t as sunny as the USA is. 

Our conversation was laughable.  Here was this young doctor in a military uniform telling me that it was a good thing we were bound for Germany, since if we were going to Hawaii, I probably wouldn’t get to go.  She claimed there weren’t enough therapists in Hawaii.  I looked at her dumbfounded and said, “You know, I have an MSW.  The Army could hire me.”  Moreover, this move to Germany would be my third overseas.  I had already survived clinical depression while in Armenia.  I knew Germany would be a piece of cake for me.  But that didn’t matter… my thoughts about my own stability and personal desire to stay out of EFMP meant nothing.  It was fruitless to argue with the doctor, who was just covering her own ass.  She said I could try to disenroll in 2009 and maybe the EFMP would grant my request.

She then told me that if I didn’t comply, my husband could get kicked out of the Army.  And she said he wouldn’t get his orders if I didn’t do what she said.  Her face registered shock when I pulled out a set of orders, already listing me as having command sponsorship.  Apparently, the National Guard couldn’t care less whether or not I have depression.  She spluttered, “You’re not supposed to have those yet!”

It was truly ridiculous.  But because my husband was in Iraq and I didn’t want to cause issues, I complied with the demand that I join EFMP.  I filed the paperwork and we went to Germany.  Some months later, my husband got a nastygram from the very pushy EFMP coordinator in DC, demanding my status.  They needed to be “apprised of my condition”.  My husband sent him an email letting him know that I had no desire to be in the EFMP and didn’t need it.  We never heard another word about it and I got through my time in Germany without incident.

The military is pretty intolerant of head cases… even though if you read my articles about nutty Army folks, you know that the military is rife with them.  The official policy requires that servicemembers who are depressed seek help for their issues.  The unofficial policy is that if you or a family member see a therapist or take psychotropic drugs, your career will probably suffer.  You might lose your security clearance or be stuck in some shitty assignment indefinitely or get sent somewhere you’d rather not be.  I sought therapy for my depression and anxiety when I really needed to.  I’m glad I did it; it probably saved my life.  I had no way of knowing that making the very mature decision to seek help would end up in a ridiculous conversation with an intractable doctor who didn’t know me from Adam and was basing her medical opinions of me on three year old notes from other providers.

I understand why EFMP screening is mandatory for people going out of the country.  I just wish the process involved more subjectivity and people using common sense.  I wish that competent adults were treated more like stakeholders in their own healthcare and given more of a partnership in the process, rather than given the bullshit line about how the screening is for their own good.  The screening is about covering asses, saving money, and controlling people.  Moreover, you can get around the EFMP.  A lot depends on who you are and who you know.  I personally know someone who had her paperwork changed so the EFMP restrictions would be lifted and she could take her kids to Germany.  In her case, it worked out fine.  I know of other people who were not allowed to go abroad because of EFMP and they could not get their EFMP status changed. 

I don’t mean to say that EFMP is not a valuable program for those who need it.  There are families who have kids with special needs that need that special consideration.  It’s not good to go to a new duty station and find there are no suitable facilities to handle someone’s medical or educational issues.  That tends to lead to the family having to be sent elsewhere, which costs a lot of taxpayer money and causes lost productivity.  It’s also a pain in the ass for the family. 

However, the EFMP requirement is not good when it’s forced on a family, particularly when the “exceptional member” is a competent adult.  People know that EFMP can cause plum assignments to get cancelled.  Supposedly, this is not true… the military will tell people that EFMP won’t mess up a person’s career.  But in reality, being limited in where you can go can mess up your (or your sponsor’s) career.  Because of that, some people won’t get help for depression if they need it.  I mean, it’s hard enough to get help for depression because there’s so much stigma.  If it might also mean you can’t go to Germany with your husband, you might also hold off on calling for help.  And that can lead to tragic consequences.

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business, condescending twatbags, healthcare, Trump

The businessman’s COVID-19 lament…

I could write about a couple of topics this morning. I might even do just that, since it’s a rainy Sunday and I can’t think of anything I’d like to do today outside of the house. I spent a good portion of yesterday working on my latest jigsaw puzzle, which will probably be finished faster than the last two I’ve done. For some reason, it’s not as hard as the others have been, even though it’s 1000 pieces.

Anyway… I know people are probably tired of COVID-19 and politics, but I’m going to go there again today, mainly because I read a sad story in the Washington Post this morning. It was a businessman’s lament. The article, entitled ‘It’s like Trump said: The cure has been worse than the disease.’ kind of gave me more of an insight as to why so many people think Trump is “good” for them, despite all of his obvious shortcomings as a human being.

Mike Fratantuono is the manager of Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He says that before COVID-19 struck, the restaurant was going to celebrate 60 years in business. Sixty years in business is a big deal, and that business has sustained four generations. But come September 30, 2020, it will cease to operate, mainly because it couldn’t survive COVID-19.

I know what a lot of people are thinking about the businessman’s lament. They’ve clearly expressed it in self-righteous and snarky tones in the comment section on Facebook. Lots of people have dismissed Mike’s sadness about losing the business, reminding him that people are dying and a restaurant is not worth more than a single human life.

I guess I see this situation differently, though, because my parents were small business owners. My dad ran a custom picture framing shop and an art gallery out of our home. My mom sold knitting and needlework supplies and she taught countless people how to do needle crafts (although she never taught me). They were valued contributors to the community. I grew up with so many people coming into our house to buy yarn or look at the latest print by local artists John Barber or P. Buckley Moss.

My parents worked very hard to run that business for over 25 years. Along with my dad’s Air Force retirement pay and my mom’s organist money, that business sustained them and me, when I was still a minor. In fact, I am a rare individual in that I grew up with total access to BOTH of my parents. They worked out of our home every day, so I was never a latchkey kid. I didn’t always appreciate having so much access to my parents, especially since they weren’t really all that into being parents. But it was a unique way to grow up. They were always there, and unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t have any stepparents , step-siblings, or half-siblings. My parents were married for 56 years. My mom sold the business to a woman who went to work for my dad in 1989, and now she’s continuing the legacy, albeit without Mom’s needlework and knitting shop.

It’s true that businesses can be rebuilt, but if you’ve never built one and watched it flourish, you might not have any idea of how much it hurts to helplessly watch it fail, especially when it’s due to something completely beyond your control. Maybe some readers think Mike Fratantuono is “callous” for being so upset about losing the family business. But I think people should listen to him, because his words illustrate why so many folks are still voting for Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump is an obvious sleaze. Trump gives businesspeople hope that their dreams, along with the hard work and money it takes to make them come to fruition, won’t be dashed. Trump’s words soothe their fears about the future. Maybe most of what Trump says is factually wrong or outright lies, but his words give business owners hope.

Now… personally, I am much more concerned about human rights and decency than I am the economy, and that is why I would never vote for Donald Trump. But I’m not blind to the concerns of people who are worried about business and the economy. Unfortunately, people still have to make ends meet, even if there is a pandemic going on. Bills have to be paid, even if a business isn’t allowed to operate because of a pandemic.

When a business like the Sunset Restaurant fails, it’s not just a tragedy for the people who built it. It also affects the many people who work there or supply goods and services to the restaurant. It affects the community, because without that business, there will be fewer taxes paid. And there will be people who need help to survive. Every time a business dies, more people will need help. They become food insecure, unable to purchase medicines, seek medical care, or pay their mortgages. They can’t afford things like the Internet, so their kids can attend school at home… if they still manage to keep their homes.

It’s easy to tell these folks to “buck up” and rebuild. It’s hard for them to do it. They deserve empathy, too.

Trump has done precious little to help people weather the storm of the pandemic. There was a $1200 stimulus check and some temporary aid. Other than that, zilch. I wish Trump supporters would see that they should be getting more help from the government, especially since the pandemic is no one’s fault. Sometimes people do need help, and our government should be providing it, to some extent. It’s not just to help individuals; it’s to help the country survive. Many times, people end up in bad situations through no fault of their own. The pandemic is one such situation that was not caused by anyone in particular, but it affects everyone.

I do think it’s too bad that people who are commenting on Mike’s plight apparently have no regard for what he and his family have lost. I think people on both sides of the political spectrum are seriously lacking in empathy. Of course it’s terrible to lose friends and family members to COVID-19. But it’s also terrible to lose them for other reasons, like untreated diseases for want of the money to pay for doctors and medications, or suicide due to the despair of losing one’s livelihood. Moreover, COVID-19 has had a terrible effect on the quality of life for a lot of people, and those who are indignantly calling out Mike for his businessman’s lament should stop and think about that. Not everyone can weather COVID-19 with friends and family, living in a comfortable home. Some people can barely stand to be at home, even if it’s a comfortable place to be. We all have different ways of coping with the pandemic and some of us are more successful at coping than others are.

It’s not lost on me that Bill and I have been very lucky. His work hasn’t yet been threatened, and we live in a country where there are safety nets for people who need assistance. Medical care is not extremely expensive here, as it is in the United States, and people have maintained a reasonable and respectful attitude about containing COVID-19. In the United States, I’m seeing a lot of polarization, and not too many people in the happy medium. Or, if they do exist, they aren’t speaking up.

We have people who think it’s reasonable for a woman to be tased for not wearing a face mask while she was sitting outside, distanced from other people at her son’s football game. And we have people who insist that COVID-19 is a hoax brought about entirely for political reasons, to topple Trump’s re-election. We have people saying that we should all quit practicing any precautions against the virus because it’s ruining businesses and spoiling everyone’s fun. And we have people who think those who are legitimately depressed because they’ve lost their jobs or watched their businesses crumble should just get over themselves and stop complaining because at least no one died (yet).

I think it’s completely reasonable for businesspeople to lament right now. It’s as reasonable for them to be upset as it is for family and friends of someone to mourn death caused by COVID-19. It affects everyone, doesn’t discriminate, and has changed everything in less than a year. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. We should all have more compassion and empathy for each other, and we should then work together and be understanding as we all try to navigate dealing with the virus… and Trump’s “leadership”.

Anyway… I hope Mike and his co-workers and family members can recover after this great setback. Sixty years in business is an amazing achievement. I have empathy for them, because losing a business is a difficult thing. For some people, it’s every bit as traumatic as losing a loved one is. Hell, I felt a great loss last year when I moved my blog and basically started over… however, I will admit that I think the new blog is better for a lot of reasons. At least now, most of the people who read and comment are here because they’re genuinely interested.

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celebrities, healthcare, lessons learned, mental health

I have new respect for Paris Hilton…

I owe Paris Hilton an apology. There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. I’ll admit, I never paid a lot of attention to her, mainly because of her ditzy party girl image. I vividly remember back in May 2007, when she was 26 years old and sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating probation. She went to the slammer and became so distraught that she was illegally transferred to house arrest. Judge Michael Sauer ordered her back to jail and it was big Internet news for awhile. There was even a parody song done for her.

A parody about Paris done to the melody of her song, “Stars Are Blind”.

At the time, I will admit that she seemed like an overprivileged Hollywood brat. The media had portrayed her as a rich heiress who never had to work a day in her life. Well… having just watched her YouTube documentary, “This is Paris”, I now know that Paris is no dummy. In fact, as I watched the ending, I was both impressed and rather emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but I felt really sorry for Paris.

Worth viewing.

It’s been in the news lately that Paris Hilton was sent to Provo Canyon School (PCS) in Provo, Utah. I’ve mentioned PCS in this blog more than once. It’s a place where troubled teens are sent. Paris Hilton did get in trouble a lot. I’m sure her parents were at their wits’ end with her. She liked to party when she was a teenager and her parents were very strict. They didn’t want her to wear makeup or model or do any of the things she was drawn to as a young woman. So she rebelled, and they sent her to a variety of “teen help” programs meant to straighten her out. She ran away from several other programs before she finally landed at Provo Canyon School, where she stayed for eleven months. There was no escaping Provo Canyon School, and Paris got the full treatment. Now it makes total sense as to why she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown before she went to jail in 2007. But back then, no one other than her fellow inmates at PCS knew what she’d been through at the school.

I’ve written a lot about so-called “teen help” programs over the years. In fact, I recently reviewed Cameron Douglas’s book Long Way Home. In his book, Cameron Douglas mentions PCS, describing it as a place no one wants to be. It was a notoriously abusive, hard-core facility for troubled kids. In fairness, Cameron Douglas actually was a troubled kid and did end up doing time in prison. But Paris really seemed to be more misunderstood than ultimately headed for the big house.

In her documentary, “This is Paris”, Hilton explains that she has recurrent nightmares. They begin with her being kidnapped out of her bed in the middle of the night. That actually happened to her. She was “kidnapped” by paid actors, escorts hired by her parents to take her to PCS. I have read a number of articles and researched a lot of organizations that charge big bucks to “abduct” troubled teens from their homes and send them to pseudo-psychiatric boarding schools. Parents pay a lot of money for their children to be “treated” by poorly trained “counselors” who employ abusive and sometimes violent methods of getting their charges to comply. I also know from prior research that some programs, such as those run by the now defunct World Wide Association of Special Programs and Schools (WWASPS), actually gave parents discounts on tuition if they recruited other parents to sign up their kids. Teen help is a big business, especially in Utah.

It’s worth mentioning that Provo Canyon School was owned by a different organization when Paris Hilton went there in the late 1990s. Hilton spent eleven months in the facility when it was owned by Charter Behavioral Health Programs; it is now owned by Universal Health Services, Inc. Charter was a big corporation in the 80s and 90s and constantly aired ads advertising its services for troubled teens. We even had a facility near where I grew up. It was called Charter Colonial Institute and I knew a couple of people who were sent there. Charter got a lot of bad press about some of its “treatment” methods, which included physical restraints, use of psychiatric drugs, solitary confinement, and boredom– staring at a wall.

Provo Canyon School is located in Provo, Utah, which is at the heart of Mormonism, as it’s also the location of Brigham Young University, the church’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. PCS is staffed by a lot of BYU students with varying levels of qualifications for working with troubled youths. Many LDS church members are involved in the “teen help industry”, and as it’s mentioned in Paris’s documentary, a lot of the people who work at the many teen help facilities in Utah go on to open their own businesses, straightening out teens. I’ve written a lot about the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), which operated some of the worst of the teen help programs around the world, but there were other programs out there that have since closed. Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Missouri was one such facility that operated a military style program. It closed after someone died. Baptists are also well-known for running programs for troubled teens, especially in Missouri and Mississippi.

Paris Hilton happened to be a teenager when these programs were really thriving. I’m sure her parents thought they were helping her by sending her to “boarding school”, not to mention restoring some sense of normalcy in their home. But they had no idea what Paris went through at Provo Canyon School. She couldn’t tell them, and in fact, didn’t tell them until just recently. Paris’s mother, Kathy, is in the documentary, as is her sister, Nicky, but her dad, Richard Hilton, who was one of the youngest of the famous Hilton siblings, was not shown in the film.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really that interested in most of the documentary. I mostly wanted to hear what Paris had to say about her time at Provo Canyon School. However, I must admit that she comes across as very intelligent and compassionate in her documentary. I was especially impressed by the women she had over to her house who had known her when they were at PCS. They all suffer the aftereffects of having been sent to that place. It’s obvious that a lot of damage was done to them, not just because they say it, but because of the way they say it. My heart kind of broke for them.

And now that I’ve seen the documentary, I no longer think Paris Hilton is a vapid, spoiled, filthy rich asshole. There’s a real person behind that party girl image. She’s smart and talented and deserves more respect. And she did not deserve to be beaten up, drugged, stripped naked, and put in solitary confinement. I’m sure her parents are horrified. Her mom was shown on camera as Paris told her about it and she did, in fact, look really shocked.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran an article about PCS. Unfortunately, I can’t easily access it in Germany, but it may be worth a read for those who are interested. It’s easily found if you Google Provo Canyon School. I really think these types of “teen help” programs should either be outlawed or much better monitored. A lot of young people have been irreparably harmed by them, and some have even died.

The deaths aren’t a new phenomenon, either. In 1995, 16 year old Aaron Bacon died in a wilderness program in Utah, having developed a bleeding ulcer that turned into peritonitis. In 1996, Anthony Rutherford, then a teen at Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy in Missouri, murdered another teen, William Andrew Futrelle II while they were gathering firewood. And in 2007, fifteen year old Roberto Reyes, who was at Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Missouri, died after being forced to exercise when he was sick. Fortunately, these programs have since closed, but others still exist and are not given the state oversight that they should have.

What Paris Hilton endured at Provo Canyon School is definitely abuse. It would not have been tolerated if it was reported as going on at her home. Why so-called “boarding schools” are allowed to get away with this shit is beyond me. I’m sure it has a lot to do with money, though.

Drew Barrymore also did time in “teen help”. She was a notorious drug abuser when she was a teenager. I read her book, Little Girl Lost, in the early 90s.

In the above clip, Paris says she hadn’t meant to talk about her experience at PCS. She just wanted to talk about her business ventures, which are quite impressive. Paris apparently inherited and developed a head for business. But I am so glad she talked about this experience. She’s going to help a lot of people. And from now on, when I read a fluffy article about what an “airhead” she is, I’ll know it’s bullshit. Paris Hilton is no fool, and she’s laughing all the way to the bank. And she deserves happiness and more respect than she gets from people who have bought into her rich girl persona.

Now Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, was genuinely a very troubled child who did need some real help and, by her account, she ultimately got it. And fortunately, where Drew went was not as bad as PCS was. Drew has straightened out nicely, too, although I think I like her more as an actress than a talk show host.

Drew must have been ordered to make this special with Corey Feldman.

Here’s a treasure trove of information about these programs from people who have been there. I used to read it a lot in the early 00s, when I was researching this topic a lot.

Here’s a link to Breaking Code Silence, an online place for testimonials and videos from survivors of teen help programs.

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healthcare, history, politics, tragedies

No… this era is not like the Holocaust… yet, anyway.

Someone in the Duggar Family News group posted about Dawn Wooten’s complaints about Irwin County Detention Center, the ICE facility in Georgia where precautions against COVID-19 are being ignored and women are supposedly being forced into having hysterectomies. I wrote about that situation myself yesterday.

Many people in the Duggar group were in disbelief about Wooten’s claims. Quite a few dismissed them outright as “bullshit”. They couldn’t conceive of something so horrible happening in the United States, particularly in this day and age. Apparently, they had never heard of the shameful eugenics programs that were quietly administered in the United States for decades, as recently as in the late 20th century. As I mentioned yesterday, my home state of Virginia had such a program until as late as 1979. In fact, as of 1924, Virginia even had a law on the books that served as a model for other states’ eugenics programs.

The Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. From 1924 until 1979, 7325 people were forcibly sterilized for being “mentally deficient” or “mentally ill”. Approximately 22 percent of the people who were sterilized were Black. Many people were sterilized for having chronic illnesses such as epilepsy, for being impoverished, or for being “feeble-minded”, “an idiot”, “an imbecile” or “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent”. Although involuntary sterilization does occur today, it is now supposed to be done strictly for non-eugenic purposes on people who are “unable to give informed consent, in need of contraception, unable to use any other form of contraception, and permanently unable to raise a child”.

In 2001, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution apologizing for the misuse of “a respectable, ‘scientific’ veneer to cover activities of those who held blatantly racist views.” But it wasn’t until 2015 that Virginia agreed to financially compensate people who were sterilized under the Act. Given that the sterilization program ended in 1979, a lot of the people who might have been compensated are long gone. Although other states had similar programs allowing for sterilization of certain people without their consent, Virginia’s program ran longer than other states’ programs did.

Even though Virginia and other states did have laws on the books that allowed for sterilizing certain people, it’s clearly not something that people talk about much today. I don’t remember where I first heard about eugenics, but I don’t think it was in school. I probably learned about it in college, when I took courses in Women’s Literature and African American Literature.

Or it might have been through my own study of the Holocaust, which started when we lived in Germany the first time. I started reading a lot of books by Holocaust survivors, marveling at that time in history and how horrible it was… and how many of the places affected I had already been to visit. Since moving back to Germany in 2014, I’ve been to even more of them. It’s also likely that I ran across a magazine or news article about the history of eugenics.

All I know is that we didn’t talk about this in a classroom I was ever in, even though I did learn about concepts such as the “one drop rule“, which held that anyone with a drop of Black blood would be considered Black. Naturally, it would be very difficult to quantify such a thing. Practically speaking, it meant that anyone with known African ancestry was considered Black, in spite of how he or she appeared.

In any case, as I was reading the comments in the Duggar Family News group, it became pretty obvious to me that a lot of Americans simply never learned about this shameful chapter of the past. So when they saw the news articles about a doctor in Georgia forcibly sterilizing female detainees in an ICE facility in Georgia, they immediately assumed it was bullshit. The idea of that sounded outrageous to them, even though it went on in the United States for many years and, at that time, it was deemed completely legal.

Ever since Trump became president, there have been a lot of comments about how much he is like Adolf Hitler. Even here in Germany, where people have an acute sensitivity to all things Nazi related, people have said Trump reminds them of Hitler. I figure if anyone should know about that, it would be Germans. To their credit, most Germans are extremely remorseful and ashamed of their past. They are determined to learn from history and not repeat it.

Reading and hearing about doctors in Georgia who are removing the reproductive parts of detainees sounds very much like something that could (and did) go on during the Holocaust. However… as horrifying as that news was yesterday and as frighteningly “Nazi-ish” as forced hysterectomies are, I can’t quite say that we’ve quite reached the horrors of the Holocaust. I know some people believe we have, but I can’t bring myself to do that yet. Personally, I think that to definitively compare today’s situation to what happened in Europe in the 1940s is disrespectful to those who were directly affected by the Holocaust. I think the Holocaust was much worse than Trump’s America is, at least at this point in time. We’re not yet talking about actual genocide, like Hitler and his cronies were carrying out in the 1940s. I have not heard about mass murders of millions of people yet, only that people are being rounded up and put in detention centers– which is certainly horrible enough, but does not equate to murder.

However… if things don’t change soon, I fear that we could absolutely find ourselves repeating history, and I can see why many people think Trump’s era is similar to the Holocaust era. If people continue to get away with doing horrible things like sterilizing women in ICE detention facilities, there could be a slippery slope into normalizing increasingly horrific practices such as rounding up people, putting them on packed trains, shipping them to prison camps, and sending them straight to the gas chambers or working them until they die of disease or exhaustion without a second thought or a moment of remorse. But I don’t think we’re there yet, or at least I fervently HOPE we aren’t. So that’s why I say that what was reported yesterday, if it’s true, brings us closer to Nazi territory.

As inhumane and terrible as what is going on is right now, in my opinion, it doesn’t quite compare to the horrors of what happened to Jews, homosexuals, communists, rabble rousers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any of the other groups Hitler hated. And thanks to the advances in technology, it’s a lot harder for people to be completely blinded to what’s going on around them. In the 1940s, there was no constant stream of news like we have today. There was no way to communicate quickly and efficiently like we can today. It was a lot easier to build secret camps and prisons and talk decent people in turning a blind eye than it is today.

But then… an awful lot of people I love and have historically respected are supportive of Trump and his despicable policies and inhumane attitudes toward people who aren’t like him (which thankfully, is just about everyone). The people who support him simply haven’t realized that he doesn’t care about them. They think he’s just a normal person with a big mouth, and he’s not.

I would like to hope that if there is, in fact, an OB-GYN in Georgia who is performing unnecessary hysterectomies on migrant women who come to him for medical help, he’s acting alone. I would hope he hasn’t been officially recruited to do these surgeries as a way to stop certain “undesirables” from breeding. I would hope that it’s his own twisted idea, and that he’s not only stopped from practicing medicine, but is prosecuted and locked up. Sadly, I don’t think I’d be surprised if I heard of other doctors doing similarly barbaric things to helpless and desperate migrants who need medical care. Some of them probably think they’re doing good for the country by stopping “illegals”. They have crossed the line that makes them forget that these are human beings they’re dealing with, not pests that need to be exterminated or “fixed”. They have forgotten that they took a sacred oath to do no harm.

For those who haven’t yet seen it, here is a link to the complaint that was submitted to the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. I truly hope this claim is thoroughly investigated and people are brought to justice. Edited to add: This article from NBC news identifies the doctor in question. Below is an excerpt:

The doctor, who three lawyers identified as Dr. Mahendra Amin, practicing in Douglas, Georgia, has continued to see women from the Irwin County Detention Center for the past several years despite complaints from his patients.

Amin was the subject of a Justice Department investigation in 2015 for making false claims to Medicaid and Medicare. As a result, he and other doctors involved paid $525,000 in a civil settlement, according to the Justice Department.

Other women who have been to see Dr. Amin say he is “rough”, and a couple of them left his office with bruising.

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healthcare, politicians, politics

If this story is true, we’re getting even closer to Nazi territory.

This morning, I read a very disturbing article about Irwin County Detention Center, a privately run ICE facility in the U.S. state of Georgia. The center, run by LaSalle Corrections and located in Ocilla, is about 200 miles of Atlanta. It’s in the news because of whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who worked in the detention facility and observed some horrifying conditions.

Wooten alleges that staff members at the ICE facility are not taking proper precautions against preventing the spread of COVID-19. She claims that cases are being underreported; detainees are not getting proper medical care, nor are they being tested; and, most shocking to me, women are having unwarranted hysterectomies without proper consent. Wooten claims that some women have seen a gynecologist for somewhat minor conditions like heavy menstrual periods, and the physician has been “treating” them by removing their uteri or ovaries.

In a letter she sent to the Inspector General Office at the Department of Homeland Security, Wooten claims that she was asked to triage a man with COVID-19, even though she did not even have a face mask for protection. She also says that warden David Paulk told a staff member not to let anyone know that the man with COVID-19 had tested positive because he “didn’t want people to panic” (where have we heard THAT before)? Wooten reports that nurses were claiming to have seen patients who complained of COVID-19 symptoms when they hadn’t, and that she had actually seen nurses shredding a box of detainee complaints without even looking at them. Two $14,000 rapid testing COVID-19 machines were purchased by ICE for the facility, but Wooten says she only saw them used once. No one was trained to use them.

When Wooten complained to the powers that be at the facility, she lost her full-time position and was demoted to an “on call” job, for which she was only offered a few hours of work per week. Wooten, who suffers from sickle cell anemia and is at an elevated risk for COVID-19 was deliberately exposed to patients who had the virus. Management at Irwin neglected to tell her that detainees she had contact with were symptomatic and, in three cases, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Wooten’s claims were corroborated by other medical staff at Irwin who did not want to be identified because they fear reprisals. It was also verified by people who are currently or had recently been detained at the center. As of Sunday, 42 people at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, but no precautions were being taken to try to stop the spread of the disease.

Because the first article I saw about this was from Yahoo!, I started checking to see if more reputable sources were sharing this story. Sure enough, I found articles in the Washington Post and the Guardian, as well as the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The emphasis in the other papers seemed to be less focused on the mass hysterectomies.

It’s horrible enough that people are locked up in a prison with no way to protect themselves against a deadly virus that spreads through the air. But what got me to read about what’s happening at the center was a news article from Yahoo! that a friend shared. The headline for that piece was about the forced hysterectomies, rather than COVID-19. That, to me, just screams human rights violation– akin to the horrors of the Holocaust and awful eugenics policies that were carried out in another, somewhat recent, era in the United States. Have we learned NOTHING from our past?

The “doctor” who allegedly did these hysterectomies, along with removing the wrong ovary from one of his patients, rendering her sterile, has not yet been named. I would be interested in hearing his explanation as to why he’s doing these operations, especially since the women are apparently not being informed of the purpose of doing them or the risks. While it would be easy for me to conclude that he’s doing these procedures to prevent the women from having “anchor babies” (and he probably is), I would love to hear that there’s a reasonable explanation. The doctor who is performing the hysterectomies is being referred to as a “uterus collector”. To me, this practice conjures up an image not unlike veterinarians who desex animals and release them to the streets so they are rendered unable to breed. Maybe that makes sense when the subject is feral cats. It does not make sense when human beings are involved. Again… it reminds me of the dreadful eugenics programs that ran in my home state of Virginia as recently as the 1970s.

I doubt I will ever hear a reasonable explanation for the gynecologist’s practice of doing the mass hysterectomies. I’ll bet he’d say he’s somehow doing those women a “favor”– or, at least he’s doing the United States a favor by not allowing them to have babies that would be U.S. citizens. It seems to me that ever since Donald Trump took office, people who hate others based on their skin color or country of origin are incredibly emboldened to carry out barbaric acts motivated by their ignorance and hatred. These racists don’t see immigrants or migrants as fellow human beings. Instead, it’s more like they see them as akin to vermin who need to be exterminated, or at least no longer able to “breed”, a positively disgusting and horrifying mindset.

My heart goes out to the women who have permanently been rendered sterile because they had the grave misfortune of landing in the detention center in Georgia. Even if they are locked up for justifiable cause– not just because they were born in the wrong place and rounded up by ICE– there is no excuse for the cruelty that has been alleged by Dawn Wooten. I am also very sorry for everyone else who is incarcerated in that facility, completely helpless to protect themselves against what could be for many of them, a deadly virus and a potential death sentence. They must be terrified.

I think a lot of us are terrified right now. Yesterday, Forbes.com ran a story about Donald Trump saying that he will “negotiate a third term, because he’s entitled to it.” Clearly, Trump has not read the Constitution, but many of his supporters harp about that sacred paper whenever they justify voting for him. Their fervor seems to be mostly about their right to bear arms, which is, indeed, the Second Amendment. The rest of the Constitution apparently matters much less to them, as well as the humane and freedom loving image that Americans have always tried to disseminate, at least for as long as I’ve been living.

Four years ago, I might have laughed off Trump’s comments about a potential third term, which I hope will be rendered moot when he’s soundly defeated in November. But now that I’ve seen how much he admires dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, I find it terrifying that Trump is in office NOW, and that people are still championing him. Many of the people championing him are folks that I love and respect, but I feel very certain that they are going to be on the wrong side of history. They don’t seem to understand that Trump is not just a political joke. He’s done some real damage that will take many years to undo… and that’s if COVID-19 or the many natural disasters we’re facing don’t wipe out civilization. I worry that when the inevitable end of his tenancy in the White House comes, there will be actual bloodshed.

Anyway… I remember the days when I truly believed that the United States was the “best” country in the world. I don’t believe that anymore. In fact, I find myself feeling more and more empathy for refugees who feel forced to flee their homelands. I know my situation is not nearly as dire as theirs is, at least right now, but I do feel like I have an inkling. I really don’t think that fearing another four years of Trump is an overreaction. To me, it looks like he’s destroying the country and maybe even parts of the world. I can only hope that one of those Big Macs he’s always shoveling in his big maw causes him to have a massive stroke… preferably on live TV. But aside from that, I fear that there are worse people than Trump waiting in the wings, ready to pick up where he will inevitably leave off… whether by defeat, death, being being forcibly dragged out of the White House by a coup.

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