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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musings, politics, tragedies

Death of a “friendship”…

I came across an argument between two friends yesterday, as I was hanging out in the backyard, drinking wine. One of my friends is a Trump supporter. The other, who until yesterday was friends with my Trump supporting friend, is a Biden supporter.

My Trump supporting friend, I’ll call Mary, had posted a negative opinion article about Joe Biden. It was up for awhile before the other friend, I’ll call Sherry, showed up and left what was initially a hesitant, yet respectful comment. Sherry basically wrote that while she generally respects Mary very much, she didn’t understand why Mary doesn’t support Mr. Biden. Sherry correctly pointed out that Trump has been accused of sexual assault by many women.

A rather testy exchange developed. I could see that the two women were starting to get angry with each other. Then Mary pointed out that under Obama, eleven missionaries contracted Ebola and had to be treated. Sherry, obviously flabbergasted that Mary would bring that up when so many people are dying of COVID-19, then asked Mary if she was a “fucking idiot”? Naturally, that really offended Mary, and she shut down the conversation. I can’t blame her for doing that, although personally, I agree with Sherry that the Ebola situation under Obama really pales in comparison to the disastrous way the coronavirus is being handled by Trump.

I’ve noticed that when these exchanges happen and someone gets unfriended on Facebook or blocked, the participants later kind of dust off their hands and say something along the lines of, “the trash just took itself out”. I do that myself, although there’s usually a small tinge of sorrow that I lost a “friend”, even if that person wasn’t really a friend. It just highlights how very fragile relationships have become in the age of social media and online communication.

This is just one very recent example of how people who used to be “friends” and or “loved ones” are being pulled apart by our heated politics. Some readers might recall I actually got blocked by someone last week after she started a fight on my page over Donald Trump. I wasn’t even the one who was taking her to task. And yes, after it happened and the person blocked me, I also quipped that the trash took itself out.

It’s a shame that relationships are so easily destroyed over something like politics. But we probably should know better since religion and politics, while often very interesting topics of discussion, are also the subjects one tends to avoid in polite company. That was always the advice given for cocktail parties. Never bring up religion or politics, because there will surely be a row. Of course, when people go to cocktail parties, they often drink. Tongues loosen and some things are said that shouldn’t be. I suppose it’s the same on Facebook, but the relationships are even more fragile because when you’re not looking at someone’s face and seeing their non verbal communication cues, you’re more likely to unload something you shouldn’t.

I don’t know Sherry as well as I know Mary, although I am “friends” with both. I “met” them both online on a messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. My observation about Sherry is that she’s very intelligent, but has a bit of a temper. Mary is older and seems very wise about a lot of things, but she also has a temper. Politically speaking, I align more with Sherry because I despise Trump and I’m pissed off at the Republican party for foisting his brand of craziness on the world. I’m pissed off enough that I don’t think I will ever vote red again.

But– I also agree with Mary that it’s not cool to go on other people’s Facebook pages, lose your temper, and cuss people out or call them names. I may not agree with Mary’s choice for a presidential candidate, but I know for a fact that she’s not a “fucking idiot”. I think it’s too bad that Sherry had to go there, even though I understand her frustration. I don’t know what all was involved in that exchange, other than exhaustion and stress over who is going to lead the United States come January 2021. But it’s a shame when people break up relationships over politics.

I myself lost a good friend– one I knew offline– over Mitt Romney back in 2008. At the time, I really was concerned about Romney winning the White House. In retrospect, I realize that he would have done a much better job than Trump has done. I still am not a Mitt fan, but I don’t think he’s as bad as I once did. And I’m sorry I lost a friendship over Mitt… although if I recall correctly, I was more pissed off by the disrespectful way my former friend was treating me than his political opinions. If he were to approach me today, I would be happy to speak to him. Sadly, I think the ship has sailed forever.

I don’t know how well Mary and Sherry knew each other offline. They live in different parts of the United States, so it’s likely that they only interacted virtually. I don’t know if they were ever close friends, although Sherry did start off by saying she “respected” Mary very much. It didn’t take long, though, before the respect went out the window and Sherry was asking Mary if she was a “fucking idiot”.

I really try to respect people’s rights to their own opinions. I may not always succeed in avoiding calling people out over these things, but in my heart, I do think people must have the right to make choices. It’s frustrating to see people I respect championing a man whom I personally think is very dangerous to democracy and the overall security of the world. It’s hard not to get angry sometimes when people keep trying to prop up Trump as being better than he is. But I also believe that everyone has different perspectives and they don’t generally form in a vacuum.

I will happily tell people why I dislike Donald Trump and would never vote for him. I just hope I never lose my temper and call a “friend” a name that debases them… This political season has been brutal. I’ve lost “friends” and “loved ones” to Trump’s politics. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get them back again. But maybe the ones who stick around are the ones I should pay more attention to, anyway.

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News, tragedies

April really is cruel…

Last night, as I was making more travel plans, I was blissfully oblivious to the horror unfolding in Paris, as its famous Notre Dame cathedral smoldered in a massive fire. I have been to Paris twice, but never managed to tour the cathedral on either visit. I do remember seeing it as we walked along the Seine, but I also remember my former best friend’s dad telling me back in 1992 to skip climbing the tower at the cathedral. I do like visiting beautiful churches in Europe, but it’s not really a focal point of what I do when I go places. Paris has a lot to see, so visiting Notre Dame was never at the top of my list of things to do there. I regret it now.

The cathedral was being renovated when it caught on fire, just as it was at Longwood when Ruffner Hall caught on fire. It seems that renovations can raise the risk of sudden fires.

It seems like April is often rife with tragedies. I never paid a lot of attention to it until around 1999 or so, when students at Columbine High School were confronted by the murderous wrath of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as they shot up the school. Other school shootings would occur during April, like the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. But it’s not just the shootings and bombings, or even T.S. Eliot’s famed words that make April cruel…

I remember in the spring 2001, when Ruffner Hall, the most historic and beautiful building at my alma mater, Longwood University, was being restored. I was then a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, about to finish my second year of a three year dual master’s degree program. The weather was warm and sunny, and I had visions of the end of the semester dancing in my head. I’m sure it was the same at Longwood, the college from which I had graduated seven years prior. In 2001, Longwood was still known as Longwood College. It was renamed Longwood University in 2002.

On April 24, 2001, just before students were about to take their final exams for the semester, the Rotunda caught on fire. Fortunately, because the building was being renovated, just as Notre Dame also was, priceless art and historical relics had been removed before a raging fire consumed the original building. That beautiful building held so many memories, not just for me, but for all of the students that passed through it after it opened in 1907. Longwood’s name has been changed a few times in its history. Before each name change, there has historically been a fire. There were also fires in 1927 and 1949; both occurred just before the school’s name changed.

A picture of the original Rotunda taken in the 90s, when I was a student. Inside Ruffner is a statue of Joan of Arc– better known as Joanie on the Stoney. We also have a statue of Joan of Arc on a horse called Joanie on the Pony. Paris’s Notre Dame, likewise, has a statue of Joan of Arc.

I happened to live in the Colonnades during the first two years of my college days. My freshman year, I lived in Tabb Hall, which connected to Ruffner. At night, when the building was closed to everyone else on campus, my buddies would sneak into the Rotunda area and box. I only recall watching this one time. I’m surprised they were never busted, to be very honest. I’m sure nowadays, they have security cameras. But it was a lot of fun to sneak into Ruffner and mess around after hours. Unlike the bell tower at Fordham University, there was no danger involved… The lights were on and there were no steep, spiral steps to climb… and no holes to pass through on landings. At the front door of the building, there was a slate step that had a deep indentation worn into it from decades of students walking across it.

Sophomore year, I lived in French Hall, which was also connected to Ruffner. French is no longer a residence hall, but in the 1990s, it had the largest rooms on campus. Some rooms held four students. Most had at least three. My room only had three students for part of the first semester. We had a roommate who moved in mid semester– she had been my roommate’s freshman year roomie, and she had to move from her room because she and her original sophomore year roommate were caught smoking marijuana. She didn’t come back in the spring. That was a pretty stressful, yet awesome year. I lived among friends.

The other two years, I lived in South Cunningham. The Cunninghams used to be the center of campus. They were eventually razed for a new student center. My former university is becoming less recognizable to me, as new buildings are being built and old ones are being rebuilt.

Ruffner was also rebuilt, and it now looks just like it did before the big fire of 2001. It took four years to rebuild the historic hall to its former glory, and during that time, Dr. James Jordan, an esteemed anthropology professor and archaeologist who taught at Longwood for many years, did several archaeological digs. He found many long buried relics among the ashes. The damaged step was found and when the building was reconstructed, a replica of the historic indented step was made for the new building.

As I heard about Notre Dame last night, I couldn’t help but remember the Rotunda at my alma mater, and how it’s been rebuilt. Maybe it’s not the same… Notre Dame has a history dating back to the 12th century. It took many years to build it, but only one fiery evening to destroy it. On the other hand… even in destruction, there is opportunity for new growth, new discoveries, and rebirth. I’m certain that in the ashes of the fire, new discoveries will be made, new knowledge will be gleaned, history will be made and recorded, and the cathedral will be rebuilt. In fact, French billionaire Fran├žois-Henri Pinault has already pledged $100 million euros to rebuild the cathedral (and hours later, at least 200 million more has been pledged by other donors). French president Emmanuel Macron has also vowed to rebuild the cathedral.

This is an opportunity for people to unite. It’s an opportunity for architects, craftsmen, construction workers, archaeologists, students, teachers, holy people, and the public to come together in solidarity. Many new discoveries will be made and the cathedral, just like Ruffner Hall, will be rebuilt stronger than ever. But it will take time, effort, and money. I may never see the end result in my lifetime. Still, as bad as this is, it could have been much worse. As sad as it will be to dig through the wreckage, I know there will also be excitement and fascination. Every situation– even the worst ones– offers opportunities. So I will try to focus on that, instead of tragedy of the tremendous loss wrought by sudden fire.

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