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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Trump

A sick and demented three year game of Asshole…

Regular readers of this blog know that I went to a state supported college in Virginia, where four national sororities were founded. It was far from a dry campus, although I do remember that they tried to make the freshman residence halls “dry”. When I was in college, I learned how to play several drinking games. There was Circle of Death, Never Have I Ever, Kings, Beer Pong, Bullshit, Quarters, and Fuck You… But my favorite of all was a game called Asshole. I’m not sure why I enjoyed playing Asshole as much as I did back in the day. Maybe it’s because it was a game everyone knew how to play.

I remember one particularly rousing game of Asshole I once played with friends at my school. We were all sitting on the floor in a circle, drinking Mickey’s Big Mouth. Mickey’s Big Mouth, for those who don’t know, is a particularly potent brand of cheap malt liquor. No one drinks it for the way it tastes; they drink it to get drunk FAST. It comes in a green bottle that looks like a barrel or a grenade. It has a wide opening so it can be slammed. The night my friends and I were playing Asshole, we were being particularly vicious. The “Asshole” was required to wear an ugly yellow and green visor made of foam rubber. A tampon was stuck out of the top, making it look oddly unicorn like.

I remember that as we were playing this game, a friend’s fraternity brother was passing. He ducked his head into the dorm room where we were engaged in our game of Asshole and said with great admiration in his voice, “Mickey’s Big Mouth will fuck you up!” He laughed as he walked down the hall. As I reflect on the past three years of Trump’s leadership, I feel a sense of deja vu. Mickey’s Big Mouth will fuck you up… but so will years of having Donald Trump “lead” the country.

Last night, as I read about Donald Trump’s latest Twitter meltdown that basically invited private citizens to revolt against state governments, I was suddenly reminded of the game Asshole, which interestingly enough, is also known as “Presidents”. I feel like our country has been collectively playing a sick and demented three year round of Asshole.

What the hell? Is he out of his goddamned mind?

In the game of Asshole, players are assigned roles. The object of the game is to lose all of your cards first. The first person to lose all of their cards is the President. The President is allowed to make up new and strange rules that the other players have to follow. The next person to lose their cards is the Vice President. The ranking continues until there’s just one person left with cards. The last person to have any cards is the Asshole. The Asshole is basically screwed over by the other players, who try to keep him or her in the Asshole position by handicapping him or her with onerous rules. One rule, for instance, might be that the Asshole has to drink twice whenever someone plays a face card. The Asshole fetches drinks for everyone and when he or she doesn’t follow the rules, more drinking is required, which makes it harder to get out of the Asshole position. It’s not unlike real life, huh?

A rather dry but accurate video about how to play “Asshole”. The guy narrating doesn’t say “asshole”. Instead, he says “A-hole”.

As I was thinking about playing Asshole last night, I couldn’t help but realize that the roles in a game of Asshole seem vaguely familiar to our present reality. Trump is, of course, the President, and he’s acting just like a president in the game of Asshole behaves. A large number of poor, disenfranchised, or unlucky people from different places are collectively the Assholes… and Trump has his thumb on them, keeping them down in that position. Every day, his tactics to stay in charge grow more desperate and dangerous, and I fear that some bad things are coming as our demented “President” grows ever more unhinged.

Asshole used to be an amusing game, when I was young and totally healthy and strong. Even when I was the “Asshole” when playing with my friends, I knew it was a temporary condition (although I realize that some people think I’m an asshole even when I’m not playing a drinking game). Whoever was in the “President” position in the game was still my friend and it was all in good fun. Eventually, we all outgrew playing Asshole and getting drunk and reckless simply for the sake of getting drunk and reckless. We mostly took on more important responsibilities and the stakes grew higher, but more valuable. We now have a lot more to lose than a few brain and liver cells.

I worry that Trump’s vigorous, immature, and irresponsible tweets encouraging people to defy their local government officials may be perceived as permission to be violent. Trump stirs up people who are dangerous… people who cherish their guns and don’t want to be told what to do by anyone in authority, especially government officials. Many uneducated folks see this situation as government oppression when, in fact, it’s a pubic health crisis. Not only do I fear that people will get sick by defying the shelter-in-place orders, but I also worry that there will be more bloody violence as people try to get action by using weapons.

It’s not that violence is an unusual occurrence in the United States, particularly during the month of April, which is historically when a lot of bloody violence occurs. Ever since Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up Columbine High School in April 1999, it seems like there have been more bloody acts of violence in April than any other month. In April 2007, Seung Hui Cho went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. In April 2013, the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. April is also the month that Adolf Hitler was born, and many very dark, evil people admire Hitler. April is also when the weather is warmer and people typically emerge from the dark cold of winter. As flowers bloom and grass gets green, the nuts come out with their guns. This year, people are even more pent up than usual. Trump’s inflammatory tweets might be like throwing a match at people who are already feeling volatile and unhinged.

But… it seems like to Donald Trump, this is all just a game, and his objective is simply to stay in power at all costs, no matter how many people get hurt. So he irresponsibly tweets, encouraging people to be disobedient and “rise up” against local government control… when he is the PRESIDENT of the United States! It’s his responsibility to be a LEADER that keeps things under control. Trump isn’t a drinker, but he is DRUNK on power and desperate to keep it. So he’s running the country like drunk college students play Asshole. And too many people are stuck in the Asshole role, unable to escape it. Add to that… Trump even speaks like a drunk person. See below:

What in the hell? That is crazy! It’s NOT the way a world leader should speak.

I know that a lot of people are scared and frustrated. Most people aren’t personally affected by the coronavirus yet, and they think this situation is simply an extreme way of getting rid of Trump. Trump’s base seems to be mostly made up of white people with conservative values who think the 1950s were a great time in our history. Even though Trump doesn’t really fit the clean cut 50s image, except for his desire to keep white men in power, they see him as their champion. They overlook the ways he’s not really like them. He’s like them in the important ways– because he’s white and male and doesn’t mind keeping down the people who aren’t white and male. So what if he’s not really a Christian? So what if he cheats on his wives, uses crude and abusive language, sexually harasses women, and screws over people, especially those who work for him? He’s rich and powerful, and in their eyes, that makes him a success. But he doesn’t care about them, and when they do what he’s encouraging them to do and wind up in prison, very sick, or dead, he’s not going to do a damned thing for them.

So… count me among those who would like to see this neverending game of Asshole with Donald Trump come to an end with a new, sober, humane president. Let’s change the game to something more productive. I’m really tired of wearing the foam rubber visor with a tampon poking out of it. Time to dry up… put away the Mickey’s Big Mouth and get back to being responsible world citizens before more people are harmed or killed.

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