book reviews

A review of Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans

A few weeks ago, I was reading comments on a news article about migrants at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia who had complained that they had received unnecessary hysterectomies at the hands of an OB-GYN there. The story shocked me, and I was immediately reminded of horrors such as the Holocaust and the many eugenics experiments and forced sterilizations that went on in the United States in the 20th century.

I was not the only one who saw comparisons to Nazi Germany when I read about the women in Georgia who had undergone hysterectomies without their consent. Someone in the comments section of the article mentioned Vivien Spitz’s 2005 account of being a young court reporter at the Nuremberg Trials. The book, entitled Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans, was a full accounting of her experiences in post World War II Germany, spending day after day, listening to and recording the testimonies of people who had survived the Holocaust.

I’ve now read a lot of books about the Holocaust. Most were written by survivors. This was the first account I had ever read by an American who saw the aftermath of the brutalities visited upon many thousands of people. It was Vivien Spitz’s job to listen carefully in court and transcribe exactly what had happened as each testimony was given. She was often shocked and horrified, not just by what she saw and heard, but also by the actions of the men on trial, as well as some of the witnesses. The trials were conducted by American judges, in English and German.

Since I am currently living in Germany, it was especially interesting to read Spitz’s graphic accounts, although it’s very difficult to reconcile the Germany I “know” to the one she describes. I put quotes around the word “know” because it occurs to me that as an outsider, there is still a lot I don’t know about Germany and its culture. And while the 1940s seems like a long time ago, if you really think about it, it wasn’t so long ago. Vivien Spitz died in 2014, the year my father died and the year Bill and I returned to Germany. She could have been my grandmother. I could have known her well.

Interspersed within Spitz’s descriptions of testimonies she heard about the absolutely horrifying “medical experiments” done by supposed physicians who had ostensibly promised to first do no harm, there are stories about what it was like to live in Nuremberg right after the war. It was definitely not a pleasant experience. She describes homes with no heating and no hot water, sleeping in thick feather beds because that was the only way to get warm. She lived with two women, one French and one British, who weren’t really her friends. She describes going to operas and seeing some nearby countries, but the mood in Germany wasn’t particularly convivial. Some locals were friendly, but a lot of them saw her, and other Americans, as the enemy.

Spitz also wrote that after a year in Germany, she was ready to go home. But going home wasn’t so easy, because of the spread of communism and the mass evacuations of people. The government was not able to get her home on a plane or by ship. She eventually had to go to France to pay for her own ticket on the SS United States, a ship that voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. She was on the ship with thousands of Czechs who were fleeing their country because it was being overtaken by communists. She writes that when they saw the Statue of Liberty, they all wept with gratitude. Spitz later billed the government the $400 she spent on her ticket and was reimbursed.

When I read the terrible news accounts of what is going on at the borders of the United States right now, I can’t help but remember that the United States was supposed to be a land of opportunity. It was supposed to welcome people who needed a home and a fresh start. And right now, some of what is going on at our borders is starting to echo what happened in Nazi Germany.

No, we’re not in a Holocaust and, to my knowledge, the blatant horrors of what the doctors from Hell did to Jews, political prisoners, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and resisters is not yet going on in America. But when I read stories in 2020 about physicians in the United States sterilizing women without their knowledge or consent, I am reminded of what Vivien Spitz heard about in court. She explained that at one point, the killings of Jewish people slowed because there was a shortage of workers. So, instead of immediately murdering the people so hated by the Nazis, the doctors from Hell came up with ways to quickly and cheaply sterilize them so that they couldn’t reproduce. And then, when they were no longer “useful” to the Nazi cause, they were exterminated. Additionally, people deemed not useful— disabled people, “idiots”, insane people, and the elderly— were euthanized, even if they were Germans.

Many of the experiments done on the prisoners were not only extremely painful and cruel, but they were pretty much of no scientific value whatsoever. People who “volunteered” to be test subjects were promised things like early release or better living conditions. Naturally, those promises were never fulfilled, and the victims were forced into unbelievable suffering and gruesome deaths. The survivors were forced to watch as their fellow prisoners languished in agony.

Vivien Spitz paid a price for her service in Germany. She writes that when she returned to the United States, she suffered tremendous culture shock. Life was going on as usual in the States, but she was haunted by what she’d seen and heard in Europe. It took three solid years before she stopped having nightmares. And then, she got married, had two sons, and enjoyed a long, prosperous, and prestigious career as a courtroom reporter in the United States. Unbelievably, as she still heard people denying the Holocaust and became outraged when she read one accounting of a German teacher at a Denver school refer to it as the Holohoax. The teacher was fired, but sued because she believed her right to free speech was violated.

I will warn that this book is not easy reading. Spitz describes the experiments in harrowing detail. She includes photos from the proceedings, mainly of people involved in the trial, but there are also some very graphic pictures that might stick in one’s head. A picture of amputated arms and legs, forcibly taken from prisoners to be “transplanted” to wounded German soldiers comes to mind. Also, it’s very sobering to read that the Nazis had more regard for dogs who were used in experiments than people. Many things that were done to prisoners in the Holocaust were not allowed to be done to dogs because it was considered too inhumane!

I can’t say I “enjoyed” reading this book. I’m glad I’m finished reading, although Vivien Spitz comes across as a warm, delightful person with fascinating tales. I do think it’s an important book to read, particularly during the dark times we’re in right now. Remember, the horrors of the Holocaust didn’t start with the medical experiments, mass murders, and deportations. They started with a charismatic leader polarizing the people and influencing them to take an “us versus them” attitude. There has been a lot of violence this year in the United States and many people with hateful ideas are emboldened to plotting things like kidnapping governors and gunning down political protesters. I think Doctors From Hell is an important look at what can happen when a division of the people can go on too long. We stop seeing each other as human beings, and it becomes “acceptable” to some people to murder and maim in the name of a cause and their own prejudices and outright hatred of those who aren’t like them.

An interview with Vivien Spitz.

One last thing… I mentioned that this book was published in 2005. Vivien Spitz died in 2014. Toward the end of her book, she writes:

When we are born in the United States, we are born with blessings we just take for granted. We will not be arrested, bludgeoned, tortured, and exterminated solely because of our race, religion, or political activity. Born into freedom, with free will in the human story, we innately know the difference between right and wrong. We must each wage a personal war against obedience to unethical, immoral, and illegal evil authority. We owe our responsibility and accountability to humankind.

Spitz, Vivien. Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans (p. 292). Sentient. Kindle Edition.

I’m sorry to say that it seems like many Americans are forgetting that our society is supposed to be about freedom and fairness for everyone. I think it’s never actually been that way for everyone– but Spitz points out, to be born in the United States is a privilege. Or, at least it has been until recently. Vivien Spitz was a white woman, and probably made her statement about our “privilege” to be born American through the lens of a woman who never had to worry about being killed by the police. Sadly, as we all know, not everyone in the United States “will not be arrested, bludgeoned, tortured, and exterminated solely because of our race, religion, or political activity.” And that is becoming more true by the day.

In the next paragraph, she writes:

In genocides there are four categories of human beings: the perpetrator, the victim, the silent bystander, and the rescuer. What is the guilt of the silent bystander? Do we ordinary people have the courage to be rescuers, at the risk of personal safety, and sometimes the loss of life? We have proven that we can be rescuers.

Spitz, Vivien. Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans (pp. 292-294). Sentient. Kindle Edition.

Americans can’t afford to be “bystanders”. I hope those who are American and reading this review will remember that on Election Day. I won’t tell you whom to vote for, although I’m sure if you have read this blog, you know that I hope it won’t be Trump. What’s most important is that you do your part and fulfill the responsibility to vote. I truly hope you will, especially this year.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon from sales made through my site.

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politics, racism, Trump

Trump praises people with “good genes” and the “racehorse theory”…

Yesterday, I wrote about a Facebook convo I had with a male Trump supporting Christian who chastised me and a couple of my friends for painting Trump supporters with a “broad brush”. He claimed that he isn’t a racist and loves the Lord, and that the Lord is “using Trump” to do great things in America. He had a problem with the fact that I compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. From yesterday’s post:

For goodness sakes! Another Hitler reference. ? Now listen, Hitler would have never support Israel. Israel was under attack but it wasn’t by this President. Further more, Hitler was a socialist. He was driven by hatred and discontent. Trump is a competitor and wants to win. That’s getting old and tired.

And he also didn’t like that I accused him of drinking the KKKool-Aid…

Where do the references to Hitler, KKK, etc. come from? Do you have actual proof of those things? Why is it that before he became President all of the liberal media morons worshiped him and we’re giving him awards?

Well, as it so happens, this morning I was handed an example of Trump’s racist proclivities on a metaphorical silver platter. A friend of mine shared this article from The Rolling Stone, which covered Trump’s recent rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, a small city in the northern portion of the state. At the rally, which was mostly attended by lily white people, Trump rambled about a number of alarming issues.

At the beginning of his rally, Trump spoke about refugees, claiming that the subject of resettling them is one of the most pressing issues in the election. Minnesota is where a number of Somalian refugees have been resettled and, in fact, one of Minnesota’s representatives in Congress is resettled Somalian refugee, Ilhan Omar.

How the HELL did Trump win?

Then he went on to speak about the racial unrest in Minneapolis, a direct consequence of the public execution of George Floyd, a Black man who was wearing handcuffs as a White police officer pressed his knee into his neck and suffocated him. Trump then seemed gleeful as he remembered how Ali Veshi, an NBC correspondent of color, got hurt when he was struck by a rubber bullet…

“It was the most ‘beautiful’ thing!” It will be beautiful when this orange shitstain finally gets flushed.

As the crowd roared, Trump said, “Wasn’t it a beautiful sight? It’s called law and order!” Yes… something else Hitler and his cronies liked. Law and order.

Then, with his base fully buttered up with talk about reporters getting hurt while covering protests and not allowing Somali refugees safe harbor in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, Trump goes full on racist as he compliments Minnesotans for their “good breeding”.

Ah… “good breeding”… “good genes”… Eugenics!

Maybe at face value, these comments don’t seem overtly racist. He talks about Minnesota’s settlers who didn’t have a lot of money, but they had each other and lots of grit… and “good genes”.

“You have good genes, you know that right?” Trump said to to a ripple of applause.

“A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it? Don’t you believe? The racehorse theory,” he added.

What is the racehorse theory?  It’s the idea that “good” genes are the “right” genes. That’s the basis for eugenics, the theory that selective breeding can improve the human race. And you know who else supported that idea? That’s right– you guessed it– Adolf Hitler.

A very interesting German documentary (in English) about children who were kidnapped from around Eastern Europe and forcibly “Germanized”. If you have the time and inclination, I HIGHLY recommend watching this video.

You see, many of the people who champion Donald Trump are good old, salt of the earth, red-blooded American people who have never traveled, don’t read much, pride themselves on being law abiding, and probably don’t know much about history. They don’t like civil unrest or protests. They want people to toe the line and they don’t think too much about what that would mean in the grand scheme of things. They’re the type of people who support the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it.

These folks aren’t the type of people who are curious about things that happened in Europe back the 1930s and 40s. I’m sure if they listened to the heartbroken man at the beginning of the above video– kidnapped from Poland when he was nine years old and forced to watch as his heavily pregnant mother was stabbed in the stomach with a pitch fork– many of them would have basic empathy. But they aren’t interested in such things. They aren’t curious. They like someone who promises to “restore order”, not encourage them to think beyond the orderly and see the forest for the trees.

Likewise, they don’t know about how kidnapped Polish children were chosen by Germans as if they were pets up for adoption. In the above video, there is the story of Herman, one of the first children abducted from Poland and sent to Germany to be raised by Nazis. An elegant German lady chose Herman from the home where he was living. A nurse told the lady that she could “pick” one of the children, “like at a chicken farm. I want that child; that one wasn’t so good.”

Heinrich Himmler, on the idea that children of “especially good race” from Polish families should be brought up in Germany and help make Germany the “mightiest country on Earth”.

Trump loves to be around people who aren’t curious, yet are easily aroused by charisma and hyperactive talk about making America “great” again and giving them a few more bucks in their paychecks. What do they care about Trump’s comments about people of color from other countries who are fleeing death and destruction in their homelands? Have they even considered why these people would run?

I’ll tell you something else. Although Trump loves talking to people who aren’t thinkers or readers, he doesn’t actually care about them. They’re beneath him because they’re poor. He would never deign to visit the simple home of a person from rural Minnesota and have a meal. He’d rather go to Palm Beach, Florida and play golf… something else a lot of his base can’t relate to, since golf is a very expensive sport for people who can also afford the time it takes to play.

I think if decent people took the time to listen to Trump, they might realize that he’s not a good person at all. There will be a day when people who supported Trump will be on the wrong side of history. They will be akin to people who admired Hitler, especially if he’s not stopped in November. But I know there are people who don’t care about that. They don’t care that they support an unabashed racist, because they are themselves racists.

Remember that back in January 2018, Donald Trump made a very telling comment about “shithole countries”. Here’s an excerpt from an article from The Washington Post from January 12, 2018.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. 

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Well… what kind of people are in Norway? Most of them are are White… the same shade and ancestry as people who settled Minnesota. What kind of people come from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa? Mostly Black or Brown.

Incidentally, people who are in the Ku Klux Klan are also interested in white supremacy and fewer people coming to the United States from what they regard as “shithole” countries. They sympathize with Nazis.

Yep. He’s right.

So… the next time some very nice, Christian, male, Trump supporter wants evidence of Trump’s racist proclivities, I will think about Trump’s comments about Minnesotans and their “good genes”. They were thinly veiled references to eugenics, an idea that stirs up people who believe that White folks are superior to everyone else. It’s pretty disgusting that some people still think that way, but unfortunately, that’s how it is. However, I will grant that a lot of people who support Trump truly do think he’s “good” for America. They haven’t thought about eugenics. They know nothing about what happened in Germany (or America, for that matter) in the 1930s and 40s. It’s not on their radar. Frankly, they probably would rather not know. Ignorance is bliss.

It’s time Trump mounted the “racehorse theory” and rode it straight out of the White House. The White House is no place for him or his ilk. If you really care about America and other people, you will make a better choice and be on the right side of history. It’s that simple.

Edited to add: A bonus video for those who can stomach it.

A very good but graphic video about eugenics… and breeding for performance. Something Trump recently alluded to in Minnesota.

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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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language, overly helpful people, rants

Hey Digga!

Here comes another one of my rants about overly sensitive language cops. It comes this morning as my friend from my hometown shared a news article about a professor at the University of Southern California, who went viral for teaching about pause or filler words in China and using a word that sounded a lot like the n-bomb.

Professor Greg Patton, who teaches communications, was talking about the Chinese equivalent of “err” and “um”, you know, what we in English speaking countries say as we’re thinking about the next thing we’re going to say, but we don’t want “dead air”. It turns out that in Chinese, the “filler” language akin to our “ums” and “errs” is the Chinese word for “that”, which is evidently “na-ge”. And spoken out loud, “na-ge” sounds a bit like the taboo n-bomb.

Naturally, someone was filming the professor, and the footage made it to the Internet. Several students complained to Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the University of Southern California. And now, Professor Patton is no longer teaching the course. According to the article, Patton voluntarily stepped away, as Garrett stated:

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

News of the debacle reached China, where native speakers posted on social media that the backlash was discriminatory toward speakers of Chinese. Interestingly enough, I have another friend who lived in China for awhile and she frequently told me about how racist their society is. In fact, in the Toytown Germany thread I reference later in this post, someone wrote this:

Silly and sad, just shows you how people are tripping over themselves to show how not a racist! they are. Big smiiiiiiles, eeeeeeveryone’s happy, no one’s racist here, nosirreee… All a little different from actually not being racist.

As an aside, China is an objectively far more racist society. Pot, kettle, black. The Chinese government knows full well what resonates in foreign media for political effect. Their diplomats will criticize America’s racism, while within China, Africans are called chocolate or monkeys and many restaurants or hotels forbid entry. Not to mention the current Uyghur concentration camps. There are no self-reflective large anti-racism movements.

A few months back, veteran Canadian news reporter Wendy Mesley for the CBC (like the BBC) got in deep doodoo for betraying her secret racism. While in a conference room with producers (apparently none Black?), discussing a specific episode of her show and how they should cover BLM protests and racial issues, she said that word while discussing how they should refer to this work here. It’s the title. The discussion was about that and she said the title. She was (temporarily?) removed as host and issued an apology, etc. Confession and repentance, 50 Hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers.

Obviously the word shouldn’t be used, but it’s hard to see what this kind of official censure for using it in (closed door) academic/historical contexts achieves. The reporter is known for her progressive liberal stances. Of course, CBC as a state broadcaster had to do something… 

My reaction to this? Big sigh. I have already written more than once about my strong aversion to burying language and banning words, particularly when they are words that only sound like offensive words. I am also extremely irritated when people don’t have their facts straight and attempt to ban words based on untruths. But, most of all, it disappoints and offends me that people who attend a prestigious school like the University of Southern California are not intelligent enough to understand the difference between someone deliberately being hurtful by using clearly derogatory and racist language, and a professor who is actually trying to educate them about another culture and language.

Seriously? My opinion of the California USC (as opposed to the “original” USC, my alma mater, the University of South Carolina), has now dropped considerably. With all of the other crap going on right now, one would hope a famous and storied school like USC, where parents are going to prison and paying fines for cheating their kids’ ways past the admissions office, could rise above something as petty as this without it making the news. I certainly don’t think a man’s livelihood should be threatened over this incident. And it should not be international news, either!

What the hell are colleges and universities for if there can’t be a free exchange of ideas without people getting offended? Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where ideas can be born and hashed out, and language can be used in an instructional way. Professor Patton was not trying to be offensive. He was trying to educate! That’s his job!

You might be wondering about the title of this post. It comes from a recent thread on a Web site called Toytown Germany, which I joined in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time (pre-Facebook days). I still hang out on Toytown Germany on occasion, as it’s a very useful source of information about living in Germany and the information isn’t strictly for the U.S. military affiliated population. That site has many people on it from all around the world, including Germans. The one thing they have in common is the ability to speak English.

Anyway, recently, a woman who teaches in a German school started a post about the German slang word “digga” and how she finds it offensive. The original poster teaches in an inner city school in Cologne. She’s a native English speaker from an “ethnic minority background” and she writes that she doesn’t generally try to prevent her students from using slang. However, she tried to draw the line at the word “digga”, because it sounded a lot like the n-bomb and she felt her students were using the word in a derogatory way. Clearly, it was triggering her a lot.

“Digga” is a word that originated near Hamburg. It’s basically akin to the English slang terms, “dude” or “bro”. She wrote:

I banned the word ‘digga’ in my class and I told the students that they should be ashamed to be using such language whilst considering themselves anti-racist and progressive. Now I have had a bit of pushback from a few parents who say I shouldn’t stop kids from using their German language slang.

I have had to bite my own tongue and hold back. I think  parents need to listen to the music their kids are listening to, they need to pay attention to the media their kids are consuming but most are quite naive or really don’t want to know.

This lady also got quite a pushback in Toytown Germany, which isn’t surprising. That forum is not exactly “politically correct” and people will not hesitate to tell off anyone who comes off as ignorant. Many people told the teacher she was wrong to ban the word “digga”, as it is not a racist epithet. This was the first of many comments she got:

digga comes from “dicker” (a kind of fond way of addressing someone who is your friend, and it also has nothing to do with them actually being fat), it has no associations to nigga whatsoever and I agree with the parents that you are overreacting as well as overreaching.  It is also not a new phenomenon, has been popular at least as long as I have lived here although back in the early 2000s it seemed like more of a Hamburg thing that kind of made its way over.

In any case it really has nothing to do with nigga.  

One person was sympathetic to the teacher’s plight and wrote this:

Verbal violence is a form of abuse and precursor to other violence. It all starts somewhere. Sigh. Fighting it is an uphill battle. Letting slip leads to the abnormal becoming normalised. Saying nothing condones this undesirable behaviour. This possibly escapes the attention of the parents. However, their and your energy is limited and you have to choose how to use it. The insider connoisseurs claim the expression is harmless… but you see it in context. You don’t have an easy job!

Okay, but words are always evolving. I can think of a half dozen of them right off the bat that once were totally innocuous and later turned into insults that need to be banned. The word “faggot”, as well as its abbreviated form “fag”, for instance, has a few meanings, only one of which is derogatory. And yet if you say that word in certain places, you will face a huge backlash.

Ditto for the word “retard”, which is a perfectly innocent word with forms that are used in many languages. In fact, we heard it correctly used in France and Italy– it had to do with the train schedules. But now it’s pretty much banned in the United States.

It seems to me that we focus way too much on words and not nearly enough on attitudes and context. Instead of banning words and firing hapless professors who use certain words in their classes, we should take a moment to consider the context. Was the professor trying to be hurtful when he used that word? Was the professor being oppressive? In the case involving the USC professor, I don’t think so. In the case involving the teacher in Germany, I would argue that trying to impose the standards of one’s own language and homeland to people from another country is overreaching.

Banning words or making them taboo doesn’t change negative attitudes. A person can be racist and never drop the n-bomb. A person can be non-racist and use the n-bomb in an instructive way. Think it can’t be done? Try reading a slave narrative and banning that word. Try listening to certain musical selections where it’s referenced. “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder immediately comes to mind, as it has in my previous rants about this topic.

To the teacher’s credit, she did come back and thank everyone for setting her straight. Ultimately, she was looking for clarification and the right way to handle this situation, even taking into account that she has an “obvious walking disability” and is a person from “an ethnic minority background”. The thread continued for several pages and was revived when the news came out about the professor at the University of Southern California.

Again, I reference what Dean Geoffrey Garrett said in response to the uproar about the Chinese filler speech that sounds like the n-bomb…

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

Wow. So he’s very concerned about the “psychological safety” of students in a world where they have been regularly threatened by school shooters, terrorists, cops who kill innocent people, and deadly rogue viruses like COVID-19? I mean… people are getting killed or dying by the day in the United States, sometimes while just sleeping in their own beds! And he’s worried that his students will be permanently scarred by the Chinese word “na-ge”, which just happens to sound like the n-bomb, an English slur? Seems to me that the dean needs to gain a global perspective and stop being so politically correct. Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out. That’s my motto.

Right now, many people are focused on simple SURVIVAL. The people who are lucky enough to attend the University of Southern California ought to know the difference between someone being hateful and derogatory toward a group of people and someone who is talking about another culture with another language. They need to grow up and wise up. In the vast majority of cases, if they’re at USC, they obviously have had a lot of things go right in their lives.

They’re in a class where they’re learning about something that most people would never have the opportunity to study because they’re too busy learning skills that will keep them alive and able to pay their bills! They are probably the last people who need to be up in arms over a professor teaching them about Chinese filler words that happen to sound like a racist epithet in some parts of the world. And if they’re offended in the classroom in California, God help them if they go to China and actually hear Chinese people saying “Na-ge” over and over again. There will be many special snowflake meltdowns!

Jeez!

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dogs, memories, obits

A year without Zane…

We had kind of a scary day yesterday. Our dog, Arran, didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He had a tragic look on his face, seemed to have trouble jumping, and when I touched his back, he yelped in pain. Arran is ten or eleven years old. He’s always been very healthy, but he’s not getting any younger. We also had a rather active weekend. He got walks and went with us to our visit to a winery on Friday night, as well as a day trip to Kallstadt, which is where Donald Trump’s grandparents were from.

Bill was worried enough about Arran yesterday that he took him to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is a really high speed veterinary facility near us. Our former vet down near Stuttgart told me, back when I was struggling with our other dog, Zane, that Tierklinik Hofheim is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. I used to worry about how I would get Zane there, if he needed their services. It’s a good three hour drive from where we used to live. Now, we only live about twenty minutes from Hofheim, and about a year ago, Bill took Zane there and got the devastating confirmation that he had canine lymphoma.

We had hoped for one last month with Zane, but he was gone a week after our regular vet told us she suspected the disease. August 31, 2019 was a sunny, hot day. We found Zane that morning, exhausted and curiously bloated. It turned out he was bleeding internally from a ruptured tumor in his spleen. By noon, we had said goodbye to him. It was very sad for Bill and me, but as dog deaths go, particularly from cancer, it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. Zane had a good last week. He was able to eat, bask in the sunshine, and even take a couple of walks.

We have now lost three dogs to canine cancer. Zane’s death, while certainly not easy, was much kinder than the deaths of his three predecessors. Our first rescue died of a very rare mycobacterial infection that required special testing by the Virginia Department of Health. Our second had prostate cancer. Our third, wonderful MacGregor, died of a spinal tumor. All three of those dogs endured excruciating pain that was barely touched by pain medications before we helped them to the Rainbow Bridge. I did not get the sense that Zane suffered pain as much as he did exhaustion and discomfort.

It was a terrible shock to lose Zane so quickly after finding out how sick he was. Zane was always a very special dog to me. I’ve loved every dog we’ve had, but Zane and I had an incredible bond. He was like a ray of sunshine most days… always friendly, mostly laid back, often hilarious, and happy almost all the time. He loved to play games and had a comical side to him. He also loved to snuggle, especially in my lap, and he loved running and playing, even though he was kind of fragile and needed a lot of veterinary care over his almost eleven year lifespan.

This is all Zane.

I usually get a new dog about a month after losing one, but this time, it’s taken a lot longer for a lot of reasons. We tried to adopt a new dog a few months ago, but he escaped before he managed to come into our home. I knew he was doomed as I watched him run away. We live close to two Autobahns, and the new dog, who was from Sardinia and apparently not very socialized, didn’t know us. Sure enough, he was killed before twenty-four hours had passed.

Bill and I are now expecting to bring a new dog into our home in about a month. The new dog is from Kosovo and, for now, is known as Noizy. I’m not sure if we will change his name. I don’t always change my dogs’ names when I get them. It depends on how fitting they are to their personalities. I have heard that Noizy isn’t actually very loud, either. Anyway… I expect Noizy will also be special because all dogs are in some way. I have yet to regret adopting a dog. Even the one we tried to adopt in March ended up doing something positive.

First off, the lady who runs the Tierpension where we board our dogs when we take trips thought of Bill and me when a German family “dumped” an elderly cocker spaniel named Maxl. Maxl’s human “dad” had died, and his “mom” was unable to take care of him. Family members brought him to the Tierpension and asked the staff to help them rehome him. Maxl had some health issues that were neglected, plus he’s about twelve years old. A couple tried to take him, but Maxl was too “stinky” and, for whatever reason, they decided not to take him to a vet but, instead, brought him back to the Tierpension.

Since Bill and I had already committed to taking in Noizy and I know that Noizy will probably cause angst for Arran, we declined to take Maxl. However, I did share Maxl’s information in one of several Facebook groups I joined because of the dog that escaped. I had been wanting to spread the word and ended up staying in the groups. A group member in the Pets of Wiesbaden group decided she could take in Maxl, and within a couple of days, he was in his new home. If not for the dog who got away, I probably never would have joined that Facebook group because my experiences with Facebook groups in Stuttgart had kind of soured me on them– especially the ones affiliated with the U.S. military.

And secondly, there’s Noizy, who’s about two years old and was found wandering the streets of Kosovo when he was a small puppy. He’s missing most of his tail and part of an ear. His rescuer thinks maybe some kids mutilated him. I haven’t met Noizy in person yet, but I’ve seen many pictures and videos. I have a feeling we’re going to get along fine, although Arran may not be too happy to have to share us with a new friend.

As for Arran… he seems somewhat better today. We are going to take him to the vet. He’s due for a checkup anyway, and we’re going to update some vaccines that we stopped giving after he had a mast cell tumor. Zane also had mast cell cancer and that was probably what led to the lymphoma, but Zane’s mast cell cancer was much worse and more active than Arran’s was. Arran just had one lone tiny tumor that was low grade. That was five years ago, and he’s not had another since. Zane, on the other hand, had lots of lumps and some systemic involvement. He held on for three years until lymphoma took him– lymphoma often strikes dogs who have had mast cell tumors. It’s not recommended to give vaccines to dogs who have had mast cell cancer, although we have kept giving the rabies vaccine because it’s the law. Since both dogs had mast cell tumors, we stopped most vaccines for both of them. Arran hasn’t had another tumor, so he’s probably alright to get boosters now.

I still think about Zane every day. The house has seemed kind of empty with just one dog around, although it’s also been peaceful and Arran has kind of morphed into a better behaved dog. But Arran is mostly Bill’s dog. Bill is Arran’s favorite person, even though Arran does his best to pay attention to both of us. All you have to do is look at the many photos I’ve posted of Arran and his habit of worshipping Bill every day. I don’t need to be worshipped… neither does Bill… but it would be nice to have a dog of my own to snuggle while Arran basks in his love for his “daddy”.

Hopefully, Noizy will like me as much as Zane did.

Anyway… for those who are curious, here are a couple of videos I made to remember Zane. They show his progression from adorable “teenaged” pup, who was originally named Einstein and fresh from Atlanta Beagle Rescue, to venerable old man living in Germany and acting like a brilliant canine ambassador. We were very privileged to know him and have him in our lives from December 13, 2009 until August 31, 2019. Sometimes, it even feels like he’s still hanging around.

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