Nazi idealism, slavery and ME


In the first half of the 20th century, the theory of eugenics brought visions of Utopia, and realities of horror here and abroad. A workable definition of eugenics could be given as “good genes for social change.” With criminals, people of extremely low I.Q., and others deemed to be unfit for contributing to the gene pool of the United States being sterilized with legal approval, the practice was eagerly picked up and expanded by Nazi Germany. The Nazis sterilized about 350,000 German citizens before the expansion of their working definition of eugenics was made more effective by replacing sterilization with euthanasia, or mercy deaths as they were called. These mercy deaths started with the inmates of a hospital for mentally-deficient children, the Bethel. The program expanded rapidly to include all whom the government regarded as undesirables — the insane, gypsies, gays, Jews, etc. This would make the realization of a pure Aryan master race possible within the lifetime of that generation of leaders. (Please Google “Der Fuehrer’s Face” for the satirical Donald Duck film about the master race, or just Spike Jones’ rendition of the song.)

Well, we know what happened in the Third Reich; any and every person who was deemed undesirable lost the protection of law, and the power of the state grew and grew, in an insatiable desire to be an even greater nation and people after the ravages of World War I, which greatly weakened the protection offered by morality. This made it possible for even some decent people to actively collaborate in the culture of death for the undesirables, as long as they didn’t have to be responsible for judging the rules which determined who were the undesirables. Frequently, those who were to be judged undesirable were demonized and dehumanized before being eliminated from the gene pool.

Back in the United States, legal forced sterilizations were ended in all states before the third quarter of the 20th century. However, more than two centuries of slavery had left us with a large portion of the general population that was never fully assimilated. The Dred Scott decision of our Supreme Court in 1857 determined that slaves had no legal rights and were property.  Thus they had no protection whatsoever from the law, and whatever moral protection they had depended on the goodwill of their owner. When, after the bloodbath of the Civil War, and the actions of the president and Congress (not the Supreme Court) they were truly emancipated, many of their fellow citizens considered them to be the “white man’s burden”: they were undesirables! 

Because of the rule of law which is the code of our society, the way of the Nazis, euthanasia was not feasible to implement the desire for eugenics. Margaret Sanger saw another way which was a type of self-imposed sterilization, and thus she promoted contraceptives as a way to get rid of the undesirable gene pool (See, 

The situation we have in the United States is now quite different from the idealism which attempted to justify the Nazi horrors. All those who have lived long enough to get a name have the protection of law and morality. Those who have not lived so long have no protection of law, and only the protection of badly-eroded national morality. The Supreme Court declared slaves to be the property of their masters in the 19th century, and declared the unborn to be the property of the women whose wombs housed them in the 20th century.

What about ME? I do not mean the person who goes by the name Rev. Martin Buote, for the term person is a legal term. I mean My Entity, that being with a certain unique set of chromosomes and genes and a particular life history whom I call ME. ME has had some changes over the years. The number of teeth and the distribution and color of hair have changed, but the entity is still ME. I can look at infant pictures and look in a mirror and see quite different images, but I know both are ME. At the moment of birth, I was still attached to my placenta, but the entity was ME. The moment before birth, I was in a different environment, but that entity had the same chromosomes and genes and shared a shortened part of my life history, so the entity was ME. In the months which preceded birth, there were many changes in appearance and development, but the entity was still ME. Over 80 years of age, young adult, teen, child, infant, fetus, embryo, zygote, every step of the way, that entity was ME. ME was never simply an “it.” This is true for everyone who can look into a mirror and say, “Me.” And it is also true for every entity which does not yet have the organs, voice and ability to say, “Me.”

My existence goes back to a time when ME had the protection of law and morality. An act of a court can take away legal protection, but it can never make abortion moral. We lose much as a people when we lose the concept of God’s concern, and each individual’s concern for every ME that comes into existence in our world.

Father Buote is a retired priest of the Fall River Diocese.

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