This meditation begins a series on genocide because this topic by mandate will be taught in Massachusetts schools, as was stated in the New Bedford-Standard Times at the end of 2021. This will not be the topic of my meditations in every issue of The Anchor, but will also contain more traditional topics of meditation. There will be no blame or condemnation assigned, but rather some facts for your consideration that could easily be omitted, overlooked or downplayed by the curriculum.
I am of an age that I remember being taught about eugenics in high school. Henry Goddard popularized the proposals of eugenics through his writings about the Kallikak and Jukes families (fictitious names assigned to real people in his study). It was great fun for us to use these names as insults for other students as we trod the halls of academia. Hey, we were kids!
Based on the popularity of eugenics and the pride of educated white U.S. citizens of European heritage, more than 30 states passed forced sterilization laws in the early 20th century. Anyone who did not fit the eugenics’ view of racial perfection was a potential target. This included most immigrants, Blacks, Indigenous people, poor whites and people with disabilities. More than 60,000 U.S. residents were sterilized against their will in 32 states during the 20th century. I believe the last was in 1964.
Over time, eugenics programs in the United States amplified sexism and racism. Margaret Sanger is often looked upon as a great heroine of sexual liberation. In reality, she was a racist and eugenicist who hoped to reduce the Black population by contraception.
The Nazi government looked upon eugenics with glee. The Third Reich’s 1933 (my birth year) “Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases” was modeled on laws in Indiana and California. Under this law, the Nazis sterilized approximately 400,000 children and adults, mostly Jews and other “undesirable” labeled “defective.”
The eugenicists of our nation would have termed our sterilizations legal and ethical. I have looked up several definitions of ethical and have found the word moral as a constant synonym for ethical. Be careful with these words and understand that ethical often means what current public opinion will tolerate. If Nazi-forced sterilizations were immoral, then so were those performed in this country in response to the corrupt theory of eugenics.
O Christian, take a few minutes out of your busy day to consider how many procedures and courses of action are presented to us in the Year of Our Lord 2022 as legal and ethical, but are immoral by a higher standard. Do you care? Become well informed! Don’t simply leave it all to the movers and shakers in medicine, technology and government.
Father Buote is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fall River, and a regular Anchor contributor.