Monday, January 16, 2017

Three Generations No Imbeciles

Three Generations No Imbeciles

Adult nonfiction
"The emergence of feeblemindedness as a topic of public concern
signaled a changing role for physicians, educators, and social workers
who had ministered to the 'less fortunate classes.' The philanthropic
motive dropped in priority, giving way to the need to protect society
from 'the menace of the feebleminded.' This shift was simply a 'matter
of self preservation' needed to protect the country 'from the
encroachments of imbicility, of crime, and of all the fateful
heredities of a highly nervous age.' Feeblemindedness also opened
clear avenues of activity for a professional class of reformers that
could guide government policy in a Progressive direction.'"
Yes, folks, we are back to the Supreme Court miscarriage of
justice we first visited last month when I reviewed Im•be•ciles:
The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie
Buck. When I commended that book to my chum and soul sister, Mazie
Hough, who teaches up to the University, she mentioned that she had
another book, Three Generations No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme
Court, and Buck v. Bell, on the same topic. She was even kind enough
to lend it to me when the only copy I could locate by inter library
loan was unavailable. I found that the two books complimented each
other neatly in the aspects highlighted and the information provided.
The writing of Three Generations No Imbeciles has a fascinating
back story. In 1980 author Paul A. Lombardo was intrigued by a
newspaper story about a lawsuit filed to overturn the 1927 Supreme
Court case of Buck v. Bell. Finding the topic for a possible paper in
it, he rushed to his university's library to find the decision very
easy reading. "...With scandalously little justification, and in an
opinion of less than three pages, the Court approved the power of a
state to erase the parental hopes of its 'unfit' citizens."
Even after the paper was written Lombardo, quite fortunately for
us, couldn't "let go of the story." The case became the topic of his
thesis and followed him to law school. He even talked to Carrie Buck
before she died. Digging into primary sources, he became more and
more outraged, speaking and writing for decades on this judgement.
The shock and surprise his listeners showed led him to believe that,
rather than merely being mentioned in textbooks, it deserved a
comprehensive book of its own.
For much of the background information common to both books you
can read my review dated December 21, 2016 in this blog. What I found
most intriguing in Lombardo's work was the two arguments he considered
the theme throughout the entire narrative: sex and economics. These
themes continue to dominate much of today's rhetoric and attempted or
succesful legislation.
Then it was argued that ending procreation by Practitioners of
"problematic" behaviors such as incest, homosexuality, and
prostitution would lead to a world in which medical science cleansed
society. In the twenty-first century sentiments and activism on the
part of fundamentalists and their allies stalled the legalization of
gay marriage quite awhile.
It is quite easy to see the second theme, economics, in both the
past and present. Institutions like hospitals and prisons as well as
direct welfare payments are supported by tax money. "...The focus on
the economic rationale for surgery was commonplace, and in the same
year that the new [Oklahoma] law went into effect, a University of
Oklahoma scientist gave a speech entitled 'Democracy and the Genes' He
insisted that the 'desirable members of society are being ever more
heavily taxed to care for the undesirables,' leading to lower
birthrates among 'healthy, substantial' citizens. Fiscal stringency
was popular, and before long, a proposal to require sterilization as a
condition of receiving any kind of relief payment was on the
legislative agenda." I do believe these same motives lay behind Bill
Clinton's ending welfare as we know it.
In turn I find more disturbing themes running through Lombardo's
work that are still alive and well today. One is a shift from
philanthropy to protecting the rest of the society from, with its
implication that the "productive" should not be burdened with
providing for the "parasites." (Think welfare reform). In the service
of this the role of environment in shaping and limiting the prospects
of recipients is totally overlooked and misinformation is called into
A very current (as in January 14) Maine example has been
unearthed by investigative reporter Matthew Stone of the Bangor Daily
News. Mary Mayhew, Health and Human Services Commissioner, has caused
Maine to forfeit $1.4 million in federal money by her insistance on
requiring photo identification on WIC (Special Supplemental Program
for Women, Infants and Children) benefit cards. This is despite lack
of evidence of the fraud that it is supposed to combat and the
probability that it could discourage participation. This alteration
would also greatly add on to administrative costs. It seems that in
Mayhew's mind making sure that no one milks the system is more crucial
than supporting a very effective and much needed program.
The book also alludes to the tendency of those with power to
constantly remind the populace of the wrong doings of the poor while
sweeping the far more costly machinations of the wealthy and their
corporations under the rug. Maybe that's why we are reminded often of
few welare recipients selling benefit cards or dumping water to get
bottle desposits to buy smokes and never of WalMart paying their
workers so little that they qualify for Medicaid and SNAP (formerly
food stamps) and even teaching them how to apply for them.
Which do you think is the most costly?
I would recommend both books to all who consider cruelty and
negligence to the have nots by the haves morally
that Rev. Martin Luther King junior whose legacy we are celebrating
On a personal note, I very much enjoyed having my younger daughter,
Katie, home for the weekend. It was special having her sleep over and
spending time together. Joey was overjoyed to see his chum. Katie
and I, big time bargain hunters, went to both Orono Thrift Shop and
the Bangor Goidwill. We found ourselves a lot of good deals including
my gifts for Eugene who has his birthday coming up tomorrow. I now
have some books Katie recommended which I will enjoy reading and a
cute little journal that will bring up precious memories whenever I
write in or read it.
I've got a lot of shout outs going out today:
Mr. Paul Lombardo for letting his convictions impel him to write this
very important book;
My most excellent chum Mazie who hopefully had a good birthday (here's
looking at you, Kid);
Matthew Stone, investigator extrodinaire, who has the ability to make
us care about how policy effects our lives, and his wife, Erin Rhoda,
a journalist of substance in her own right.
All who are participating in MLK programs and doing our best to follow
in the great man's footsteps;
And, last, but not least, my three children who are doing amazingly
well despite inheriting my degenerate and debased (epileptic) germ
jules hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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