Friday, February 15, 2008

The Land of 1001 Salad Dressings

It is pretty disturbing when you think about it. You don't want to believe it. You can't believe it. To think that the United States has engaged in genetic cleansing for nearly a century would be absurd...right? Wrong!

The Lynchburg Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded was founded in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1927. Over the course of nearly 50 years roughly 8,000 men and women were sterilized because they were deemed "unfit" to reproduce. The majority of these men and women weren't feebleminded but were poor, white, uneducated and viewed as a threat to the betterment of the human race. The theory behind the sterilizations was that these less than desirable traits were hereditary and could be weeded out if appropriate measures were taken place. What's really sad about this case is these sterilizations were performed without informed consent...yet a sterilization law that supported this was declared constitutional in the case of Buck v. Bell in 1927.

Shockingly, this law became the basis of Hitler's eugenics program in Nazi Germany...which eventually led to the Holocaust. Although eugenics is deeply rooted in Darwin's view of "survival of the fittest", these actions seem to manipulate this to such an extent that social worth takes precedence over individual rights. Who are we to determine one's social worth?

The parallels between Vas and The Lynchburg Colony really make me wonder about how Square's decision will be resolved. Luckily, he knows about the consequences of getting his own "sterilization" and what might result from it.

It's purely coincidental that my sociology class is covering the eugenics movement right now but I think it really helps but Vas into perspective. Being forced to lose your ability to reproduce is not something that can be taken with ease. The Lynchburg Colony case was a definite low point in the history of the United States but it could be a precursor as to what might happen in the not to distant future as technology continues to improve.


Cheney said...

I wasn't aware of the genetic alterations that took place back in 1927. This came as quite the shock to me as America is the "home of the free". I don't think Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest was implying mandatory vasectomies and tubal litigations. Thanks for the interesting information in your post.

jmartinez said...

I was also unaware of this. I recall Social Darwinism and eugenics in American History which really didn't do anything but bring hatred towards immigrants. However, in that class, we're only up to 1920, so hopefully we will cover this event.