Not-so-brave new world

gattaca

Ever heard of “eugenics”? No, me neither before Saturday. It’s not the scientific study of people named Eugene (though that research probably should be conducted). It’s a broad area that focuses upon controlled, selective breeding. That’s the nice way to say it. “Playing God” is probably the more accurate way to say it. Anyway, the category includes control through abortion, genetic selection, and sterilization of “undesirables”. I want to just focus on this last part.

I was reading a condensed history of Europe this weekend because that’s the kind of boring stuff I do for fun. Anyway, the section about Sweden had a minor note about Sweden’s forced eugenics program. It said the country had forcibly sterilized thousands and that the United States had as well. WTF? Well, this was news to me so you know I had to look into it further. Again, because that’s the kind of boring shizz I do.

The eugenics movement in the US was apparently pretty hot in the early 20th century through (get this) the 1970s. Simply put, supporters of the movement felt that it was necessary to protect us from bad genetic ju-ju that could pollute our nation. The 30 — yes 30 — states with eugenics programs encouraged the forced sterilization of the “feeble-minded”, the poor, immigrants, drug-addicts, criminals, the sexually promiscuous, the deaf, the blind, racially mixed couples, and those with epilepsy. Their offspring and other family memebers were also fair game. Under the Model law, more than 60,000 people were sterilized without their consent.

Sounds like Nazi Germany? Yep. Our government leaders saw that parallel as well (Hitler was a big eugenics proponent) and slowed the programs down, quietly kicking it under the carpet in the early 1940s. But the laws stayed on the books for another 30 years as many institutionalized mentally ill patients were sterilized against their wishes into the mid-1970s.

I find all of this so dismaying and sad. Granted, there are some people who should be sterilized for obvious reasons — Kevin Federline, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan spring to mind — but, all kidding aside,  it amazes me that my own country did this. They decided which people were worthy of breeding and which were not, based upon birth, orientation, race, and behavior. It just flies in the face of the entire Constitution. Obviously, all men were NOT created equal in the early to mid-20th century. There were the judges and the judged. And I will bet you that few to none of those people targeted for cleansing came from wealthy families.

How does the shameful past apply to our hopeful future? Roe v. Wade, for starters. By not allowing choice-based control, wouldn’t we just be inflicting the very same injustices against our populace? The mechanism is different but the concept is the same: Big Brother is going to choose your familial legacy for you because you cannot be trusted to make such decisions on your own. How might this apply to stem-cell harvesting? To in-vitro fertilization? To fertility drugs? …

Makes my skin crawl…

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