Eugenics Shapes A Southern Strategy

A Contemporary Tragedy

For the too many nativists who currently embrace the ignorant and racially divisive rhetoric of Donald J. Trump as he grandstands his way toward the GOPʼs nomination for the 2016 presidency—and who erroneously believe that the U.S. is not only the greatest nation on the planet but who also believe that it is the singular, exclusively infallible government that has ever existed—arenʼt really paying attention or havenʼt studied our nationʼs history very thoroughly, and Iʼm not going to mention the way we, as a nation, destroyed almost entirely the aboriginal population that Christopher Columbus “discovered” on his failed journey to find a western oceanic passage to India; the unconscionable institution of slavery; the subjugation of women, including unequal pay for equal work; the emetic acceptance that the Japanese internment camps of WWII are a verity of our nationʼs history; the failure of Reaganomic hubris; and the equally embarrassing wars on drugs and poverty. These are but a few examples of what may go awry when groups of people become clans of chaos.

In the early 20th century, a popular Eugenics program emerging from Great Britain infiltrated into the U.S. political scene. Eugenics is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of breeding couples with superior genetic traits while reducing reproduction in couples with inferior genetic traits via sterilization, marriage restriction, or forced abstinence. Unfortunately, since there was no unified, codified test for negative genetic inferiority, many groups were exploited. People with mental and physical disabilities, people who scored negatively on various IQ tests, criminals, deviants; and members of minority groups: Jews, homosexuals, Muslims, Romani, and the homeless were targeted by supporters of what was, and is, in reality, justified genocide.

The various IQ tests that were given to the social outcasts were laughable. They were very primitive tests of the time which included insipid questions that were irrelevant to whether or not one was deemed an imbecile, idiot, or moron, yet this was the formal hierarchy established by conventions of the time, a hierarchy established by the psychological profession and was actually written in government pamphlets. The state of Virginia used these tests as a way to promote Eugenics that resulted in the sterilization of a young woman named Carrie Buck.

In 1927, the United States Supreme Court case of Buck vs Bell upheld a statute that enabled the state of Virginia to sterilize people who had been deemed mentally defective even if their diagnosis wasnʼt conducted by objective scientific methodology. Carrie Buck had been confined to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded even though she was neither mentally disabled nor epileptic; she was merely poor, and as a result of her penury, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Virginia had the right to sterilize her. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., one of our nationʼs most celebrated justices, wrote the majority opinion stating with authoritarian confidence that “Three generations of imbeciles is enough… [The nation must sterilize those who] sap the strength of the state [to] prevent our being swamped with incompetence… It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” The chief justice of the Supreme Court at the time was William Howard Taft, the former President of the U.S. as well as former president of Yale Law School.

This embarrassing decision, considered unconscionable now, resulted in 60,000 to 70,000 sterilizations of American citizens deemed “unfit” to reproduce under questionable guidelines. The Supreme Court decision was not only accepted by a significant number of our nationʼs citizenry, it became justification to pursue Eugenics. Sadly, there are some who even today, with all the scientific evidence to the contrary, embrace Eugenics as a way to justify racial supremacy and stereotypes that are simply ignorant.

During this time period, the “Roaring Twenties” with its flappers, bootleg whiskey, and sensual jazz music, there was major international support for eugenics. Among its proponents were such notable historical icons as Teddy Roosevelt (who wrote in the January 1914 edition of The Outlook magazine, “I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding… Feeble-minded persons [should be] forbidden to leave offspring behind them”), FDR (who thought that the Japanese were inherently inferior, which facilitated the internment camps during WWII), Alexander Graham Bell, H. G. Wells (who later rescinded), Winston Churchill, Herbert Hoover, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, W. E. B. Du Bois even Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Eugenics was taught in major universities. It was popular in the press and in best-selling books, all part of a major movement.

People throughout the world honestly believed that their respective nations needed to uplift racial profiles by manipulating their gene pools. This very sad example of U.S. jurisprudence was also cited by lawyers for Nazi scientists in defense of their WWII war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials. In 1925, Adolf Hitler praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in his book “Mein Kampf” and emulated eugenic legislation for the sterilization of “defectives” that had been pioneered in the United States. The state of Indiana, in 1907, passed a eugenics sterilization law, well before the rise of the Nazi party. In fact, Harry Laughlin, a U.S. citizen who ran the Eugenic Records Office of Long Island and who was granted an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1936—the same year that the university purged all Jews from its faculty—was in correspondence with the Nazi scientists throughout the whole period. In his eugenics-based magazine, he often wrote how the Nazi Partyʼs eugenics program was based on his.

Contrarily, the Labor Party and the Catholic church each opposed eugenics. In the Buck vs Bell decision, eight of the nine judges voted in favor of the state of Virginiaʼs sterilization of human beings deemed somehow inferior even through questionable processes of determination. The only vote against it was the Catholic judge Pierce Butler. However, the American Eugenics Society initially gained some Catholic support, but it quickly waned after Pope Pius XIʼs 1930 encyclical that stated “Public magistrates have no direct political power over the bodies of their subjects, therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.” (I reckon that even though public magistrates have “no direct political power over the bodies of their subjects,” religious magistrates, probably exclusive to the papacy and, by extension, the Catholic community, can and do have power over oneʼs body when considering the right to abort unwanted pregnancies.)

A more negative reaction to eugenics nourished after it became associated with Nazi Germany and its holocaust movement wherein the German state murdered approximately 11 million people deemed inferior to the fabled Aryan myth. Many of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials decried that there was little difference between Nazi eugenics and the eugenics espoused by, among others, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. One of the many things of which the Naziʼs were accused was their setting up a eugenics program in which they sterilized over 375,000 people. The Nazis argued that the U.S. Supreme Court declared eugenic sterilization Constitutional and thereby beneficent to society. Our own revered Oliver Wendell Holmes agreed. Why then was it a bane in Germany?

After WWII and the emergence of the concept of human rights, many nations abandoned their overt associations with Eugenics, criticizing a vulnerability towards abuse due to a criteria of selection that is determined by whoever holds political power at any given time. The fact that Eugenics directly violates basic human rights, including the right to reproduction, along with the possible loss of genetic diversity and interbreeding depression, also led to the movementʼs decline.

During the early twentieth century, Eugenics dealt more with sterilization and enforced reproduction laws (no inter-racial marriage and marriage restrictions based on land ownership). Modern Eugenics has unprecedented capabilities to map genomes; embryos can be tested for life-altering diseases, and vitro fertilization is increasingly more common. Eugenics no longer has much to do with living adults and their biological relationships but, instead, now mainly deals with preemptive action on the unborn. Still and all, Eugenics can lead to loss of genetic diversity—the ability to manipulate the fetus and determine who the child will be is something questioned by both opponents and proponents of eugenics. Most of the ethical concerns over Eugenics involve issues of morality and power. Obviously, Eugenics controls racial determination within the fetus as well as other measurable aspects of the human condition that can be manipulated by the powerful and, as such, must be debated assiduously before something possibly cataclysmic results. In this particular instance, objective scientific methodology should be considered before subjective political prowess.

Although Eugenics declined shortly after its association with Nazi Germany and its abominable holocaust, its connection with racial supremacy helped develop the Southern Strategy. In U.S. politics, the Southern Strategy refers to a strategy used by Republican Party candidates to gain Southern support by appealing to racism against African-Americans, mostly as a reaction against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which pushed to dismantle the restrictive Jim Crow laws that had enforced legal segregation in the South since the Reconstruction Era. President Nixon used it very effectively, attracting white Southern voters who had traditionally voted Democratic to vote Republican instead by consciously appealing to southern votersʼ racial resentments to gain support. In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formerly apologized to the NAACP for exploiting racial polarization to win elections and ignoring the black vote.

One of the more overt strategies was for the GOP to express support for state rights, which was, and is, a covert way to associate their support for a pre-Civil War opposition to the federal government that ended slavery. It became a code-word to represent opposition to federal enforcement of Civil Rights. The Southern Strategy moved from national politics and soon incorporated local government, and as the GOP gained power, minority voters, including the poor, began experiencing difficulty in voting. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and making voter registration increasingly more difficult helped suppress minority votes. Richard Milhouse Nixon and his staff took the Southern Strategy that had its humble origins in the late nineteenth century and developed a more detailed plan beginning with appealing directly to issues of white supremacy without overtly expressing it. Obfuscation, i.e. plausible denial, became the popular strategy to appeal to racially motivated voters. The key was to devise a system that recognized white supremacy while not appearing so. Key phrases such as “state rights,” “law and order,” “food stamps,” “forced busing,” “welfare state,” resentment against “affirmative action,” “welfare queen,” and “young fellow” to refer to fictional healthy, black welfare recipients, became ubiquitous in GOP campaigning, and it was dividing the nation along racial lines.

The covert white supremacy of the Southern Strategy has now transmogrified into the overt, racially divisive, nativist rhetoric of Donald J. Trump, the self-indulgent monster that the GOP itself not only created but nourished into the formidable behemoth heʼs become—recall how practically the GOP candidates sequaciously exposed their underbellies, spreading their legs to expose their semiprecious family jewels to Trumpʼs scrutiny for the billionaireʼs endorsement throughout the 2012 presidential campaign against President Obama. Trump now seems to have the support of a constituency dedicated to blaming the African-American president for each national failure while raising the Confederate flag to honor its Caucasian supremacy.

For nearly four decades, the GOP has maliciously morphed from a business-centered, small town, pasty-white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant set of beliefs into quite possibly America’s primary proponent of bigotry, ignorance, war- and fear-mongering and the calloused exploitation of the vulnerable and powerless, but Donald Trump isnʼt the exclusive destructive element of the GOP; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has been ambiguously stating for two score or more. He is merely proffering hatred much more plangently and with a concise clarity that is unequivocal even for prepubescent comprehension. Times are as tense now as they were in 1927 when the Supreme Court, with nationalistic support, constitutionalized the legal sterilization of U.S. citizens deemed unfit by questionable criteria. What happens next is unknown, but it is my hope that the ignorant, nihilistic flock that endorses social chaos will ultimately see the light and start ignoring such base ignorance.

Adam Cohen is a journalist and lawyer, previously a member of The New York Times editorial board and senior writer for Time magazine. In his book Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, Adam writes about Buck vs Bell in detail. On March 18, 2016, Amy Goodman, reporter for Democracy Now! interviews Adam, He talks about Carrie Buck:

[Carrie Buck] a young woman who is growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia, being raised by a single mother. Back then, there was a belief that it was better often to take poor children away from their parents and put them in middle-class homes. So she was put in a foster family that treated her very badly. She wasn’t allowed to call the parents “mother” and “father.” She did a lot of housekeeping for them and was rented out to the neighbors. And then, one summer, she was raped by the nephew of her foster mother. She becomes pregnant out of wedlock. And rather than help her with this pregnancy, they decide to get her declared epileptic and feebleminded, though she was neither, and she’s shipped off to the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded outside of Lynchburg, Virginia… she gets there at just the wrong time. Virginia has just passed an eugenics sterilization law, and they want to test it in the courts. So they seize on Carrie Buck as the perfect plaintiff in this lawsuit. So they decide to make her the first person in Virginia who will be eugenically sterilized, and suddenly she’s in the middle of a case that’s headed to the U.S. Supreme Court… they decide to put her in the middle of this test case to see if the Virginia law is constitutional. And they give her a lawyer who’s actually not on her side. It’s a former chairman of the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded’s own board of directors. He clearly wants to see her sterilized. He does a terrible job writing short briefs that don’t cite the relevant cases. It goes up to the Supreme Court, and the court rules eight to one that, yes, the Virginia law is constitutional, and, yes, Carrie, who there’s nothing wrong with, should be sterilized against her will.

Adam Cohen continues the interview suggesting that the early twentieth century in the U.S. was rife with anxiety; the establishment of the U.S. saw the threat of mass immigration from, among others, Jews and Italians:

Yes. [The eugenics movement] came over in the early ’10s and ’20s, 1910s and 1920s. This was actually a very nervous time. You know, you see movies now about the 1920s, you see flappers and Prohibition and parties. But America was actually at a time of quiet turmoil. There were the highest rates of immigration that there had been in American history, so the nation’s cities were flooded with new immigrants, often with different religions, different nationalities from the people who were already here. Also, people were leaving the farms and moving to the cities. So it was a time of instability. And historians suggest that in this time of instability, the upper classes, the Anglo-Saxons in the United States, wanted to somehow control a changing country. And the way they saw of controlling it was eugenics: “We need to firm up our gene pool.” So it was that anxiety that got moved into this eugenics movement. And they combined it with the new science of genetics that was emerging, and they came up with these crazy sterilization laws.

Eugenics and its mass appeal led to the 1924 Immigration Act. Cohen responds:

Yes, it was largely, in large part, motivated by eugenics. So, … Harry Laughlin, he was actually appointed expert eugenics agent to Congress. There’s letterhead from the U.S. House Committee on Immigration that says “expert eugenics agent.” He testified about the eugenic advantages and disadvantages of various nationalities, and he persuaded Congress that Eastern European Jews, Italians, Asians were genetically inferior and we had to keep them out. That ends up being translated into the 1924 law, which puts in place for the first time national quotas. So you can no longer just show up at Ellis Island. If you’re coming from some countries, we don’t want you. If you’re coming from England and northern Europe, we do want you. So, this ended up completely changing the national composition of immigration, and it was because certain people were deemed to be inferior.

And one thing that I thought about when I wrote the book is, when we read The Diary of Anne Frank and we realize that she died in a concentration camp, we think about how the Nazis thought the Jews were a lesser race, and that’s why they were put in concentration camps. What we don’t think about it is, Anne Frank’s father was actually trying to get her and the family to America. He was writing repeatedly to the State Department for visas. He was turned down. He was turned down because of this 1924 act. So when we hear that Anne Frank died in a concentration camp, it’s also because the U.S. Congress, like the Nazis, thought the Jews were an inferior race.

Cohen also describes the sterilization operation:

It’s kind of barbaric to think about. And actually, before, in the early stage of eugenics, it started out with castration. And the eugenicists were having trouble getting legislatures to adopt eugenic sterilization laws, because people didn’t like the idea of actually castrating people. And it was actually the medical advances—the rise of the vasectomy and the salpingectomy, which is what was done to women, the cauterizing of the Fallopian tubes—that made it a little bit more palatable. But these were still terrible operations, and you can imagine what surgery was like in the 1920s. So someone like Carrie Buck was sterilized at the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded by the man, the doctor, who was the superintendent of the colony, and it was a terribly invasive operation. She had to recover for two weeks. They cut her open. And, you know, all kinds of anesthesia and medical procedures were rather primitive then.

So this is what the government was doing. I mean, you think about governmental invasion of your rights. Now we’re concerned, as we should be, about the government, you know, reading our emails and listening in to our phone calls. They are operating on women and men in this most barbaric way. And, I mean, it’s really shocking. And as we’ve seen, the Supreme Court, eight to one, said not only that this is fine, but the Supreme Court encouraged the nation to do more. It said, you know, not only is the Virginia law constitutional, not only is it OK to sterilize Carrie Buck, we need more of these operations.

Unfortunately, Buck vs Bell is still the law of the land. In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Missouri, which is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, cited Buck vs Bell in a case involving sterilization of a mildly mentally retarded woman. It is still the law of the land. There are cases where women in prisons are sterilized against their wills. There is currently a lot of fear in this land, and no one knows how far this fear will grow. This fear seems to parallel the Southern Strategy in its hate- and fear-mongering as well as our nationʼs current xenophobia.

In conclusion, Cohen then talks about a final couple of very sad notes about Carrie Buck. First, Carrie was not mentally impaired:

People who knew her later in life said she absolutely was not feebleminded. When she was at a retirement home, she loved getting the newspaper every day, and she used to work on the crossword puzzle.

And one other sad—there are so many sad parts of the story, but she had a sister, Doris, who was also at the colony. Doris was sterilized shortly after she was. Years later, when she was an old woman, she wanted to get Social Security, and she wrote to the colony to find out how old she was, because she didn’t know. And the colony director came and visited her and told her that she was old enough for Social Security. He also told her that she had been sterilized. She and her husband began crying, because they had been trying their whole lives to have children. No one had ever told her that the government had sterilized her. She had been told that she had an appendectomy. And when she went to the doctor, he said, “You have this scar.” And she said, “Yeah, it’s because they did an appendectomy on me.” They had actually sterilized her, and her whole life, she never knew.

It amazes me on a personal level how there are still too many people who vote for incapable public servants because of their belief that the government somehow knows whatʼs best for someone elseʼs body, especially women… as long as the governmental encroachment doesnʼt concern them or their bodies. Voters continually fail to realize that politicians, especially male politicians, are merely employing divisive rhetoric to get votes… and vasts amounts of money. If men actually gave birth, abortion would not only be legal but strongly encouraged. “You want me to pass something the size of a bowling ball through THAT small hole?” Bring on the test tubes!

Earlier this year, one of my favorite kin capriciously shocked me when she admitted, proudly, that she not only watched Fox “Entertainment” as her exclusive source for news but that she voted an exclusive Republican ticket in the last election cycle without investigating any candidates. What surprised me the most, other than her overt ignorance, was the anger and fear in her voice, an unjustified vitriol that propelled from her aura like the pyroclastic explosion of Krakatoa. Sadly, she is not the only of my kin—our kith, for that matter—who has this myopic and lackluster political agenda. But that shouldnʼt surprise me. She grew up in the cult of Catholicism, a powerful religious institution that promotes a superiority to the rest of mankind by offering an idyllic post-terrestrial paradise for anyone who strictly adheres to the dogmatic doctrines as professed by its faithful congregation. This promise by Catholicism, and Christianity as well, encourages a deep, irrevocable acceptance in its membersʼ of their superiority to all other humans, but the hubris is wrapped in more palatable pious rhetoric that belies the underlying reality of social malfeasance, a universally acceptable faith that their “humble” superiority is of divine origin.

It threw me for a loop that my favorite kin unintentionally admitted that she was a racist, which, to me, was an awkward, possibly subconscious admission of white supremacy; her admission was ambiguous, admittedly, but she, like the aforementioned metaphoric lost sheep who collectively jumped on the band wagon of Eugenics… she justifies—or simply ignores—her racially motivated voting proclivities by claiming allegiance to the fabled fight against abortion. She has convinced herself that the GOP is serious about ending the legality of abortion even though the GOP never has… even when theyʼve controlled all the branches of government; the topic of abortion does make them a bunch of money in outrageous speaking fees. It is, however, this kind of herd mentality that encouraged many U.S. citizens to embrace Eugenics in the early twentieth century, the same kind of social pressure that currently directs many U.S. citizens to vote along racial criteria. If, only somehow, we could associate white supremacy with Nazism and the Holocaust, maybe we could end racism and finally unite our country in a national co-existence of peaceful, ethnic diversity.

Peace Through Music
March 19, 2016

NOTICE – This article is a commentary based on an interview as seen on television’s Democracy Now! when Amy Goodman interviewed Adam Cohen on March 18, 2016. It is also inspired by articles I read on wikipedia.com.

Crossroads: The Sixth Mass Extinction

Does anything positive ever evolve when one questions the social traditions, habits, or patterns of a Life widely considered typical within her personal communal microcosm, which prepares her to think more independently? Is it propitious energy to wonder if the unconscious repeated actions of a community are salubrious to an individual or to the community itself, or if they are even necessary? Is it socially responsible to question authority, especially when it is so obviously detrimental to individual existence or the existence of groups of people who are different and are thereby considered unworthy by them who have somehow acquired the usurped authority? In a Democracy, is one a traitor to question a nefarious elected leader especially when the leader lies to his constituency in order to execute illegal activities like, let’s just say, preemptively attacking a sovereign nation without justifiable cause?

I’ve often heard the aphorism, “Individuals can be intelligent; it’s groups of people who are dangerous.” An easy example of this adage is the cult, and as I sit back and view the contemporary terrestrial milieu by which I’m surrounded, I see very easily that the majority of individuals I observe, including myself, are, in fact, automatons unconsciously reacting to the ubiquitous stimuli of daily existence, blindly following myriad examples of questionable human behavior that propagate mass appeal through uncensored social media overseeing the childish proclivity of granting the immediate egocentric satisfaction of acquiring specious baubles and trinkets, depleting planetary resources without replenishing them while desperately seeking immediate solutions to complex problems without exploring the possible pernicious results that may not be recognized until a time in the future when the casual decisions will have been forgotten or irrelevant to the desperate immediacy at that expected although ambiguous time of cataclysmic result—the metaphoric sheep blindingly following an assumed beneficent shepherd, the group of liberal dilettantes who decide not to immunize their children for measles and who inadvertently create pockets of infection when the disease was thought to have been eradicated, the cult of Christian Conservatism that distracts its victims away from community and towards the coddling of the soi disant intellectual and moral superiority of the individual.

I recall my first questioning of what was, in retrospect, the dogmatic pursuit of cultic influence. In third grade, I, as a Catholic, was preparing for the sacrament of Communion. In the Catholic tradition it is believed that the bread and wine served in the ecclesiastic ceremony celebrating Jesus’ last supper with his disciples actually turns into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and there’s even a word for it: transubstantiation. The nun conducting the lessons asked a small group of us if the transformation would cause the bread and wine to taste differently. As I was but a child, I naturally thought that if wine actually turned into blood and a thin, bread-like wafer actually turned into the body of a man, then they would both taste significantly different. Forget about the horrors of cannibalism, which I too easily ignored because of the magic of faith, I figured that a hamburger, which, to me, was meat—or what I considered would be similar to the body of a human—would taste significantly different than a rather tasteless wafer. The same with the wine and blood. In my defense, at the time, my mind was filled with childlike bewilderment, so instead of worrying about the veracity of what was lectured to me, I probably began wondering immediately about something else, like whether or not a fly loops or flips over when landing upside-down on the ceiling.

Obviously, the question of transubstantiation made a lasting impression on my young mind, lingering in a remote address of my inner psyche, patiently waiting to tickle my curiosity once again in futuristic cogitation along with supernumerary other flash-thoughts that are even now still eagerly awaiting the flood of thought-thaw, desperate for rumination.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that Evil succeeds when good people do nothing to stop it, and as I slowly trudge through my allotted four-score life span, I fully understand how apathy or disinterest can lead to this conclusion, how turning a blind eye from reality can bring about the downfall of an empire; it’s happened throughout human history but can be best exemplified by the acceptance of Hitler’s atrocities by a majority of the German population who had no desire to get involved. Like a hapless ovine flock, black and brown sheep are led to the abattoir while the remaining white flock blindly ruminate… or daydream in sunny pastures about how beneficent their shepherd is by preserving their lives while destroying the others who are inferred to be somehow less superior—the survivors (unaffected) choose to believe that they are the shepherd’s chosen and thereby deserve absolution. Whether or not this blind, unjustifiable, egocentric attitude is arrogance or childish innocence, it is still unconscionable asocial behavior that reeks with the pungent hubris of a televangelist’s asking his followers to refrain from buying prescription drugs or food so that they may tithe to his multi-million dollar institution.

Ignoring obvious hypocrisies has been around for millennia, but today’s blinding indifference even branches out to negatively affect politically salient groups who ignore scientifically predicted mass social destruction. As I write this, the government of the nation to which I am geographically bound, the most powerful nation on the planet, the only country to use nuclear weapons of mass destruction against a perceived enemy, is fighting internally about Climate Control, which isn’t inherently insipid, but approaching the conflict from a bipartisan aspect is the most puerile thing I can think of. The very saddest aspect of this debate is that each side is approaching the problem from a woefully inefficient prospective: they are debating whether or not climate change is caused by humanity. The fact that climate change is occurring is not debated. Let me repeat: the fact that climate change is occurring is NOT debated! Our planet is turning into a medium-sized star-orbiting rock that is slowly becoming uninhabitable for our species! And instead of guiding our national directive toward a solution to the problem, we are debating its origin. That seems insane to me. May I suggest that we solve the problem first, then look back to uncover where and how it began?

Humanity is not powerful enough to destroy the planet, only itself. Regardless of the events that have brought into motion the symptoms of climate change, the planet is dramatically transforming. Scientists world-wide agree that the planet is going through a process of warming never experienced in human history, but the planet has been extant for about 4.6 billion years (give or take a few months), modern human is estimated at only 20,000 years. This means that the planet Earth lived 4,599,980,000 years before Homo sapiens ever climbed down from the trees! Within that time frame, the planet went through many changes: from a molten rock surface to a surface completely covered with ice and every variant in-between. The Earth is still changing, evolving. Again, the planet’s morphing is not disputed; instead of investigating what has caused these life-threatening changes, the question should be what are we going to do about it?

Seems to me that there are only three answers: We can change some habits of energy acquisition that scientists strongly suggest will counter the effects of global warming, a.k.a. go green! We can attempt to build hermetically sealed biospheres within which we can maintain a fabricated terrestrial environment conducive to our species’ salubrity; or we can do nothing and try to survive the predicted cataclysm.

What it then boils down to is the arrogance of the terrestrial citizens of the planet. If we do nothing, then the planet will change, evolve, becoming uninhabitable for the human organism. Ultimately, insidiously, these changes will cause the planet to no longer support our species in its current manifestation, which will either become extinct or will evolve, along with the planet, into a new species or subspecies of humanity. That’s pretty straight forward, but it directly contradicts the fantasies of millions who irrationally believe that the human being has already developed its potential, that humanity is created in the image of an omniscient, omnipotent puissance, that, in fact, humanity is the nexus between “God Almighty” and the rest of the vast Universe. Unmalleable. Perfect?

Let’s move on.

I imagine that we may have the technology available to create hermetically sealed biospheres that could continue to support humanity in its current organic manifestation without evolutionary change, but biospheres are artificially terrestrial, and if the planet’s predicted chaotic atmospheric violence doesn’t destroy these fabricated environments, our species will begin to errantly believe that our organic evolution is unnecessary; it’s easy to believe that en masse arrogance will encourage a feeling of invulnerability. We, as a species, would then have to maintain mobile hermetically sealed environments in order to explore the very vast Universe, as we do now with rockets and the International Space Station, but that seems to encourage a lack of humility that nourishes the egocentric
feeling that humanity is the center of all creation, which is ridiculous.

Homo sapiens is a species of modern man that has evolved symbiotically with the planet Earth but within a very insignificant timeframe considering how very long the planet has been extant and with regards to the dramatic changes undergone by the planet before the terrestrial introduction of the human element. Seems to me that our human organic bodies have evolved to exist exclusively on this planet or on other celestial bodies with atmospheric properties almost exactly complimentary with our planet’s current conditions. How much less than one percent of the vast Universe is that? Even within the comparably insignificant solar system in which we reside, Earth is the only planet upon which humanity can exist naked… Earth, one of, arguably, eight planets, the fourth smallest existing within an orbit around our sun with four additional “Super Giant” planets much more massively significant and with many moons that are also more interesting.

The most effective course to take against Global Warming is, of course, to change our social habits, but I don’t see that happening unless dramatic changes evolve in planetary collective thinking… and by collective thinking, I’m strongly suggesting that we begin to think globally instead of regionally, a utilitarian, terrestrial emphasis instead of along national, man-made boundaries. We need to stop razing the planet of its carbon-based resources that make an insignificant number of folks ludicrously wealthy while enslaving the majority into lifestyles that sustain the status quo. We need to embrace renewable energy before we become an extinct side note in some extraterrestrial archeological investigation.

Unfortunately, we are not ready to sacrifice our perceived individual rights for the good of humanity; that would, correctly, be called social but would be errantly labeled socialism… and we are brainwashed against socialism, plus our current world leaders exclusively attempt to make the world safer for the protection of their treasures instead of seeking solutions to terrestrial concerns, so our species’ ultimate destiny is extinction. We will all be gone in 1,000 years. In 10,000 years we will either be totally forgotten or will be a fable taught to younger extraterrestrial generations about the follies of avarice.

I’d like to think that humanity is smart enough to realize that we terrestrial citizenry are doomed unless we make major changes, but Einstein was right. Duh? Evil succeeds when good people do nothing to stop it. And the noted aphorism still rings, supplementing Pythagorean Universal Harmony: Individuals can be intelligent; it’s groups of people who are dangerous. In this moment in the history of mankind, as insignificant as it is, our terrestrial interests are deliberately obfuscated for the interests of oligarchic megalomaniacal comfort, which may be the event horizon of our species’ existence, the point of no return.

Russell (Rusty) Allen Taylor
March 18, 2015

Toboggan


‘A did comply, sir, with his dug before ‘a
suck’d it. Thus has he, and many more of the same
breed that I know the drossy age dotes on, only got the
tune of the time, and out of an habit of encounter,
a kind of yesty collection, which carries them
through and through the most profound and winnow’d
opinions, and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Hamlet
V.ii.187-195


I was incarcerated within the voluntary prison of corporate America for sixteen years, a computer programmer with a B.A. In English, although I did have a minor in Computer Science. Not surprisingly, many a programmer where I was employed had a college degree, but few were in Computer Science. I have, however, learned through many experiences that a college degree does not necessarily connote erudition nor does it always distinguish one intellectually from others who may have no degree at all. I am acquainted with too many who daily demonstrate their lack of mental acuity even though they somehow hoodwinked their way towards a piece of sheepskin bearing an impressive collegiate insignia that would have been better used wiping canine excrement from the bottom of their shoes. Grant it, I’m not all that bright myself (even though my father calls me son); I have no answers to questions that will ultimately guide me to my most worthy post-terrestrial destination.

I do dabble a bit in poetry, but I realize that I’ve too far to go before I can even consider myself a great poet, but it is great fun and mentally therapeutic. Be that as it may, I have met some people who regard themselves word-smithies on the same literary level as Shakespeare yet who haven’t graduated from what I call pubescent poetry–the kind of rhyming poesy that wreaks of teenaged angst, self-pity, self-love, and banal couplets. At the time of the occasion of which I’m now to disclose, I had been writing sonnets in an effort to better learn the craft and so that I’d have a set of guidelines to keep me from writing ad nauseam, which I still tend to do. Anyway, I hung one of my sonnets on my bulletin board at work, a rough draft of a poem on which I was working. One of my fellow employees read it and said with the sincerity of a kindergartner’s descanting about the Easter Bunny’s altruism, “That’s pretty good, but your first line is too long.”

As a computer programmer I met more sycophants to Capitalism than I can count. (Keep in mind that my maximum number in countin’ is ten unless I am barefooted; I can then count to nineteen ‘cause one o’ my toes is missin’.) Sadly, the luxury-driven corporate-embracing zombies I witnessed are more than likely continuing to dream of a ludicrously fabulous retirement to the exclusion of living their current lives to the fullest, but they’re not the only ilk of corporate citizen. I am also familiar with the hygiene-impaired computer geek who dreams of marrying a supermodel after dazzling her with his binary prowess; the late thirty-year-old ex-high school athlete who refuses to acquiesce to the insidious pains that accompany decades of life; the once paragon of plastic distaff perfection—-a blonde-coiffed, green-eyed seductress with an infuriating lack of wit and vestigial traces of what had once been a drop-dead-gorgeous body but who has failed to notice or even acknowledge her transmogrification into a deliquescent puffy carbon-based water balloon; the fifty-year-old player who still chases, and occasionally catches, recreational pubescent coitus; egocentric dilettantes; lascivious divorcees; autumn-winter romances; winter-spring romances; and sophistic pedagogy. (All this coming from me, a writer of bombastic superfluity.)

There was a young woman employee where I worked who adored thinking that she had the answer to everything. Her name will remain unknown because I just don’t want to have to deal with either mitigation or an upset human being who, other than being daft, is hardly threatening. Anyway, she was born in the self-proclaimed academic citadel of Pennsylvania then raised in the fantasy driven utopia of Texas. Through her superior education (that was spearheaded in her youth by transcendent geographic indigenity, the myopic fantasy that one who was reared north of Mason and Dixon’s line understands everything congenitally more effectively than we who were reared in Southern climes, even though she cannot explain why or how this phenomena exists), she has come to believe that the South is filled with unacceptable atavistic barbarism not only surviving but proliferating because of its general lack of respect or knowledge of Aristocratic European Civilization that she and others of her ilk, somehow, innately understand. She, of course, has since moved from Georgia and the asphyxiating effluvium of illiteracy spawned by its intrinsic deleterious geographic condition.

I have no qualms with claiming a heritage from the South. My paternal grandparents were Hoosiers, whatever that is, but my maternal grandparents came from South Carolina and my mother’s maternal grandparents were Cherokee Indians. This is the tradition that I firmly grasp. Both my parents graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia and I would’ve been born in Columbus if my father had not joined the Air Force and married my mom right after they graduated. Of course, this was during the Vietnam conflict (call it what you will) and chances are that my father would’ve have been drafted into the Army had he not joined the Air Force, so Fate had her alabaster hand controlling the Wheel of Fortune by which it was foreordained that I be born in Wurtzburg, Germany. I have nothing against the foreign country, but I can’t recall a single event involving my birth, and it’s by my parents’ word, and a tattered birth certificate, that I must accept that I was even there. All my memories of life seem to begin around 1972, when I was eight, two years after my father was discharged from the military and my family moved back to Columbus, the land with which I share a special affinity-—as if I’m a mere gossamer on the web that is the South, gaining strength from it as well as making it stronger. I am a Southern boy.

One day in late November, the aforementioned dilettante came to me in a rush and asked me, rather anxiously, if I was from the South. I, of course, replied with an affirmative.

“Do you know what a toboggan is?” she asked.

I replied, rather eloquently, “It’s a long flat sled without runners that seats about four or five people with a front that curves up like elves’ shoes.”

She looked at me as if I had somehow grasped the secrets of quantum mechanics and with lugubrious relief almost cried, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” It seemed as if she wanted to pat my head and give me a dog biscuit. “Everyone else I’ve talked to who is from the South seems to think it’s some kind of a hat!”

It didn’t bother me in the least that she might’ve errantly thought for an instant that I was more astute than Sherlock Holmes, but the respect she feigned toward my perspicacity was but a fulgurous lapse into a more liberal and sympathetic understanding of the human condition with which she was totally uncomfortable. A nanosecond later she, once again, considered me a mal-educated product of Georgia’s Educational System that encourages teenagers to have babies out of wedlock, spit like Roberto Alamar, support the KKK and televangelists with equanimity, idolize Confederate poetry of specious spinsters elucidating unregenerate even destructive memories of the Southern antebellum paradise that never existed, obfuscate justice, suppress and oppress non-compliance, drink beer and belch loudly as we ask our barefoot and pregnant wives to retrieve another long neck bottle of Lethean amber intoxicative liquid while we smoke marijuana stogies and profane the government.

What I didn’t tell her was that not two weeks before she had asked me the all-important toboggan-defining question, I was having lunch with a friend of mine who was a denizen of our fair state but was originally from Michigan. She told me of her plans to return to her home state for the upcoming holidays and take her nephew on a toboggan ride. I was confused at the time because I was silently wondering what all this had to do with a knitted hat, so I asked her what a toboggan was; her eyes sparkled as she described the sled and how much fun she envisioned, her face an enchantingly brilliant expression of pure joy with pleasant remembrances from her past. I, of course, missed all the connotations involved with her exciting story because I have never felt of wind stinging my face as I plummet at seemingly unbearable speeds past blurred trees on a flat sled without runners until I finally stop in complete and exhilarating exhaustion at the bottom of a laughing hill of ice.

Another cohort of mine (who is also from north of the Mason-Dixon line but who, although really intelligent, lacks the critical eagerness to overstate the obvious or to become too amorous with superfluous minutia) later said that toboggan is what people from New York do when they want to haggle over a price.

Winters in west-central Georgia are rarely harsh. That’s why every city in the state, including Atlanta, shuts down at the first sign of snow; it isn’t economically feasible to spend a lot of money preparing for something that rarely occurs and that even when it does, it only produces limited financial damage, too insignificant to justify acquisition of expensive snow-managing equipment. The snow doesn’t stay on the ground more than three days before the temperatures climb back into the 70s… at least until the next ice age. I, obviously, will never ride a toboggan, but I hope that I don’t react so incredulously when a group of people are ignorant about a fact that couldn’t possibly be any less interesting to them—not something that is uninteresting, mind you, but something for which they, under no circumstances, could care less.

Peace Through Music

toboggan – “long, flat-bottomed sled,” 1829, from Canadian Fr. tabagane, from Algonquian (probably Micmac) tobakun “a sled.” The verb is recorded from 1846. As American-English colloquial for a type of long woolen cap, it is recorded from 1929 (earlier toboggan cap, 1928), presumably because one wore such a cap while tobogganing.