Forbidden to be Abnormal

by Pasadena Adjacent

Van Nuys Blvd (enlarge to appreciate) pun unavoidable

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone

Eduardo Galeano

People who were physically, mentally, or morally abnormal, murderers, the depraved, imbeciles, crazies, masturbators, drunks, vagrants, beggars, and prostitutes were all lying in wait for their chance to plant a bad seed in the virtuous earth of the United States.

In 1907, the state of Indiana became the first place in the world where the law authorized compulsory sterilization.

By 1942, forty thousand patients in the public hospitals of twenty eight states had been sterilized against their will. All of them poor or very poor, many of them black, a few Puerto Rican, not a few Native American.

The letters that poured in to the Human Betterment Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to saving the species, pleaded for assistance. One college student told of being on the point of marrying a young man who appeared normal, but his ears were to small and they looked a bit like they were on upside down: “I have been advised by a physician that if we have children it may result in something degenerate.”

An extremely tall couple asked for help: “We do not wish to bring abnormally tall children into the world.”

In a letter dated June 1941, another college student said that a class mate was retarded and that she turned her in because she might give birth to idiots.

Harry Laughlin, the foundation’s ideological inspiration, received an honorary doctorate in 1936 from the university of Heidelberg for his contribution to the Reich’s campaign for racial hygiene.

Laughlin was obsessed with epileptics. He maintained they were the equivalent of the retarded but more dangerous, and that there was no place for them in normal society. Hitler’s “Law for the Prevention of Defective Progeny” imposed obligatory sterilization on the retarded, schizophrenics, manic depressives, the physically deformed, the deaf, the blind . . . and epileptics.

Laughlin himself was epileptic. No one knew.