Rev. Dr. Chuck Moffett
None of us wish to be tagged as an “imbecile”: dunce, stupid, idiot, weak-minded, with an IQ of 25-50. We consider it offensive—because it is.
Yet in 1927, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote an 8-1 majority decision which upheld a state’s right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. In the particular case of Buck v. Bell, Holmes stated “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
This ruling was foundational in the early 20th century American eugenics school of thought which actively sought to “breed out” traits that were considered undesirable. It was believed “we can help nature along, if we just plan who reproduces and who doesn’t reproduce.” During the 20th century, as many as 70,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized on the condition that they were deaf, blind, diseased, minorities, poor, promiscuous, feeble-minded, imbeciles.
The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted those who were not from NW Europe. It was this U.S. Act which was acclaimed by Adolph Hitler in his “Mein Kampf”, and became the model to develop his programs of human exterminations.
Adam Cohen, in his March 2016 book, Imbeciles, explores the connection between the American eugenics movement and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. He also states that the instinct to “demonize” people who are different still is prevalent in the U.S. today.
I deeply am distressed by the “demonizing” statements on all sides in the current political rhetoric, but I fear this only represents what is becoming the core of our American culture. How I pray we can recapture a conviction that EVERYONE is a child of God.