"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pondering extreme Darwinian thoughts and how they have influenced America

This post kind of goes along with yesterday's on the Darwin/Jesus conflict in Akbar Ahmed's point of view as expressed in Journey Into America.

One example of America's meshing of Christianity and Darwinian thought is evident in the life of former President Theodore Roosevelt who was threatened enough by Catholics and Jews from Europe coming here that he urged the Anglo-Saxon people to have more children in order to avoid "race suicide."  

Please! Have more children like these!

His friend Reverend Josiah Strong wrote a book in 1885 identifying seven "perils" facing America. 

1.  Catholicism
2.  Mormonism
3.  socialism
4.  intemperance
5.  wealth
6.  urbanization
7.  immigration

The solution: "encourage progress"

Achieved how: "the propagation of the Anglo-Saxon race."

Why? It was God's will "for the white race to spread across the world until it had 'Anglo-Saxonized mankind.'" Indeed, the world was "facing 'a new stage of its history -- the final competition of races, for which the Anglo-Saxon is being schooled,' and that before long the American race would 'move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America, out upon the islands of the sea, over upon Africa and beyond. And can any one doubt that the results of this competition of races will be the 'survival of the fittest'?"

Did such thinking influence their world race competition?

This stuff is rich!  I'm sure people who would have believed this stuff if they lived today (which we shall bury our heads in the sand and pretend they don't), are related to the ones screeching, "Islam is trying to take over the world!  Muslims are trying to make us all submit to Allah!  And they think this is God's will for the world!"

Yet here are "perfectly normal" white men of English ancestry - or admirers of the English - saying it was God's will to spread a certain "race" - a very specific one, no less - around the world!

Apparently Hitler was an admirer of the United States' eugenics programs and was especially fond of W. Duncan McKim and Madison Grant who decided "a 'gentle, painless' means of executing those whose hereditary was 'the fundamental cause of human wretchedness' would be gas chambers."  Yes, gas chambers!  Grant argued the "need to preserve the 'Nordic races' against the Jews and others by 'the obliteration of the unfit' and against the 'sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life.'"  Did this gas-chamber thinking fail when presented to civilized, evolved people?  Apparently not!  Grant's book sold 1.6 million copies in the United States and was to Hitler, his "'Bible.'"

Meddling where no one should dare to interfere?

I remember the other day I watched a propaganda documentary from 1945 on Here Is Germany which Samer had seen and recommended. He told me not all of it was factual, but that I might enjoy seeing how Americans thought of Germans after World War II.  After I watched it, we talked about it and he asked if I noticed how they didn't focus on the concentration camps. They did show piles of bodies of people who had been starved to death, but Samer was right: there wasn't a lot of focus on the concentration camps per se.  And one would think a documentary produced in order to justify American and other Allied occupation of Germany would totally focus on such a damning thing!

Samer said everyone was too shocked about the concentration camps, and they were still trying to process that mass executions of men, women and children by use of gas chambers had actually happened at this time in history.

After reading about Hitler enjoying the fruits of American eugenics programs, I am wondering if some of the shock was guilt. Guilt that maybe we who had claims to such a sensational book and physicians and scientists would have the audacity to admire people who promoted killing off those we deemed as less desirable than our superior white race.

Were we having to come to grips that our thinking was flawed? Have we gotten over it? Or do we still live as if white children are more valuable than children "over there."  As long as our kids have food and clean water and education does it really matter what happens to the black or brown children on other continents?

Do we value the least of these or do we believe only the "fittest" survive and we are going to do all we can to ensure we are among that group?

Sarah wisely pointed out on yesterday's post that it's a shame Darwin's ideas have been misused in this way. I doubt he ever had this sort of drastic thing in mind yet people took his theories and applied them in questionable ways. The same with the man who recommended the gas chamber as a way of obliterating the unfit. Did he really mean that? Did he really think someone would take him seriously and follow-through with it?  Did he realize Hitler would come along, deem Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and the physically-challenged unfit to live in this world and use his ideas to cleanse the world of these people?

What happens when someone in society decides the traits of you and your loved ones are not acceptable? That you don't belong to the favored race?  Favored sex?  Already I read of problems India and China may have in coming years when a male population ages and starts looking for wives because many females have been aborted or abandoned because daughters are not as highly valued in some families.

I, too, have the right to live, don't I?

When do we stop deeming who is fit to live and start accepting and loving people as the valuable creations that they are despite how "flawed" they may appear in our eyes?

quotes from pg. 74-75, 81


Becky said...

Ah yes, eugenics was a huge issue in the US in the 20's and 30's, many people believed that you were born with the genes for alcoholism, criminality, prostitution and the like (completely overlooking the impact class, poverty and lack of education has on such issues), and many people were forced to be sterilized - at times even without knowing. Horrible cases of young men being sterilized and told it was a procedure for something else, never understanding why they could never have a child etc.

These issues featured rather prominently in Second Glance by Jodi Picoult, which I read and reviewed a few months ago ( http://beckyskaleidoscope.blogspot.com/2011/02/writers-wednesday-second-glance-by-jodi.html ), but you don't read fiction, do you? :P

Lat said...

Interesting about the news on eugenics.I thought Hitler did what he did because the role that Jews took in the Bible.I read it in a few other articles as well.

You know sometimes I use to swear and curse the person who invented gun powder or any other weapon(Alfred Noble?).But since then I know that people do intend to have nobel beginnings but they are somehow used for other purposes.One can't stop natural forces from taking shape once released.They can go in any direction they want so long as they can justify it.Learning to accept everyone just as they are is definitely a good step to begin with.

Susanne said...

Ha! :-P Becky, actually I really like fiction and for most of my life that is what I read 98% of the time! :)

For some reason when I met Samer, I started reading about Islam, Arabs and that lead to my interest in more cultural/religious non-fiction books.

Thanks for the link to that book. I recall reading your post before and it does sound very interesting. When I'm in the mood for fiction again (meaning: when I finally finish all these books I have at my house to read!) then maybe I will check it out at my library! Thank you for recommending it!

Becky said...

Haha, it's just because I can't recall you ever writing about any fiction books :P

Susanne said...

Lat, that might be partly why Hitler hated Jews, but the eugenics provided the means to get rid of them. I know he was not a Christian. Anyone who believes Jews to be an inferior race cannot be, can they? Jesus was a Jew and how can you be a follower of Jesus and believe his blood/race/people were beneath your own?

Yes, I think some things invented for good reasons are "hijacked"so to speak to be used for bad purposes.

I enjoyed your feedback. Thank you!

Susanne said...

Yes, I know! Definitely within the last few years I've read much more nonfiction than before. :) Good observation!

Becky said...

Susanne, take a look at the Catholic church's relationship with Jews throughout the Middle Ages, they hated the Jews BECAUSE Jesus was Jewish, holding all Jews responsible for the crucifixion.

Susanne said...

I thought they hated Jews because Catholics believed they killed Jesus. That's not exactly the same as hating the race for the sake of it being bad blood, is it? That's what I meant.

Granted, hating them for killing Jesus could lead to hating them for being an inferior race...and then justifying it all later with the survival of the fittest coming into play and their "having" to rid the world of inferior peoples a la Hitler.

Becky said...

Ah, you're right. No I don't think it started as them seeing Jews as a inferior race, although, as you said, I do think that's partly what led to the belief that Jews were inferior (and hence anti-semitism and Hitler's propanda).