If funding for mental health were up to a New Hampshire state representative, it would be all but eliminated. It’s not that he necessarily believes in less government. The fact is he believes in ‘thinning the herd’ via eugenics. The 91 year-old New Hampshire lawmaker, Martin Hardy, believes that the world is overpopulated, and that those he considers undesirable, including the mentally ill, should not be supported by state monies.
This revelation came out when a constituent asked Hardy about proposed cuts to mental health funding in the state. When asked to elaborate, Hardy said that the world would be better off without ‘defective people‘, which he says includes those with mental illness, the “retarded”, those with physical disabilities and people who are addicted to drugs. He even half joked that the U.S. should have its own Siberia so that these ‘defective people’ could be shipped off and be left to to freeze and die.
Some fellow Republican state legislators tried to minimize the comments. They said that his comments should be discounted because of what they saying is confused behavior on the part of Hardy. They claim that he will often go on tangents when in committee meetings and is hard of hearing . However, when Hardy was asked about the comments, he confirmed his belief. He did say that he was joking about the Siberia suggestion, but he never denied or backed away from his statement. While it may seem like a rambling of an elderly legislator, the fact is, eugenics became very real for tens of thousands of people in the United States and millions more throughout the world.
Eugenics is a philosophy that was conceived in 1883 by Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. He took Darwin’s concepts, and applied them to homo sapiens. He emphasized improving the human race by encouraging those traits that he felt made it better. He espoused increasing the number of children by families who bore so-called desirable traits. Fast forward about twenty years, and the concept transformed into improving the human race by decreasing the number of children who bore undesirable traits.
This translated in the United States into several laws that advocated and carried out this twisted philosophy. The first state to pass a eugenics law was Indiana. The 1907 law laid out the parameters that the state used to sterilize its undesirables. The law stated
Whereas, Heredity plays a most important part in the transmission of crime, idiocy and imbecility;
Therefore, Be it enacted by the general assembly of the State of Indiana, That on and after the passage of this act it shall be compulsory for each and every institution in the state, entrusted with the care of confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists and imbeciles, to appoint upon its staff, in addition to the regular institutional physician, two (2) skilled surgeons of recognized ability, whose duty it shall be, in conjunction with the chief physician of the institution, to examine the mental and physical condition of such inmates as are recommended by the institutional physician and board of managers. If, in the judgment of this committee of experts and the board of managers, procreation is inadvisable and there is no probability of improvement of the mental condition of the inmate, it shall be lawful for the surgeons to perform such operation for the prevention of procreation as shall be decided safest and most effective.
About half of the states went onto follow Indiana’s lead. One state was North Carolina. Not only did North Carolina sterilize prisoners and the mentally handicapped, but it also perpetrated it on those who were poor, including children. The state sterilized over 7,600 people deemed to have undesirable traits. What’s especially egregious about North Carolina is that although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1921 that eugenics laws were unconstitutional, the state continued to do it until the middle of the 1970s. Fast forward to today. Several North Carolina state legislators are trying to right a wrong. The state has been trying to set up a compensation fund, $50,000 for each victim, as a way to apologize for the trauma and loss they suffered. Despite the efforts, the state continues to stall, leaving its victims without a well deserved resolution.
The United States was not the only place where the philosophy of eugenics was instituted. The Nazis extermination of the Jews, as well as its medical experimentation on them, was fully based on this philosophy. Hitler latched onto the idea to formulate his idea of a “master race”. The eugenics policy included encouraging the increase in desirable families, while at the same time spreading propaganda about the ills of homosexuality and abortion. Of course we all know that the policy eventually did not satisfy Hitler, and it lead to the building and use of extermination camps where millions were tortured and killed.
While we may dismiss this as something that happened a couple of generations ago, and the rantings of an elderly legislator is a small New England state, it certainly is a reminder that we should not dismiss this as not possible. We’ve seen the erosion and backwards trend on many of the laws and programs that support those who may not fit the definition of “desirable”. History needs to be our teacher and our guide to make this country better by supporting everyone, even if they have significant challenges to overcome. We’ve had a president who governed from his wheelchair (FDR), a theoretical physicist (Stephen Hawking) who is totally paralyzed who’s transformed the field, and a musician who inspired us with his folk music (Woodie Guthrie). Our country is full of examples of people who made great contributions who would fit the definition of so-called undesirable. But someone doesn’t need to be famous or renowned to be considered “desirable”. Instead, we’re all worthy of being here. Let’s make sure that people like Hardy never get their teeth in our psyche. We are a country of underdogs and misfits. That’s what makes this country great, and let’s never forget it.
Edited and published by CB