Book Imbeciles The Supreme Court American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck A large thank you goes out to my friend Brenda who has agreed to jointly read and review this book in hope
Book Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck A large thank you goes out to my friend, Brenda, who has agreed to jointly read and review this book, in hopes that we might stir up some discussion on the matters addressed. Her review can be found at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Cohen uses this book as a much-needed soap box to highlight a case that made its way to the US Supreme Court, Buck v. Bell, and whose analysis was so jaded that it has found its way on a list of the Court's worst decisions of all time. Not only were some of the greatest minds of time involved in the ruling, Louis Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and William Taft, but the Court stood behind Holmes' written decision almost unanimously. However, Cohen chooses not only to focus on the Supreme Court ruling, which explored the eugenic sterilisation movement in America (as well as sanctioning the Virginia law as constitutional), but the journey the law took from its inception in the legislature and selection of a young Carrie Buck to be the test subject. Carrie Buck was a young woman, eighteen by the time the case made its way to the US Supreme Court, who was adopted as a child. She attended school for a few years before she was pulled out to work, as determined by her adoptive parents. At the age of seventeen, she fell pregnant and was committed to an institution for epileptics and the feebleminded, seemingly because she possessed loose morals and was deemed a woman whose brain was oversexed. At the time, the early 1920s, this was entirely appropriate and Carrie was forced to abide by the stringent rules set upon her by the State of Virginia. Around this time, as the eugenics movement in the United States was heating up, Virginia sought to pass a law to bring about eugenic sterilisation, which would not only ensure that the state's residents were of the highest calibre, but also ensure those who were less than adequate could not reproduce and sully the gene pool [their views, not mine]. While other states were having similar laws overturned by the courts as unconstitutional, Virginia sought to test their legislative initiative all the way to the Supreme Court, using Carrie Buck and her situation as the ideal set of facts. From there, it was a process stacked against Buck, offering her no hope of personal victory. Doctors who manipulated facts and forced her to undergo mental testing for which she was not adequately prepared, an assigned lawyer who sought to defend her by offering flimsy arguments that would not pass muster in any court of law, as well as a set of legal and medical minds buoyed by a movement that tried to press for the purest of the race to continue, leaving those of a lesser ability to be subjugated to the role of subservient. By the time the case made its way to the nine justices of the US Supreme Court, the legal circus was in full swing and Buck had no chance. Once Justice Holmes got his hands on the right to pen a decision, he chose not even to explore the validity of the arguments made and simply rubber stamped the law, adding one of the most perverse comments ever attributed to a decision of the US Supreme Court: "three generations of imbeciles are enough!" Cohen dissects that inane comment throughout the book and shows how Buck was truly a whipping boy for the movement and stood no chance at having her rights upheld, personal and/or constitutional.While the story of Buck would be enough to pull on the heartstrings of any warm-blooded reader, Cohen goes further, examining the backstories of the key actors, as well as the eugenics movement in America. The medical and legal communities filled their professional journals with articles on the subject, coming out on either side, which led to a mainstream propaganda attack, which propped up the idea of eugenics in books, pamphlets, and even a Hollywood movie, which sought to explore what letting a feebleminded baby grow up might yield (a mentally deficient killer, of course [which I say, tongue in cheek]). This eugenics movement was so well-established that the likes of Dr. Josef Mengele was surely salivating at the chance to implement it in Germany. Cohen does mention that some of the early eugenic ideas of the Nazis are attributed directly to the American movement, as lauded in German medical and propaganda materials in the early 1920s. Deplorable, perhaps, but also poignant as the world tosses out how atrocious the Nazis were in their Megele-ian experiments. We need only look to the Land of the Free to see how enslaved segments of its population were at the time. Worry not, when sober thinking returned, America scrapped its eugenics movement, seeking to sweep it under the rug and point to Germany's atrocities, as if the left hand's antics would never be remembered. Cohen makes it much harder to reach for that first stone now, though what is even more astonishing is that this case, this entire narrative, is not better known. America (read: anyone with a general knowledge of human and civil rights) is not able to toss out Buck v. Bell as a horrendous legal precedent, as we do Dred Scott, for reasons that baffle Cohen, as this was a significant case with a fiery line penned by Justice Holmes. Alas, the annals of poorly supported decisions made by the US Supreme Court must have missed this, their golden child example. It is that shameful sleight of hand that is perhaps worst of all!Cohen does a masterful job at presenting this book. It is more than simply Carrie Buck and how she was forced into being sterilised, thereby forcing her not to have any children after her first. It is also more than a simple analysis of the criteria surrounding feeblemindedness in America, or the push for eugenics, which would rid the country of the 'lesser folk from procreating'. It is even about more than forced sterilisation, which is a horrid subject in and of itself. Cohen explores all the pieces of the movement, its actors, and detractors, as well as using the Buck narrative to explore how America failed its citizenry and a US Supreme Court disregarded its fundamental law, the Constitution, to protect those who needed it the most. With significant research, Cohen hones in on many of those who played a role, some of whom will surprise the attentive reader. His narrative is crisp and propels the story forward, as abysmal as the content might be. It also pulls no punches in drawing significant connections between the American eugenics movement and the influence it played on Nazi Germany's decision to adopt similar ideals. The blood is right there on the hands of the influential and the reader cannot deny its existence. No matter how the reader feels about eugenics and reproductive rights, the book opens eyes, leaves mouths agape, and paves the way for many intellectual or gut arguments. I can only hope readers will engage in this, both on public forums like GoodReads, and in their own way. This is not a topic to read about, nod, and move along. It is a discussion to be had. Are you willing to join in?Kudos, Mr. Cohen for this spectacular piece. The title is so open-ended, I am left to wonder if you reference Holmes' comment or the list of those who failed Buck throughout the ordeal.Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/. Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck go inside Kindle One of America s great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court s infamous 1927 Buck v Bell ruling made government sterilization of undesirable citizens the law of the land New York Times bestselling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition the Supreme Court s decision to champion eugenic sterilizatiOne of America s great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court s infamous 1927 Buck v Bell ruling made government sterilization of undesirable citizens the law of the land New York Times bestselling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition the Supreme Court s decision to champion eugenic sterilization for the greater good of the country In 1927, when the nation was caught up in eugenic fervor, the justices allowed Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a perfectly normal young woman, for being an imbecile It is a story with many villains, from the superintendent of the Dickensian Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded who chose Carrie for sterilization to the former Missouri agriculture professor and Nazi sympathizer who was the nation s leading advocate for eugenic sterilization But the most troubling actors of all were the eight Supreme Court justices who were in the majority including William Howard Taft, the former president Louis Brandeis, the legendary progressive and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr America s most esteemed justice, who wrote the decision urging the nation to embark on a program of mass eugenic sterilization.Exposing this tremendous injustice which led to the sterilization of 70,000 Americans Imbeciles overturns cherished myths and reappraises heroic figures in its relentless pursuit of the truth With the precision of a legal brief and the passion of a front page expos , Cohen s Imbeciles is an unquestionable triumph of American legal and social history, an ardent accusation against these acclaimed men and our own optimistic faith in progress.From the Hardcover edition.. Adam Cohen Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the
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. Good Books Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck In the 1920's, the nation was in the midst of a panic over feeblemindedness. People were being sent away in record numbers - institutionalize -in state hospitals and special schools for the "feebleminded". The governor of Virginia made a public apology 75 years later (The 75th anniversary of United States Supreme Court's ruling in Buck v Bell. Adam Cohen tells the story of Carrie Buck. She was a victim of the eugenics movement. The Government should never have been involved. Adam tells complete story about Carrie from when she was first living in a foster care home - and later became pregnant. She was wrongly labeled ..."feebleminded" ..and "Epileptic". ( she was neither). Plus, nobody knew at the time that she had been raped.Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. - ( consider a great mind in American History), was one of the primary person who wrote the 1927 ruling, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough". ( BRUTAL)This was a Harvard-educated man - from a distinguished family. Holmes acted so superior toward Carrie Buck who was poorly educated and a working class mother. Holmes opinion was respected ..... It was an 8 to 1 majority to uphold the Virginia's sterilization law. "The nation must sterilize those who sap the strength of the State", Holmes insisted, "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 let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who aremanifestly unfit from continuing their kind". This story is sad. Adam writes it in a way that it almost reads like a fiction story ( I wish it were) ... Point it: it's engaging...it's fascinating ...he makes it very personal by focusing primarily Carrie Buck...Yet..,we are aware of the story being much bigger. 70, 000 woman - in OUR COUNTRY less than 100 years ago -- were forced into sterilization ( lied to- choices made for them - judged harshly) After having read the Historical Fiction book, "Necessary Lies", by Diane Chamberlain ...( a book that 'knocked-my-socks' off and opened my eyes to the Eugenics Laws), ....as soon as I learned about this book, I knew I HAD TO READ IT!!!Note: I had a fear ... That this book might be too dry, and a little to academic...But it's NOT AT ALL.... It's very readable. It's an important book....and thankful Adam wrote this book with nothing less than intimacy and compassion. The black and white shiny photos included in the physical book of Carrie --and other family members are beautiful. Thank You to Penguin Press, Netgalley, and Adam Press