What Would Our World War II Veterans Think?
With the death of Terri Schiavo, the United States has taken a turn for the worse. “Why?” you ask. The courts now have the ability to starve an incapacitated person without due process. If someone starved his animals, they would be arrested. If the judiciary decided to starve death row convicts, appeals to the US Supreme Court would overturn the verdict because it is “cruel and unusual punishment.” But a person who is incapacitated, on the hearsay of her adulterous husband and her in-laws can be starved to death. What if it was your child? What is if it was you? Would you want to be starved to death? Although it is supposed to be a “painless” death, why would morphine administered to “ease her pain?”
In the early twentieth century, a group of people wanted to ensure the survival of their country and created a series of laws to allow first the forced sterilization of minorities, criminals, and the handicapped. Eventually they created laws for the euthanization of those handicapped individuals considered “life unworthy of life.” Criteria for those “unworthy of life” included anyone permanently disabled physically or mentally. A tribunal of doctors and judges oversaw the process and selected those for “special treatment.” Eventually a war was fought and those involved in the program were tried, convicted , and executed or served prison sentences. Anyone who knows history will know that the people wanting to ensure the survival of Germany were the racial hygienists of the Nazi Party, After World War II, Allied forces brought those people to trial. What would our fathers and grandfathers think about their country, that they defended against the tyrannies of fascism and imperialism, adopting the practices of their enemies?
In teaching world history, I find that my students are stunned at times by practices such as India’s sati in which a widow is encouraged to jump on her husband’s funeral pyre or a father denying paternity and allowing an infant to be exposed to the elements to die. But they cannot equate these practices to the Terri Schiavo situation or to abortion and the destruction of innocent life. Maybe it is true that history is a repeating pattern with humanity ignoring the lessons of the past.