This was written more for my Speech & Debate teacher who wanted a written account of why I had started crying in class today, but it tells all.
Today in History, we were talking about Jim Crow. This got me on a chain of thought about the KKK, which got me on a chain of thought about Hitler, and eugenics. Though these first two sentences seem unrelated to what upset me in class today, I find it much more thorough to describe all the events leading up to it, and it sounds better to start out in History class than it is to say that I was thinking about eugenics for no particular reason.
Anyway, I was thinking about eugenics and why, ultimately, it failed. Obviously, it’s unethical, and racist. Highly esteemed people like Ben Stein also like to say that the idea of eugenics came from Darwin’s theory of evolution. But as I was thinking about it, I realized that the racist part of eugenics was group selectionist.
Group selection is an out dated theory that says that groups with certain traits are selected against other groups, in the same way that individuals are selected against other individuals. An example would be a tribe that has individuals within it who are inclined towards martyrdom. This tribe would win more battles against other tribes, and would become more dominant. However, if an individual in this tribe did not possess a genetic tendency towards martyrdom, they would survive longer and produce more off spring, and group selection therefore did not work. The publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976 effectively debunked group selection and stressed that it was the genes of individuals that were being selected. Nowadays, if a biologist tries to use group selection as an explanation of something they (usually) get laughed at.
I found great humor in Hitler’s use of group selection in his eugenics projects (which I now realize is really not something to be laughed at) and, knowing that Ilana had read the same book that I had, knew that she would understand the joke of saying “Hitler was a group selectionist.” After all, creationists love to say that Hitler got his ideas for eugenics from Darwin, and therefore evolution should not be taught. If you say that Hitler got his ideas from group selection, it makes the whole thing look even sillier.
So, I waited until 8th period, when I remembered that I wanted to remind myself to tell her that I had had an amusing (like I said, it doesn’t seem quite as amusing now) thought and I said “Ilana, today in History, I realized that Hitler was a group selectionist.” She giggled a bit, as was expected, but Matt also heard it, and not knowing what group selection is (not that anybody else in that class of highly well informed freshmen knew what I meant by group selection) thought that I was saying that Hitler was good.
The “Lucia is a neo-Nazi” meme spread like wild fire in that corner of the classroom, and I tried my best to correct the assumption. The fact that I had started laughing partly at the original joke, partly at the stupidity of the classroom, did not help much.
Comments ranged from “Lucia! I’m Jewish! I take offense to that,” to, “Don’t bring Esserman into this! He’s Jewish too!”
Lindsey perked up, gave me a very cold look and said very soberly “That is so inappropriate, talking about Hitler like he’s a good person.”
Part of the reason why I took greater offense to this is I suspect that Lindsey is judging me for my religion, or lack thereof. I cite the time I confronter her about not opening the door for us. I said, “I’m just philanthropic like that.” She replied “No. You don’t believe in God because you think that you’re smarter than everybody else. That’s not being philanthropic, that’s being selfish.” Despite the lack of connection between being egotistic (I try not to be) and altruistic behavior, she got complimented by several people in that corner of the room for the comment.
However, it did almost seem like she was perking up because she has been convinced by the good ‘ol “Hitler was an Atheist!” propaganda… I’m skeptical that this is the reason she demonstrates such behavior towards me, however, and I can’t exactly prove it. But, I don’t even recall having a conversation with Lindsey prior to that point when she said I was selfish for not believing in God. I can’t really think of any other reason why she seems to hate me.
But what really set me off was that I’m stuck in this vast sea of ignorance, filled with waves of intolerance. It’s not the prolonged exposure to it that has been bothering me so much lately as to cause me to break down like I did. It’s just that I’ve been consciously acknowledging it more. After all, I did just get a book on anti-intellectualism.
If all I had to do to get accused of being a neo-Nazi was not believe in God (again, that’s not necessarily the reason) and breathe the word ‘Hitler’ along with another word that people don’t understand… It’s just depressing.
I don’t think that I really need to leave my Speech & Debate class just because of this. I just need to figure out a new way of coping. Yes, it’s tempting to just get my GED, drop out, and go to college… but I couldn’t exactly get into a place that would be more intellectually friendly like that. Maybe Metro… probably not CU… and I definitely could not get into a highly selective university like that…