This was originally published on Liberal America on January 21, 2017.
In 1949, George Orwell published one of the best pieces of dystopian fiction of the century. When I saw Trump getting sworn in, it made me think of this book. His attacks on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech could potentially lead to something like the society portrayed in this novel.
This book gave us many terms that we still use today such as “Big Brother,” “thought police,” and more. The book follows the character Winston Smith who lives in a future society ruled by a dictator. His job in the government is to destroy any stories or writings that he is told to.
The government controls what information the citizens get a hold of. The dictator ruling the society is known as “Big Brother.”
One big idea talked about the most in this book is the censorship and the “thought police.” There is a concept called “double think” that the Party uses to control its people. They wipe out the past while feeding them lies about what they think should’ve happened.
There is a poignant quote about this concept:
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
Does this sound familiar? We just elected a man who could change the history of our country. He is already trying to censor the press. Is he going to start rewriting history next? He used the term “fake news” to try and discredit major news outlets such as CNN. He gets hostile toward any parodies or satires of him.
When faced with the fact that the number of people attending his inaugural ceremony were very low compared to those of out-going President Obama, Trump immediately began calling the media (and the time-stamped photo and video evidence) false and misleading.
When the Park Service retweeted an image showing side-by-side comparison shots, Trump ordered the Park Service to delete the retweet and discontinue future tweets. This censorship is being ordered on the assumption that the Park Service account must have been “hacked.” But this sets a very dangerous precedent on his second day in office.
President Donald Trump is a threat to our First Amendment rights, we can’t let him turn us into the society of 1984. Read the book. Watch the movie. Let’s fight to keep our rights during this Donald Trump administration. We can’t let him take our freedoms from us.
This was originally published on Liberal America on June 27, 2016.
Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was founded in the 1850s. It opened in 1861 and was called the Alabama State Hospital for the insane. It is being restored to its original layout. The University of Alabama bought the property in 2010.
It’s part of a $120 million project to turn the hospital into a performing arts center and a mental health museum. The University planner, Dan Wolfe, says that the main building will be used as a welcome center, a museum of mental health, and a museum of the university’s history. There will also be event spaces and classrooms for the performing arts students.
This is the layout of the hospital that was designed by a psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, to allow more light into the patients’ rooms. The center building was the administrative building. Each of the wings were three stories.
Now, we don’t have too many of these types of places left to treat those that need long-term care. We have come a long way in treating mental illnesses. The medicines we have now are miracle drugs for those of us that are suffering.
Recently, the hospital has been re-opened in a new facility. I have a quote from someone who worked in the original building in the ’90s when it was still running:
“Bryce was such a beautiful campus, even in the 90’s. It looks creepy in old photos and there were certainly some bad stories. But there were also good, caring people who worked there trying to reach through so much suffering. For many patients, it was a safe home. But nobody wanted to pay for their care so it was decided for them that they were not really happy and safe. “Least restrictive environment” became the mantra. Some had nowhere to go, no family. They went to group homes that are poorly funded and managed or they went to the streets. It is one of the saddest things I have ever seen. The goal was to treat patients with dignity, respect and kindness-like they deserve. But nobody wanted to pay. Now there is nowhere…….”
We have some good facilities for them, but there are bad ones as well. In Florida, there are rampant violent attacks among the patients in their six largest mental hospitals. The employees were pressured not to call 911 because of money issues.
Surprisingly, that is not the worst mental health care out there. In Indonesia, mentally ill people are shackled in their houses for years at a time.
This was originally published on Liberal America on May 1, 2016.
Former Auschwitz guard, 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, has spoken out about his experiences at the death camp and is facing trial. He worked at the camp from 1942-1944, and he has been accused of being an accessory to the murder of over 170,000 people.
The prosecution has described Auschwitz as a “murder machine.” Over one million people were slaughtered there. Hanning has been accused of selecting prisoners. He had to look at them and decide if they went to work or if they went to the gas chamber. Hanning apologized to his victims and said:
“I’m ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it.”
Here is an excerpt from the statement he read in court:
“I want to tell you that I deeply regret having been part of a criminal organisation that is responsible for the death of many innocent people, for the destruction of countless families, for misery, torment, and suffering on the side of the victims and their relatives.”
“…People were shot, gassed and burned. I could see how corpses were taken back and forth or moved out.”
Hanning is not charged with being directly involved in the killings, but prosecutors accuse him of facilitating them in his post as a guard.
There were a few former inmates at the trial to speak out against him. Half-Jewish Erna de Vries was nineteen when she was sent to Auschwitz. She was sent to a part of the camp where people were waiting to be gassed. Her life was spared because she is only half-Jewish. Vries said she had “mixed” feelings about seeing a former guard.
Justin Sonder was sixteen when he was sent to the camp. He was operated on without an anesthetic. They even painted a swastika on his knee with iodine.
When asked if Hanning should be put on trial, Sonder said that it was “absolutely right.” I agree, it is never too late to put these people on trial.