Episode 50: Dollop: Ugly Laws

This is the episode that sends us to hell.

original document: Emma Lazarus' poem "The New Colossus"
original document: Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus”
First off, this is one of the episodes that caused the creation of the tag that’s not what Jesus meant. Yes, I know the verse in question, Leviticus 21, comes from the Old Testament. Don’t make me start throwing around the verses that explain how Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and to turn the legalistic into love, because I will do it, and then I will get this email from Dave and Gareth: “Yeah, I think we’re going to go another way with the website…”
*breathe in, breathe out*
Okay. That’s quite enough of that. And away we go…

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“The New Colossus”, Emma Lazarus, 1883 written on the base of the Statue of Liberty

The English tradition of almshouses was introduced to America by William Penn.
Annie Sullivan was raised in the Tewksbury, Massachusetts poorhouse, before being transferred to the Perkins School for the Blind, and then being accepted as Helen Keller’s tutor in 1887.
You can actually purchase copies of past annual reports of the Massachusetts State Board of Lunacy and Charity, should you so desire, because why not.

The Indoor Pauper: A Study, By Octave Thanet, Secretary of the Board of Charities, The Atlantic Monthly. (Volume 47, Issue 284, June 1881):
…this neglected and repulsive being has claims upon our attention, because upon our fears…
To load with chains helpless creatures, proven guilty of no crime; to beat them, starve them, shut them up in underground dungeons, cold and damp, with mouldy straw for furniture and rats for company, and there leave them for months and years untended, save for the daily pushing of their coarse food through a hole in the door, this conduct, when we read of it in the history of the Inquisition or the Bastille, we say is wicked cruelty; but it is cruelty which has been practiced by every State that has abandoned its insane paupers to almshouse tending.

1889 conference in San Francisco, mentioned by Dave: I want to reiterate the title of one of the professional papers presented: “On the Care and Disposal of Dependent Children”.
Yep. I’m just going to leave that there.
And yes, how we cared for our dead, dying, and unwell rears its ugly head here, too, naturally. Children would try to hide the bodies of their deceased parents, so that they would not become dissection fodder in medical schools.
Franklin Roosevelt: first president with a disability, also hid that disability from the American people (1933-1945)
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (download .doc from Department of Education) — This means I am older than the civil rights for the mentally ill and disabled for this country. That is creepy as all-get-out.
And you do realize this issue of ugly laws was skating around the issue of eugenics, right? Remember there, at the end, when Alexander Graham Bell was worried about deaf people having children together? We’ll get to that movement soon enough. Night, night. Sleep tight, my chickies. Don’t you worry about the breeders. Not yet, anyway.
Leviticus As Literature * Mary Douglas
Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural Theory * Mary Douglas
Cultural references from this episode:

Band names from this episode:

  • Stump Warrior
  • Army of Cripples
  • Licking the Wall
  • Eating the Pocket
  • Sickeningly Infirm
  • Weirdsauce

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