Monday, August 18, 2008
On our last full day of our mini-vacation, we decided to take Mike and his son Joseph to the war museum here in Ottawa. We'd been there a few months before but only got about half way through. We thought it would be good for Joseph to see the museum - it's kid friendly, beautifully laid out and fascinating. Joe and I went to get the tickets and on buying them saw a poster for a special exhibit called, 'Deadly Medicine: Creating the master race" that has been borrowed from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Needless to say I wanted to go. The special exhibit hall is right after entry so we all trooped in. Right away there were Nazi posters about the use of eugenics to cleanse the imperfect and unwanted from the population. There were chilling pictures of people with varying disabilities in hospitals and institutions where their doctors and caretakers conspired against them, their value and their lives. Those who knew better did what was worst.
I felt sickened.
Joseph looked confused, so I asked him what he knew about the Second World War. He knew, of course, about the Jewish Holocaust, but had no idea that others came first, others were used to test the machinery that would kill millions more. As I spoke to Joseph, I noticed other visitors to the exhibit hanging around as I explained the process to him. Told him about Hadamar in Germany. Told him about the destruction of people with disabilities. I know this stuff, I wanted him to know too.
Later, Joseph had wandered off and I said to Joe, "How many people will go through here and shake their head at what the Nazi's did and still think that it's ok to weed disability out in the womb." A woman glanced hard at me. I continued with Joe, "Like the weeding of Down Syndrome out of the gene pool." Her face grew almost rigid.
She brushed by me, bumping my chair hard. "It's not the same. It ISN'T," she said. Then she was gone. I calmed myself down. I think it is the same. Eugenics is eugenics. Elimination of a minority is the elmination of a minority.
I brushed all of this away, determined that Joseph would have a good time, that the visit would not be tainted with my needs. At one point we were under a recreation of a huge bomb crashing through a ceiling. We all looked up at it. It is quite frightening. Joseph said a few minutes later, "I could go a burger now." We knew he'd had enough of war and wanted to get back to the business of being a kid without care. I felt the same. I just wanted to get out of there.
We've decided to come back in a couple of months to see the exhibit alone. To take real time and go through the whole thing panel by panel.
And there is something I want to do.
There is a picture of a group of people with disabilities. One of the people in the picture has Down Syndrome. I'm afraid she might have heard the woman's voice, echoing down through time, through history. So I want to go back and say two things.
"It is the same."
"We've not lost yet. Not yet."