Saturday, September 24, 2016

THE STATE BOYS REBELLION





This intriguing book by Michael D'Antonio, ISBN 978-0743245135, makes clear that despite all the well-meaning statements in the media decrying the violence in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Charlotte, North Carolina, well, sometimes A RIOT IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED.


This book is about a particularly shameful period in this nation's history, when "eugenics" was a perfectly acceptable word to use in polite company. (It mentions in the first few pages that Adolf Hitler considered a book on the subject, published by an American "scientist," to be his Bible.  Wow.)  The State Boys Rebellion is about one of the manifestations of the American eugenics movement. Apparently, in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties in this country, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of children rescued from bad homes -- or just not wanted by their parents for various reasons -- were herded into state-run institutions called "schools" where they were (usually incorrectly) labeled "feebleminded," warehoused, worked like dogs at menial jobs, denied proper schooling (again, because of that incorrect label), beaten, raped and generally exploited.  More than half of these kids were perfectly normal mentally (despite the lousy treatment they were getting!), and they put a lot of energy into against-the-rules learning about the outside world, saving money, and breaking out of the jails their state government put them in with NO HOPE OF PAROLE. 


Now, most of these kids just hunkered down and tolerated what the adults dished out to them, but some of them got really fed up and did what I would count as some very creative RIOTING.  The hijinks they got up to make for great reading, and FILLED ME WITH ADMIRATION.


And here's the thing:  I fully expected the powers to be to react to this by hiring more, meaner turnkeys and making the kids' lives WORSE THAN EVER.  What they did instead was admit that these kids did not really belong here and NEVER HAD.  They starting routing them into a special program to get them ready for the outside world.  Where they SUCCEEDED at living perfectly good lives.


It's an incredible message of hope for people like me, who look at what's going on outside the window and want to SET FIRE TO SOMETHING.  This book shows that sometimes that's the right decision.

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