I remember saying that we would all be better off if all the disabled people in the world were rounded up and gassed when I was about nine. That meant all the dribbling kids I played wheelchair basketball with, every patient slouching next to me in a hospital bed, and, of course, me. I’m lucky I don’t believe everything I say. The problem is, though, that there are people who think like that in the world today and you don’t have to be taking over a small town in North Dakota carrying a Third Reich banner and a rifle to be one of those people. You don’t even have to be a middle-aged gay man in a sub-par white supremacist Joy Division imitation to think that way, all you have to do is hurt.
We all have fascists in us; that’s why I take anti-fascism so seriously. I’m not just going to wear a red and black bandanna over my face in the street until I get a law degree and start voting Democrat, anti-fascism is self-preservation. No matter where I am in life, I will remember Action T4, the maneuver by which the Nazis gassed and sterilized tens of thousands of people with disabilities. I’ve had nightmare after nightmare of braces, casts, and crutches piled up against a barbed wire fence as smoke from burning bodies wafts in my direction. It always occurs to me as I wake up that I’m the guard. If I’m not the guard, I’m Hitler himself. There’s no running away from it.
From 1939 to 1945, the Nazis enforced a program of “racial hygene.” Most of the killing and sterilization of disabled people took place in smaller camps like Grafeneck and Bernberg, hardly the setting of a big-budget Spielberg movie. When you google the term “eugenics,” however, this isn’t what you immediately find. You have to sift through pages of Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, and their followers erroneously trying to tie eugenics to abortion via Margaret Sanger and to vaccines via Bill Gates. Not only is this link easily debunked, this kind of fear-mongering obscures the history we need to be learning from if we don’t want anything like this to happen again. We are worse than Nazi doctors and riot cops if we don’t understand that there are people who we’ve never met who would love to see us dead. The second that we pretend they don’t exist, we become them. When we can’t face the cripple in the mirror, we’ve lost to them. When we are honest with ourselves and each other about the struggles in our lives, we’ve begun to beat them.