Necessary Lies, Diane Chamberlain

liesFrom page one, I was a captive. This book is so well written and the subject matter is so compelling that I could not put the book down. It is a riveting story which will make you question the whole welfare system, its code of conduct and power. Perhaps, it will make you rethink how you feel about the government’s new responsibility for your own healthcare. Can a bureaucrat really understand your needs?
The sixties were a time of change, a foreshadowing of the world to come, in terms of politics, civil rights and women’s rights. The sixties era was a time of innocence, rapidly changing into a time of sadness with the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. The drug problem was largely unknown, the women’s movement was fledgling, and free love was uncommon. It was the beginning of the anti-war effort by the “flower children” who carried signs that said “make love, not war”.
In 1960, pregnant girls were removed from school and hidden away in shame.  Females were supposed to be able to control their sexual drive, but boys “were known to be boys”, and exploit it.. We often forgot that it still takes two, to do that tango.
Ivy Hart, 15, an epileptic, and her older sister Mary Ella, 17, considered feebleminded and already a single mother with a child of two, both live on a farm with their grandmother (Nonnie), working as sharecroppers. Both girls are largely uneducated, not only in the ways of the world, but also naïve about sex and the consequences, and poor beyond our imaginations. Their father, Percy, was killed in an accident on the farm. Their mother, Violet, is in an institution for the mentally ill. This is their story, but even more so, it is Ivy and Jane’s.
Jane is 21 and recently married to Robert, a Pediatrician. She wanted to work, although in those days, working women were frowned upon. Women went to college simply to obtain an MRS. It was assumed that their husbands were unable to support them, if they worked. Women were supposed to take care of the hearth and home, the children and the meals, and cater to their husbands needs because the working men sacrificed themselves to provide a good lifestyle for the family. Today, stay at home moms are looked down upon as unfulfilled. The pendulum has swung completely in the opposite direction.
Jane takes a job as a social worker, against her husband’s better judgment. She is an idealist. She becomes too emotionally attached to her clients, the Harts and the Jordans, and this is definitely prohibited by the Department of Social Welfare. The social worker who is too involved can’t make the intellectual decisions which would be best for her clients. The rules are black and white. Jane sees gray areas subject to interpretation. She is called a “loose cannon. She believes an honest approach is the best approach, with her clients, although she is conflicted about this with her husband. While she disagreed with the secrecy surrounding the practice of eugenics as a method of birth control for her clients, and she told them about it, she did not tell her own husband about her own use of birth control.
Jane was disturbed to learn that in the world of the poor, the rules were different. If an administrator decided to rule a child was incompetent, and unable to care for a child, that child was given up for adoption or removed from the home, regardless of the child’s wishes. Then that child was sterilized. Retardation, mental illness, epilepsy, promiscuity and poverty were some reasons for the practice of eugenics, not only of girls, but for boys as well.  All this was done for the benefit of the “world at large”, so that their imperfections could be weaned from society’s gene pool. It was  a practice performed under the auspices of social welfare, to help the poor and less able.
It is amazing how times have changed in the last 50 years. In the 60’s, parental permission was needed for everything, even administering an aspirin in school, there was a strict dress code in the workplace, in the schools sand even in the home. There were rules that had to be obeyed. Parents were notified if a child got into trouble. An abortion and/or birth control would never have been considered an option or responsibility of educators. The child’s upbringing was governed by the home, not the outside world. Today, our children are raised by a cadre of people who are forced to leave their own children, and have them raised by others, in order that they can raise ours. We seem to have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime as the pendulum has swung from one end to the other. Today, a child is treated as an adult and sexual activity is considered acceptable because “they will do it anyway”! That excuse quite possibly perpetuates the behavior.
This novel eloquently presents a case against the irresponsible and unrestrained actions of government agencies. For whatever reason, should a government or its functionaries ever play
G-d? The book opens a window onto the times when the practice of eugenics was in general use, though used so wantonly, only in the state of North Carolina. Sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing, because of the human cost. The guilt or innocence of a deed cannot be measured only in cerebral terms. At times, financial considerations became the overriding factor in determining if sterilization would take place. Often, the guardian giving permission was illiterate, and the signature was an “X”. The procedure was never explained to the victim, rather there were sanctioned lies. They were deemed unable to understand the consequences of their behavior or the surgery.
Today, it is widely known that intelligence tests were better able to determine the ability of privileged students. IQ tests unfairly penalized the underprivileged and undereducated, and so they performed poorly. The reason for this behavior was to control the population in such a way that these imperfect humans would not reproduce and perpetuate their deficiencies in more defective children. In the early days of the program, it had less racial overtones, and sterilizations, recommended by social workers, were performed across the board, but as the years passed, a greater percentage of blacks were sterilized.
Questions:
1-Is it ego, greed or fulfillment that is the inspiration for working women or, indeed, is it the need to be intellectually stimulated and fulfilled to their potential?
2-Is all change, indeed, positive?
3-Has the pendulum swung too far in any direction?
4-Are the people raising our children today qualified to inspire them to be the best they can be, when often, their own children do not achieve?
5-Is doing the right thing sometimes the wrong thing?
6-Were you aware of the Eugenics program? Is it not Hitlerian?
7-Can a bureaucrat, an uninvolved administrator understand the needs of a client? Is more personal involvement required to make an adequate judgment as to that person’s needs?

Advertisements

About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books for Adults, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s