John Kelly and Slavery

Want to understand the mindset of the Donald Trump administration and their surrogates? Look no further than the comments made by Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly two days ago. In an interview on Fox, John Kelly was asked about the controversy over the Confederate statues. Kelly stated that the “lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

To be crystal clear for all the spinmeisters out there, the Civil War was about slavery. It was about one group of people demanding to have the right to keep other humans as slaves, while the winning side was fighting to enforce the belief that all men are created equal, regardless of the color of their skin.

The notion that “compromise” was the central cause of the Civil War clearly shows a disconnect between the reality of the horrors of slavery in the United States and those who believe that taxation was the cause of the civil war. The problem is that many U.S. citizens – many whites among them – cannot come to terms with the reality that the country was built on the backs of slaves. So much so that the country was divided between those who wanted to keep slavery legal and those that wanted to ensure that no human was to be a slave.

There many reasons for why many U.S. citizens cannot come to terms with slavery. Much of it derives today from an educational system that makes heroes out of Robert E. Lee, glossing over the fact that Lee was fighting for the right to keep other humans as slaves. It is a notion crafted over generations by a minority of U.S. voters who have become disconnected over the years as to what the Confederate flag represents. They call it culture. The facts call it a reprehensibly representation of a people who believe keeping slaves is acceptable for their morals and their beliefs.

John Kelly exemplified this mindset when he equated slavery to a “compromise”.

As you digest this, stop for a moment and ask yourself a simple question – would you oppose, or support a statue to a Nazi doctor who conducted inhumane experiments but whose research is used today to save people?

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, between August 1942 and May 1943, Sigmund Rascher, a Nazi doctor, conducted experiments on Russian and other prisoners of war. His experiments documented various metrics as to how the human body reacts to being immersed in cold water over time. These experiments came to be known as the Dachau Human Hypothermia Study.

The results of the Dachau data has been cited by several scientific publications, thus ignoring the origins of the data while using the results to make determinations on new studies. Although there is controversy over the use of Nazi research for scientific research, there are no instances that I am aware of honoring the Nazi researches who produced the data. Rascher’s research has been used in the development of life-saving techniques and equipment for downed pilots in cold water and other hypothermia life-saving medicine.

Knowing this, would you support a statue honoring the life-saving research that Sigmund Rascher produced?* Of course not, then why would anyone support a statue to Robert E. Lee?

The point is that the Nazi atrocities have been taught and documented as atrocities and thus few people have a problem recognizing them as atrocities. But the United States Civil War has been veiled in a fiction that slavery had little to nothing to do with the conflict and thus people, like John Kelly, see no problem equating slavery to “compromise”. Therein lies the problem with the national debate about the Confederate statues.

Author’s note: I am aware that there are debates in academia over the use of Nazi research and in the case of the Dachau, the data’s reliability. But those debates do not negate the fact that the research has been cited in scientific studies.

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