Fifteen years ago I came across in an archive “A Plan for World Peace” issued by a prominent American just months before Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany.
The plan advocated “a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” For the tens of millions of Americans whose genes the author judged objectionable but who themselves judged sterilization objectionable, the plan offered “farm lands and homestead for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.”
Those words found in the Library of Congress contradict the depiction of Margaret Sanger in the National Portrait Gallery. Ted Cruz ., Marsha Blackburn ., Chris Smith ., and 23 of their congressional colleagues describe the Planned Parenthood founder as “an avowed advocate of eugenics and the extermination of groups of people she deemed as ‘undesirables.’” They demand that the National Portrait Gallery remove a bust of her in an exhibit called “The Struggle for Justice.”
“Margaret Sanger is being demonized for a lot of things she didn’t do,” National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet tells the New Yorker. Sajet labels Sanger neither “perfect” nor a “eugenicist leader.” What the National Portrait Gallery contends the Library of Congress rebuts.
The reverse Picture of Dorian Gray expunges Sanger’s glaring failings. Her bronze cast fits a “Struggle for Justice” exhibit about as nicely as Sanger’s plans for concentration camps follows “A Plan for World Peace.”
Portraits often tell us as much about artist as subject. Sanger spoke at a Ku Klux Klan event, singled out Jews and Italians for causing “the multiplication of the unfit in this country,” and called “the Aboriginal Australian” the “lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development.”
War Against the Weak author Edwin Black insists, “Sanger was no racist.” Sure, and she was no “eugenicist leader,” either. The National Portrait Gallery said so. The Smithsonian-affiliated art museum admits Sanger’s “association” with the eugenics movement but points out that it “was endorsed by many of the era’s prominent thinkers.”
Many of this era’s “prominent thinkers” similarly err in associating with Margaret Sanger. Planned Parenthood bestows a Margaret Sanger Award, Time commissioned Gloria Steinem to write a hagiographic essay on her as one the magazine’s 100 most important people of the 20th century, and the federal government in effect honors her in the “Struggle for Justice” display. Hillary Clinton, honored by Planned Parenthood with the award named for its founder, confessed: “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision…. I am really in awe of her.”
One imagines that Mrs. Clinton does not admire Sanger’s comparisons of Aborigines to monkeys, her visceral hatred of Catholics that prompted the Socialist Party stalwart to vote Republican in 1928 and 1960, or her use of the n-word. But like most Democratic Party politicians she loves abortion enough to lie for it.
If one can look the other way at intact dilation and extraction and harvesting baby organs, then certainly glossing over Sanger’s unsavory characterization of people as “human weeds” works as no great trick on conscience.
Sesame Street, another educational program long supported by the federal government, oft ran a segment showing four boxes accompanied by the lyrics: “One of these is not like the others/One of these things doesn’t belong.” Even the average Sesame Street viewer can see that the National Portrait Gallery placing Margaret Sanger alongside Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Frederick Douglass appears as a massive non sequitur.
Those displaying a bust of a hater in a civil rights exhibit paint a picture of themselves. Like other visuals associated with Planned Parenthood, it’s unpleasant to look at.