Does Vermont need a Truth Commission? #Eugenics #Apology


Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, is chair of the committee that created a bill that apologizes for Vermont’s eugenics movement. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

In 2021, the Vermont Legislature issued a long overdue apology for Vermont’s early 20th century state-sanctioned eugenics movement, which targeted Indigenous people and other groups. According to VTDigger, “The eugenics movement used forced sterilizations and other practices in an attempt to wipe out targeted populations who were deemed unfit to procreate, including Indigenous people, French Canadians, mixed-race people, people with disabilities and low-income families, among others.”

In issuing the formal apology, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint declared, “This is a moment for grief, but it’s also a moment for growth.”

The apology left unspoken how to undo the harm. Now, a bill in the Vermont House, H.96, proposes that Vermont establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine what happened and possible reparations. We talk with Rep. Tom Stevens, chair of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, and a sponsor of the bill, and Virginie Ladisch, a senior expert at International Center for Transitional Justice.

“We’re trying to build something that represents the beginning of a longer conversation between those of us who are part of the system and the people that we’re needing to listen to during this process,” says Stevens.

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absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption

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“Politicians, Priests, and psychiatrists often face the same problem: how to find the most rapid and permanent means of changing a man’s belief…The problem of the doctor and his nervously ill patient, and that of the religious leader who sets out to gain and hold new converts, has now become the problem of whole groups of nations, who wish not only to confirm certain political beliefs within their boundaries, but to proselytize the outside world.” – William Sargant “Battle of the Mind”

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