From the News Desk


What if our differences are only skin deep?

There’s a place in Tyler, Texas, I used to love to visit. It’s called the Discovery Science Place and it’s just what it sounds like it would be.
Discovery Science Place is part museum, part playground, making often-complex scientific concepts understandable. While it’s aimed primarily at children, introducing them to the sciences, Discovery Science Place would provide a venue for exhibits, which would peak the curiosity and wonder in visitors of all ages.
One such exhibit, last year, was called Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion. From the website, bodieshuman.com:
“This unique exhibit is a display of over 100 authentic human specimens, including whole bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices preserved through a special process called plastination. It provides viewers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look inside the human body, and to see and understand our own anatomy and physiology. This will provide a new appreciation and respect for the human body and what it means to be human.”
I know, it sounds a bit gruesome. But it depends upon how you approach the exhibit. I came away from the exhibit with a different outlook. More than 20 million people around the world have seen this and similar exhibits. One can only hope most of them shared my personal sense of wonder when they
were through.
While several things are immediately clear, no pun intended, in the exhibit, one thing that isn’t is the background of the people on display. For that’s what they are – the physical remains of humans, individuals who donated their bodies to science when they shuffled off this mortal coil.
I mention this because, throughout the exhibit, what struck me was that people are the same inside. Oh, there are obvious gender differences and some variation in bone structure. But the bottom line is, we’re all the same.
And that’s why a few things I read this weekend disturbed me.
One was an article in The Atlantic, by staff writer Emma Green. It told the story of several conservative Christians who, because they’ve given voice to their personal convictions, they’ve been ostracized, belittled and even fired or asked to resign from jobs.
And what was their great sin? They questioned some policy or statement espoused by the current administration, in some cases, as far back as during the campaign.
In some cases the exercise of their right to free speech opened dialogs, which is good. In others – most, in fact – it resulted in some level of punishment, both overt and subtle.
The most disturbing thing about this is the attacks, the censure, the firings came from the equally conservative Christian groups they worked for and worshiped with.
Another thing I read this weekend was a column in the magazine and on-line news site Foreign Policy, by Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks. Ms. Brooks speculated about what could happen if military leaders in this country refused to comply with orders that potentially conflicted with the best interests of the country as a whole. What might happen if a Commander-in-Chief started issuing commands that went beyond the pale?
Ms. Brooks didn’t foment anarchy. She didn’t issue a call to arms or urge for a coup. But this is what she was accused of, in often un-reprintable terms, in letters, emails and on social media.
All she did was ask a question – seemingly an unpardonable sin in some quarters. Then, compounding that sin, she suggested there should be a dialog about the question. For her troubles, she was called virtually every name in the book and her life was threatened.
All for suggesting we, as a country, should talk about something.
Then there’s the Super Bowl advertisement sponsored by the AirBNB company, which suggested tolerance of other’s ideals and beliefs might be a good thing. That, too, generated a fire-storm of contrary commentary in a variety of venues, including this publication.
The overall theme there was, to paraphrase, “Why should we be tolerant when no one tolerates us? Why should our beliefs be superseded.”
To the extreme “alt-right,” as some of this ilk has taken to calling themselves: No one is suggesting your beliefs are invalid. I may not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to hold them close to your heart and live your life by them.
But it’s a two-way street. Religious freedom means religious freedom for all, to practice their beliefs – or lack thereof – in a Supreme Being as they see fit, as they’ve learned.
And the right of free speech, which has been fought for and, in some cases, died for. Oh, there are some exceptions for the good of the whole.
Most know you can’t, for example, yell “fire” in a crowded movie house, where there’s a real possibility of panic and further injury, unless the place is actually on fire.
I’ve often wondered what would happen to you if you yell “movie” in a crowded firehouse. But I digress.
To suggest tolerance and acceptance aren’t values which should be embraced is disturbing. History is filled with examples of what happens when intolerance reigns, when a block of humans is dismissed, simply because of how they worship, where they live, how they look or who they love.
One thing I didn’t mention about the Bodies Human exhibit. It’s not immediately apparent what the background – ethnically, religiously, personally – of the people included are. Stripped of their skin, they all look the same – muscle, bone and sinew. So, perhaps, the differences between us are only skin deep.
Maybe some skin is just thinner than others?

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