A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Growing outrage coming from many fields

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Feb. 16, 17 or 18

Maybe it was the poets.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently held a poetry contest about the new administration in Washington, and among some 2,000 entries was this verse from Stephen Benko, a retired Connecticut businessman:

“If God has made man in his image,/ please explain our new President’s visage./ That pucker and scowl/ look like murder most foul./ What in heaven, Lord, earned us this priv’lege?”

Elsewhere, hundreds of attorneys swept into airports to help travelers trapped by the Executive Order coming from the Oval Office, overturned days later. And besides the New York Immigration Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union, there were corporate lawyers, and attorneys whose practices were in family law, workers comp, criminal defense, personal injury and other specialties.

In the business world, 97 companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter took a stand opposed the travel ban, filing a “friend of the court” brief in a court challenge.

National Catholic Reporter praised the Jan. 21 Women’s March and other grassroots actions, noting “the broad religious representation of groups condemning orders on immigration.

“Candidate Trump … bullied and insulted his way to nomination,” its editorial said. “But something deeper in the American soul is being stirred … a confrontation between Trump's dystopian, combative worldview and an understanding that the American character is at its best when the people's pragmatism is heavily influenced by a generosity of spirit.”

That spirit’s on the gridiron, too, as six Patriots (!) and counting say they won’t attend a White House party celebrating New England’s Super Bowl win.

Scientists are stepping up, too, answering administration restrictions on government scientists’ work and threats to cancel the Paris Agreement on climate change. That’s especially dangerous, according to Scientific American, which wrote, “There is little margin left between where the world is now and where it does not want to go.”

So New York science writer Caroline Weinberg, University of New Mexico anthropologist Valorie Aquino, and University of Texas scholar Jonathan Berman met and started working on a response from the scientific community. Now, some 40,000 volunteers are reportedly helping organize not just the March for Science in Washington on April 22 (Earth Day), but 100-plus events in U.S. cities and in dozens of other countries, all celebrating science and the curiosity that leads to progress.

“The time has long passed where it’s OK to stay silent,” Weinberg said. “The point of science is getting to the truth, and acting as though this has no role in politics is ridiculous.”

There are other scientists groups, too, such as 314 Action (named in honor of pi), which is planning its own activities March 14 (another pi reference). Chemist Shaughnessy Naughton of 314 Action said, “This is not just dangerous for academic freedom, but for our whole country.”

Also, architects issued an open letter trying to inject normal perspective into the far-from-normal discourse in Washington, from energy use to climate change. Sent by “Architects Advocate,” organized by professionals at Krueck & Sexton, the Chicago firm that designed Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain, it says, “Because buildings alone account for almost 40 percent of total U.S. energy use and 72 percent of U.S. electricity use, America's architects are on the front line addressing climate change in a meaningful way. By taking decisive action now we all can be remembered as historic and courageous actors who helped secure humanity's future.”

For its part, March for Science offers a non-partisan, big-tent approach, saying, “The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue – which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence – is a critical and urgent matter. We come from all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities.”

And from many vocations.

Will scientists from Peoria’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (the “Ag Lab”) step up? How about poets laboring over lines at Knox College or Western Illinois University, architects working in Canton or Moline, attorneys in Kewanee or Pontiac, business leaders in Pekin and Monmouth?

Progress can be poetry to our ears.

[PICTURED: Graphic from Iowa Science Interface.]

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