Driving along some Kansas City neighborhood, a square little blue friend said hello to me from someone’s front yard, “Yes on 2”. A campaign sign in favor of stem cell research. In contrast to the “No on 2” signs I had been seeing, which were an alarming red color, the “Yes on 2” sign were a smart optimistic looking blue color. I was so glad to see the lone sentinel as I drove by. There is hope, now where do I get one of those signs?
As I was leaving work, I noticed there were people gathering
on the sidewalk out front. Some of them had candles. It must be a vigil or a protest of some kind!
The day before there had been a protest, but it was announced in advance, and it lasted only an hour. I missed it because I was in a meeting. The news didn’t really cover it. By the time K and I looked up from our laptops while watching the news, the report was over and we had to use TiVo to go back and see the 10 second blip.
I’ve been getting pretty comfortable living in the midwest. When visiting lecturers come to my office, some of whom are considering moving here from either coast, I have good things to say about living here. I know it’s more conservative than I like, but I’m usually not bothered by it as I can hold my own in conversation. I find that people aren’t used to being challenged on their ideas, and when I confront them with a well constructed argument, most of the conservative underpinnings dictating how things “should be” dissolve under the weight of open-minded rationality.
However, on my very short commute to work the other day, there was a house at the end of the block with a sign in the front yard reading, “No on 2.” The house is an older, well-used family house. Usually with lots of toys in the front yard. Sometimes the kids are out sitting on the steps watching the cars go by.
The “No on 2” signs have an ominous red color. I read it as I drove by and my heart sank. I almost did a double take. “That’s a conservative sign, declaring a stand against what I devote my life to”, or so I thought to myself. I live among people who are against stem cell research.
Over the next couple of days I began to see them everywhere. I might have expected to see them in other neighborhoods, but not in my own. Then again, I probably would have been surprised to see them anywhere. Just like when I used to see “Bush/Cheney” signs on motorcycle rides outside the bay area, but never in my own neighborhood. How could people simultaneously tell their kids to do good in school, but then put a sign in their yard favoring the inarticulate dumb guy over the too smart, too heady, well-spoken, experienced guy? I had heard that California was more conservative away from the cities, but I had to see it to believe it.
So here I am, living in a conservative part of the country, but in the neighborhood with the rainbow flags, thinking everything’s great, and I see houses all around me taking an active stand against research. It gave me the creeps. It reached inside my chest, and I felt a tinge uncomfortable. I actually toyed with the idea of packing up and moving. “Now that I know how you really feel, excuse me while I return to a more open-minded part of the country.”
I wondered if I should be a good citizen, walk down the block, and knock on the door of the red sign posters. “Hi. I’m a scientist, and I wonder if you could tell me why you favor throwing blastocysts straight into the garbage, rather than letting them donate a few of their stem cells to research that will benefit humanity?” But I felt afraid to approach the house. I don’t know exaclty what I feared, perhaps that people wouldn’t be able to tell me anything other than it’s just not right, and slam the door in my face.
What I didn’t see, were signs for the opposite viewpoint. I was sure that the majority of people were in favor of stem cell research. So where are all the signs for that?