Readers Write: (May 24): 'Playing God,' battling racism, recycling Styrofoam

  • Updated: May 23, 2014 - 5:58 PM

Not all life challenges are inspirational, but our efforts to deal with them are authentic.

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‘PLAYING GOD’

Some painful decisions are indeed authentic

Daniel Taylor (“If we play God, world will be a lesser place,” May 23) wrote a beautiful tribute to Grant Petersen, whose joyful optimism made his second-place medal as glorious as a first-place honor. As Taylor noted, Down syndrome does not define Petersen, but he failed to recognize that, while a cheerful outlook on life is characteristic of Down syndrome, cheerfulness is not a companion effect for many others whose grave physical and/or mental challenges can be identified in utero.

Taylor then made the weird argument that technology and social support for women’s reproductive rights are threatening to make our brothers and sisters like Grant Petersen “extinct” and that we “collectively” are responsible — as if, instead, we should be finding ways to create more children with Down syndrome.

Let’s be honest: Generally speaking, the human being is naturally disposed to overcome what are perceived as problems. In the process, and not being prescient, we often come to conclusions without benefit of all potential future developments, but fear of making a mistake should not be reason to deny us the opportunity to make painful decisions.

Technology (not playing God, as this article’s headline suggested) has created countless solutions to life challenges, and we collectively have embraced many of them. While Taylor offers us an insightful and heartening viewpoint on dealing with what many would consider undesirable, his personal position and this inspirational story should not deny the rest of us the authenticity of our viewpoints.

Shawn Gilbert, Bloomington

 

RACISM

Examples like Sterling are low-hanging fruit

For every action, ask: What is its effect on the world? Mitch Pearlstein’s May 22 commentary “What’s more telling about race in America?” — the racist or our reaction — appears to be positive by applauding how society has dealt with racists like Donald Sterling. But the ultimate effect of the article is that it lets us pat ourselves on the back for being anti-racists, sidetracking us from more important problems that are in part the result of racism, such as “the infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was 2.4 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women” (MacDorman 2011), and “black Americans are 79% more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger” (Fox News, Dec. 14, 2005). These are the kinds of issues Pearlstein does not mention; what is not said can be as important as what is said.

When people start talking about how well their nation is doing at fixing a problem, it plays into the hands of those not wanting to make any far-reaching changes. I say strive for improvement. While the occasional ferreting out of racists is needed, the primary goal should be changes to the laws, policies and bureaucracies of a society that, regardless of who is to blame, has allowed for current racial inequalities. Pearlman’s unsaid argument, however, is that since Sterling has been purged, the system is fair and works. And the article’s ultimate message on racism is: We are fixing the problem, so move along, nothing to see here.

John Champe, Minneapolis

 

STYROFOAM

Better than recycling: A promising alternative

Missing from a May 20 commentary about Styrofoam (“Minneapolis: City of lightweight leaders”) and the subsequent letters to the editor was any reference to the most dramatic and promising rival to the product that has ever occurred in the packaging industry.

A year ago at this time, the New Yorker reported on the discovery by a recent graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of a natural phenomenon on his family farm — that mushrooms and discarded corn stalks, tightly bound together, metamorphose into a fiber product that is strong and 100 percent biodegradable.

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