We Are All Stardust
There are many questions I have struggled with since the 2016 presidential election. How did we get to this place of division? How can people see the world so differently even though they grew up in the same family? But the one question that runs deepest for me is how can some people go through life believing that we aren't all connected? Connection is a self-evident truth for me; I see it and feel it everywhere. In nature, in the sky, and with my daughter. Is it that our instant gratification culture teaches us that if an event doesn't impact us directly within a few moments of its occurrence, that we take that as proof that it will never impact us? What human experiences lead people to see the world as disconnected? Or is it the way in which our brain is wired at birth?
Take the separation of families at our southern border, for example. On the surface, this issue may seem to not affect the lives of very many Americans, especially in places that are hundreds of miles from the border. Asylum-seeking adults are separated from their children at the border and either deported or sent to a detention camp while their children are taken from them and sent to a separate children's detention center. Many Americans are able to detach themselves from this horrifying practice by justifying it as the rightful punishment for "breaking the rules." They are able to separate their own humanity from that of others. They are unwilling or unable to empathize with the asylum seekers. They fail to see all of the pain and trauma that is being unleashed in the world and how that will affect them at some point. What will be the outcome of two to three generations of these separated families enduring deep trauma? Maybe a loss of productivity, maybe serious illness, maybe an inability to contribute to society. These are very real consequences with very real costs to our country and to humanity as a whole. We need only look to the trauma that slavery or the Japanese internment unleashed to get a glimpse of what may lie ahead. There are many imagined and unimagined repercussions for this inhumane action by our government and we will all be affected in some way because science has proven that we are all connected.
In 2000, then President Bill Clinton announced the results of the Genome Project which found that all human beings, regardless of race, are 99.9% genetically the same. It's astonishing to me to think that with all of the varieties among human beings we are nearly identical genetically speaking. According to Professor Dorothy Roberts, a leading scholar on racial science, as heard on the Scene on Radio podcast special "Seeing White" (Part 8), African people express most of the world's genetic variability all on their own. This means that there are some Africans that are more genetically similar to other people in the world than they are to other Africans. For example, Somalis are more genetically similar to Europeans than they are to Zimbabweans. Findings from the Genome Project refute cultural norms that state that race is biological. Science proves that there is only one race, the human race.
If the findings of the Genome Project aren't enough to prove we're all connected, just look up at the night sky. Every time we star gaze, we are seeing a part of ourselves. According to my favorite astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson:
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
I think of this quote every night when I gaze up at the sky or when I'm in the presence of trees, or when I'm in a situation where I can't understand the views of another person. I am still connected to them, as they are to me. Perhaps we are 50th cousins, because if we're all connected, that means we're also all related. This connection doesn't mean we'll ever see eye to eye, but it does give me hope that one day we can all live as though we are all connected.