from the world's big
3 unsung heroes who helped society overcome division
The true course of progress is not only charted by great men and women, but also by ordinary people having conversations.
- History's great men and women may enjoy name recognition, but everyday heroes can be anyone willing to talk.
- We profile three everyday heroes who helped society overcome adversity through civil discourse.
- Their stories validate John Stuart Mill's belief that good things happen when you converse with people with whom you disagree.
If your history class was like ours, it focused on the great-man view of history. We learned of generals who stormed the battlefield for a decisive victory. We memorized the speeches of powerful leaders preaching lofty ideals. And we remembered great inventors who updated our world to v2.0.
But the great man theory of history misses the point: History's course is charted by everyday people. A powerful leader may offer an era its rallying point, but true progress advances when ordinary people engage in civil discourse to change minds one person at a time.
Here are three people who helped others overcome entrenched, bigoted divisions. They didn't win a war or make a speech before an audience of millions. They engaged in conversations that helped remind others of our common humanity.
Gordon Hirabayashi (left), Minoru Yasui (center), and Fred Korematsu (right). These three civil rights activists took their arguments against the internment of Japanese-Americans to the Supreme Court.
A lawyer from Oregon, Minoru Yasui was an integral figure in the fight against the United States' internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yasui attempted to join the army but was rejected because of his race — despite having obtained the rank of second lieutenant through a Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed the military to set curfews, designate exclusion zones, and intern American citizens based on ancestry. The order focused mainly on Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, but German and Italian Americans also faced these discriminating policies.
Yasui immediately hatched a plan to test the order's legality in the courts: He deliberately stayed out after curfew to be arrested. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In Yasui vs. United States, the justices determined the curfew and executive order were valid. Yasui was released from prison in 1943 with time already served and ushered to a Japanese internment camp, where he was held until 1944.
With his court case lost, you would think Yasui would have been defeated, but he wasn't close to being finished. As he once said, "If we believe in America, if we believe in equality and democracy, if we believe in law and justice, then each of us, when we see or believe errors are being made, has an obligation to make every effort to correct them."
After being released from the camp, he worked diligently for the remainder of his life toward redress of the inhumane treatment of Japanese Americans. As a senior leader of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), he called for reparations and a legislative guarantee that the constitutional violations put upon Japanese Americans during WWII would never happen again, to any American. His and others' convictions were eventually overturned in the lower courts in 1986, the year of Yasui's death, and the JACL's redress campaign culminated in Congress passing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which called for reparations and an official apology from the president.
President Obama posthumously presented Yasui with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Daryl Davis shows a robe given to him by a Klansman who left the KKK. Davis keeps this and other robes he's been given to remind himself that conversation can reduce hate in the world.
Daryl Davis is an R&B and blues musician. Nothing brings people together like great music, so Davis could have made this list on his virtuosity alone. But we've added him for another reason. As a black man, he made it his mission to befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Davis met his first Klansman while playing piano at the Silver Dollar Lounge in Frederick, Maryland, more than three decades ago. The two struck up a conversation. The Klansman was surprised that a black man played in the same style as Jerry Lee Lewis. Davis informed him that Lewis's musical idols were black musicians, a surprising revelation for the Klansman.
"The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted," Davis told NPR. "So, what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it. That was the impetus for me to write a book. I decided to go around the country and sit down with Klan leaders and Klan members to find out: How can you hate me when you don't even know me?"
Over 30 years of conversations, Davis has convinced about 200 people to quit the Klan. When they leave, they give him their robes, which he keeps as a reminder that his efforts have measurably lessened racism in the world.
"Establish a dialogue," Davis told the Daily Mail. "It's when the talking stops that the ground becomes fertile for fighting. When two enemies are talking, they're not fighting."
How one black man convinced 200 KKK members to quit the Klan
Former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper has left the church and now advocates for the power of conversation.
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. At the age of five, she began to picket with her family, hoisting up signs that read "God hates fags," "Jews stole our land," or "God sent the IEDs." Later, she became the voice for the hate-filled organization on social media.
For most people this would be a nonstarter for any conversation, and for many, it was. Twitter responses directed at Phelps-Roper were typically filled with scorn and loathing. But through the noise, some conversations took shape. Phelps-Roper and a few of her detractors began to have open, civil conversations about their opposing beliefs.
"There was no confusion about our positions, but the line between friend and foe was becoming blurred," she said during her TED talk. "We'd started to see each other as human beings, and it changed the way we spoke to one another."
Thanks to her conversations with her cultural "enemies," she left Westboro in 2012. Today, she speaks publicly on the power of conversations to overcome divisions.
"My friends on Twitter didn't abandon their beliefs or their principles — only their scorn," Phelps-Roper said. "They channeled their infinitely justifiable offense and came to me with pointed questions tempered with kindness and humor. They approached me as a human being, and that was more transformative than two full decades of outrage, disdain, and violence."
The power of conversations
Of course, there are many unsung heroes whose quiet efforts have made this world a better, less divisive place, and we should celebrate them where we find them. As Sarah Ruger, Director of Free Speech Initiatives at the Charles Koch Institute, argues:
"How can we promote a culture of openness in society that makes us, as individuals, receptive to engaging with even the most deplorable views with the goal of changing them? At the end of the day I'm a John Stuart Mill nerd; I think nothing but good things happen when you engage with ideas with which you disagree. You either learn how to better defend your position, maybe you move closer to truth, maybe you persuade the other of a given view, but either way you've all learned something and been made better by that encounter."
These three people show us the truth of John Stuart Mill's belief. Engaging and debating with ideas we find wrongheaded or deplorable can not only help our society overcome division, but make us a stronger, more cohesive whole.
Several experts have weighed in on our sometimes morbid curiosity and fascination with true crime stories.
- True crime podcasts can get as many as 500,000 downloads per month. In the Top 100 Podcasts of 2020 list for Apple US, several true crime podcasts ranked within the Top 20.
- Our fascination with true crime isn't just limited to podcasts, with Netflix documentaries like "Confessions of a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" scoring high popularity with viewers.
- Several experts weight in on our fascination with true crime stories with theories including fear-based adrenaline rushes to the inherent need to understand the human mind.
Why are we fascinated with true crime stories?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzODA1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzkwOTAzOX0.7WqeWaf-odtEJV5XB2jdEG1uPU5d6Uaujw6iy6MKMbw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="d99fc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4d3cc24145f6a0f324162f1cf1dfe83" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woman standing in front of crime scene notes true crime stories true crime podcasts" />
Several experts and psychologists weigh in on why we could be so fascinated by violence, destruction and true crime stories...
Photo by Motortion Films on Shutterstock<p>Several experts have weighed in on this topic over the years, as the spike in popularity of true crime media has continued at an astonishing rate.</p> <p><strong>Psychopaths are charismatic.</strong> </p><p>One of the <a href="https://www.scienceofpeople.com/psychopath/#:~:text=Psychopathy%20researchers%20found%20that%20psychopaths,defer%20gratification%20and%20control%20behavior" target="_blank">defining qualities of a psychopath</a> is that they have "superficial charm and glibness", which could explain part of our fascination with podcasts, tv shows, and movies that cover the lives of famous serial killers. </p> <p><strong>Our psychology demands we pay attention to things that could harm us.</strong></p><p>Psychology can play a large role in why we like what we like, and our fascination with true crime stories is no exception. When it comes to potential threats or things that could be threatening to humanity, perhaps we've been conditioned to pay those things extra attention. </p> <p>According to Dr. John Mayer, a clinical psychologist at <a href="http://www.doctorondemand.com/" target="_blank">Doctor on Demand</a> who spoke about the process <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/science-behind-why-we-can-t-look-away-disasters-ncna804966" target="_blank">in an interview with NCB News</a>, seeing destruction, disaster, or tragedy actually triggers survival instincts in us. </p> <p><em>"A disaster enters into our awareness - this can be from a live source such as driving by a traffic accident or from watching a news report about a hurricane, a plane crash or any disaster. This data from our perceptual system then stimulates the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for emotions, survival tactics and memory). The amygdala then sends signals to the regions of the frontal cortex that are involved in analyzing and interpreting data. Next, the brain evaluates whether this data (awareness of the disaster) is a threat to you, thus judgment gets involved. As a result, the 'fight or flight' response is evoked." </em></p> <p><strong>Could it just be morbid curiosity? </strong></p><p>Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., and professor at De Sales University explained <a href="https://www.bustle.com/p/why-are-people-so-obsessed-with-true-crime-experts-reveal-the-evolutionary-reasons-why-18138062" target="_blank">in an interview with Bustle</a>:</p> <p><em>"Part of our love of true crime is based on something very natural: curiosity. People reading or watching a true crime story are engaged on several levels. They are curious about who would do this, they want to know the psychology of the bad guy, girl, or team. They want to know something about the abhorrent mind. They also love the puzzle - figuring out how it was done." </em></p> <p><strong>Perhaps it's a way of facing our fears and planning our own reactions without risking immediate harm. </strong></p><p>Psychiatrist Dr. David Henderson spoke with NBC News on this topic, suggesting that we may be fascinated with violence, destruction or crime as a way of assessing how we would handle ourselves if put into that situation.</p> <p><em>"Witnessing violence and destruction, whether it is in a novel, a movie, on TV or a real life scene playing out in front of us in real time, gives us the opportunity to confront our fears of death, pain, despair, degradation and annihilation while still feeling some level of safety. This sensation is sometimes experienced when we stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon or look through the glass at a ferocious lion at the zoo. We watch because we are allowed to ask ourselves ultimate questions with an intensity of emotion that is uncoupled from the true reality of the disaster: 'If I was in that situation, what would I do? How would I respond? Would I be the hero or the villain? Could I endure the pain? Would I have the strength to recover?' We play out the different scenarios in our head because it helps us to reconcile that which is uncontrollable with our need to remain in control."</em></p> <p><strong>Psychologically, negative events activate our brains more than positive events. </strong></p><p><a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0033-2909.134.3.383" target="_blank">A 2008 study</a> published by the American Psychological Association found that humans react to and learn more from negative experiences than we do positive ones. The term "negative bias" is the tendency to automatically give more attention (and meaning) to negative events and information more than positive events or information. </p> <p><strong>A forced perspective may trigger empathy and act as a coping mechanism. </strong></p><p>Viewing destruction (or listening to/watching true crime stories) could be beneficial. How? According to Dr. Mayer (who explained this stance in <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/science-behind-why-we-can-t-look-away-disasters-ncna804966" target="_blank">his interview with NBC News</a>), <em>"the healthy mechanism of watching disasters is that it is a coping mechanism. We can become incubated emotionally by watching disasters and this helps us cope with hardships in our lives…" </em></p> <p><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/science-behind-why-we-can-t-look-away-disasters-ncna804966" target="_blank">Dr. Stephen Rosenburg points out</a>, however, that this empathetic response can also have a negative impact.<em> "Being human and having empathy can make us feel worried or depressed." </em></p> <p>Dr. Rosenberg goes on to explain that this can also impact the negativity bias.<em> "We tend to think negatively to protect ourselves from the reality. If it turns out better, we're relieved. If it turns out worse, we're prepared." </em></p> <p><strong>Perhaps the adrenaline of fear that comes from listening to or watching true crime can become addicting. </strong></p><p>Similarly to how runners get a "runners high" from exercise or feel depressed when they have missed a scheduled run, the adrenaline that pumps during our consumption of true crime stories <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201508/can-you-be-addicted-adrenaline" target="_blank">can become addictive</a>. </p> <p>According to sociology and criminology professor Scott Bonn, <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201605/the-delightful-guilty-pleasure-watching-true-crime-tv" target="_blank">in an interview with Psychology Today</a>: <em>"The public is drawn to these stories because they trigger the most basic and powerful emotion in us all: fear." </em></p>
Apparently the Catholic Church is a small business.
- Churches and ministries received up to $10 billion in federal assistance during the first round of stimulus.
- The Catholic Church exploited a loophole to be considered a "small business" and received up to $3.5 billion in forgivable loans.
- With stimulus measures ending last week, up to 40 million Americans are in danger of losing their homes.
People wait for Pope Francis to give a short speech followed by the Angelus from the window of his apartment over St. Peter's Square on September 02, 2018 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images<p>Catholic institutions in America employ over <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/03/13/the-new-pope-will-be-one-of-americas-biggest-employers/" target="_blank">one million people</a>, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/234488/number-of-amazon-employees/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20represents%20the%20combined,-%20and%20part-time%20employees." target="_blank">200,000 more</a> workers than on Amazon's payroll. Quite a small business.</p><p>The Catholic Church wasn't the only non-taxpaying entity to receive a boon. A campus ministry subsidiary of the Presbyterian Church of America <a href="https://ministrywatch.com/churches-and-religious-non-profits-received-6-10-billion-in-covid-relief-funds/" target="_blank">received between $5-$10 million</a>. Another $5 million went to Willow Creek Community Church, a megachurch whose longtime pastor was <a href="https://ministrywatch.com/a-ministrywatch-analysis-what-happened-at-willow-creek/" target="_blank">accused of sexual misconduct</a> in 2018. </p><p>The First Baptist Church of Dallas <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-ppp-religious/televangelists-megachurches-tied-to-trump-approved-for-millions-in-pandemic-aid-idUSKBN2480CB" target="_blank">received up to $5 million</a>. The church's leader, Robert Jeffress, <a href="https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/top-10-things-first-baptist-dallas-pastor-robert-jeffress-thinks-8326587" target="_blank">believes</a> abortion caused 9/11, gay sex can make you explode, and pedophilia and homosexuality are inherently related. Jeffress also sits on Trump's evangelical advisory board. </p><p>Churches and ministries receiving at least $2 million include ministry group, Jews for Jesus (<a href="https://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=6322" target="_blank">total assets</a>: $39,596,245); evangelical book and music publisher, David C Cook (<a href="https://www.ecfa.org/memberprofile.aspx?id=7737" target="_blank">total assets</a>: $87,871,425); Mariners Church, an Irvine-based megachurch (<a href="https://www.ecfa.org/ComparativeFinancialData.aspx?ID=23142&Type=Member" target="_blank">total assets</a>: $107,026,283); The Summit Church, a North Carolina-based Southern Baptist church (<a href="https://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=44905" target="_blank">total assets</a>: $60,694,442); and Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries (<a href="https://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=5396" target="_blank">total assets</a>: $46,203,410).</p><p>Another <a href="https://ministrywatch.com/ministries-and-churches-receiving-more-than-1-m-in-paycheck-protection-program-funds/" target="_blank">400 ministries received at least $1 million</a> in forgivable loans under the CARES Act. </p><p>To reiterate, up to 40 million Americans may lose their home this year. </p><p>While churches already save <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/how-to-make-71-billion-a-year-tax-the-churches" target="_self">$71 billion</a> in tax relief every year, both Republican and Democratic proposals allow religious organizations to participate in the next round of stimulus funding. </p><p>Blessed are the meek, unless you have a lobbyist. Then you're just blessed. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.
- A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
- The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
- This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.
Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
A neural crêpe
A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.
So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.
The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."
Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum
Image source: Sereno, et al.
A complicated map
Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."
That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.
It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."
This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."
Bigger and bigger
The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.
"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."
As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."
Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."
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