When I was a teenager, my sister lived in Scotland for a year and made friends with a brilliant pianist from China who had defected to the west. When he eventually moved to the U.S., he came to visit our family and we all got to hear stories of what his life had been like. It hadn’t been great.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

There was a lot about China he still loved. Naturally. But it was not a place he could safely live. The Cultural Revolution had shaped his teenage years and left some big scars. He remembered watching his father, a professor, having his glasses ripped from his face and broken in half.

There was something about that image that really struck me. I’ve had to wear glasses since kindergarten – thick glasses, along with crooked bangs and a shocking sense of fashion. I’m sure you knew a kid like me, unless you were the kid like me. Point is, although I often take them off for photos, I can’t actually navigate the world at all without my glasses. The idea of my glasses being taken and destroyed was upsetting.

Of course, for our friend’s parents, it was a lot worse. Many people like his father, people with advanced degrees, were taken, punished and sent through “re-education” camps. It was bad to have knowledge.

This made no sense to me whatsoever. After all, I grew up in the ’70s. My sacred Saturday mornings were held together with episodes of “School House Rock.” If you’re about my age, I’m betting you can still sing the theme song.

It seemed to me (Oh, how simple and innocent those times seem now!) that right there was the difference between a horrid, fascist, repressive regime and the wonderful, open freedom-loving west: We valued thinkers!  Well, that and access to Levi’s.

But seriously. The freedom to think big thoughts, ask crazy questions, experiment and be bold – that’s what makes us great, right? I mean that’s how we got to the moon.

OK, and leaving patriotism out of it for a moment, this drive is part of what makes us human. That’s how we as a species moved out of the caves. Fire itself might be natural, but harnessing fire for cooking, light and heat? That’s education, that’s knowledge.

So I am baffled, and saddened, to hear people being mocked for listening to scientists. What is up with this? Why are we down on knowing?

I think it’s possible that we’ve placed too much weight on only certain kinds of knowing, and people who excel in other ways have felt excluded, or lesser. If so, that stinks. We should all be recognized for our worth. The answer, though, is not to shun or punish the folks who are the ones that can provide answers for the problems.

When my car isn’t working, I need someone who knows cars to make it right. In order to eat, we need people who know how to grow food. When my sister had cancer, she needed people who know about that to help her get better. To stay warm this winter, I need someone who knows wood stoves. For our sanity, we need people who know how to sit still and just be. Knowledge is good.

Right now, we need the doctors and the scientists to figure out this virus. To tell us how it works, how to avoid it, how to stop it, how to cure it. We need their knowledge. I am so grateful our nation has been the leader in top-notch education and we are home to such a fantastic group of thinkers from across the globe. They are offering their knowledge. Let us take it.

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