Clay Farris Naff of Nebraskans for Science shares some reflections on “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” after viewing it with in a packed house in Lincoln, Nebraska — a region with, of course, close ties to Kansas and itself home to a fiesty, hopeless outnumbered band of progressive prairie populists.
Perhaps in part because he recognizes the wide range of Kansans in the film from his own adventures in Nebraska, Clay easily got past the, er, strong emotional response, that many liberals have to a close encounter with conservative Kansans and grasped the nuance of what we were striving to achieve with the film.
Human nature can be finicky as a cat. It often causes us to turn up our noses and reject people from our circle of trust at the first whiff of difference. Like cats, we react instinctively to appearance, smell, and behavior. Studies show that we instinctively analyze faces for degree of symmetry. Bet you were never conscious of that! But being higher apes, we simultaneously subject others to a cultural and political checklist, deciding in a flash whether they are “our kind of folks.”
High on the American checklist these days is how biblical a person is. If they’re wearing a gaudy cross around their neck, or a John 3:16 t-shirt, or even a purity ring, they’re instantly either brethren in Christ or dweebs from Jesusland. It’s human nature to react this way. But, in an interdependent world, and even in a nation “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we simply cannot afford to be so dismissive.
That’s why a documentary film now slouching its way through Midwestern and West Coast art houses toward a New York opening this summer has such value. It gently nudges us beyond our stereotypes to consider the humanity of the “Other.”