Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Of Mycoplasma Genitalium and Blue Whales

Mycoplasma genitalium

Mycoplasma genitalium

According to scientists, who readily admit that they will know more tomorrow than they did yesterday, the smallest living thing in the world is a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. Considered to be an ultra micro-bacterium smaller than other small bacteria, it has a size ranging from 200 to no more than 300 nm. (“nm” stands for “nanometer.” A single nanometer is 1/1,000,000,000 of a meter (or one millionth of a millimeter), meaning that it is close to 1/1,000,000,000 of a yard). In other words, a single strand of Mycoplasma genitalium (which can cause one of the newest and most virulent of all sexually transmitted diseases) only becomes visible when placed under a powerful electron microscope. And when it is, it appears to be absolutely gigantic.

Balaenoptera musculus

Balaenoptera musculus

Now on the other hand, zoologists - who likewise are learning new things all the time - believe that the largest living thing in the world is a Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) which can grow to 100 feet long and weigh in excess of 400,000 pounds - that’s 200 tons. Of course, it is next to impossible to weigh anything approaching 400,000 pounds; this is but an estimate based on weighing various parts of the creature once it has been harpooned (or beached), cut into parts and weighed. For more than a century, these maritime behemoths were hunted, captured and carved up to the point of extinction. Since the turn of this century, the hunting of Blue Whales has been made illegal. As of 2002, the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) estimates that globally, there are currently somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 Blue Whales left on the planet. But that number may be growing.

Whereas it is virtually impossible to see a Mycoplasma genitalium without the aid of an electron microscope (which then makes it appear to be as large as a T. Rex, it is impossible to miss a Balaenoptera musculus . . . if only one knows which seas they inhabit.

In any event, just contemplating the smallest and largest living creatures on the planet brings to mind a verse from the book of Psalms (104:24) which states:

מָֽה־רַבּ֬וּ מַֽעֲשֶׂ֨יךָ ׀ יְֽהוָ֗ה כֻּ֭לָּם בְּחָכְמָ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ מָלְאָ֥ה הָ֝אָ֗רֶץ קִנְיָנֶֽךָ

Namely: “How great are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar

I can hear readers asking “What in the world does all this have to do with a political blog?” Well, let me remind you that the blog’s subtitle is “Politics AND A WHOLE LOT MORE.” In this case, this initial discussion of the smallest and largest living things on earth has quite a bit to do with politics. Case in point: the recent media attack on newly-elected Representative Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.), one of two Muslim women (the other being Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib) elected to the 116th Congress. Rep-elect Omar has made it clear that she will continue wearing her hijab (Muslim head covering) while serving in Congress. (Rep.-elect Omar was born in Somalia; Rep.-elect Tlaib in Detroit, the child of Palestinian parents. Tlaib, who supports a two-state solution [which even Israeli P.M. Netanyahu supports), does not wear a hijab.)

Immediately upon announcing that she would continue wearing a hijab, Republicans and other staunch supporters of Israel began researching the history of wearing hats (or indeed, any head covering) on the floor of Congress, and unearthed the fact that on September 14, 1837, the House adopted a rule stipulating that no Member could wear a hat on the floor during a session of the House.  With virtually no debate, the rules were modified to read: “Every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House.”  Truth to tell, this rule was meant to be a slap at the Brits, who customarily wore top-hats during sessions of the House of Commons. Over the years, this edict came to include top-hats, bowlers, boaters and, of course, yarmulkes. Nowhere, however, was the subject of hijabs - or other religious head coverings - mentioned . . . until just the other day. (One wonders if the august members of Congress ever considered that a toupee is also a head-covering? The House turned down its most famous hat-wearers, Bella Abzug and Frederica Wilson [she of the sequined cowgirl hats], stating that they were mere “fashion statements,” not part of “religious garb.”)

What Mycoplasma genitalium and Blue Whales have to do with the issue of Rep. Omar and her hijab is this: The other day, Yahoo News ran a piece about this situation, and noted that Rep.-elect Omar, along with Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern are planning on submitting a partial repeal of the rule which will allow religious accommodation - e.g., the wearing of a Muslim hijabb, Jewish kippah (yarmulke) or Sikh dastar. Already, the Yahoo News article noted, several Orthodox Jewish groups - including The Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel have come out in favor of the rule change. 

The Yahoo News article began with a quote from “Conservative minister” (as well as Harvard-trained attorney and radio talk show host) E.W. Jackson, that “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic . . . . We are a Judeo-Christian country. “We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.” As deluded, deranged and disconcerting as the reverend’s comments were, far worse were a majority of the comments coming from the e-verse which had read the piece. (As of Monday morning, there were nearly 11,500 comments). Among some of the more bigoted and hateful we find (all are copied and printed 'sic erat scriptum' - warts and all):

  • Elect one Muslim and the entire country is supposed to transform its' rules to accommodate her religion. Who is she representing, because it clearly isn't the "American" people. (4,177 “thumbs up” and 575 “thumbs down”);

  • ”There's no reason whatsoever to change the House rules to accommodate Omar. If she seeks to work in the House of Representatives then SHE can bloody well do the changing to accommodate the culture in which she finds herself.” (4,268 “thumbs up” and 375 “thumbs down”);

  • “How much freedom of religion would we have if every member of Congress were Muslim?” (3,545 “thumbs up” and 304 “thumbs down”);

  • “Just curious. What is her goal of being a congresswomen? Is it to represent her district and the citizens in it? Or it is to represent Muslims and disregard what her actual constituents want? We all know the answer.” (67 “thumbs up” and 2 “thumbs down”);”

  • “Electing these people into office which by the way is the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the nation, and female mutilation with be the law and not an elective!” (97 “thumbs up” and 4 “thumbs down.”);

  • “The path of muslims and Islam is always the same.1) Establish a Mosque 2) Create an enclave 3) Grow the population and outbreed them. 4)Claim victimhood 5) Resist host authorities and customs. 6) Exploit lawfare. 7) Institute Sharia law. 8) Secede. 9) Take control and destroy everything in their path. Thanks Bathhouse Barry.” (470 “thumbs up” and 41 “thumbs down”).

Before anyone begins getting an utter feeling of dread, remember this: even Mycoplasma genitalium, when put under a powerful electron microscope, can wind up appearing to be as vast as a Blue Whale. This is not to say that the number or percentage of people in America who agree with Reverend Jackson and express their dumbed-down, stereoscopic bigotry online are of sufficient numbers to overthrow our representative Democracy. They are not. Doesn’t the recent midterm election show that we are neither down nor out? It’s just that the media has become society’s electron microscope, making whatever is placed on its stage appear to be far, far larger (or in this case, menacing) than it truly is. Just as few fans of MSNBC, NPR or the New York Times ever take the time to check out Fox News, OAN or Breitbart to get an idea of what kind of drek the president’s base is being fed, so too do few Trumpeters ever take the time to check out more fact-based sources. If they did - and could get past the urge to regurgitate what they “know for a fact” is “fake news,” they might get the idea that there are more of us than of them.

Remember this: according to biologists and geneticists, Mycoplasma genitalium, if not attended to carefully, can be fatal. But according to cetologists (scientists who specialize in the science of whales), Blue Whales are, miraculously, making a comeback . . .

694 days until we go to the polls and elect a new POTUS . . .

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone