Man donates self to 'Bodies' protest

"Man donates self to 'Bodies' protest"

Thanks to the Boston Herald for permission to post this article by The Working Stiff

"The Working Stiff" The Boston Herald November 7, 2007


It's Monday afternoon, only 48 hours since Chinese corpses first

greeted the people of Framingham, and Aaron Ginsburg realizes he

picked the wrong day to protest.

Maybe a half-dozen cars are in the parking lot for "Bodies…The

Exhibition," a traveling circus sideshow featuring plasticized human

remains. Ginsburg, a 57-year-old pharmacist from Sharon, wonders aloud

if he should have timed his one-man picket line for a school group or

the weekend shopping crowd.

The venue for his tamed outrage is bizarre. He's pacing in front of a

vacant CompUSA store, sandwiched between a Chrysler dealership and

Barmakian Jewelers on Route 30. The competing "Body Worlds 2" exhibit

was featured last summer at the Boston Museum of Science, a far more

prestigious home.

It makes me wonder if Bostonians are growing bored by "controversial"

human anatomy displays. Where will be the next local stop for

silicone-infused gall bladders? The Revere Flea Market?

Passing motorists don't acknowledge Ginsburg, who carries a scribbled

sign reading "This is Wrong." Not even a single honk. For the most

part, the protester's human contact is limited to me and another

newspaper reporter.

"Bodies…The Exhibition" runs until Feb. 17, 2008 in Framingham,

fetching $24 per adult and $17 per child visitor. The parent company,

Atlanta-based Premiere Exhibitions (PRXI), has experienced a roller

coaster ride in the stock market this year – ranging from $5.90 to

$18.82 a share. As of yesterday, shares were hovering around $10.

Premiere Exhibitions touts the educational value of displaying dead

bodies, suggesting it will encourage people to quit smoking and

exercise. The company says its human subjects all died of natural

causes and were legally obtained by Dalian Medical University in


Ginsburg and other critics of plasticized cadavers charge that it is

immoral to use dead bodies as a source of entertainment. They wonder

if the bodies really belong to political prisoners, arguing that

China's human rights abuses and recent track record with poisoned dog

food and lead-painted toys make it difficult to believe the Chinese

government about anything.

Regardless of where the bodies came from, I feel like I belong on the

picket line with Ginsburg. Once you soak a human being in plastic,

does he or she become plastic? Do they become life-size G.I. Joes or

Barbies (also manufactured in China)?

I have huge issues with the whimsical action figure poses used in

these exhibits. How do we know that the corpses playing tennis or

volleyball even liked sports when they were alive?

I first met Ginsburg last year when he demonstrated outside the Museum

of Science. I immediately wanted to drop my notebook and become his

protesting consultant, but I stuck to dispassionate Q & A.

Motorists were ignoring him then because he had written his sign in

thin red ink. Heck, I had trouble reading his slogan when I was

standing 20 feet away. His leaflets were text-heavy with absolutely no

photos or white space. I wanted to redesign all his marketing

materials, but I kept my mouth shut.

When I saw Ginsburg this time, not much had changed. He used thick

black letters on his sign, a marked improvement, but the penmanship

looked sloppy and rushed. His educational materials, still with no

white space, were pinned to foam board and sitting in bark mulch.

Pedestrians, even those with strong backs, typically won't bend over

to read an essay.

Ginsburg, who works up to 52 hours a week at his pharmacy in Randolph,

doesn't devote much time to picketing. He limits himself to one-hour

stints a few times a year, a laughable duration to the die-hard

marathon protestors you'd see at anti-war rallies. The bulk of his

activism is reserved for his "Dignity in Boston" Web site and blog,

where he networks with opponents of human body exhibits in other


"Bodies… The Exhibition" couldn't have asked for a more polite

protestor. Wearing a necktie on his day off, Ginsburg represents his

"dignity" brand well. Ask him a question and there's usually an

introspective pause before he delivers his answers with a pharmacist's

calm tone and confidence.

Apparently, Ginsburg has digested all of the news articles piled in

the bark mulch. And he doesn't care if he's the only one out there

lobbying the rare Route 30 pedestrians.

"Being alone doesn't bother me," he says with a shrug. "If I were

discouraged about being alone, nobody would ever accomplish anything."


Darren Garnick's "Working Stiff" column runs every Wednesday in the

Boston Herald. For an extra helping of "The Working Stiff,"

visit the Working Stiff blog