Century Marks

Century Marks

Conspiracy theories

Psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen says conspiracy theories aren’t bred by isolated individuals, as is frequently assumed. Recent research focuses on two related elements in conspiracy beliefs: lack of self-esteem and a strong sense of belonging to a particular social group. Uncertainty about self-identity can create a strong desire to make sense of an often random world, and social solidarity can make people wary of external threats, fostering a “they are out to get us” mentality. Rather than arising from isolated individuals, conspiracy fears come from a concern to protect an in-group which feels threatened (Pacific Standard, October 27).

Mea culpa

Over half a century after Larry Gara was fired as a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, a representative of his former employer showed up at his door and apologized. Gara spent time in prison for refusing to register for the draft during World War II. His views were anathema to J. Howard Pew, then president of Sun Oil and chairman of the board at Grove City, a Presbyterian college. Pew accused him of being a communist. Gara, now 93, landed a job at Wilmington College in Ohio, where he taught for the rest of his career. No one is still living who was directly involved in his firing; the apology was delivered by Richard Jewell, former president at Grove City (AP).

Table talk

Following outbreaks of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, an Israeli hummus restaurant near the coastal city of Netanya offered 50 percent discounts to Jewish and Arab customers who sat together. “If there’s anything that can bring together these peoples, it’s hummus,” the restaurant manager said (Jewish Telegraphic Agency).

Gun safety

John J. Donohue III, a lawyer and economist at Stanford Uni­ver­sity, says the facts don’t support the claim that guns make us safer. “Guns are a bit like chest X-rays,” he says. “If you really need them, they can be helpful to have around, and even save lives. If you don’t need them, and yet are constantly exposed to them, they represent a constant threat while conferring little or no benefit.” While mass shootings get all the attention, far more gun deaths happen in America in other ways. Putting more police on the streets lowered gun deaths during the Clinton years. Gun control measures Donohue recommends are universal background checks (which about 90 percent of Americans support), a restriction on high-capacity magazines, and imposing and enforcing safe storage measures at the local level (Stanford Lawyer, October 12).

Wedding dream

Brian Darweesh and Reem Younes had a simple, civil wedding as Syrian refugees in Lebanon. They had fled from their homes in Syria due to violence and a threat on Darweesh’s life. Two Mennonite congregations in Winnipeg, Manitoba, sponsored their immigration to Canada. A little over a year after the civil wedding, the two Canadian congregations threw the couple a wedding ceremony, complete with a wedding dress for Younes and a Syrian dessert. “She married the man of her dreams . . . but [until now] she didn’t get to have the wedding of her dreams,” a congregational representative said (Mennonite World Review, October 16).