Century Marks

Century Marks

Charity

Tim DeChristopher, an environmental activist, was found guilty of making false statements and of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act. He was charged with subverting the leasing of publicly owned lands in Utah to gas and oil companies. DeChristopher's strategy was to outbid the companies in an auction, even though he didn't have the means to lease the land. When he appeared in court to receive his sentence, he gave a passionate speech defending his actions. Then he turned to the judge and said, "This is what love looks like" (Orion, January/February).

Unknown endings

George Kennan was arguably the greatest U.S. foreign policy analyst of the 20th century. He devised the containment doctrine in relation to the Soviet Union, a middle ground between war and diplomacy. When the U.S. was moving toward invading Iraq, Kennan warned: "War has a momentum of its own, and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end" (Foreign Affairs, January/February).

From savage to terrorist

Americans like to think of themselves as compassionate and generous, and they often are. But when it comes to the casualties in other countries caused by U.S. wars, says John Tirman, Americans tend to be ignorant at best and callous at worst. By one estimate, American wars since 1945 have taken the lives of 6 million people, both civilians and soldiers. An early 2007 poll asked Americans how many Iraqis had died in the Iraq War. Their average answer was nearly 10,000 when in fact the actual number was in the hundreds of thousands. Historian Richard Slotkin says this neglect of casualties on the other side stems from what he calls the "the frontier myth." This is the notion that righteous violence is justified to subdue or annihilate savage peoples. Today we call them terrorists (Washington Post, January 8).

Which faith?

Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Denver Broncos, is known for his public expressions of faith and his come-from-behind (some say miraculous) victories. After Saturday Night Live lampooned Tebow, Pat Robertson said it was an example of anti-Christian bigotry. Marcus Cederstrom asks: "What if Tebow were Muslim?" Would he then be revered by many and tolerated by most others? Cederstrom points to two examples: Chris Jackson's Mississippi home was burned after he converted to Islam and changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf; when Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) resisted the draft during the Vietnam War because of his newfound faith, his championship belt was taken away, and for four years he was not allowed to fight (Salon, January 12).

The Sufi and Qaddafi

In 1969 Libya's Colonel Muammar Qaddafi deposed King Idris, leader of Sanusi, a Sufi Islamic order, in a bloodless coup. The modern state of Libya was born after World War II with the aid of the British government. The chief negotiator for the British was Norman Anderson, an evangelical missionary with impeccable skills in Arabic. Anderson had a deep respect for Islam that was not typical of conservative Christians in his era. He developed a relationship with King Idris and helped him forge modern-day Libya (History Today, December).