Century Marks

Century Marks


Social scientists from University of Southern California, the University of Virginia and New York University investigated the moral stereotypes that political liberals and conservatives have of each other. Not surprisingly, they discovered that liberals and conservatives tend to exaggerate the tendencies of their polar opposites. Each extreme tends to exaggerate their own moral commitments. Surprisingly, their study showed that liberals are less accurate in describing both themselves and their conservative opposites than conservatives are. Liberals, for example, tended to underemphasize conservatives’ commitment to the protection and fair treatment of individuals (PLOS One, December).

Fight is on

A community farm in Brooklyn’s Red Hook was doing all the earth-friendly things, according to Naomi Klein. But when Hurricane Sandy hit, the land was flooded and the farm lost its entire fall harvest—and now it appears as though the land is contaminated. Klein makes the point that though we can do all the right things at the local level, if we don’t get at the source of our global climate issues, it can be for naught. Klein, who has teamed up with environmentalist and Century editor-at-large Bill McKibben, believes it is time for people to fight against the corporate forces that contribute to global warming. “Climate change is the human-rights struggle of our time,” Klein says, “and it’s too important to be left to the environmentalists alone” (Boston Phoenix, December 13).

Sister’s song

Last spring, when the Vatican issued a sharp criticism of American nuns, Sister Kathy Sherman did what she’s often done: she wrote a song. Titled “Love Cannot Be Silenced,” the song is not so much a protest song, she says, as a song of affirmation. “I wasn’t protesting anything. I was saying, ‘This is our story.’” Her song has become an anthem for other nuns and for laypeople who have shown up at vigils across the country to show their support for American nuns (New York Times, December 1).

Warning signs

“Our Earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book, and the end of the world is evidently approaching.” This doomsday prediction is almost 5,000 years old, dating to an Assyrian clay tablet of 2800 BC (Chicago Tribune, December 9).

Voices of 2012

“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” —President Obama in a May ABC-TV interview, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage

“These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” —California governor Jerry Brown, on signing a bill that outlawed so-called reparative therapies that claim to turn gay minors into heterosexuals

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” —Todd Aiken, U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, trying to explain why he would prohibit abortion in cases of rape

“Rape is rape. Period. End of Story.” —Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate, responding to Todd Aiken’s reference to “legitimate” rape

“Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.” —Elizabeth Warren, consumer advocate and U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts, speaking at the Democratic Convention

“The worst decision by the Supreme Court in the 21st century. Uninformed, arrogant, naive.” —Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), maintaining that the Citizens United decision, which prohibits the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions, is tainting U.S. elections

“If you are a Latter-day Saint, a member of the fourth-largest [denomination] in the country, you shouldn’t have to go hat in hand for acceptance while acceptance of other minorities—Jews or Muslims or Presbyterians—is taken at face value.” —Michael Otterson, chief spokesman for the LDS Church, responding to reactions about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith

“Through resolve, through respect, we will overcome. This is a gift that Sikhs can give to all Americans.” —Sartaj Singh Dhami, codirector of RestoringThePride.com, a Sikh advocacy group, in response to the August killings of Sikhs by a lone gunman at a temple near Milwaukee

“The crime is not only what you did to their bodies but to their psyches and their souls.” —Judge John Cleland, who sentenced former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to 30 to 60 years after he was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse

“We need to educate people that morally, you can’t simply say, ‘I’m not going.’ It’s not simply a matter of choice. It’s actually a matter of responsibility to the common good.” —James Keenan, a moral theologian at Boston College, on the debate after Hurricane Sandy about whether people are morally obligated to obey a mandatory evacuation order so as not to put first responders at risk

“We’re not looking for a candidate that can walk on water, we’re looking for a candidate who doesn’t sink under the weight of their own baggage.” —Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, on what conservative Christians were looking for in a presidential candidate

“Want to win this election, candidate Romney and candidate Obama? Recruit the vote of 46 million poor Americans.” —Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby Network and leader of Nuns on the Bus, a tour that drew attention to the impact of cutting the social safety net

“Twenty years ago our church voted to ordain women. We have arrived at the point when all the indications are that the current theological anomaly of priests who cannot by definition be bishops has become an unacceptable skandalon to the church’s life.” —Sarah Coakley, Cambridge University theologian, on the Church of England’s decision not to allow women priests to become bishops

“The door may be closing, for good.” —UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, warning that continued Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories undermine efforts toward a peaceful solution

“God’s will and elections made me the captain of this ship.” —Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian president, responding to protests over his seizing of unchecked authority

“We know many Christians have left. But we love this country and will stay until death.” —Mounir Ramsis, Coptic Christian, on the suppression of Christians since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and the Muslim Brotherhood assumed leadership in Egypt

“We have become a nation rife with domestic terrorism—moving from a land of hospitality and freedom to a land of the fearful and the besieged, with gun violence being the driving force behind this change.” —Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., in a resolution calling for a ban on assault weapons, adopted at its annual session in Memphis

“He won’t follow anyone for now. He will be followed.” —Spokesperson for Pope Benedict XVI, who started a Twitter account with the handle @pontifex and within hours had 250,000 followers