Century Marks

Century Marks

Attic treasures

A treasure trove of artifacts was uncovered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg when workers broke through the walls and ceilings during the renovation of a 180-year-old dormitory. Found were a nearly century-old wardrobe signed by decades of students, letters to Civil War soldiers, a plaster relief of Martin Luther and four men's shoes, the oldest dating to 1830. The shoes were deliberately damaged before being stored in the walls, apparently a folk custom intended to bring good luck. In one of the letters, a father encouraged his soldier son to kill "Old Jeff," meaning Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Known as the Old Dorm, the building was converted into a hospital during the Civil War. It is being turned into an interpretive museum showing neglected dimensions of the Civil War (Evening Sun, March 12).

Due diligence

Nigerian-born novelist Teju Cole has issued a series of tweets critiquing what he calls the White Savior Industrial Complex. Among them: "This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah." "The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege." If you're going to involve yourself in the lives of others, Cole argues, ask them what they think they need. Look at the broader issues in African countries—the need for a more equitable civil society, robust democracy and a fairer system of justice. U.S. policy is determined by its need for Nigerian oil rather than by the plight of ordinary Nigerians, Cole says (Atlantic, March 21).

War weary

American support for the war in Afghanistan is dropping, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll taken late last month. More than two thirds of those polled (69 percent) said the U.S. should no longer be at war in Afghanistan, compared to 53 percent just four months ago. Americans increasingly are sensing that the war isn't going well: 68 percent think it is going somewhat badly or very badly. While Republican support for the war is also dropping, Repub­licans are more inclined to support keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan in order to stabilize the situation: three in ten Republicans said the U.S. should stay, compared to two in ten independents and one in ten Democrats (New York Times, March 26).

Earthbound hoax

Bart Centre, an atheist, claimed to offer a service to Christians that would take care of their pets after the rapture. He said his business, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, has charged hundreds of pet owners $100 each for the service. The New Hamp­shire Insurance Department smelled a rat. They issued Centre a subpoena, asking him to list his clients and other facts about his business. He replied that it was a hoax from the beginning and that he has no clients (NPR, March 25).

Jet-propelled expenses

The Pentagon's development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet has already cost the government $400 billion. The plane, designed to replace nearly all of the tactical fighters used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, is now projected to cost over $1 trillion to develop, procure and support through 2050. One reason for the huge expense is that planes are being built even before their development and testing are completed. As plans change, planes already constructed need to be retrofitted. The software needed to make the planes combat ready is "as complex as anything on earth," according to the government (ProPublica, March 23).