Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

Class warfare?

Americans are almost equally divided between thinking the rich are wealthy because they were fortunate enough to be born into money or have the right connections (46 percent) and thinking that the rich are wealthy due to hard work, ambition or education (43 percent) (USA Today, January 11).

Mormons on Mormons

Though Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Harry Reid all belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their coreligionists view them very differently. According to Pew research, 86 percent of Mormons see Romney in a favorable light, 50 percent view Huntsman positively and only 22 percent give Reid a thumbs-up. About three-fourths of Mormons are Republican or lean in that direction, which may explain the low ranking given to Democratic Reid. Romney is an active lay leader in his Mormon congregation and refuses to distance himself from the LDS Church (Christian Science Monitor, January 12).