Century Marks

Century Marks

Normal folk

Since 2010 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been running a public relations campaign featuring diverse Americans with the tagline, “I am Mormon.” The aim is to show that “Mormons are not that strange,” said one spokesperson. The More Good Foundation is also backing the church’s efforts to present a good image on the Internet. One of its objectives is to help people searching for information get to Mormon-friendly sites rather than hostile sites run by evangelical Chris­tians and ex-Mormons (Wilson Quarter­ly, Spring).

Sharing stories

Members of the Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa, wanted to throw the book at two teens, a boy and his girlfriend, who had scribbled neo-Nazi graffiti on their synagogue. Instead, Rabbi Steven Fink met with the youths as part of a restorative justice process. At the meeting, several Holocaust survivors told their stories. The male perpetrator told about his childhood of abuse and of running away from home and linking up with the Aryan Nation. The youths were told that in the Jewish tradition they had to earn forgiveness. Each performed 200 hours of service for the synagogue, at the end of which the charges were dropped (Des Moines Register, April 22).

Aftershocks

When police tried to get help for a military veteran found wandering naked on a California street, the Veterans Administration hospital said it couldn’t take him until morning. Later, the man was killed when he stepped in front of a train, an apparent suicide. About 25 American soldiers will take their own lives for every one killed on the battlefield this year, says columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. More than 6,500 veteran suicides take place every year, more than the total killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The V. A., which has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators, is trying to overcome the warrior mentality that views mental health concerns as a sign of weakness (New York Times, April 14).

Driving while black

In re­sponse to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the Christian Science Monitor interviewed five young black men around the country to find out their reaction and how the Martin case compares to their own experience. All five of them have had experiences of being racially profiled. Lheadry Powell, 25, a teacher and coach in California, says he gets pulled over by police four to five times a month for no apparent reason. It isn’t just the police who engage in racial profiling. White women in particular cling to their purses in their presence or cross the street and walk on the opposite side. Each of these young men have learned to use survival tactics: be nice, look people in the eye, don’t have an attitude, talk yourself out of a tense situation instead of resorting to violence, and always carry things out of a store in a bag (Christian Science Monitor, April 9).

See no evil

When Joe Nocera of the New York Times had a chance meeting with CEO Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Dimon asked him why the Times hates banks. Nocera responded that the Times doesn’t hate banks, the country does. Nocera pointed to evidence reported in The American Banker that the nefarious, sometimes illegal tactics used by banks in the foreclosure crisis are now being used by the banks to collect credit card debt. Many banks are outsourcing collection to law firms that harass and sue people, sometimes without clear evidence that the debts are owed. The banks wash their hands of any culpability. The Consumer Financial Pro­tection Bureau is starting to explore these collection tactics (The Week, April 13).