Century Marks

Century Marks

Real presence

Tarn Wilson, a high school English teacher, sat with a student after school to talk with her about a memoir the student had written concerning her depression and attempt at suicide. Wilson asked the student, “What helped?” The student responded that she had been helped by friends who encouraged her, who argued for life, even at times when she was too sullen to respond. Then she said: “Just being there. Physically. Being there. You don’t have to say anything at all” (Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer/Autumn).

Making the cut

The United States and Germany seem to be going in different directions on the practice of male circumcision. The American Acad­emy of Pediatrics released a statement indicating that for parents who choose it, circumcision is warranted on the basis of a medical risk-benefit analysis. In Germany there has been an effort to criminalize the procedure and to institute a two-year moratorium on the practice. An outcry from religious groups led Chancellor Angela Merkel to ask the Justice Ministry to draft legislation that would protect the right of religious groups like Jews and Muslims to continue the practice if the circumciser is properly trained, parents provide informed consent and effective analgesia is used. A secularized Europe does not seem to understand the religious significance of this ritual (Michelle Harrington, Sightings, October 18).

Anti-Jewish record

Perry Brickman was mystified in 1952 when he was told he had flunked out of Emory University’s dental school after his first year. He had been a B-plus biology student at Emory and received early admission to its dental school. Now the university is acknowledging for the first time that between 1948 and 1961 the school’s dean was engaged in systematic discrimination against Jewish students. During those years, 65 percent of Jewish students were told they had flunked out or were forced to retake a whole year of classes. Brickman has tracked down and interviewed many of these students who, many years later, feel a sense of shame and anger. A documentary film, From Silence to Recognition, is being made based on Brickman’s interviews (New York Times, October 6).

Religious hate

The recent celebration of Ramadan sparked one of the largest increases of anti-Muslim incidents in more than a decade. In Joplin, Missouri, the Islamic Society’s building was destroyed by fire under suspicious conditions. A bottle of acid was thrown at a Muslim school in Lombard, Illinois, while worshipers were saying evening prayers. A mosque in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was desecrated with anti-Muslim graffiti. The number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 2010 to 2011. Forty-three percent of Muslims experienced some kind of harassment during 2010–11 (Center for American Progress, September 26).

Loving the environment

In addition to being an award-winning author of 14 books, a Sunday school teacher and a Century editor at large, Bill McKibben is one of the best-known environmental activists in the United States and a leading voice in the campaign to address climate change. But when it came to raising his daughter Sophie (now 18), McKibben said that he didn’t think it was appropriate “for little kids to be freaking out about climate change.” He remarked: “It always struck me as a parent that my first job in this context was to help her fall in love with the natural world. If you do, then I’m absolutely confident that you’ll do what’s necessary to defend it” (Outside, October).