Century Marks

Century Marks

Under fire

Since the Israeli military operation against Gaza began July 7, 138 schools have been damaged by bombs, including 89 that are run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Over 400 children were killed and at least 2,000 injured. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that in some instances Hamas has stored munitions in the schools. The UNRWA sites, internationally regarded as neutral, were also used as refuges for people fleeing the fighting, which increased the casualties when these schools were hit (Brookings, August 4).

War poet

The diaries of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon have been digitized and made available to the public by the University of Cambridge. Sassoon, a British soldier, was quickly disillusioned by the war and became an outspoken war critic. His diaries feature poetry, prose, and drawings and include his 1917 antiwar “Soldier’s Declaration,” which got him committed to a hospital for the duration of the war. He described the first day of the Battle of Somme as a “sunlit picture of hell” (BBC, July 31).

In the attic

James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth are rummaging through church attics and basements in the New England states, especially Massachusetts, looking for records of early American life. Some churches are reticent to part with old documents, but the two historians point out how vulnerable the documents are and offer to keep them in a climate-controlled rare book room at the Congregational Library in Boston. Among their findings: a church in Middleboro possessed an application for membership submitted in 1773 by a slave (New York Times, July 29).

Bless this food

Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, got some attention on social media for giving a 15 percent discount to customers who prayed before eating. The practice had its supporters, but others saw an irony in rewarding people who disregard Jesus’ teaching against public displays of piety. Others wondered if the restaurant would honor prayers by people of non-Christian religions. The restaurant discontinued the practice after a lawsuit was threatened, charging the restaurant with violating nonprayers’ civil rights (NPR, August 1).

Trying peace

Between 1900 and 2006 nonviolent campaigns against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to be successful as violent ones. Nonviolent campaigns also increase the likelihood that a peaceful, democratic government will emerge. Three characteristics of successful nonviolent campaigns are that they draw widespread and diverse participation, they elicit defections from the regime, and they employ flexible tactics. Spontaneous nonviolent campaigns are rarely successful; planning and coordination are required. Outside countries are often at a loss to know how best to support nonviolent movements for change. People within those movements know best what, if anything, from the outside could be useful (Foreign Affairs, July/August).