Century Marks

Century Marks

Homes for vets

Connecticut is the first state to end chronic homelessness among veterans. Programs are in place to find temporary housing within 30 days and permanent housing within the following 60 days. Connecticut is one of four states participating in Zero: 2016, an Obama administration program to end chronic homelessness among veterans next year. Connecticut has received housing vouchers through a federal program run by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. “The federal government cannot do it by itself,” said Robert McDonald, U.S. Veterans Affairs secretary. “Ending homelessness in this country is a team sport” (AP).

Healing, naturally

Plant a garden. Listen to birdsong. Sit quietly in a park without checking your phone. These activities are examples of ecotherapy, a form of mental health treatment based on the idea that nature has healing powers. “If you hold moist soil for 20 minutes, the soil bacteria begin elevating your mood,” says Craig Chalquist, an innovator in this new field. “You have all the antidepressant you need in the ground.” Chalquist maintains that it helps even more to give something back to nature—not just looking at trees, but caring for them (Atlantic, October).

Reviving racism

Rather than signifying the end of racism, the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president has revived racism, argues Wendell Berry. Though not all political opposition to Obama is motivated by racism, the measure of opposition to Obama, regardless of the issue, and the disrespect shown the office of president while he holds it, is symptomatic of a revival of racism. Politicians don’t need to be racist themselves to be aware of racist voters and covet their support; they can just remain silent when invectives are thrown at the president. The Confederate flag and Jefferson Davis statutes are scapegoats; getting rid of them puts off dealing with the real damage of racism and the civil war (Courier-Journal, September 7).

Guns and fear

Given the talk about the decline of Christian identity in the United States, Marilynne Robin­son suggests a standard is needed to define this change. She proposes that a marker is the general fearfulness in our culture, which is revealed by the obsession with and purchase of guns. “Con­temporary America is full of fear,” Robinson says, but “fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” One of the markers of people who forget God is “that they make irrational responses to irrational fears” (New York Review of Books, September 24).

At rest

Oliver Sacks, neurologist and writer about the quirks of the brain, grew up in a strictly observant Orthodox Jewish family. When he was 18 his mother found out he was gay and told him she wished he had never been born. As an adult he chose not to follow the religion and rituals of his parents. But eventually Sacks came to see the value of sabbath observance. As he lay dying, he found his “thoughts drifting to the sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.” Sacks died in August (New York Times, August 14).