Century Marks

Century Marks

Surprise visitor

Pope Francis paid a surprise visit last month to 20 former prostitutes who were victims of sex trafficking. The women, seven of whom were from Nigeria, were promised jobs and then forced into prostitution. They all suffered serious physical abuse. After being rescued, the women were given refuge by a Catholic charity in Rome (BBC).

Taking a stand

The tradition of playing the national anthem before sporting events stems from World War II, when it was used to enhance patriotism. Major League Baseball began the practice in 1942, and the National Basketball Association followed suit in 1946 at its inception. Over the years a number of high-profile athletes of color have protested against the practice, often with stiff pushback from the public. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a Black Power salute while the national anthem was played during a medal ceremony. Baseball great Jackie Robinson said in his memoir, I Never Had It Made, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world” (Los Angeles Times, September 1).

The Catholic vote

Republicans have won the Catholic vote in five of the last eleven presidential elections, but Donald Trump has a huge problem with Catholic voters. While Mitt Rom­ney lost the Catholic vote by only two points in 2012, one recent poll showed Trump is down by 23 points with that group, and another indicates that the gap is 27 points. Catholics make up about a fourth of all voters, a group almost equivalent in size to both nonwhite and independent voters. Trump’s immigration stance—publicly criticized by Pope Francis—is one likely explanation for his poor showing among Catholics. It’s unpopular with Hispanic Catholics and a reminder to white Catholics of the nativism their ancestors faced (Washington Post, August 30).

Banning the burkini

Two French Riviera towns have banned burkinis, the full-body swimsuits worn by some devout Muslim women. One of the mayors said the prohibition is for sanitary reasons. He added: “In France, one does not come to the beach dressed to display one’s religious convictions, especially as they are false convictions that the religion does not demand.” He said nothing about how the ban would be enforced. France already has a nationwide ban on wearing a burqa (The Independent, August 13).

Help yourself

Jessica McClard got the idea for the Little Free Pantry from seeing Little Free Libraries in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she lives. She received a microgrant through Thrivent Financial to build a small cupboard mounted on a post to hold food items, toiletries, and paper goods to which people may help themselves. The small food pantry was placed outside Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. “Peanut butter and jelly, feminine hygiene products, and diapers are in demand,” McClard said, noting that garden vegetables go quickly as well. She has a Facebook page devoted to the pantry concept and is encouraging others to build their own (Huffington Post, July 29).