Century Marks

Century Marks

Housed at Dachau

Ashkan is a 22-year-old Afghan who fled Afghan­istan after his father was killed by the Taliban. Now a chef, he lives in a building in Dachau, Germany, which was once part of the Dachau concentration camp where the Nazis killed 41,500 people. When asked if he is bothered by the history of the place, he replies, “I just wanted a roof over my head.” With the recent influx of refugees from Syria especially, long-term housing is in short supply. Germany has had to resort to using temporary shelters such as exhibition centers and beer tents. Ashkan doesn’t think he’ll be moving anytime soon (Guardian, September 19).

Identity crisis

While the issues of “God, guns, and gays” have not gone away, the culture wars are taking a new form. The question being raised in the Republican presidential race is: What does it mean to be American? Older white males seem threatened by the fact that the white majority is dwindling and by the empowerment of gays and lesbians. Leading Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson are playing into this fear, focusing on immigration and Islam (U.S. News, September 25).


The state of Alabama has strict voter ID laws, which the ACLU claims has a disproportionate negative effect on minority voters. Due to a budget crisis, the state has now closed down 31 driver’s license offices, making it all the more difficult to get one of the few forms of acceptable ID. Eight of the ten Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite voters have had their driver’s license offices closed. Many of the counties where the offices were closed also lean Democratic. In 2013 the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, addressing a case that originated in Alabama (Talking Points Memo, October 1).

World wars

The United States is involved in many more wars than its citizens know. This year alone, U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed in 135 nations—about 70 percent of the world’s countries. Many of these operations are training missions to help build up local forces. In some cases, though, Special Operations forces like the Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs are engaged in direct action. Funding for these covert operations has grown exponentially since 9/11, and their personnel have more than doubled in that time. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) re­fuses to disclose where such forces
are deployed or the nature of their missions (Nation, September 24).

Slow reports

Since 2000, candidates running for president or the House of Representatives have had to electronically file campaign contributions with the Federal Election Com­mission. Journalists and the public can see donors and recipients within minutes. The Senate still uses an antiquated paper filing system that takes a long time to post and is not easily searchable. In some cases, reports are made public too late to be used as information for assessing the candidates before the election. Attempts to change this system have failed several times in the Senate, regardless of which party is in the majority (ProPublica, September 18).