Century Marks

Century Marks

Cup of cold water

If you’re an undocumented immigrant living in Flint, Michigan, where the public water is undrinkable, you are most likely denied alternative sources of water at distribution centers. Worse, some of these immigrants have been arrested for not having the proper documents. Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church became a water distribution center out of necessity, since so many of its congregants are undocumented. Hispanics from other communities are delivering water to Our Lady. A six-year-old boy from a parish in Chicago delivered 88 cases of water to Flint. Black churches in southwest Michigan have been delivering bottled water in U-Haul trucks (America, March 18).

Judge or not?

If Merrick Garland were to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he would be the fourth Jew on the current court, a number unprecedented in American history. The other five members are Catholics. Garland was raised by Conservative Jewish parents in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie, north of Chicago. When President Obama announced Garland as his choice to replace Antonin Scalia, Garland said of his family history: “My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement [in Russia] . . . in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.” Known for being a moderate, fair-minded federal judge, he oversaw and prosecuted the Oklahoma City bombing case. As a high school valedictorian, he defended the right of antiwar activists to speak out (Forward, March 16).

Textual criticism

The Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, has an unusually large collection of biblical artifacts, including some 40,000 biblical manuscripts, Torah scrolls, Dead Sea scrolls, and cuneiform texts. The family started its collection only six years ago. This sudden acquisition of previously unknown artifacts is raising questions among those involved in the antiquities trade, given that there is a history of illegally acquired antiquities from the Middle East. Green family representatives say that they have privacy agreements with sellers and brokers, a practice that is both legal and common. The collection will be housed in the 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible, which will open in Washington, D.C., in November 2017, two blocks from the National Mall (Atlantic, January-February).

It’s the economy

In December and January, the Working America organization talked with likely voters in working-class neighborhoods outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh to try to find out their concerns and better understand the appeal of Donald Trump. Their “front porch focus groups” revealed that working-class folks are more motivated by economic anxiety than by racial bigotry. They are frustrated with politics and feel powerless to change government to address their needs and concerns. Only 5 percent of these voters named immigration as their top concern. However, nearly half of those who said immigration is their top concern support Trump (Working America, January 26).

Secularism v. state religion

Bangladesh’s 1971 constitution declared all religions to be equal in the eyes of the state. The military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad amended the constitution in 1988 to make Islam the state religion. The current government amended it again, reinstating the principle of secularism but reaffirming Islam as the state religion. The High Court has agreed to hear a case calling for a resolution of this contradiction. A wave of militant violence has plagued Bangla­desh in recent months, including bombings of Hindu temples and Muslim mosques (Reuters).