Century Marks

Century Marks

End war on drugs?

Jay Stooks­berry argues that the way to reduce gun-related homicides in the United States is to halt the war on drugs. Nearly half of homicides involving guns today are drug-related. He notes that during the Prohibition era, gun deaths increased, as did alcoholism, which Prohibition was meant to prevent. Gangs then controlled the black market, just as they control the distribution and sale of illegal drugs today. Prohibition was a failure, and for similar reasons the war on drugs hasn’t worked—but it has led to the killing of innocents in gang warfare and the militarization of law enforcement, at the cost of a trillion dollars spent over the past four decades (Newsweek, August 16).

Business with a bang

Mass murders get much of the media attention, but in 2015 they constituted only 2 percent of all those killed by guns in America. Most shootings are “impulsive, up close, and apolitical.” Gun sales, however, are largely motivated by mass shootings, fear of terrorist attacks, and talk of further gun control. The day that President Obama announced executive actions for background checks in response to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the share price for Smith & Wesson, the largest gun maker in America, hit an all-time peak. The company’s revenue grew by 31 percent in its most recent fiscal year (New Yorker, June 27).

Traumatized

The term trauma originally referred to physical harm. In time its usage embraced emotional harm, and for good reasons. But now even a personal slight or disappointment can be viewed as traumatic. The “promiscuous use” of the word “has worrying implications,” writes professor of psychology Nick Haslam. “When we describe misfortune, sadness or even pain as trauma, we redefine our experience. Using the word trauma turns every event into a catastrophe, leaving us helpless, broken, and unable to move on” (Washington Post, August 12).

Remembering the victims

Last year the Equal Justice Initiative documented over 4,000 lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950 in the United States. The nonprofit organization is developing a museum to commemorate the victims. The museum, scheduled to open in April 2017, stands on the site of a former slave warehouse in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial will contain rows of over 800 concrete columns representing the counties where lynchings took place, with the names of those lynched engraved on the columns. The columns are free-floating, suspended from the ceiling in imitation of hanging (Next City, August 16).

The original in Braille

Matt Yeater was blinded in a meth lab explosion at age 20. Imprisoned numerous times, he was not the typical seminary student when he matriculated at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. After learning that there are few resources in Braille for studying biblical languages, he contacted a company that produces software for Braille translation. The result: now, with the touch of a button, biblical Hebrew, Greek, ancient Syriac, Latin, and Coptic can be translated into Braille (The Mennonite, July 12).