Readers write: The view from Russia, and wildfire series

Letters to the editor for the Nov. 25, 2019 weekly magazine. Readers discuss international media coverage and hearing from wildfire refugees.

The view from Russia

Regarding “Who is Putin? Even to Russians, a mystery (audio)” in the Oct. 23 Monitor Daily: To begin with, no Kremlin ruler is a mystery to us, as in our daily affairs we go by a Russian proverb: “God is high above, and the czar is far away.” Even when our shops are empty, rulers are simply ousted by their retinues, not voted out by us. We don’t even have a Russian phrase for “vote out.” So in a way, we are a parliamentary democracy.

Then there’s the Western expectation that Vladimir Putin’s successor will beat swords into plowshares. More than a century ago, Czar Alexander III said that Russia has just two allies: its army and its navy. With NATO forces moving closer to our borders, the army and navy are now getting top-notch radar, hypersonic missiles, and nuclear underwater drones to defend us.

On the topic of Western coverage of Russian protests: What we hear from you about our unrest is identical to what we heard about you during the Cold War. There is much concentration on the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the beam in one’s own. Incidentally, reports about the West are now rare here, but Western coverage of Russia is repeated by our media daily. 

In the end, it’s naive for a Westerner to try to predict Russia’s next move by studying Mr. Putin just because he is our president.

Mergen Mongush
Moscow

Wildfire series

Thank you for the photo and audio series “Life in a wildfire zone” by Ann Hermes in the Monitor Daily. It gives readers a sobering opportunity to walk in the shoes of others for a brief time, to feel compassion, and to pray that the will to find solutions can be immediate, not in the distant future.

Sally Sullivan
Indianapolis

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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