Readers respond: The power of disagreement

Letters to the editor published in the Dec. 19, 2022, weekly magazine. Readers take a closer look at our numbers and embrace friendly disagreement.

Numbers matter

I’ve been a regular reader of the Monitor for over 30 years. I overlook the few very minor inaccuracies I read from time to time. The bigger picture is what’s important. However, the Monitor trivialized the “big picture” of work in Angola in a recent article.

You write, “Three decades of civil conflict between 1975 and 2002 left some 73 million square meters (18,000 acres) of Angola contaminated by land mines.” I served as the country representative in Angola during 2001-02 for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (now the Veterans of America). Our role was to provide prostheses for adult Angolans who had lost a leg (or both legs) from stepping on a land mine.

I can assure you that, along with my colleagues with the International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations working there, the area contaminated by land mines in Angola (a country the size of California and Texas combined) was far greater than 18,000 acres! A more accurate figure for the 10 million land mines deployed would be around 300,000 square miles – an area four times the size of New England.

Lynn Austin
Las Cruces, New Mexico

From the editor: We appreciate Ms. Austin’s insight into the work to clear land mines in Angola. Our research found variations in data quantifying the scope of the problem. Our Points of Progress item relied on data from MAG International, a charitable organization that works to clear land mines from the country. 

Noelle Swan
Weekly editor

Heart of gold

Thank you for the cover story titled “Can Americans agree to disagree?” in the Nov. 14, 2022, Weekly issue. Ted Wetzel has created “Dinner and a Fight,” which is a place where people can discuss controversial topics and still be friendly. This is an amazing endeavor for democracy. I appreciated the question that Mr. Wetzel asks participants to answer at the end of the encounter: what their community tends to forget. The response was, “It’s OK to disagree.”

I used to be part of a group that had weekly discussions. At this group, one gentleman came who appeared different from me: He rode up on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, had a beard, and cleaned his nails with a fish knife during the meetings. I felt nervous around him. But one day he led the group and shared how he was a veteran of a certain war. Years after the war ended, he began going back to that country to help build houses for poor people. Hearing that helped me to see that he had a heart of gold. After that I often talked with him after the meeting and thanked him for his sharings.  

Thank you for this article, which reminded me that everyone has good qualities, no matter what they look like or what kind of transportation they use. And thank you to all the veterans around the world for your service to your country.  

Cynthia Kuest
DeLand, Florida

Where we set our gaze

Why are three pictures of “election deniers” given space (free publicity) in the Oct. 24, 2022, issue? Election deniers are nothing new and are simply election liars. Wouldn’t attention be far better spent on those courageous people who are working the polls and people who are standing up for democracy and the freedoms of this country? The Jan. 6 insurrection has traumatized too many in this country, me included.

Josephine Thompson
San Diego

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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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