A crisis forcing humility from the bottom up

Elected leaders are under pressure to mirror the unity of their societies and cooperate to end the coronavirus crisis.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II addresses the nation from Windsor Castle April 5.

When a public crisis strikes, people often rally around a catchphrase to lift their thought. During the coronavirus outbreak, the favorite tag has been “We’re in this together.” That spirit of unity has been on display from health workers to grocery clerks to neighbors who rarely talked to each other. Anyone need a mask? Contact a local sewing circle. Run out of food? Community volunteers will arrange a delivery.

What of elected leaders? They normally operate under a system of adversarial politics, even to the point of dismissing opponents or their ideas as not even necessary. Are they now mirroring the rest of society with a similar spirit of interdependence and equality?

By and large, democracies across the world have seen political parties get behind the new rules on public safety, additional support for first responders, and rescue packages for slumped economies. Last month, for example, the U.S. Congress quickly passed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion package with near-unanimous backing. A follow-up package is in the works. In addition, the Trump administration and state governors are coordinating closely.

On Monday, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, felt under enough pressure to set aside partisanship and talk. Their 15-minute phone call was described as warm and constructive in the sharing of ideas on dealing with COVID-19. Even if their cooperation turns out to be fleeting, it reflected a Lincolnesque moment of a “team of rivals” listening to each other for the greater good during a national crisis.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson – before he was hospitalized – was under pressure within his Conservative party to form a “national unity government” with opposition parties and independents. He had already consulted with unions and civil society groups on action steps. The most famous case of the United Kingdom suspending politics was the unity government under Winston Churchill during World War II.

In Israel, the virus crisis has pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the main opposition leader, to start arranging a unity government. In Ireland, the crisis is putting pressure on political parties to form a coalition government following an inconclusive election in February.

Examples like these of pride-swallowing humility may help tone down the divisiveness of politics after the COVID-19 emergency. During her speech to the British people on Sunday, Queen Elizabeth II repeatedly used words like “together,” “united” and “fellow feeling.” She also suggested that working now as one people to end the crisis will create a societywide triumph for all.

“Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us,” she said. The hidden message: Politicians should work together on solving the crisis, not compete to get credit afterward. But then again, most people are already acting that way.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

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.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A crisis forcing humility from the bottom up
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today