2019
January
04
Friday
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Even if your own video-gaming days date back to Atari Pong, you’ve surely noticed the entertainment art’s halting evolution – and its see-sawing reputation.

Along the way to fueling big-money “esports,” gaming has reflected some real social ugliness – the blatant misogyny of Grand Theft Auto, the sociopolitical violence of Red Dead Redemption 2.

It has also showcased efforts to teach complex systems (Sims) and even to promote physical activity (sports games for Wii). Today social media and even staid magazines buzz with player-tip trades about Fortnite, the deeply immersive diversion of the moment.

Gaming is too nuanced to deserve binary views, but extremes stand out. This week brought news of a recruitment campaign by the British Army that links some dark stereotypes about young gamers to military skills.

But also in the news: a profile of Jenova Chen, an independent game designer. One of his offerings, Flower, was enshrined in the Smithsonian in 2013. (Its players inhabit the wind and affect environmental change.)

His next act: Sky. It’s a phone-app-based game “about ‘spreading light,’ ” writes Quartz’s Ephrat Livni. For its players, “ ‘generosity and compassion [are] key’ to finding their way.”

Can the thinking that Chen’s art reflects seep into the gaming culture – and the broader culture? “I realized the only winning condition is to do something that isn’t about you,” he told Quartz; “you can win when you focus on change.”

Now to our five stories for your Friday. 

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Global report

1. Worldwide, job horizons widen for those with disabilities

How can people struggling with disabilities get ahead? When companies hire them for their skills, not just to fill a quota. This piece looks at where that’s beginning to happen.  

Ginnette Riquelme/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
In Mexico City, Elizabeth Cruz Cruz participates in a mobility workshop that the organization Vida Independiente México offers to people who use wheelchairs.

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A job. It’s perhaps the last – and biggest – obstacle for bringing those with disabilities into the mainstream. There’s still a long way to go, but a confluence of forces from government quotas and incentives to technological improvements is raising the bar of opportunity. From Mexico to Germany, Canada, and the United States, employers are beginning to look beyond limitation toward the goal of full integration in the workplace. Elizabeth Cruz Cruz in Mexico City, who relies on a wheelchair, says that without a job “I’ve never had space or reason to set goals and look ahead.” That’s changing as, with help from a nonprofit training program, she recently found work as an airport ticket-checker. Says Carol Glazer of the National Organization on Disability in New York. “We're still only scratching the surface when it comes to looking at people with disabilities, not for their weaknesses and their deficits and their inabilities but rather for their strengths and their talents.”

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2. Worldwide, job horizons widen for those with disabilities

Rich Donovan, a Canadian living with cerebral palsy, earned his financial firm $35 million in profit when he was a trader in New York City. Many factors drove that kind of success. But he says having a disability shaped his distinct response to risk and stress, which gave him an edge on the trading floor.

A billion-dollar deal? He’d stay cool as a cucumber. Entering a new building with an unknown layout? That was by far the bigger stressor. “My ability to handle stress, which is a key piece of being a trader, entrepreneur, or executive, I don’t feel it the way most people feel it, because the risk of doing other things is far greater,” he says. “As a trader, it’s always good to think differently in the marketplace.”

That’s the message he is now taking to multinationals, multilateral organizations, and governments through his Toronto-based company Return on Disability Group. Hiring people with disabilities isn’t about doing what’s right, but about what’s right for the bottom line. 

And more employers around the world are, slowly, starting to agree. The 10 years since Mr. Donovan started his company – consulting with the likes of PepsiCo and Microsoft – have also marked a decade since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was enacted, the first binding international human rights treaty that codified the rights of those with disabilities. 

Indeed, a confluence of forces – from government quotas and incentives to technological improvements for workers with disabilities – have raised the bar of opportunity. Most important, perhaps, employers are beginning to look beyond limitation toward the goal of full integration in the workplace. There’s still a long way to go, and some policies are criticized for reinforcing stigmas that they are intended to correct. But from Mexico to Germany, Canada, and the United States, progress is visible.

“Employment really is the last remaining obstacle for people with disabilities. And that's been the most stubborn barrier even in this full-employment economy,” says Carol Glazer of the National Organization on Disability in New York. “We're still only scratching the surface when it comes to looking at people with disabilities, not for their weaknesses and their deficits and their inabilities, but rather for their strengths and their talents.”

 

Jim Sinocchi, head of disability inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co., says the time to act is now. He was retired after a long career at IBM, where he worked on inclusion issues, when the bank contacted him to grow the ranks of those with disabilities in their workforce. They convinced him that, after making progress on diversity in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation, they wanted to address disabilities next.

“One of the reasons why I came back was because I thought the 21st century is ripe for a new era of disability inclusion,” says Mr. Sinocchi, who is two years into his role at JPMorgan Chase and has worked for decades despite an accident that left him with severely impaired mobility. “All the stars were aligning.”

Among the factors pushing change, he lists changing attitudes, medical improvements, and new technology to assist workers – not to mention a strong job market that tends to make employers less discriminatory. 

Ann Hermes/Staff
Nathalia Samaniego (l.) and Ariel Castillo sort clothes at a retail shop at The Viscardi Center, which offers job training and placement for people with disabilities, in Albertson, N.Y.

An employment gap

Globally, about 15 percent of the population, or more than a billion people today, live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And that number is expected to grow if, as the baby boomer generation ages, it faces more challenges ranging from vision to mobility.

The employment rate of working-age people with disabilities sits at about 44 percent, compared with 75 percent of those without, the WHO reports.

That disparity owes to various factors, from access and other logistical challenges, to discrimination, to fear of how much it will cost to hire workers with disabilities. Colleen Crispino, chief program officer at The Viscardi Center, a nonprofit in Albertson, N.Y., that aims to empower people with disabilities, says employees also face systematic barriers – like losing benefits they depend on for their care – if they get a job.

Many governments have sought to correct those ratios with top-down regulation to forge inclusive workforces. Today in Germany, which uses quotas and has laws that guarantee work for people with disabilities, the employment rate for people with disabilities is at an historic high: 45.1 percent, compared with 77.4 percent for the population at large.

Germany’s “sheltered workshops,” which provide a place of vocational training and employment for those with disabilities, employ some 310,000 workers across a network of more than 2,750 locations. By law, the state must guarantee them a position if they wish to work. “In other European countries, this group of people is usually cared for in nursing centers, occupational services, or living facilities without the possibility to work,” says Kathrin Völker, CEO of the German Federal Association of Sheltered Workshops. 

In fact, not everyone with a disability is easy to employ. For many, the sheltered-workshops may provide jobs that are preferable to none at all. 

Still, Mathilde Niehaus, a professor at the University of Cologne who studies the labor market and disabilities, argues that while sheltered workshops do important work, they create exclusive environments, rather than promoting inclusive workplaces. She points to representative bodies for employees with challenges, also enshrined in law, as more effective in mainstreaming those with disabilities, and ultimately helping them to attain more rights.

At the Germany auto company Daimler, Alfons Adam heads the body for employees with disabilities, ensuring workplaces are adjusted if an employee becomes physically challenged. That might include the remodeling of a machine if the worker can’t stand for prolonged periods of time. He says he believes it is the employer’s obligation to hire those with disabilities. But “we try to shape the workplaces in a way they’re not just a risk [for the company] but an opportunity.”

Ann Hermes/Staff
Giovannie Briceno (l.) and Donovan Watson learn how to make pizza from Robert Foley at The Viscardi Center, a group in Albertson, N.Y., that helps people with disabilities train for and find jobs.

When regulation backfires

The “opportunity” is too often the missing message: If companies view disability policy as just enforced regulation it often backfires. In China, the government has since 2007 required that all enterprises reserve at least 1.5 percent of their jobs for those with disabilities or face a fine. Many have opted to just pay the fee.

That’s why Joe Dale brings a business lens to his work as head of the Ontario Disability Employment Network. When he tells businesses why they should hire employees with disabilities, he tells them they ignore the demographic at their own peril.

In Canada, when including family and friends, those affected by disability comprise 53 percent of the population, he says. That represents enormous purchasing power.

Workers with challenges also bring diverse skills to the table, with the idea of “neurodiversity” increasingly making its way into human resource chatter.

Ms. Crispino points to Microsoft as a company that has actively recruited those within the autism spectrum, because many excel at tech jobs. At Walgreens, they’ve introduced efficiencies in supply chains, like touch screens, that ultimately help everyone, Mr. Dale says. They have also had to be tenacious and persistent in a world not built for them.

“A person who uses a wheelchair overcomes problems every day, to get out of bed, shower, change, make breakfast. He has solved more problems before 9 o’clock than most of us in a lifetime,” Dale says.

Fear of hiring

Many companies say they fear the cost of hiring workers with disabilities, says Ms. Glazer in New York. But it’s often no more expensive than any other hire. A report from the Job Accommodation Network within the US Department of Labor showed two-thirds of “accommodation solutions” cost less than $500, with a quarter costing nothing. More than half of employers surveyed in the report said the accommodation benefited their organization and led to average gains of $5,000.

Groups like hers, as well as consultancies and internal departments inside companies, are helping to overcome such concerns. Sinocchi developed for his company a global standard that empowers managers around the world to hire people with disabilities – and teach them how to promote them, what he calls an “upward mobility” standard. When he started two years ago, JPMorgan Chase counted 1.4 percent of its workforce as employees with a disability. That’s grown to 2.5 percent today, thanks to a mix of hiring and employees feeling more comfortable identifying a disability to the company.

One of the biggest barriers is mind-sets. Dale says their work is focused on educating companies to look at those with challenges just like anyone else, whether that’s measuring employee performance or enforcing discipline.

Ginnette Riquelme/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Wheelchair users in Mexico City enjoy street food during a break from a mobility workshop by Vida Independiente México on Nov. 13, 2018.

Companies often inadvertently reinforce stereotypes. For example, some have said their workers with disabilities are more loyal and tend to stay at the job longer. Even if that’s anecdotally true, says Donovan, the former New York trader, he sees stigma in the subtext. “I see these stories about the guy with Down Syndrome being in the same job for 30 years, and I don’t think that’s something to celebrate,” says Donovan. “I think that’s insulting to that guy. That guy should have been owning the store.”

Perspectives have changed since the 20th century, when disabilities were regarded as a medical condition that an individual needed to overcome. The Americans with Disabilities Act passed over a quarter century ago ushered in new thinking about disability as a social or civil rights issue that society collectively must respond to. Education attainment skyrocketed. Yet employment rates lagged, and in many ways remains the “toughest nut to crack,” says Matt Saleh, a research associate at the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University. Some countries with strong social insurance have not matched that protection with gains in the marketplace, he says. “Jobs are often a conduit to community participation, political participation, social participation, to developing networks, and having cultural capital.”

From street vendor to security officer

The prospect of work has been a game changer for Elizabeth Cruz Cruz, diagnosed with polio at age 3, who cannot walk and has limited use of one arm. Because of that, her family never sent her to school, and even as an adult she needed someone to accompany her anytime she left her house in Mexico City in her clunky wheelchair.

“I used to panic over the idea of leaving the house. I was afraid my neighbors would criticize me,” says Ms. Cruz, who until recently worked in the informal economy, selling socks and tights in a plaza near her home. She’d bring in about 500 pesos ($25) every two weeks on a good stretch. “I’ve spent my whole life worrying about the present – how to eat, how to pay rent. I’ve never had space or reason to set goals and look ahead,” she says. “No dreams, no illusions.”

But that’s changing for Ms. Cruz, who today wears black and tan fingerless gloves and sits in a light-weight wheelchair in front of an obstacle course of stairs, ramps, and boxes of varying heights meant to replicate the unpredictable streets in this sprawling metropolis.

About 18 months ago, she started attending weekly courses in Mexico City at the nonprofit Vida Independiente México, where she’s learned key lessons in navigating the city on her own: lifting the front wheels of her chair and balancing in order to board the city’s bus rapid transit system, or controlling her chair while ascending and descending the uneven city sidewalks. With the help of a nongovernmental organization, Foundation for Humanist Help for the Disabled, she recently landed a job at the Mexico City airport, where she’ll soon work reviewing passports and tickets before passengers go through the security line.

“I’ll earn benefits, for the first time in my life,” Cruz says. She’ll also receive a salary that’s nearly 10 times her informal earnings.

Mexico played a key role in the passage of the UN’s CRPD, following international criticism of its treatment of workers with disabilities. Since the 2000s, it has pushed through a number of national requirements and incentives, including a 2003 law making it illegal to impede access to any public institution. But, symbolic of the problem, when the Senate inaugurated its new home in 2011, it didn’t make the building accessible to wheelchairs.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Rob Rusch (r.), a manager at PwC, sits in on an employee training session at the firm’s office in Charlotte, N.C.

In the end it’s having workers like Cruz on the streets and commuting to their jobs that will have the greater influence on equality, far more than “words on paper,” says Enrique Reyes, an instructor at Vida Independiente. “In the past, having a disability meant hiding out, being pushed aside. I feel like I’ve seen real change with this model – the more people who can take public transport and work in visible jobs, the more disabilities are demystified.”

Not just employed, embraced

Visibility is crucial inside companies, too, especially when it comes to leadership, says Rob Rusch, a tax manager at PwC in Charlotte, N.C., which has spearheaded a pledge among CEOs to make their organizations more diverse.

Mr. Rusch has a diagnosed muscular condition that keeps him largely confined to a wheelchair, but that hasn’t kept his responsibilities as a team manager from growing. He's embraced the role of leader, but it also helps that he has seen his value embraced by the organization around him. In one instance, he thought he’d have to sit out on an offsite team-building activity. But his manager took him to Lowes to buy PVC pipe for a makeshift frame so that Rusch could wield a paintball gun in the game alongside his colleagues.

“Workplaces shouldn't just accommodate. They should empower,” says Rusch. “This is something that often gets lost in conversation about disabilities. A lot of the conversation is just about how to get people with disabilities employed.... We should be talking about, how do we get people with disabilities to be leaders.”

He adds: “Everyone has unique perspectives, and we're not tapping into those.”

– Felix Franz contributed reporting from Berlin and Xie Yujuan contributed research from Beijing.

[Editor's note: One sentence in the article has been corrected to reflect that the CEOs making pledges for diversity are largely from US companies, although many of the firms operate globally.]

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. Why a new year brings a pivotal moment for Putin and Russia

President Vladimir Putin is succeeding in pushing forward his geopolitical agenda while strengthening his hand at home. But 2019 could sharply test his momentum on both fronts.

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Two hot spots are likely to dominate the thinking of Russian President Vladimir Putin in early 2019: war-ravaged Syria and the core strategic priority of formerly Soviet Ukraine. In both, Russia has been flexing its geopolitical and military muscles. Militarily at least, there’s been no significant international pushback. From Mr. Putin’s perspective, the result has been a kind of virtuous circle, with geopolitical advances reinforcing his political strength at home. The new year, however, may prove a difficult and defining period in his nearly 20-year drive to restore Russia’s status as a major power. In Syria, Russia has secured its most significant Middle East gains since the 1970s, but must achieve something approaching stability. In Ukraine, the broad Western sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s actions there go to the heart of the difficulty Putin faces in reestablishing Russian clout. As in Soviet times, Russia has a core vulnerability: an economy disproportionately reliant on natural resources, above all oil. And independent polling suggests Russians are becoming less ready to cheer Putin’s international advances while overlooking their own struggle to make ends meet.

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Why a new year brings a pivotal moment for Putin and Russia

It is an annual, made-for-TV fixture on the world’s news calendar, a bit like a Kremlin Super Bowl, minus the drama about who will emerge as the star player. Yet President Vladimir Putin’s latest marathon press conference, in December, has set the stage for a potentially defining period in his nearly 20-year drive to restore Russia’s status as a major power.

Two hot spots are likely to dominate his thinking in early 2019: war-ravaged Syria and, closer to Russia’s borders and a core strategic priority, formerly Soviet Ukraine. In both, Russia has been flexing its geopolitical and military muscles, testing the degree to which the United States and its European allies are ready, willing, or able to respond. Militarily at least, there’s been no significant pushback, either to its 2014 annexation of Crimea or its military intervention in Syria, which turned the tide in favor of President Bashar al-Assad. From Mr. Putin’s perspective, the result has been a kind of virtuous circle, with geopolitical advances reinforcing his political strength at home.

The new year, however, seems likely to bring new challenges. 

In Syria, Russia has secured its most significant Middle East gains since the 1970s. Although US President Trump has retreated from the idea of a full, immediate withdrawal of America’s roughly 2,000 special-operations troops, the Russians indisputably hold the key to determining the country’s political future. They have also secured a pair of important military bases there.

But Putin’s challenge is to achieve something approaching stability, reestablishing Mr. Assad’s hold on the whole of the country while calibrating and constraining other rival interests and military forces. There is Turkey, set on reining in the Kurdish fighters in northern Syria who were the Americans’ indispensable partners in fighting the Islamic State. Then there's Iran and its Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia allies. And, to the south, Israel, which has been mounting airstrikes in order to prevent Iran from establishing a military foothold in Syria and funneling more advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

In Ukraine, the challenge is different. For now, the chance of Western powers or Ukraine reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea is zero. The main question is whether and how much Putin may try to further reassert Russian influence there or in other former Soviet states like Belarus. His main concern won’t be the prospect of a military response. In November, Russia captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews in the adjacent Sea of Azov. The West’s initial reply has been limited to verbal condemnation and demands for their release.

That doesn’t mean there are no potential costs for Putin to consider. In fact, the main non-military effect of Russia’s actions in Ukraine – broad Western economic sanctions – goes to the heart of why his campaign to reestablish Russia as a world power may be entering its most difficult stage. However much he moves to build up Russian military and geopolitical strength, he has to reckon with a core vulnerability that echoes Soviet times: an economy disproportionately reliant on natural resources, above all oil.

In his early years in power, with oil prices buoyant, his effective renationalization of key economic sectors meant he could accomplish two widely popular things: a new confidence and assertiveness on the world stage, and an improvement in many Russians’ living standards. Now, with a tax system in which oligarchs are the main beneficiaries, independent polling suggests Russians are becoming less ready to cheer his international advances while overlooking their own struggle to make ends meet.

Even in his stage-managed news conference at the end of 2018, he felt the need to address last year’s deeply unpopular increase in the Russian pension age. Such decisions, he said, were “unpleasant … but unavoidable.” With presumably unintended irony, his further comments were straight out of the Kremlin playbook in the final years of the USSR. He noted economic difficulties in the West and recited a series of figures which, he suggested, proved life for Russians was getting better.

He then called for a new “technological breakthrough” in the economy – a message also heard in the early 1980s under Soviet rule, and an aim likely to be made even more difficult by continued international sanctions.

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3. One border crisis averted? How Juárez and El Paso united over water.

As water scarcity fuels conflicts around the world, sister cities along the US-Mexican border have found mutual success by working together rather than turning against each other.

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Water experts in the Southwest talk about Edmund Archuleta the way basketball fans talk about LeBron James, or film buffs about Federico Fellini – a once-in-a-generation figure who transformed their profession. In his time on the El Paso Water Public Service Board, Mr. Archuleta ushered a sea change in the way residents of this east Texas community use water. In 1985 El Pasoans were using on average 205 gallons of water a day. By 2001, daily average usage dropped to 155 gallons, and by 2017 just 128. He also became the first water manager to reach out across the Rio Grande to his counterparts in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Today water managers in El Paso and Juárez see their jobs as two sides of the same coin. The two cities rely on the Hueco Bolson aquifer for drinking water, irrigation, and commercial needs. In that way, they are intrinsically connected. If one takes too much water, both will suffer the consequences. In many regions of the world, similar situations have led to violent conflict. But in the Paso del Norte region, these two cities learn from and support each other’s efforts.

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One border crisis averted? How Juárez and El Paso united over water.

At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert two cities are both divided and united by water. 

The Rio Grande helped form the town of Paso del Norte in the 16th century, but centuries later it became the border between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. 

Beneath the ground, however, the two cities still share the Hueco Bolson aquifer. In the arid climate, fresh groundwater from the aquifer has been crucial in helping them grow. In recent decades they have been helping each other study and manage the resource as it becomes even more important in the face of climate change.

Aquifers are difficult to manage even in the best of circumstances – they can stretch for thousands of miles, sink for thousands of feet, and they’re entirely underground. When you’re measuring something that crosses an international border it becomes even more difficult. Predicting how much it could hold in the future more difficult still, which is the main thing officials in El Paso and Juárez have been trying to do since they began working together in the mid-1980s.

 

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
The cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, (both seen here) share the Hueco Bolson aquifer, a critical source of fresh water in the arid Chihuahua Desert.

With surface water from the Rio Grande becoming increasingly unreliable – due in large part to climate change, experts say – extending the life of the Hueco is becoming increasingly important.

“The aquifer doesn’t recognize borders,” says Zhuping Sheng, director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in El Paso, “so both sides have to come up with solutions to better manage and share the resources.”

Leading the way

Water experts in the Southwest talk about Edmund Archuleta the way basketball fans talk about LeBron James, or film buffs about Federico Fellini – a once-in-a-generation figure who transformed their profession. 

There were few, if any, conservation programs under way when Mr. Archuleta joined the El Paso Water (EPW) in 1989. The city’s population had doubled in three decades, and in some areas the Hueco was dropping two or three feet a year.

“That was unsustainable, obviously,” says Archuleta.

He opened and expanded wastewater treatment plants. He bought land north and west of the city to preserve the groundwater supply. In 2007, the utility opened the largest inland desalination plant in the world to treat the Hueco’s brackish groundwater.

Probably his crowning achievement though was the wholesale culture shift he engineered in El Paso water use. Excess users were named, shamed, and fined. Water cops patrolled the streets and a generation of children grew up learning about water conservation from Willie the Water Drop, a smiley blue mascot with a red bandana who visited local schools. In 1985, El Pasoans were using on average 205 gallons of water a day. By 2001, average daily usage dropped to 155 gallons a day, and by 2017 just 128.

Archuleta was also the first water manager in El Paso to reach out to water managers in Juárez. Before then, the two cities communicated through the International Boundary and Water Commission, an international body that governs surface water shared by the United States and Mexico.

“It was very slow to get any information going back and forth, so I just went directly to the [Juárez] water utility,” he says. “We shared data, we began to have regular meetings. We knew what they were doing and planning, they knew what we were doing and planning.”

 

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Gilbert Trejo, chief technical officer at El Paso Water Utilities, poses at the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant in El Paso, Texas, where wastewater is treated and turned into drinking water. Across the border, the city of Juárez, Mexico, is considering constructing a similar plant.

Gilbert Trejo was a graduate student at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) at the time and part of a team of academics who used the data to model how both cities were using their groundwater. 

“It was just odd for these two agencies to be sharing information with each other. That was my feeling as a student,” he recalls.

Today, Mr. Trejo is the EPW’s chief technical officer, and there’s “a genuine trust between the agencies.” The EPW talks once or twice a year with JMAS, the Juárez utility.

“If either one of us mismanages the aquifer or has poor data or incorrect data associated with it, it’ll lead toward poor decisions that will affect them and will ultimately affect us, or vice versa,” he says.

“There's no doubt that [Juárez] is going to have to do everything that we’re doing at some point,” he says. 

Water as a human right?

On a chilly early December morning in Puerto de Anapra, a poor Juárez neighborhood about 2.5 miles due west of UTEP, residents line up outside a small concrete booth, waiting to fill up empty 19 liter jugs with drinking water.

Juárez differs in many ways from El Paso when it comes to managing its share of the Hueco – the city’s entire drinking water supply is taken from the aquifer, for one – but here may be the starkest difference. Policing water use in El Paso was a problem for a time, but charging El Pasoans for water never has been. In Mexico water is considered a human right.

It sounds noble, but some water experts in Juárez see it differently. Humberto Uranga, head of water culture and communication at JMAS in Juárez, calls it “free water.”

“Water is a human right, but every human right is linked to a responsibility,” he says, and it’s a responsibility he thinks too many people in Juárez are neglecting. “It is impossible to keep giving away money, because sooner or later we are going to pay the consequences.” 

Like El Paso, Juárez has seen almost nonstop growth in recent years. JMAS water connections have increased from about 235,000 to 465,000 in 20 years, Mr. Uranga says. But while El Paso’s groundwater extractions have steadily declined since 1990, they have continued to increase south of the border.

Juárez isn’t standing still, but its efforts to diversify its water sources and ease pressure on the Hueco are progressing slowly, hobbled by financial, political, and cultural challenges. 

As Juárez has had to supply water for more people, it has given much of it away free of charge. Of all the water JMAS produces, 40 percent is supplied at no cost. Some residents, like those in Anapra, get it free, as do public schools, parks, hospitals, and government buildings. At the same time, budget crunches at the federal level have limited government investment.

In the short term this has effected the utility’s ability to maintain what water infrastructure it does have, and in the long term it has affected the ability to build new infrastructure, according to René Franco, an independent water consultant in Juárez.

“The fees charged by both utilities are drastically different, [but] the cost of infrastructure is not that much different,” he writes in an email. “JMAS must increase their users fees to get them a little bit closer to the real cost” of water.

Perhaps more important, he adds, “the federal and state governments need to make substantial investments in water infrastructure.” 

Education or technology?

Infrastructure in Juárez is certainly in better shape than it was when was Uranga first started at JMAS in 1995. After touring water treatment plants in El Paso, officials built two in Juárez. The city has a “purple line” system that pipes treated wastewater for agriculture and watering green spaces. In 2010 the utility contracted with Grupo Carso, a company owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, to build a pipeline that imports brackish groundwater from the Mesilla Bolson aquifer west of the city.

Officials in Juárez want to further ease pressure on the Hueco by building a plant to treat water from the Rio Grande. El Paso has a similar one right on the border, between the fence and a stash house used by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa in the 1910s. Flows in the river are so low now it’s only used a few months a year, but for Juárez, easing that little bit of pressure on the Hueco could be invaluable in the long term. 

“If it’s only for one month it’d be worth it, eventually,” says Dr. Franco, sitting in his Juárez office in early December. “If we get water from the Rio Grande very soon then we’ll be all right.”

The utility doesn’t have the funding for it at the moment, however, and the conundrum raises the question that El Paso faced in the late 1980s: With limited funds, should the priority be educating people to use less water or building more infrastructure to conserve and diversify water sources? 

Franco believes that Juárez has reached its limit in terms of public education, at least for now. “People are not wasting water as they used to,” he says. 

Indeed, per capita consumption has declined in Juárez to less than 300 liters per day, a fraction of the usage of those in El Paso. With double the population of its American neighbor, however, Juárez is consuming just as much water. And given how much water is being supplied free of charge, people like Uranga think more education is needed – both to reduce water usage and convince the public that water needs to cost more.  

“We need to appreciate the real value of the water,” says Uranga. “That's a cultural problem we need to work hard on.”

Family values

It’s common for El Paso and Juárez residents to have family across the border. And like many families, the water utilities in the two cities don’t want to impose on each other too much.

“What we don’t do is tell them anything about what they should do in pumping their wells,” says Trejo. “The relationship is knowing how we affect each other and responding to that.”

If they don’t, he adds, it’s “going to lead to issues, issues [like] overdrawing and declining water levels in the aquifer.” 

Trejo has family in both cities. So does Alfredo Granados-Olivas, a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. He also thinks the cooperation between the two cities on water management has flourished because it has mostly limited itself to sharing data and information. 

He points out that while conflicts over water have been brewing around the world, the Paso del Norte region has stayed friendly for decades.

“How does it work? Respecting the system, respecting each other, and sharing information,” says Dr. Granados-Olivas. “We won’t survive without El Paso, and El Paso won’t survive without us.”

“We’re not separate families,” he adds. “That’s why it’s really important to make [the aquifer] work for people, because we’re the same.”

This story was produced with support from an Energy Foundation grant to cover the environment.

 

Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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4. Not back in the USSR: Russia’s battle over rap highlights cultural shifts

A crackdown on Russian rappers may look like a continuation of Soviet-era cultural controls. But the debate it has engendered shows how much the country has changed since Soviet days.

Pavel Golovkin/AP
Fans cheer during a concert in support of the rapper Husky in Moscow in November. Some of Russia's popular rap artists had gathered for a charity show in a sign of solidarity for the artist, whose real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov, after he was sentenced to 12 days in jail for performing on top of a car.

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Russia is a place where, until a generation ago, the Communist Party tried to determine everything people could see and hear. So the cancellation of the concerts of at least seven prominent rap musicians since October, as well as the November arrest of popular rapper Husky, looked to many like more of the Soviet pattern. But while some things remain similar in today’s Russia, a great deal else has changed dramatically. Unlike Soviet times, when rock musicians had to dodge the police and hold their performances in illegal venues, today’s rap is a huge and lucrative industry in Russia. Perhaps more significantly, many top establishment figures – including the deputy head of the Kremlin administration – have openly spoken out in defense of rappers’ freedom. And a judge ordered Husky’s 12-day sentence canceled after just four days, letting the rapper walk free. “It would have been inconceivable in Soviet times to have these publicly expressed divisions within the country’s leadership,” says Masha Lipman, editor of political journal Counterpoint. “But the disagreements between those who think imposing heavy-handed controls is a good idea and those who think it isn’t are completely out in the open.”

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Not back in the USSR: Russia’s battle over rap highlights cultural shifts

Public debate over popular music – and the cultural fault lines it often straddles – can reveal a lot about how a society has changed. The recent controversy in the US over radio stations playing the 1940s classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a good illustration.

The issue currently roiling Russia is the place of defiant and often obscene hip-hop and rap music, as performed by a new generation of outspoken young artists. And it suggests that while some things remain similar in today’s Russia, a great deal else has changed dramatically.

Since October at least seven prominent rap musicians have seen their concerts mysteriously canceled. In late November, one of the most popular young rap stars, Dmitry Kuznetsov, who goes by the stage name Husky, was arrested and sentenced to 12 days in prison after he protested the cancellation of his concert in the southern city of Krasnodar by holding an impromptu performance in the street atop an automobile.

Russia is a place where, until a generation ago, the Communist Party tried to determine everything people could see and hear, and was prepared to utilize all the tools of the state, including the KGB, to ensure its decisions were followed. Today, cultural eruptions are still taken very seriously. The police may weigh in, and even the president can quickly get involved.

Artyom Geodakyan/TASS/ZUMA Press/NEWSCOM
Dmitry Kuznetsov, a Russian rapper who performs as Husky, performs at Moscow's Adrenaline Stadium on Dec. 12. He was released on November 26 after four days in jail for alleged hooliganism.

Given the Soviet-era record, when the state tried to squelch what it saw as degenerate foreign musical genres such as jazz and rock, it was not hard for some to see history repeating itself. And much like Soviet leaders, Vladimir Putin found it necessary to pronounce an official view. While he opposed an outright ban on rap music, he sounded a lot like a Communist leader by suggesting the state should “guide” musicians away from the destructive artistic course they were taking.  “Rap ... rests upon three pillars: sex, drugs and protest," Mr. Putin said. “I am most worried about drugs. This is the way towards the degradation of a nation.”

That Soviet urge to control, shape, and direct artistic expression seems clearly present, despite the ambivalence in Putin's statements, says Artur Gasparyan, music critic of the Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.

“Rap is the only powerful trend that isn’t yet under censorship or the authorities’ control,” he says. “For almost two decades the process of pinching off pieces from the pie of freedom has been going on. First it was the mass media, then the political field, and now they are after popular musical genres. For some time the authorities paid no attention to rap, but in an authoritarian country an independent sector of freedom cannot be allowed to exist.”

‘Our music is about our reality’

Russia’s young rap artists, who speak for the first generation with no memory of Soviet life, appear to confound expectations of both the authorities and the old-line liberal opposition by speaking their minds fearlessly about what they see around them, while expressing no interest in organized politics whatsoever.

Unlike Soviet times, when rock musicians had to dodge the police and hold their performances in illegal venues, today's rap is a huge and lucrative industry in Russia. They often play to sold-out stadiums. Successful rappers become big media stars and often get rich in the manner of their Western counterparts. Some enjoy massive social media followings.

An example is Russia's fifth most popular rapper, Roman Chumakov, who goes by the stage name Zhigan. Speaking to the Monitor, he decried the arrest of Husky and rebuffed the criticisms of the genre made by Putin and many leading Russian social conservatives.

“Ours is the music of good, even if it is not as positive and jolly as somebody wishes it to be,” he says. “Even if it’s gloomy, it happens to be about our reality. Why should someone get arrested for rapping? We live by our concerts, and if these problems persist, we will go out into the streets and perform there.... You know, I respect Putin a lot, but if I were to meet him in person, I’d talk to him frankly about the problems in our country.” That kind of talk would have been a ticket to the Gulag a couple of generations ago.

One remarkable difference today is that many top establishment figures have openly spoken out in defense of rappers’ freedom. The deputy head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, said that canceling rap concerts was a “stupid idea,” while the chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service suggested that rappers should be given state grants instead. Influential television pundit Dmitry Kiselyov defended rap on his state news show last month, and even delivered a “rap performance” during an appearance on a comedy show Thursday.

Most significantly, a Krasnodar judge – almost certainly acting on signals from above – ordered Husky’s sentence canceled after just four days and let the rapper walk free.

“It would have been inconceivable in Soviet times to have these publicly expressed divisions within the country's leadership,” says Masha Lipman, editor of Counterpoint, a Russian-language political journal published by George Washington University. “But the disagreements between those who think imposing heavy-handed controls is a good idea and those who think it isn’t are completely out in the open.”

Fear of awakening the beast?

It’s not clear how the campaign against rap artists even got started; it’s not at all likely to have been a Kremlin initiative. It might even have been triggered by anonymous complaints to various regional authorities from parents who were alarmed to discover what their children were listening to.

“There are a lot of older people who may look into their kids’ playlists and think something should be done about it,” says Alexey Kozin, head of Navigator Records, a Russian recording company. “There is a younger generation that doesn't use traditional media; they prefer direct contacts. I feel their nihilism. They are people who want to be absolutely independent, not to be obliged to anybody about anything. They gravitate to artists who read rap in cool and interesting ways. They declare their own positions in what they wear, how they communicate with each other, and what music they listen to. Cracking down on their favorite artists will not draw a positive response from them.”

One key takeaway from this controversy is that the “Putin generation” – young people who have grown up entirely during the near-20-year rule of Putin – remain very much a mystery, especially to their Soviet-bred elders. While a few have displayed political activism, by taking to the streets in favor of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, most display outward conformism by eschewing politics and embracing consumerism, education, career, and their own artistic preferences.

Some experts say the authorities quickly backed off the anti-rap campaign for fear of awakening them.

“The young generation growing up under Putin must be tired of him, and of all the propaganda of conservatism and traditional values that permeates our times,” says Sergei Davidis, a human rights lawyer and activist with the Solidarity liberal opposition movement. “Rap is nonpolitical in its essence, but authorities’ attempts at prohibition will quickly make it a very political issue.”

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5. Think Trump is a gift to cartoonists? They beg to differ.

In an era of tribalism, helping people see things from a different perspective is harder than it looks. Through humor and satire, cartoonists hope they can help the country get to a better place.

Christine Burright McGuigan
Jeffrey Koterba, editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald, works in his Nebraska studio. “I take comfort in the fact that they are passionate,” he says of his vocal critics. “At least they’re engaged.”

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“How do you caricature something that’s a caricature of itself?” That’s what editorial cartoonist Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch has been wondering for the past two years, since President Trump took office. And he’s not even a liberal. Cartoonists on both sides of the aisle say creating good Trump cartoons is so hard it’s not even funny. It’s tough to be edgy and push the envelope when Mr. Trump has already ripped it open, or to make people think when all they want to do is yell from within their tribal bunker. But cartoonists are persevering, and they hope that their caricatures, even if biting, can help the country heal. “I think in times of great polarization, people turn to cartoons to help them cope or perhaps even allow them to say what we can’t as part of a public social contract,” says Christopher Weyant, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and The Boston Globe. “Once we laugh at something, we no longer fear it.”

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Think Trump is a gift to cartoonists? They beg to differ.

Creating good Trump cartoons is so hard it’s not even funny.

The ironic thing is, drawing him is easy. The pursed lips, the puff of golden hair, the iconic hand gestures – they beckon the pencil. A cartoonist might chortle to himself, This is going to be huge! HUGE! We’re going to draw tremendous cartoons. Because that’s what our great country needs. We’re going to make America laugh again!

But President Trump has stolen their thunder.

“How do you caricature something that’s a caricature of itself?” asks Nate Beeler, editorial cartoonist for The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. “The stuff that he does, a lot of it … is even more hyperbolic than I would draw.”

Mr. Trump, with his unorthodox style and disdain for political correctness, might seem like the perfect gift for saving a nearly extinct species: the staff editorial cartoonist. (There are fewer than 30 left in the US, according to several cartoonists interviewed for this piece.) But in fact, his ascent has proved challenging in many ways.

It’s hard to be edgy and push the envelope when Trump has already ripped it open. To keep your eye on the big ideas when tweets are falling around you like confetti. To make people think when all they want to do is yell from within their tribal bunker.

It’s enough to leave even the best cartoonists at wits’ end – and they’re not even halfway through Trump’s term.

Cartoonists’ struggles and triumphs are part of a broader American reckoning with who we are as a nation and who we want to be, a difficult exercise in negotiating deeply-held convictions in today’s “age of rage.” Cartoonists, who see themselves as canaries in the coal mine, are grappling with these issues in a very public arena – and feeling the heat. Readers, especially who have experienced a political awakening, are embracing their role as gatekeepers as vigorously as cartoonists themselves.

But cartoonists hope that caricature, humor, and satire, even if biting, can help the country get to a better place. Cartoons can act as a soothing salve, a pressure relief valve, or a way to jolt us out of our tribal mind-set and see something from a new perspective.

Courtesy of Christopher Weyant

“I think in times of great polarization, people turn to cartoons to help them cope or perhaps even allow them to say what we can’t as part of a public social contract,” says Christopher Weyant, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and The Boston Globe whose lampooning of Trump’s policies has brought an unfamiliar kind of feedback: heartfelt thanks. “Once we laugh at something, we no longer fear it.”

A silver lining to hate mail

Ever since Trump’s election, readers have been telling Mr. Weyant, “I couldn’t have gotten through the week without you.”

One such cartoon depicted a squat Trump standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty, a hammer in hand, with a new sign covering up the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem, “Give me your tired …”

The sign reads, “Whites Only.”

“I’m way out there on the bow of the ship in terms of the First Amendment,” says Weyant, whose hard-hitting cartoons have been held up in street protests but have also drawn complaints from readers that his work is not balanced. “Of course it’s not balanced. If I balanced it, it wouldn’t be funny.”

Many cartoonists proudly recite by heart some of their hate mail, most of which is not printable here. The tone has sharpened since 2016, however.

“People have gotten a lot more unhinged in the Trump era – and that’s not necessarily Trump’s fault. It’s also the reaction to Trump,” says Mr. Beeler, who leans libertarian but has criticized the president.

Still, some find harsh feedback reassuring in a way. “I take comfort in the fact that they are passionate,” says Jeffrey Koterba, editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, who calls back people who have left him scathing voicemails – and even became friends with one of them. “At least they’re engaged.”

Cartoonists themselves aren’t immune to anger and divisiveness, of course, and it can be tempting to skewer the president personally – depicting him as a petulant child, for example – without making a deeper point about his policies and holding him accountable.

“If I were showing Trump as that tantrum baby, I feel like that immediately undermines whatever the idea was,” says Mr. Koterba. “I want to get into the meat.”

Courtesy of Jeffrey Koterba

The cartoonist who ousted a politician

The First Amendment right to poke fun at elected politicians is critical to American democracy, says Jenny Robb, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus. It also has a long history.

“I think there are some people who argue that the president, whoever it may be, deserves a certain amount of respect, simply because of the office the person holds,” says Ms. Robb. “As someone who loves political cartooning and satire, I don’t particularly agree.”

Within a generation of the American Revolution, a cartoonist depicted President Andrew Jackson in a king’s robe. Abraham Lincoln was skewered for his support of emancipation. And during the Watergate era, Herbert Lawrence Block, a cartoonist who went by “Herblock” and often depicted the president with a 5 o’clock shadow, got so under Richard Nixon’s skin that the president forbade the Post from being delivered to the White House doorstep, and reportedly started shaving twice a day.

But the last time a cartoonist actually drove a politician out of office was in 1871, when Thomas Nast drew a series of cartoons that brought down Boss Tweed and the Democratic political machine he had created at Tammany Hall.

Some cartoonists feel Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has given them carte blanche to attack his presidency with unprecedented vigor.

But conservative cartoonists today aren’t nearly as critical as liberal cartoonists were during the Obama and Clinton administrations, says Sara Duke, curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art at the Library of Congress in Washington.

“When the heat is on Trump, they’ll draw an anti-Obama cartoon or a donkey,” she says of conservative cartoonists. “I think the right has a lot to criticize.”

There are exceptions to that though, and she points to Beeler as well as Scott Stantis, a former Republican operative and longtime cartoonist at The Chicago Tribune. (Pro-Trump cartoonist Mike Lester did not respond to an interview request.)

Where do you draw the line?

Mr. Stantis, who sold his first cartoon for $10 in 1978, says he is dealing with issues that he never thought in his wildest imagination he’d have to address – such as Americans feeling lukewarm about the First Amendment, or what he describes as Trump’s lack of respect for the office of the presidency. 

“Do you draw Trump in a brown shirt with a red armband?” asks Stantis, referring to the Nazi party uniform. “I don’t think we’re there.”

So where does he draw the line? Some have gotten in hot water for their work, like veteran cartoonist Rob Rogers, who, after 25 years on staff, was fired last June by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a series of searing cartoons about Trump. Before he was let go, 19 of his cartoons and sketched ideas were rejected by his editors, including a drawing of a road sign that read “Caution” and depicted a Trump-like silhouette grabbing a child as her parents fled, commentary on the separation of migrant families at the southern border. 

There is a risk and a cost cartoonists bear for their work, as Mr. Rogers’s termination illustrates. Still, Stantis, whose family traces its roots back to the Ardèche area of France, home to famous prehistoric cave paintings, says the cartoonist species has come a long way and will likely survive both the demise of newspapers and the rise of Trump.

“We’re never going to go away,” says Stantis. “There’s always one of us in every tribe.”

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The Monitor's View

Apple’s stumble may be China’s gain

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The global reaction to Apple’s downward-adjusted revenue forecast this week was not caused merely by concerns about Apple. To many investors, it was the reason given: flagging iPhone sales in what Apple said was a slowing economy in China. Apple’s credibility about the Chinese market is greater than all the official statistics provided by the world’s second largest economy. Beijing claims it is punishing officials who issue bogus statistics. Yet the regime has a hard time giving up a system of rewards for those who can claim economic progress with manipulated figures. The world economy relies on moral honesty about numbers, and not only in business. The credibility of vote counting in Congo, for example, may influence the global electronic market. That country holds much of the world’s cobalt, a key component in smartphones. In China, a government not willing to be held accountable through elections views transparency as a danger to its survival. Honesty in data must often come from others. Apple’s warning about its future sales was a good signal for China to embrace honesty.

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Apple’s stumble may be China’s gain

When Apple cut its forecast for revenue on Jan. 2, world financial markets swooned. The tech giant’s own stock price fell 10 percent. The global reaction, however, was not caused merely by concerns about Apple.

To many investors, it was the reason given: flagging iPhone sales in what Apple said was a slowing economy in China, its largest customer base. Apple’s credibility about the Chinese market is greater than all the official statistics provided by the world’s second largest economy.

Financial experts are hungry for accurate data about China, from its unemployment rate to its overall growth. Corporate books in China are notoriously unreliable, says China expert Derek Scissors. During an economic downturn such as now, he adds, official data is “falsified outright.”

In Beijing, the central government confesses to the problem and claims it is punishing officials who issue bogus statistics. Yet the legacy of lies is difficult to lay to rest. The country’s recent statistical yearbook, for example, did not contain the usual table showing how many babies were born.

The authoritarian Communist Party has a hard time giving up a system of rewards for local cadre who can easily claim economic progress with manipulated figures. Apple’s recent data about consumer demand was a welcome bridge over this credibility gap.

The world economy relies on moral honesty about numbers, and not only in business. In Africa, for example, the credibility of the current vote counting in Congo may influence the global electronic market. That country, which held a dubious election on Dec. 30, accounts for two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt, a key component in smartphones and computer batteries. Investors want a reliable ballot count to ensure a legitimate leader and economic stability.

Europe’s economy is still lagging after Greece admitted in 2009 to have lied about the size of its fiscal debt and ability to pay off loans. When Volkswagen was outed in 2015 for lying about the emissions data of its diesel vehicles, it shook up the entire German car industry. And to achieve “climate targets” set by global agreements, nations must accurately report progress in reducing carbon pollution.

Accuracy is not the only concern. Transparency helps. After the 2008 financial crisis in the United States, the Federal Reserve began to be more open about its data analysis and offer “guidance” about the future of its monetary moves.

In China, a government not willing to be held accountable through elections views transparency more as a danger to its survival than a necessity for the economy. Honesty in data must often come from others. Apple’s warning about its future sales was a good signal for China to embrace honesty.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

What helped me help my son

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Yearning to help their son relate more appropriately with others and succeed in school, today’s contributor reached out wholeheartedly to God. The idea that God is the loving divine Parent of each of us made all the difference.

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What helped me help my son

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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I so clearly remember first meeting our adopted baby, Sean (not his real name). He eagerly watched our every movement. To us, he was perfect.

As he grew, however, we noticed that he was constantly ready to do battle with the world. For instance, if someone accidentally bumped into him, he often lashed out. Afterward, he would have little recollection of what happened. And when we would lovingly correct him, he took it very sensitively, feeling that we had turned against him. Academics were difficult for him as well, making him feel even more self-conscious and unsure. It broke my heart to hear him ask why he didn’t have any friends or was never invited to a birthday party.

I’ve found it so helpful to pray for all my kids on a regular basis, but I found I especially needed to be spiritually grounded when caring for Sean. One idea that meant a lot to me was the concept of God as the divine Parent of everyone.

There are numerous references to God as “Father” in the Bible. And Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, refers to God as both Father and Mother in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” I often prayed to this divine Parent to help me know how to reach Sean – and how to be more patient when I didn’t feel I had any patience left.

When I was truly listening, I felt God’s love and peace enfolding everyone in the family and helping me know what to do and say in a given situation. But sometimes I had to pray harder. One day, I found myself feeling particularly helpless and hopeless.

Amid my tears of frustration, a question popped into my head: “Whose child is he?”

This made me stop in my tracks. I realized that while I wasn’t certain about the birth mother’s background, I had clung to the idea that drug addiction before the birth might be the cause of Sean’s behavior. This question prompted me to dig deeper – to see his true, spiritual origin.

Science and Health explains, “Because man is the reflection of his Maker, he is not subject to birth, growth, maturity, decay” (p. 305). This is based on the biblical idea that we are made in the image of God, Spirit, Love, Truth – of good. Our origin is in God; and so we must be spiritual and perfect, like Him. Neither God nor His children can be subject to material conditions. Referring to man – to everyone – Science and Health says, “The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry” (p. 63).

I saw that the short answer to the question that had come to me was this: Sean was God’s, divine Love’s, child, the unfoldment of good, innocence, peace. Every one of us is filled with God’s light and goodness – ready to shine and bless all those around us. None of us is devoid of that light and might.

I thought of the many ways Sean expressed qualities of the divine Mind, such as intelligence, and it suddenly hit me that no one is limited to expressing only some of God’s qualities. The strength of Spirit, the blessedness of infinite Love, the activity of limitless Life, the orderliness of the divine Principle, the graciousness of divine Soul – all of these qualities are present in everyone’s true nature.

These were extremely freeing ideas. I wrote them down and continued to pray with them, especially when things were particularly challenging.

Soon, and so naturally I almost didn’t realize it was happening, days went by without an incident. Days flowed into weeks. Weeks into months. Sean’s teacher contacted us about good things Sean was doing in school. He started getting together with friends. His grades improved. Now, more than a year later, he continues to be a happy, self-assured, kind boy. When Sean and I climbed into the car to go to a classmate’s birthday party for the first time, I smiled and said a quiet, heartfelt “Thank you” to our divine Father-Mother.

I know this is not the end. Parenting is an ongoing adventure of love. But I am grateful for the growing understanding of whose child we all really are.

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Viewfinder

Icy buildup

Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Ice sculptures are illuminated by colored lights Jan. 4 at the annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( January 7th, 2019 )

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Have a good weekend and come back Monday. We'll be looking at the role of trust in getting things done in Washington, in moving past the government shutdown and in inter-party dealings beyond.

Monitor Daily Podcast

January 04, 2019
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