2019
September
05
Thursday

Today, our five handpicked stories look at how a country maintains order without a rulebook, whether Canada can fill a void for asylum-seekers, the fuel driving prejudice against foreigners in South Africa, the increasing independence of older adults, and two views of social justice and the National Football League.

But first, a look at how we can see one forgotten refugee crisis differently.

The one country that has taken in more than a million Rohingya refugees seems about to lose its patience.

The Rohingya are an Islamic minority group in Myanmar that the government wants to expel or strip of their individual liberties. This is “textbook” ethnic cleansing, say United Nations officials.

Since 2017, neighboring Bangladesh has provided safety for the vast majority of refugees. But the country struggles to care for its own citizens. It says it needs help. With little coming, Bangladesh feels out of options.

So it has banned mobile phone use in camps, essentially severing contact with the outside world. It also plans to move 100,000 refugees to an island vulnerable to cyclones. The actions, some worry, not only are inhumane but could also radicalize some refugees.

The tendency in difficult situations can be to gravitate to seemingly easier extremes. We see this in the United States, where the border debate often lurches between talk of open borders and a wall. Now international inaction is driving Bangladesh toward extremes. This despite the fact that surveys show most Americans want solutions in the middle.

It’s a reminder of the need for Bangladesh and the world to insist that there is some practical space between doing nothing and punishing the victims.

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

1. Democratic government and the ‘unwritten rules’

Democratic governments have survived not just because of their rulebooks, but because of their understood code of behavior. Now, that code is being challenged.

Mark
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons in London on September 4.

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Democracies have survived because of their rulebooks, as well as a shared belief that constitutional structures are inherently worth preserving – and while certain actions may not violate formal strictures, they’re simply not done.

A “coup” charge against U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson came after the move that triggered this week’s unfolding power showdown: his break with long convention to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks to allow free rein for his Brexit strategy. His calculation seems to be to portray legislators as blocking the will of the people.

In less-established democracies, the examples are especially striking: moves by the leaders of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey to neuter the independence of the judiciary and the media. Much of their conduct has fallen within legal powers. But opponents say such actions don’t happen in a healthy democracy.

The international tide may well be with them. In Hungary and Poland, leaders who have breached tacit conventions have won support at the polls. Turkey’s leader has notched up three victories. The longer-term question is what might reverse that tide. Some in the United States and Britain have suggested a return to civics education to start what could prove to be a long process.

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Democratic government and the ‘unwritten rules’

“Stop the coup!”

The refrain of British protesters against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s readiness to crash his country out of the European Union without agreeing to the withdrawal terms has been undeniably arresting. It is also – in stark, factual terms – simply wrong.

And the distinction between what Mr. Johnson has and hasn’t done matters, not only for what’s going on in Britain.

It’s a window into a broader challenge facing other constitutional governments at a time when the tide of populist politics is on the rise – whether in established democracies like the United States, nascent European ones like Hungary and Poland, or increasingly tenuous ones like Turkey.

It has highlighted a crucial fact about democratic governments. They’ve survived not just because of their rulebooks, but due to a tacitly understood code of behavior. That code has been rooted in a shared belief that these constitutional structures are inherently worth preserving – and the view that, as a result, while certain actions may not violate any formal strictures, they’re simply not done.

The “coup” charge against Mr. Johnson came in response to the move that triggered this week’s dramatic and still unfolding power showdown between the prime minister and Parliament: his decision to prorogue, or discontinue, parliamentary sittings for up to five weeks and allow him free rein for his Brexit strategy.

But this was no junta-like usurpation of power. It’s not even clear whether it violated any legal boundaries. That issue is now working its way through the courts.

The ‘unprecedented’ factor

His critics’ anger lay in the fact that a prorogation of this length, at a time when Britain faces what all sides are calling its most important decision since World War II, was unprecedented. Unfair. Transparently designed to circumvent the legislature. In other words, it was something that just wasn’t done.

Brexit-era Britain is a special case. Under the U.K. system, Parliament, not the executive, is ultimately sovereign, but a 2016 national referendum voted narrowly in favor of leaving the EU. As a result, the showdown also mirrors another important aspect of what’s going on in a number of other democracies: Mr. Johnson’s populist argument that he’s speaking for the broader will of the people and is simply taking on politicians determined to frustrate it.

Like Mr. Johnson, the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy, President Donald Trump, has been accused by critics and political opponents of breaching serial legal boundaries. That still remains to be determined, whether by Congress or the courts.

But take one of the most serious cases at issue: his firing of former F.B.I. Director James Comey at a time when it was probing possible ties between his presidential campaign and Russia. It can be argued, as he and his supporters have done, that he was acting within the powers of his office. Still, at least since the days of former President Richard Nixon and Watergate, the action did fall under the category of things that, by long-standing consensus, weren’t done.

The same applies to Mr. Trump’s decision not to release his personal tax returns, for instance. There is nothing illegal about that. It is, however, something that for many decades hasn’t been done.

In less-established democracies, the examples are especially striking: moves by the leaders of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey to try to neuter the independence of the judiciary and the news media. Much of their conduct has fallen within their legal powers. But their opponents, as well as human-rights watchdogs, have argued that they represent actions that, in a healthy democracy, just aren’t done.

The implicit argument in Britain’s “stop the coup” chants is that the erosion of long-embedded assumptions of what political leaders should or shouldn’t do poses a challenge to properly functioning democracies. Or, to borrow the title of the venerable 1940s American newspaper comic: There oughta be a law!

Parliament and the people

But Mr. Johnson’s calculation, in now trying to secure a snap general election before the October 31 Brexit deadline, seems to be that he will be able in effect to campaign against Parliament, portraying legislators as trying to block the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum. President Trump has been making a similarly populist argument against U.S. institutions including the Justice Department, the FBI and, more recently, the Federal Reserve Board.

And the international tide may well be with them. In Hungary and Poland, in part due to an appeal to nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments, leaders who have been breaching tacit conventions to shield their governments from scrutiny have won support at the polls. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has notched up three national election victories over the past nearly two decades, increasing his vote each time, though local elections earlier this year did suggest his hold on the electorate could be waning.

The longer-term questions remain what, if anything, might swing the pendulum back in the other direction; and whether the informal conventions of democratic government, once breached or abandoned, can or will be restored.

One reason for skepticism is growing popular disenchantment with, and disengagement from, institutions of government in democratic countries across the globe.

In both the U.S. and Britain, with many citizens unable to pass the naturalization tests given to immigrants, one suggestion has been a renewed focus on old-style civics education. The aim would be to reengage people, whatever their beliefs or allegiances, with how their countries’ democratic structures were designed and built, how they’re supposed to work, and why they matter to the lives of individual citizens.

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2. Canada asks, ‘Why aren’t we helping more Central American refugees?’

Canada has a long history of opening its doors to the world’s refugees. But how has it ended up prioritizing some asylum-seekers while others in its American backyard still go wanting?

Mark
Loren Elliott/Reuters
A Guatemalan teenager seeking asylum with her father, cries after crossing the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas, on Aug. 23. The U.S. crackdown on migration is raising questions in Canada about why it isn't doing more for refugees from the Northern Triangle.

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In 2018, Canada overtook the United States as the world’s most welcoming country to refugees – in large part thanks to President Donald Trump’s closed-door policies toward asylum-seekers, particularly those arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. But despite Canada’s reputation, few Central Americans are finding refuge within its borders, and activists are asking why.

It’s hard for Central Americans to seek Canadian asylum in the first place, because of the “Safe Third Country Agreement” that the U.S. and Canada signed after 9/11. Under the deal, an asylum-seeker who places a claim in the U.S. and then tries to do so at the border in Canada will be turned back. In Canada, the deal has been controversial since it went into effect, and has received increasing critical attention at home since Mr. Trump’s various measures to shut down the asylum process.

“Since Trump came into power it has been turned topsy-turvy,” says Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian minister of foreign affairs. “So how can we use their refugee system to be the conduit for refugees coming to Canada through the United States when they no longer want to deal with refugees?”

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Canada asks, ‘Why aren’t we helping more Central American refugees?’

“This is it; this was their landing place,” says Monika Oviedo, as she arrives at Reception House, a three-story brick home on a leafy street of this diverse city 40 miles west of Toronto. It’s where her parents spent their first two weeks in Canada with her older brother, then 5, when they arrived in 1991 as refugees from El Salvador, fleeing civil war and the threat of the military and paramilitary death squads.

The house sits across from Victoria Park Lake, which lent Ms. Oviedo’s mother meditative peace during a time of upheaval in her life, and is still running today. But it mainly serves government-assisted refugees from Syria, other parts of the Middle East, and East and Central Africa. There are no Central Americans living there now.

That has not gone unnoticed in a country that has grabbed global attention for its generous welcome of refugees, especially as the United States under President Donald Trump continues to shut out families fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Last month the Trump administration announced a rule to hold asylum-seeking children with their families indefinitely in detention, up from 20 days. That’s after a series of measures to stop immigration flows altogether, including separating children from their parents at the border.

Sara Miller Llana/The Christian Science Monitor
Monika Oviedo stands in front of the Reception House, where her family spent their first two weeks in Canada in 1991 when they arrived as refugees from El Salvador, fleeing civil war and the threat of the military and paramilitary death squads. [Editors note: The original version misstated who in the Oviedo family stayed in Reception House.]

“As someone whose family came as refugees, with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the crisis in Central America, Canada’s absence and lack of any kind of response has been gnawing away at me for a long time,” Ms. Oviedo says.

Ms. Oviedo and the activist group she helped form this summer, the Coalition for Northern Central America (CNCA), think Ottawa needs to increase resettlement of Central Americans who are living out a humanitarian emergency. So do officials from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), particularly to help ease the current burden on Mexico, where many Central American asylum seekers are stuck. Doing more could include resettling more refugees from the region, as Canada did during the peak of the Syrian war, or fighting against U.S. policy that’s making it hard for them to arrive in Canada, via Mexico and the U.S., to seek asylum.

“Canada has been very responsive, the response on Syrian refugees was probably the best in the world,” says Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian minister of Foreign Affairs and now chair of the World Refugee Council. “So that’s why many of us are kind of perplexed. Why are we not responding the same way to something in our own neighborhood?”

Topsy-turvy

The number of asylum seekers from the “Northern Triangle” (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) rose by 30%, to more than 311,000, in 2018. Of those who make it to Canada, government data shows a significant majority are accepted into the country. Indeed, on World Refugee Day this June, the UNHCR announced Canada was the world’s most generous country for resettlement in 2018, the first time the U.S. failed to top the list since the 1950s. 

Christinne Muschi/Reuters/File
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer announces to a group of asylum seekers from Haiti that they will be crossing illegally into Canada at the U.S.-Canada border in Champlain, New York, on Aug. 7, 2017.

But it’s hard for Central Americans to seek Canadian asylum in the first place, in large part because of the “Safe Third Country Agreement” that the U.S. and Canada signed after 9/11. Under the deal, an asylum seeker who places a claim in the U.S. and then tries to do so at the border in Canada will be turned back. Mr. Trump has pushed for “safe third party” deals with Guatemala and Mexico, moves that have been panned as an attempt to further shut out asylum seekers. 

In Canada, the deal has been controversial since it went into effect in 2004. The most vulnerable Central Americans, specifically those who can’t access a visa to get here in the first place, don't have a safe option to seek asylum says Patricia Landolt, a professor of global migration at the University of Toronto. The agreement has received increasing critical attention at home since Mr. Trump’s various measures to shut down the asylum process.

“At the time [of the agreement], I think we had a fairly common base of values and procedures with the United States refugee system. Since Trump came into power it has been turned topsy-turvy,” says Mr. Axworthy. “So how can we use their refugee system to be the conduit for refugees coming to Canada through the United States when they no longer want to deal with refugees?”

More resettlement of refugees could help bypass the mounting pressures on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

For decades Canada was a haven for tens of thousands of Latin Americans – from those fleeing the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile (including Ms. Landolt’s family in 1974), to Central Americans fleeing civil war in the 1980s and early ‘90s, to drug-fueled violence in Colombia in the ‘90s.

That hospitality has left a mark on Kitchener, where vibrant eateries serve the Salvadoran national specialty, pupusas (corn flatbread), and grocers sell plantains and banana leaves. Andres Guerrero, who arrived in 1990 with his young family and owns the bustling Pupuseria Latinos, says what is happening in the U.S. is so upsetting that he refuses to watch the news. His eldest son, also Andres Guerrero, watches, but calls it “heartbreaking.”

Ms. Oviedo says that Canada welcomed refugees from El Salvador during the Cold War in a stance against U.S. policy to back violent Central American military and paramilitary forces at the time. Today she and many others worry that Canada is not standing up to Mr. Trump because Canada has so much at stake economically. 

“Political shift we’re not seeing”

While Canada surpassed the U.S. last year in resettlement, that is mostly because the U.S. dramatically stepped back from previous years. The CNCA says it is here that Canada could fill a “hole.” It highlighted one UNHCR-coordinated program, under which Canada has only resettled 11 Northern Triangle refugees. The coalition has circulated a petition to pressure Ottawa to use mechanisms already in place to open up resettlement pathways.

UNHCR has advocated for Canada to increase resettlement of the most vulnerable from Mexico too, like members of the LGBTQ community. “Canada has always been a very strong partner for us. But a refocus on Central America or that part of the world would be most welcome,” says Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UNHCR Representative in Canada. 

Canada has provided over $50 million (Canadian; $37.5 million U.S.) to the Northern Triangle for development to “address the push factors of irregular migration such as violence, insecurity and poverty, especially towards vulnerable populations such as women and girls,” says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the government's immigration department, in a statement. They add they’ve been working with UNHCR to provide training, technical assistance, and tools to help Mexico process a growing number of asylum claims. 

In the meantime, polarized immigration politics shapes understanding of what persecution is – and doors are closed everywhere. Many continue to see the plight of Central Americans as one of poverty and violence but not persecution. 

Ms. Landolt argues that gang- and drug-fueled violence in Central America and Mexico today should be seen as a humanitarian crisis and, for the many who fear direct persecution by the state and para-state forces, as a refugee crisis. Instead, she sees politicians denying the flight from violence as an exodus of refugees fleeing insecurity.

“This is the kind of political shift that we’re not seeing. We’re not seeing it in Canada. We’re certainly not seeing it in the United States. I think that’s what we would need to work towards.”

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3. In blaze of powerlessness, South Africans rage against migrants

Fear of outsiders has many roots. In South Africa, rampant poverty and inequality have helped to foment jealousy and contempt for foreign-born business owners.

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Elvis Yusuf knew exactly what had happened when the call came in on Sunday night. There’s been an attack, said a friend who lived just behind Shakara Motors, the car dealership where he worked.

When Mr. Yusuf reached the dealership the following morning, its stock of cars had been reduced to dozens of hollow metal husks. The dealership was one of hundreds of businesses looted since late last week, attacks carried out in the name of reclaiming South Africa from its migrants.

Foreigners are an easy target for a rage and helplessness that run much deeper in the lives of many poor South Africans, says Jean Pierre Misago, an expert on xenophobia and violent outsider exclusion.

Twenty-five years after the end of white rule, South Africa remains staggeringly unequal. Despite being the most developed country on the continent, half the population lives below the local poverty line of $80 a month. 

“People are jealous, people are hungry,” says Isaac Hlatshwayo, the security guard at Shakara, as he watches local beggars pry hunks of metal off the ashy car skeletons that still lined the road in front of the shop.

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In blaze of powerlessness, South Africans rage against migrants

For days, the warnings had been slowly snaking their way across the city, spread by text messages and whispered conversations. 

“NOTICE TO ALL FOREIGNERS IN SOUTH AFRICA,” read one message widely circulated on WhatsApp. “We are going to knock every company, houses, flats and squatter camps looking for you. Better pack your bags and go. This is a serious warning.”

“Attention All,” began another. “Tomorrow is the final phase of our strike. Make sure all the foreigners are swept away. ... We want our country back.”

At home near a rambling district of used-car lots and corner stores east of downtown Johannesburg, Elvis Yusuf’s phone buzzed with these messages, forwarded by fellow immigrants and concerned friends. Until finally, on Sunday night, there came another.

It was a call from a friend who lived just behind Shakara Motors, the car dealership where Mr. Yusuf worked as a mechanic.

There’s been an attack, she said simply. He knew what that meant.

When Mr. Yusuf reached the dealership the following morning, its stock of cars had been reduced to dozens of hollow metal husks, slumped and twisted in piles of their own ash. The street around him lay in ruin. Metal grates covering nearby shopfronts had been peeled open like the lids of tin cans, their contents – broken beer bottles, burst tomatoes, punctured bags of fluffy maize flour – scattered on the road nearby. Giant hunks of charred brick lay in the negative space where neighboring buildings once stood.

The dealership was one of hundreds of businesses looted since late last week, as violence has crashed over South Africa’s largest city and its surrounds. So far, at least seven people have died and 423 have been arrested in connection with the attacks, which have purportedly targeted the city’s foreign-owned businesses.

But as with several earlier waves of anti-foreigner violence here, the attacks carried out this week in the name of reclaiming South Africa from its migrants have been exceptionally unfocused, with many South Africans counted among those killed, injured, and looted in attacks. Among the targets in the latest wave of violence, for instance, was a nongovernmental organization offering legal advice and assistance to low-paid casual laborers.

“Xenophobia is the match that lit the flames, but the fire is much bigger than that,” said Lenny Govender, a South African whose car dealership was also looted this week, as he peered through a mosaic of cracked glass into the gutted room where his office once stood.

Foreigners are an easy target for a rage and helplessness that run much deeper in the lives of many poor South Africans, says Jean Pierre Misago, a researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Twenty-five years after the end of white rule, indeed, South Africa remains staggeringly unequal. Despite being the most developed country on the continent, half the population lives below the local poverty line of $80 a month. The formal unemployment rate hovers near 30%, and jumps to more than 50% among people under 25.

Political scapegoating

In that context, Mr. Misago says, political leaders frequently use anti-foreign sentiment to steer blame away from their own governance failings. 

“It’s absolutely political scapegoating. There’s not enough space in public schools? Blame foreigners. There aren’t resources in our clinics? Blame foreigners. There are problems of drugs and prostitution and crime? Blame foreigners,” he says. “People feel disempowered in this country, and this is a way to claim that power back.”

The disempowerment at the heart of xenophobic violence here runs deep. Since the end of apartheid 25 years ago, the gap between South Africa’s rich and poor people has actually widened. And while there is no available data for this week’s attacks, the perpetrators of past waves of violence have been drawn almost exclusively from the squatter camps and decrepit worker hostels that line the fringes of South African society – places left largely untouched by the radical rebirth of Nelson Mandela’s “miracle” nation two decades ago.

“People are jealous, people are hungry,” says Isaac Hlatshwayo, the security guard at Shakara, as he watches local beggars pry hunks of metal off the ashy car skeletons that still lined the road in front of the shop on Thursday.

Like other migrants, Mr. Hlatshwayo, a Zimbabwean who now has South African citizenship, has lived through many earlier waves of violence here. In 2008, more than 60 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced by attacks around the country. And in the years since, outbreaks of violence have sparked and fizzled again and again, often drawing little attention outside the immediate communities where they occur.

“This is something happening almost every day in this country on some scale,” says Mr. Misago.

But this week, news of the violence has traversed the continent on social media. Protesters in both Nigeria and Zambia attacked South African chain stores there in retaliation for the violence, and the South African government announced that it would temporarily close its consulates in Nigeria for the safety of staff there. The government of Nigeria, meanwhile, announced that it would boycott the regional meeting of the World Economic Forum, which is taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, this week.

Recalling the ‘Mandela tax’

For Ezeh, another mechanic at Shakara, who asked to be identified only by a nickname for safety reasons, it’s easy to see why other Africans feel so betrayed by how migrants are treated here.

As a high school student in Jos, Nigeria, in the 1980s, he remembers, his headmaster gathered his school together and made an announcement.

Nigerian civil servants, he explained, were having a small percentage of their pay docked to provide assistance to the struggle against apartheid – a so-called Mandela tax. Now, students were being asked to get involved as well. 

“I worked that whole week to make the money to donate,” he says. “Our headmaster told us, ‘Our brothers are suffering. We have to help.’” 

But now, three decades later, as he surveyed the skeletal remains of two dozen cars all around him, that Pan-African solidarity seemed forgotten. “People don’t know their history, they don’t know where they’re coming from. They don’t realize these borders were created by colonial powers to separate us,” he says. 

On the road outside, small groups of men pried bumpers from the charred wreckage of cars, or gathered up knots of burnt wire to sell for a few dollars at nearby scrapyards. A few blocks down the road, people filtered in and out of the blackened husk of a restaurant. Its signboard, which read PRINCESS CAFÉ, was still plastered to the front wall, but the roof above it had collapsed, and inside was only a jumble of concrete and metal. 

Those inside picked quietly through the rubble, searching for anything that had been left behind.

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Point of Progress

What's going right

4. No offense, Florida and Arizona. But we’ll retire right here.

Wanted: Innovation for older adults. More Americans are aging in place with living arrangements that are more satisfying, which highlights affordability concerns and the need for solutions that address safety.  

Mark
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Members of Beacon Hill Village in Boston take an exercise class on July 22, 2019. The village is a community-based effort to meet the needs of older adults living at home.

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It’s about “knowing somebody has your back,” says Susan McWhinney-Morse. She’s describing how in 2002, she and 11 friends who were thinking about retirement decided to band together to coordinate services and activities, but “age in place” and stay in their own homes. Since their “village” movement began, it has spawned other community-based efforts to meet the needs and preferences of older adults.

Remaining at home can present new challenges, such as the increased need for day-to-day assistance and mobility-enhancing home modifications. But also on the rise are roommate-matching services that find housemates for seniors, or that focus on intergenerational home sharing, often pairing a young adult struggling to find a place with a senior seeking help with household chores.

Housing is often overlooked as an aspect of wellness, but continued innovation can help meet communities’ needs for suitable and affordable housing solutions, says gerontologist Laura Gitlin. “We need many more housing solutions that build in smart technologies for monitoring, for reminders, for making homes safer, [for] having people better connected,” she says.

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No offense, Florida and Arizona. But we’ll retire right here.

As she neared retirement in the late 1990s, Boston resident Susan McWhinney-Morse wasn’t satisfied with popular options for life after retirement.

“The prevailing attitude for people who retired was to move to Florida, to Arizona, to what were then brand-new continuing-care retirement communities where we could be safe, cared for, with other people like us – that whole concept of what I call ‘warehousing the elderly,’” she says. “But we happened to live in the city we loved, in houses we loved, and we felt that the concept of moving made absolutely no sense to us.”

Ms. McWhinney-Morse wanted to continue to live with dignity in her own home, but she anticipated that she might eventually need assistance. So she and 11 Boston-based friends decided to band together. Beacon Hill Village, which they formed in 2002, is about “knowing somebody has your back,” Ms. McWhinney-Morse says.

The extensive “village” movement it has since spawned is part of a growing number of community-based efforts to meet the needs and preferences of older adults through the sharing economy. 

Spanning six countries and 47 U.S. states, the 250 villages and the 130 in development differ in the kinds of communities they serve and how they serve them. But they share a central principle – what Ms. McWhinney-Morse calls the “secret sauce”: an interdependent community that comes together, with the help of a small coordinating staff, in pursuit of healthy, fulfilling lives.

“You can really get some shared savings on those sorts of economies, but it’s also again for fun things – to really live with age and thrive,” says Kathy Black, a professor of aging studies and social work at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

More Americans age 67 or older are “aging in place,” or staying in their homes, longer than previous generations have, a February study by mortgage lender Freddie Mac shows. 

Maintaining a sense of place and community helps prevent feelings of loneliness in older adults, experts say, leading to greater well-being. Three out of 4 Americans over the age of 50 want to stay in their current residence as long as possible, a 2018 AARP survey shows. 

But remaining at home can present new challenges, such as the increased need for day-to-day assistance and mobility-enhancing home modifications.

Technological advancements like activity-monitoring sensors and automated medication dispensers enhance home safety. The market for aging technology will more than triple by 2022, up to $30 billion, according to projections from the Consumer Technology Association.

Client-oriented platforms also provide long-term solutions. Online roommate-matching services such as Silvernest – which has made 40,000 matches across all 50 states – find housemates for seniors. Another company, Nesterly, focuses on intergenerational home sharing, often pairing a young adult struggling to find a place with a senior seeking help with household chores.

“There are social and financial [advantages] – real health benefits from having somebody else there,” Dr. Black says.

At Beacon Hill Village, those connections come when members form affinity groups, which meet regularly for recreational activities. Ms. McWhinney-Morse remembers that when another woman had difficulty walking after a fall, the affinity group she belonged to sprang into action. Within two hours, three couples had shown up at her door. They helped lower her bed, bought groceries for her, and eventually found her a new apartment. 

Aging in place is not a one-size-fits-all solution, Dr. Black says. More needs to be done to accommodate an older population with varying ranges of wealth, health, and even age, according to Laura Gitlin, gerontologist and dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

But Beacon Hill Village made an effort to include the 20% of the neighborhood living at or below the poverty line, Ms. McWhinney-Morse says. Annual membership fees are $675 for an individual and $975 for a household, but prospective members can apply for reduced fees of $110 and $160, respectively. They also receive stipends for social activities.

Fewer than 5% of U.S. homes are universally designed, or built to be accessible to people regardless of age and disability, according to Dr. Black. Housing is often overlooked as an aspect of wellness, Dr. Gitlin says, but continued innovation can help meet communities’ needs for suitable and affordable housing solutions.

“We need many more housing solutions that build in smart technologies for monitoring, for reminders, for making homes safer, [for] having people better connected,” she says. “And we do have that capacity. We don’t have the financial model for it. And we haven’t put it together so that it can be on a scale that everybody has access.”

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Voices on Culture

5. Jay-Z and the NFL: Business as usual, or a path to social change?

How should we respond to the need to make the world more just? Our guest columnist offers her view of the approaches of rapper Jay-Z and quarterback Colin Kaepernick and finds room for both.

Mark

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Three years ago, then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat and later knelt during the national anthem to bring attention to the killing of black people by police. That year, black men were nine times more likely than any other group to be killed by the police.

Music mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, who supported Mr. Kaepernick’s protests, has faced backlash recently for entering a partnership with the NFL to provide entertainment and support the league’s social justice slate of programs. Critics accuse the rapper of selling out.

Beyond the hype, though, there is an important question to explore in the different approaches of these two men: How should we respond to the need to make the world a more just place? Should we address the symptoms, empowering individuals who can go on to make a better world, or do we attack the systems, pulling out inequity at the root and negotiating new power relationships?

Justice will never be a who but a how. When the conversation stalls around making heroes and villains of the personalities involved instead of focusing on the mechanics of change, we miss the opportunity to explore the more nuanced answers for how we get better. 

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Jay-Z and the NFL: Business as usual, or a path to social change?

The NFL kicks off the regular season on Thursday with more than just a game in Chicago. A free concert featuring pop singer Meghan Trainor and rapper Meek Mill promoting the league’s social justice campaign, Inspire Change, which debuted in January, will also take place in the Windy City. The concert is part of the recently announced and controversial partnership between the NFL and music mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.  

That partnership, which aims to provide entertainment and support the league’s social justice slate of programs, was met with both criticism and praise when it was unveiled in August. Rumblings about Jay-Z making the deal without the involvement of apparently blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick – whose protests were supported by Jay-Z – started right away. They grew with a report, now in question, that the rapper planned to become part owner of a team. The announcement of a concert series and a merchandise line further frustrated critics, who complain that Jay-Z is selling out and that he and the NFL are throwing shallow solutions at systemic problems. In typical pop culture process, people are taking sides online to stump for their favorite as if it’s a rap battle. 

Three years ago, Mr. Kaepernick first sat and later knelt during the national anthem to bring attention to the killing of black people by police. In that year, black men were nine times more likely than any other group to be killed by the police, yet the maelstrom of criticism that followed focused on questioning Mr. Kaepernick’s patriotism, not police shootings.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/File
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7), and free safety Eric Reid (35) kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara, California, Oct. 6, 2016.

Beyond the hype there is an important question to explore in the different approaches of Jay and Colin: How should we respond to the need to make the world a more just place? Should we address the symptoms, empowering individuals who can go on to make a better world, or do we attack the systems, pulling out inequity at the root and negotiating new power relationships?

Jay-Z’s approach is to try to better adapt and thrive in the existing structure. Taking a seat at the table, working to create room for others, opening up opportunities to those often left out, and inspiring people to grow are important ways to help pitch a bigger tent. Inclusion seeks to let marginalized people into spaces they are blocked from, and provide a chance for individuals to reach their full potential. Such adaptive measures do much to lift individuals but ultimately leave unequal systems in place.

Mr. Kaepernick’s approach seeks to remove the barriers that block marginalized groups from their potential. Addressing police brutality and a penal system that has treated many people of color unjustly, and trying to protect basic freedoms like the First and Fourth amendments, Mr. Kaepernick says he seeks to secure freedom for all people, and liberation from the systems that are seen as generating and protecting inequity. Work to change the system is difficult, requiring legal and cultural shifts. 

Increasing access and opportunity for those shut out from power repairs inequity by balancing the scale: Think of the Democrats’ inclusive slate of candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, leading to the most diverse class of incoming representatives to Washington. But some wonder if it makes sense to fight to be included in systems that are flawed. Freshmen congresswomen on “the squad,” lauded for their diversity, have faced backlash for their advocacy. When fresh voices speak up, can existing systems tune in to listen? 

Alternatively, addressing the sources of oppressive systems puts the focus on perpetrators and policies that reproduce inequities, stamping them out at their root. The Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment has fought to hold perpetrators legally accountable, making progress by dismantling a system that enabled bad actors and working to change the laws so they protect victims, not their victimizers. Changing systems is slow, difficult, and disruptive, taking years, sometimes generations to feel the effects. Some question whether we can afford to take the long, hard road when there is so much urgency for change right now.      

Justice will never be a who but a how. When the conversation stalls around making heroes and villains of the personalities involved instead of focusing on the mechanics of change, we miss the opportunity to explore the more nuanced answers for how we get better. 

Guest columnist Susan X Jane works to help individuals and institutions create more equitable environments as the principal of Navigators Consulting and blogs about race and media at smntks.com.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that the members of "the squad" are congresswomen. 

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The Monitor's View

In Colombia, peacemakers rally to save a peace deal

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In Colombia, which three years ago approved a pact to end a half-century of civil war, peace has been a daily activity. It ranges from forgiveness of former fighters who lay down their arms to reparations for the war’s victims. Yet in the past week, after a group of ex-combatants announced a return to armed conflict, the peacemaking has been particularly active.

A chorus of individuals and organizations came forward to counter the call to rearm by a small group of senior commanders from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. In what may be the strongest rebuke, the former leader of FARC said that 95% of ex-FARC members stand firm with the pact.

Perhaps the strongest citizen movement is the group Let’s Defend Peace, which now has over 30,000 members, from former guerrillas to retired generals. It has led peace marches and petition signings to compel government action.

Peace in Colombia is now less of a negative noun about war and more of a positive verb about reconciliation.

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In Colombia, peacemakers rally to save a peace deal

Peace is often defined merely as an absence of war. In Colombia, which three years ago approved a pact to end a half-century of civil war, peace has been a daily activity. It ranges from forgiveness of former fighters who lay down their arms to reparations for the war’s victims. Yet in the past week, after a group of ex-combatants announced a return to armed conflict, the peacemaking has been particularly active.

A chorus of individuals and organizations came forward to counter the call to rearm by a small group of senior commanders from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The group’s leader, Luciano Marín – better known by his nom de guerre, Iván Márquez – had declared a “new chapter” in the armed struggle for a communist society. Wearing military garb and holding a rifle in a video posted on Aug. 29, he accused the government of “betrayal” for allowing the killing of some 130 ex-rebels.

The killings have indeed been a disappointment as have many unfulfilled promises of the peace pact, which laid out reforms over 15 years. But the advances under the pact are also becoming very visible, such as more land titles for farmers, the presence of ex-FARC leaders in Congress, and a reduction in the production of coca, the principal ingredient in cocaine.

In what may be the strongest rebuke, the former leader of FARC, Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko, said that 95% of the 13,000 ex-FARC members stand firm with the pact. “Those of us who want peace are many more and we have the obligation not to faint,” he said. He added that the government’s breaches in implementing the pact must not be met with a breach in the peace.

“We cannot spend another 50 years in useless confrontations,” he said. “Future generations would not forgive us.”

The government’s former chief peace negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, called on the well-organized groups of war victims to again rally for peace. They played a crucial role during the negotiations from 2012 to 2016. “We ask Colombians to think about future victims, those we must avoid,” Mr. de la Calle said.

Perhaps the strongest citizen movement to uphold the pact grew out of a discussion on a WhatsApp chatroom to defend the pact. The group, known as Let’s Defend Peace, now has over 30,000 members, from former guerrillas to retired generals. It has led peace marches and petition signings to compel government action.

The group shows “remarkable persistence, creative flair, and refusal to take no for an answer with which – despite every adversity – Colombians pull together to build a better society,” says Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Washington-based Latin America Working Group.

Much of the enthusiasm to keep the peace comes from the hard work during the negotiations to find a balance between forgiveness and justice for ex-combatants. As John Jairo Hoyos, a member of Congress whose father was killed by FARC, explained recently: “My heart was filled with hatred for more than 10 years.” But during the negotiations, he was invited him to speak to FARC commanders. “We yelled at them, called them names, we cried for hours in that dialogue. They asked for forgiveness and promised to do no more harm. We came out determined to build peace and put aside the past,” he said.

Peace in Colombia is now less of a negative noun about war and more of a positive verb about reconciliation.

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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.

Never give up

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Yearning for light and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, a woman found inspiration in the Bible that lifted the fog of fear and fault-finding and brought clarity, joy, and a harmonious path forward for her whole family. 

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Never give up

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

I remember reading that quote – by 19th-century abolitionist and best-selling novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe – many years ago on a poster. I thought, “Something this profound must have come from someone who has lived what they are talking about.” Indeed, despite experiencing personal tragedies and witnessing the worst of humankind’s treatment of one another, she lived a productive life that was a blessing to countless people.

How did Ms. Stowe do it? She once referred to, in her own words, her “intense unwavering sense of Christ’s educating, guiding presence and care.” One of her poems, which begins “Still, still with Thee,” was adapted as a hymn in the “Christian Science Hymnal” (No. 317), and in it Stowe repeatedly draws the glorious conclusion that God is always with her.

This message is also one that has come to me during challenging times. For instance, at one time my husband and I and our two children were living in a friend’s basement because a house we’d bought needed substantial repairs, including new plumbing and a roof. On top of this cramped and stressful situation, our income unexpectedly decreased by more than half. This all created great tension in our marriage. We were even considering divorce.

At first I felt blind in this dense darkness, not knowing where to turn for light and hope. It seemed as though it would have been so easy for me to walk away.

But from my study of the Bible, which Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, refers to as “the chart of life” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 24), I’d learned of the wonderful strengths we have all been given as children of God. These include clarity, calmness, wisdom, and inspiration. Affirming that each of us inherently reflects God’s qualities is empowering. Mrs. Eddy also explains, “Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil” (p. 571).

I had experienced before that trusting in God’s Word, in the Christ (God’s healing message of love and care for all), is a good first step to take when we feel paralyzed with fear and don’t see a way out. So I turned again to the Bible for guidance and read these passages: God has “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9), and “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).

I couldn’t imagine more perfect ideas for me at that moment. I immediately felt the darkness start to dissipate. Science and Health includes a spiritual definition of “morning” as “light; symbol of Truth; revelation and progress” (p. 591). It felt like a kind of morning as my thought turned to God, divine Truth, instead of ruminating on the seemingly insurmountable problems.

It took tremendous discipline of thought to hold to the truth of God’s love and care for everyone. But Love, another name for God, helps us unfailingly. Science and Health assures us, “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way” (p. 454). Letting God’s love enlighten our thought enables us to be receptive to the wisdom that shows the way out of problems.

And that proved true in my experience. Praying with these ideas freed me from fear and a tendency to unhelpfully criticize and find fault. I felt flooded with light, inspiration, and the natural and deep love I really felt for my husband and my family, including a desire to keep us all together, working in harmony.

Before I knew it, the house was finished, and selling it (as we had originally planned) enabled us to move to a home that we all loved. We stayed together as a family, closer than ever after weathering the storm. My husband and I even went into business together several years later, enjoying a successful and harmonious partnership.

Anyone can experience the shift in consciousness that naturally comes as we realize that in truth we are all loving, lovable, and loved as children of God. The light of divine Love dissolves the darkness of fear and confusion and replaces it with confidence, hope, and abundant joy.

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Viewfinder

Floating market

Danish Ismail/Reuters
Vegetable vendors assemble at a floating market in the interior of Dal Lake, in Srinagar, India. This century-old market offers a bit of normality amid restrictions imposed on the region after the Indian government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, Sept. 5, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( September 6th, 2019 )

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow when we’ll have a moving tale from Colombia about a former guerrilla who has traded his gun for a camera.

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