Monitor Daily Podcast

September 16, 2019
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Covering Climate Now: The story of the century

Welcome to your Daily. Today’s stories explore the viability of centrism in U.S. politics, Israel’s fractious divide over religion and state, the use of subterfuge in state politics, the role of immigrants in the food industry, and the dearth of political satire in American culture.

What would you say is the most pressing challenge facing the world today?

Migration? Economic instability? Global conflict? Hunger?

Depending on your politics and worldview, any of these issues might be a top concern. But these challenges are all being stoked by a common fuel: climate change.

For years, discussion of climate change was relegated to scientific and environmental circles. As politicians, particularly in the United States, have bickered over whether the science can be trusted, it has become undeniably clear that climate change is already upon us. And it is affecting nearly every aspect of modern life.

Extreme weather events that used to strike once every 100 years are now becoming increasingly frequent. Entire communities are being displaced by encroaching seas. Famine and drought are adding fuel to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

But that’s not the whole story. This unprecedented global crisis has sparked an equally unprecedented global effort to do something about it. While some may be tempted to throw up their hands and give up, forward-thinking scientists, engineers, politicians, even students have seized the challenge of a lifetime: saving the planet.

The Monitor has long focused on efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This week, we are joining Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, and more than 250 news outlets around the world in the Covering Climate Now initiative to amplify coverage of this crisis.

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Brett Kavanaugh, Susan Collins, and what Maine women think

In an increasingly polarized political environment driven by tweets and outrage, can moderates still find a place to stand? In Maine, centrist Sen. Susan Collins is finding herself on unstable ground.


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Susan Collins may be in trouble. For the first time in her career, the moderate Republican senator from Maine is facing sustained anger from a substantial number of voters at home. She’s dropped from the second most popular U.S. senator, as measured by polls, to the second most unpopular.

Her situation raises the issue of whether there’s room for centrists in today’s increasingly partisan politics.

“I’m really disappointed. And you’ll hear that’s what the tenor is around here,” says voter Cheryl Clukey of Augusta, Maine.

Some say that Senator Collins in recent years has become less attentive to local voters. But if there is one thing that has sparked her decline in popularity, particularly among women, it’s her deciding vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The vote went against her moderate image, say critics, given Justice Kavanaugh’s own views and allegations against him of sexual assault. To Democrats it’s overshadowed Senator Collins’ votes supporting “Obamacare” and her leadership in ending government shutdowns.

“To us, she is out of step with what we want,” says Marie Follayter, director of the political group Mainers for Accountable Leadership.


1. Brett Kavanaugh, Susan Collins, and what Maine women think

Ann Hermes/Staff
Sen. Susan Collins greets attendees at an event celebrating the one millionth ride for seniors with the Independent Transportation Network of America on April 30, 2018, in Portland, Maine.

Sen. Susan Collins has long seemed unbeatable. 

Despite being a Republican in a state that leans slightly Democratic, she has handily won every reelection since her entry to the Senate in 1996. During her most recent race in 2014, Senator Collins won every county in Maine by at least 24 percentage points. She’s frequently named the most bipartisan senator, and has long been a political icon in her state.

But her political position has changed. Senator Collins has gone from the country’s second-most popular senator, to the second-most unpopular in 2019, right behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Cook Political Report shifted its forecast of Senator Collins’ race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up” in August. 

In the age of President Donald Trump and the increasing political polarization of the Republican and Democratic parties, the national space for moderates like Senator Collins has shrunk. Senator Collins seemed to be one of the last leaders in Washington standing on a centrist island between the two parties, and Maine voters, who prize themselves on independent thinking, loved her for that. But in 2020, there may no longer be enough land on the island for Senator Collins to stand. 

“I was always really proud of the idea that I could vote for two Republican women,” says Emily Qualey, a Democrat from Portland, Maine, referring to Senator Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe. Ms. Qualey, who says she has voted for Senator Collins since she turned 18, traveled to Washington on an overnight bus in October in hopes of meeting with Senator Collins about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Since his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court she has been active in a group raising funds for Senator Collins’ Democratic opponent in 2020.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Emily Qualey says she's backed Sen. Susan Collins since she was eligible to vote, but the last few years have been a wakeup call. Sen. Collins has "forgotten who she works for," says Ms. Qualey on September 4, 2019, in Portland Maine.

No longer can she vote for a GOP Senate candidate, she says. Among the reasons: the partisan split on “Me Too” and women’s stories of sexual harassment.

“We are in such an incredible time when voices are being heard who haven’t been,” says Ms. Qualey. “Senator Collins should be using her experience to make the kind of difference the world needs right now.”

The election is still more than a year away, and Senator Collins hasn’t announced that she is running. But if she does run, the 2020 race – projected to be the most expensive in Maine’s history – is shaping up to be her toughest yet. Senator Collins’ seat is considered pivotal to Democrats’ efforts to regain the Senate, and she will be on the Republican ticket with President Trump in a state that some pundits consider a swing state. At least four Democrats have announced challenges – challenges that, in past years, they might have considered futile.

“When you’re a thoughtful moderate, it’s rare that 100% of the people are going to agree with you 100% of the time,” says Kevin Kelley, a Collins campaign spokesman. “But what Mainers appreciate about Senator Collins is that even when they may not agree with her decision, they know that she took the time to study the facts, and votes with integrity.”

Flame of frustration

Voters that aren’t registered as Democrats or Republicans are the largest voting bloc in Maine, and much of Senator Collins’ past success as a Republican has hinged on attracting these independents, as well as moderate Democrats. But after at least two dozen interviews with female Democrats and independent voters across Maine, it’s clear that the senator would face unprecedented headwinds to maintain her seat. While they say they’ve always voted for Senator Collins in the past, these interviewees say 2020 might be the first election they choose not to support the four-term incumbent. 

“I’ll have to think really hard if I’m going to vote for her again,” says Cheryl Clukey while soaking up the last of the summer sun with her friend along the Kennebec River in Hallowell. “I’m really disappointed. And you’ll hear that’s what the tenor is around here.” 

They say a small flame of frustration with Senator Collins has been burning over the past few years. Some accuse her of a shrinking schedule of town halls and local events. Others say they’ve written the senator too many unanswered letters or left too many unanswered voicemails. A few pin it to particular events such as her vote to confirm former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or her vote for President Trump’s tax overhaul

But one event in particular, they say, fanned the flame into a fire.

“Kavanaugh was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Ms. Clukey.

Almost one year after Senator Collins cast the deciding vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, her vote has remained fixed in Vacationland’s collective consciousness. In a political climate where a typical news story lingers for a median of seven days, and during a presidential administration that has almost weekly crises, it’s somewhat surprising that Mainers’ resentment over Justice Kavanaugh has persisted one year later. 

It could be because resentment over Justice Kavanaugh has persisted nationally, too. Just this Sunday, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former housing secretary Julian Castro called for Justice Kavanaugh’s impeachment, following a published excerpt from an upcoming book by two New York Times reporters who investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against the justice as a college student. 

“Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached,” Senator Warren tweeted Sunday afternoon.

But female moderates say Senator Collins’ vote on Justice Kavanaugh has stuck with them not only because of its definitive nature, but also because it so clearly went against what they wanted as constituents and against what she has represented as a leader. 

Senator Collins has branded herself as a vocal pro-choice Republican woman and fair representative, calling balls and strikes as she sees them – not how party lines dictate. So they say it feels contradictory for her to endorse a man who has acknowledged that the Supreme Court “can always overrule” Roe v. Wade, and been confronted with several allegations of sexual misconduct himself.

“It’s like if the lady who wrote the book on etiquette went to dinner and didn’t use a napkin,” says Amy Dyer, assistant manager of Frosty’s doughnuts in Gardiner. Ms. Dyer interrupts herself to tell a customer that, unfortunately, Frosty’s has run out of their popular Boston cremes, before adding: “We were shocked.” 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Amy Dyer, assistant manager of Frosty's Donuts in Gardiner, Maine, says she's always liked Sen. Collins, but she doesn't think Sen. Collins will win reelection in 2020 on Sept 5, 2019.

Senator Collins’ vote was surprising, say many women, because they have seen the senator make tough calls in the past and they were optimistic that she would do so again. Mainers point to her leadership in ending the 2014 government shutdown, her votes against the confirmation of Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the GOP repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the military’s ban on openly LGBTQ people, or her vocal decision not to vote for President Trump, as evidence that she might once again challenge today’s partisanship.

“I was holding onto a glimmer of hope that [Senator Collins] was going to surprise us all by putting herself on the line, for the benefit of the many,” says Ms. Qualey.

“I’m an optimist and I’ve seen Collins support women,” says Pam Maus, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Owls Head, and says she has voted for Senator Collins in the past. “Leading up to 2016 she came out with her disdain for Trump and I was encouraged. I was like, ‘This is the Susan Collins I know.’” 

But like Ms. Qualey and Ms. Clukey, Ms. Maus says the vote for Justice Kavanaugh was “the last straw.” Ms. Maus has since done some canvassing for the Democratic Party, and says she’s heard from dozens of Mainers who have supported Senator Collins in the past, but plan on voting for her opponent in 2020. 

Less patience for a moderate leader

Ahead of her vote last Oct. 6, Senator Collins gave a nearly hour-long speech, announcing that she would vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh despite her “reservations.” As a judge, Justice Kavanaugh has respected legal precedent in regards to two Supreme Court cases that legalized abortion, she explained. And although Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was “sincere, painful, and compelling,” the lack of corroborating evidence raised questions.

It’s likely that Senator Collins would be criticized whichever way she voted on Justice Kavanaugh. It’s also likely that Sen. Collins, who wields considerable power in a divided Senate, was going to be criticized for difficult decisions in today’s Washington even without the confirmation of a contentious Supreme Court justice

Now, as Maine Democrats and independents feel increasingly scared and angry under the Trump administration, they may have less patience for a moderate leader. In their eyes her brand of moderation is abetting presidential extremism.  

“To us, she is out of step with what we want. We want a leader who speaks out.” says Marie Follayttar, director of the political action committee Mainers for Accountable Leadership, from a coffee shop in Portland. 

Following Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination by President Trump last year, Ms. Follayttar helped organize protest rallies around the state. She also collected at least 3,000 handwritten notes from Mainers pleading with the senator to vote against Justice Kavanaugh, many of which she has posted on the Facebook page, “Mainers writing Collins.” Many of the women, including Ms. Follayttar, included their own stories of sexual assault. They also debuted a video, “Senator Collins: Be a Hero,” in which female Mainers pledged to unseat her if she voted in favor of Justice Kavanaugh. 

To date, Mainers for Accountable Leadership and other local groups have raised more than $4 million in donations for whoever wins the Democratic primary to challenge Senator Collins next November. 

Many Maine women, including Ms. Follayttar, say it’s not just the fact that Senator Collins voted for Justice Kavanaugh. Their frustration, anger, and disappointment also stem from how she went about it. They say she didn’t take the time to hear from voters, like their other senator, Angus King, did. They say they found her speech on the Senate floor dismissive and patronizing. 

“At many points there were opportunities for her to be a better leader,” says Ms. Follayttar. “I would have been disappointed in her regardless. ... But would the reaction have been so visceral? I don’t know.” 

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine in Orono, says the race will likely be a tough one. After all, Senator Collins is still a four-term incumbent with substantial campaign funds already on hand, backed by a national party that sees her seat as pivotal to keeping control of the Senate. And Maine Republicans who may have been frustrated with the senator’s centrism before Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, adds Mr. Brewer, have likely solidified their support just as Democrats have solidified opposition. He says the race will likely come down to independents – the majority of Maine’s voting bloc.

“She has a tough race on her hands,” says Mr. Brewer. “The question I think the senator is asking, and potential democratic challengers are asking, is what percentage of those unenrolled independent voters, who say they have voted for Collins in the past, how many of them will really turn away from her and vote for her opponent in 2020?”

“I actually feel bad for her”

In front of a small, standing-room only crowd in Bangor, Betsy Sweet twists a fake knife into her stomach.

“When Susan Collins voted for Kavanaugh, it felt like this,” says Ms. Sweet, as the crowd nods in agreement. A longtime progressive activist in Maine who most recently ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 2018, Ms. Sweet is running for the Democratic nomination to unseat Senator Collins. 

“It was clear she has become the senator of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, not the senator of Maine,” says Ms. Sweet, as a few men in the back of the small storefront let out a whoop. “The path to beat Susan Collins next year is narrow, but it’s possible.” 

At least three other Democrats besides Ms. Sweet have announced campaigns for the Senate seat, including the presumed favorite, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon. Ms. Gideon has already received the endorsements of groups such as Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

The Collins campaign says that Democratic challengers in the past have pushed the notion that women were set to abandon her. Opponents in 2008 and 2014 ran television ads in which female Maine voters said that in the upcoming election they would turn their back on Susan Collins. Both times the senator handily won reelection. “If you have watched the videos, you see that this is a pattern,” says Mr. Kelley.

A Gravis poll from June gave Senator Collins a 14-point lead over Ms. Gideon. It’s a considerable lead, but also considerably less than Senator Collins’ final tally in the 2014 race, which she won by 37 points

“I actually feel bad for her,” says Ms. Maus. “I think she’s in over her head in toeing the Republican line. She used to be respected for being a moderate and now she doesn’t know how to maneuver.” 

This story has been updated to better characterize some of those interviewed.

Who will win in Israel Tuesday? Meet the unlikely kingmaker.

Religion and state – it’s an issue mostly sorted out in the U.S. Constitution. Not so in Israel. Now a hard-right politico’s rebirth as a secularist champion is drawing support, and could swing an election.


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Why is Israel holding parliamentary elections Tuesday, just months after the previous round in April? Largely because former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to sign on to his right-wing and religious coalition, denying it a majority.

The falling out was over concessions to religious parties on issues such as religious students’ exemptions from the mandatory military draft. And Mr. Lieberman appears to have struck a chord with the Israeli public. Polls show the hard-right immigrant from the former Soviet Union who was known for anti-Arab rhetoric potentially doubling his party’s representation in parliament, attracting votes from secularists in the center and even on the left.

“If you would have asked me six months ago if I might vote for Lieberman, I would have said that you’re crazy. In this election, he speaks to the issues that I think matter,’’ says Noam Rapaport, a marketing manager who votes for centrist parties.

“He has become the leading voice against the ultra-Orthodox,” says Stephen Miller, an independent pollster. “This is a powerful voice in Israeli politics, and Lieberman has capitalized on it.”


2. Who will win in Israel Tuesday? Meet the unlikely kingmaker.

Oded Balilty/AP
Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Thursday, May 30, 2019. His dispute with former ally Benjamin Netanyahu over concessions to religious parties following April elections set in motion a second round of elections September 17.

With Israelis heading to the polls for their second parliamentary election in a half year, an ultranationalist firebrand has emerged as a potential kingmaker who will decide whether Benjamin Netanyahu gets another term as prime minister or is replaced by a centrist challenger.

Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and a former defense minister who heads the Yisrael Beitenu party, gained notoriety over the last decade as a hard-liner regarding Israel’s Arab minority and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But in elections last spring, Mr. Lieberman refused to join a right-wing coalition led by his former partner and old boss Mr. Netanyahu, citing a falling out over the influence of religious parties.

And in the campaign leading up to the vote Tuesday, the nationalist stalwart has refashioned himself as a champion of Israelis disturbed by the efforts of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, politicians to promote religiously inspired policies.

In doing so, Mr. Lieberman has plunged straight into the country’s fractious divide over religion and state while turning on Mr. Netanyahu. The 61-year-old Moldovan-born politico accuses the prime minister of conspiring with the religious parties by agreeing to their demands to exempt yeshiva seminary students from Israel’s mandatory military draft and to promote policies that jibe with halacha, Jewish religious law.

Yisrael Beitenu campaign ads feature images of Mr. Netanyahu surrounded by politicians from Israel’s Orthodox parties who have become lightning rods for secular Israelis.

“On Sept. 17, the Haredim will all enlist. But they won’t be enlisting in the Israeli army,’’ one social media video warns with images of hordes of ultra-Orthodox men dressed in their traditional dark suits and white shirts. “If you don’t vote, don’t be surprised if a halacha state is established. Only Mr. Lieberman can stop a halacha state,’’ the video declares over an ominous soundtrack.

“He has become the leading voice against the ultra-Orthodox,” says Stephen Miller, an independent pollster. “He did that loudly when he was the reason that Netanyahu couldn’t form a coalition, and he has continued to sing that note” during the campaign. “This is a powerful voice in Israeli politics, and Lieberman has capitalized on it.”

The prime minister is especially vulnerable because Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit plans to indict him on corruption charges, subject to a hearing that’s set for two weeks after the election.

Moreover, there’s the challenge from former army chief Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White party is running neck and neck with the prime minister’s Likud party. Mr. Lieberman has signaled he could join a coalition led by Mr. Gantz.

The turning point

Earlier in the year, Mr. Lieberman’s party, whose main constituency is Russian-speaking Israelis, appeared in danger of falling short of the minimum percentage to win seats in the parliament, the Knesset. After the April 9 election, he initially backed Mr. Netanyahu’s attempts to form what was supposed to be a new government coalition of religious and right-wing parties.

But in the course of the coalition horse trading, he demurred and accused Mr. Netanyahu of caving to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox. The move denied Mr. Netanyahu the 61-seat majority necessary to form a government.

Outraged, Mr. Netanyahu accused Mr. Lieberman of being a “leftist.” And rather than allow another lawmaker a chance to form a government, Mr. Netanyahu and other lawmakers decided to dissolve parliament and call a second election.

A Sept. 9 poll, by Israel’s Kan public television broadcaster, showed Mr. Netanyahu’s bloc of parties with 58 seats, while center-left and Arab parties got 53. That leaves Mr. Lieberman – who polls at nine seats and has been pushing for a unity coalition with the two largest parties (without the ultra-Orthodox parties) – as the potential tipping point between the sides.

Draft exemptions for seminary students are not the only point of contention. Ultra-Orthodox rabbinic councils in Israel dictate policy over marriage, divorce, Jewish conversion, and dietary laws. That engenders bitterness with secular Israelis, among them hundreds of thousands of Russian speakers whom the rabbinic establishment doesn’t recognize as Jewish. And ultra-Orthodox families are large, making them the fastest-growing demographic group in the country.

“Lieberman has forced us as a country to look differently at how its governed. ... The religious are taking over the policies of the government,’’ says Joshua Shuman, a Virginia-born public relations executive who wears a yarmulke but believes Israel should have more of a separation of religion and state.

Mr. Shuman says he has always voted for left-wing or centrist parties. He believes, however, that Mr. Lieberman acquitted himself responsibly during tenures as defense and foreign minister.

“I don’t vote for the right, but Lieberman doesn’t seem too right any more, he seems like he’s moved to the center.”

“I don’t understand his agenda”

Many Israelis, however, see Mr. Lieberman as a political opportunist who above all wishes to ascend to the premiership. He dropped a broad hint at that desire in July.

And critics say Mr. Lieberman hasn’t delivered on many of his promises, such as his vow to take a more aggressive approach to Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and to put an end to cross-border attacks.

“I don’t understand his agenda. He’s changing all the time,’’ declares Odelia Ben Sasson, a resident of southern Israel who says her children have been traumatized by repeated rocket sirens. “He never did anything about the situation in Gaza when he was minister of defense. He talked a lot.”

Mr. Lieberman was the director general of the prime minister’s office when Mr. Netanyahu first gained the premiership in the 1990s. He broke away from Likud to establish Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel is Our Home”) to tap into a constituency of 1 million Russian-speaking immigrants. But after the 2013 election when Likud and Yisrael Beitenu ran jointly and underperformed, they went their separate ways.

Mr. Lieberman is known for embracing provocative positions outside the Israeli consensus. A decade ago, he pledged to strip the citizenship of Arab citizens deemed disloyal. Later he threatened to assassinate a top Hamas leader and bomb Egypt. He is also something of a maverick on the right because he supports parting with the West Bank, although he also advocates redrawing the border to cede Israeli Arab towns to a Palestinian entity and annexing settlements to Israel.

By refocusing his campaign on issues of religion and state, Mr. Lieberman is appealing to Israelis in the political center and left – in addition to the secular right wing. Recognizing that appeal, Mr. Gantz’s party has mimicked Mr. Lieberman in the final weeks of the campaign, with giant billboards promising a “secular national unity government.”

Surprised supporters

“If you would have asked me six months ago if I might vote for Lieberman, I would have said that you’re crazy. In this election, he speaks to the issues that I think matter,’’ says Noam Rapaport, a 49-year old marketing manager, who votes for centrist parties and was won over by Mr. Lieberman’s decision to walk out on coalition talks last May.

“I don’t think the right or left in Israel is so different from each other. Seventy percent of the population share the same ideas. The main issue is the difference in the amount of money that the Haredim get.’’

On the secular right, Mr. Lieberman has tapped into a longtime undercurrent in Israeli politics that goes back to the liberal nationalists who founded Likud.

“Lieberman found the magic formula: to be right wing and anti-Haredi. Muslim Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox are the two most disliked groups among Israeli Jews,’’ says Shimon Rosner, the author of a book exploring Judaism in Israel.

“Lieberman is the first to realize that you can use unfriendly terms when you speak about Arabs and use the same term for the ultra-Orthodox. He’s placed himself as the only person who is suspicious of both groups.”

Hardball partisan lawmaking: Is it a threat to democracy?

North Carolina is locked in a battle over its political heart and soul. “It’s not just Democrats versus Republicans. It’s small ‘d’ democrats versus nondemocrats,” says a political scientist. “It’s bigger than party labels. It’s about the rules of the game.”

Robert Willett/The News & Observer/AP
Rep. David Lewis huddles with fellow House members and House Speaker Tim Moore prior to the afternoon session of the House, Sept. 11, 2019, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Historians say democracies rarely fail by force. Far more often it’s by “subversion by stealth” – the piecemeal dismantling of norms. The shape of U.S. democracy has become increasingly one-sided, with most states now either solidly blue or solidly red. Perhaps as a result, both sides increasingly feel the other is out to destroy them, as 6 out of 10 voters said in a recent poll.

But few have tested the tensile strength of democratic bounds more than North Carolina, where Republicans have sought to deprive the Democratic governor of his power – most recently last week, by staging an override vote of his budget veto while most Democrats were absent.

“American democracy ... is hard to kill, and there are a lot of forces working to stabilize and protect it, so we are not at the edge of a cliff,” says Steven Levitsky, co-author of “When Democracies Die.” “But the use of the letter of the law to clearly subvert its spirit, that’s what happens when politicians abandon restraint. North Carolina is not quite a microcosm, but is somewhat representative of that: a very polarized state in which the dominant party is beginning to lose its grip.”


3. Hardball partisan lawmaking: Is it a threat to democracy?

Deb Butler yelled it over and over again, her jaw set as though in stone: “Mr. Speaker, we will not yield!”

Standing in a near-empty legislative chamber at 16 Jones Street in Raleigh, North Carolina, Ms. Butler, a Democratic legislator, rose in rage after watching Republicans taking advantage of a large number of absent Democrats to override the Democratic governor’s budget veto.

Her angry stand – captured on a colleague’s cellphone – went viral. But even though she may have added 20,000 Twitter followers last week, the experience left her cold.

“I have become increasingly aware of the fragility of this young experiment called American Democracy,” says Ms. Butler in a phone interview. “It’s terribly unsettling and scary.”

In some ways, Ms. Butler and her fellow Democrats say, the stunt crossed the line from political hardball to dirty trick in a state where distrust and acrimony run deep. For their part, state Republicans say they saw an opportunity and took it.

Their intent wasn’t secret at all. Caught in a stalemate over teacher salaries and Medicaid expansion, Republicans had said they were looking for a chance to override the veto.

“If I see an opportunity to override this budget veto, I was going to take that vote,” House Speaker Tim Moore told The Associated Press.

Fueled by tribal polarization and looming demographic shifts, the dramatic showdown in Raleigh, some political scientists say, harbors both the fundamental weakness of U.S. democracy as well as its potential for redemptive strength.

“American democracy ... is hard to kill, and there are a lot of forces working to stabilize and protect it, so we are not at the edge of a cliff,” says Harvard University political scientist Steven Levitsky, co-author of the 2018 book “When Democracies Die.” “But the use of the letter of the law to clearly subvert its spirit, that’s what happens when politicians abandon restraint. North Carolina is not quite a microcosm, but is somewhat representative of that: a very polarized state in which the dominant party is beginning to lose its grip.”

Ms. Butler says that she, like many Americans, may be shocked at attacks on democratic norms. But in another way, she says, “I would hate to admit that I have taken democracy for granted my whole adult life, but I guess I’m guilty of that.”

Historians say that democracies rarely fail by force. Far more often it’s “subversion by stealth” – the piecemeal dismantling of democratic norms. And in the U.S., state democracies have historically been just as defined by weakness as strength.

In fact, until 1965, most of the South lived under one-party oligarchies, mostly Democrat, that imposed a racist order on the population. Malapportionment – the slow-walking of power to cities and away from rural areas – resonated until the 1980s, a nadir when some Southern states saw only about 2 in 10 voters vested enough in the system to bother casting votes, says Philip Rocco, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

“Before we start talking about democratic backsliding in the states, let’s remember that states are late democratizers,” says Mr. Rocco. “[But in North Carolina] the norms of institutional reciprocity and restraint that make it possible to have smooth transitions of government have been short-circuited. Then the question becomes: How long can you play hardball before you really are threatening the framework of subnational democracy?”

The shape of democracy and how it impacts how Americans live, work, love, and play has begun to look increasingly one-sided. Most U.S. states are now either solidly blue or solidly red. Perhaps as a result, both sides increasingly feel the other is out to destroy them, as 6 out of 10 voters said in a recent poll.

When voters in Wisconsin upheld the office of state treasurer, Republicans zeroed out the treasurer’s budget. Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan used lame-duck sessions to strip incoming Democratic politicians of power.

Meanwhile, technology-driven gerrymandering that allows parties to divide districts with surgical precision shocked democratic norms in 2010: Wisconsin Democrats, for example, cast more votes than Republicans in 2012, yet saw the legislature seated with 60% of Republicans.

But few states have tested the tensile strength of democratic bounds more than North Carolina, where Republicans have sought to deprive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of his power to appoint judges, while also manipulating the judiciary through gerrymandering, changing the size of the state appellate court, and imposing racially charged voting restrictions.

“The tug of war between progress and the forces of the past go back centuries in Carolina,” says Andrew Reynolds, author of “Designing Democracy in a Dangerous World.” “And today it’s a purple state. You have very liberal, progressive people living right alongside very conservative Republicans. That’s what makes this so visceral. This is it, the showdown. It is a battle for the political heart and soul of the state. But it’s not just Democrats versus Republicans. It’s small ‘d’ democrats versus non-democrats. It’s bigger than party labels. It’s about the rules of the game.”

Those forces have spun to a head.

Last Tuesday, a Republican won a special congressional election called after a Republican operative last year was arrested for absentee ballot voting fraud. The legislature is under a hard deadline by Wednesday to redraw precinct maps after the state Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Under orders from the court, lawmakers are using a state ping-pong lottery machine to randomize the process. To uphold the budget veto override, the Senate would need a Democrat to cross over.

Tom Pahl is a North Carolina voter from Hyde County, a Democrat in a conservative stronghold. He is also a county commissioner whose constituents make up the more than 800 Ocracoke Islanders who survived the near-total wreckage of Hurricane Dorian 10 days ago.

As a voter, he says, “You have to be paying attention to now how destructive this is to democracy, and you have to value democracy philosophically. ... Once it’s too late, we’ll all miss democracy. We will wish we had what we used to have.”

As a politician, he says, “you lose some, you win some, but you have to believe in the process. When the process is being undermined, the only recourse you have is desperate measures. We don’t want to go there. As a civil society, we should not want to go where this is leading us.”

He concedes that in the past Democrats “have taken measures that have been destructive to democratic values and to democracy,” but heartily disagrees that a majority of conservative voters are in favor of discarding ethical considerations to win. “I know conservative Republicans out here in rural North Carolina, and they are not by nature the kind of people” to approve of such measures.

In some ways, the moment in North Carolina presents “a great opportunity to show the redemptive strength of American democracy,” says Mr. Reynolds, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also warns Democrats in North Carolina will be under pressure to adopt similar strategies to hold onto power if elected into a majority in 2020 or 2022.

Ms. Butler agrees. “You’re seeing the same with redistricting as you did with the budget: It’s our way or the highway, take it or leave it,” she says. “It’s unrelenting in spite of the fact that [Republicans] may get as good as they’ve given one day. They can’t lift their eyes up to the horizon and see what the future looks like.”

Behind that chicken dinner, immigrants with little workplace voice

Recent immigration raids highlighted how an industry taps society’s least powerful workers ​– immigrants ​– for some of America’s riskiest low-paid jobs.


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Poultry processing is labor-intensive work, and since the 1990s consumer demand for chicken has surged across the U.S. To meet that demand, the industry has turned largely to the labor of immigrants.

Carlos Ramos and his co-workers in one Virginia plant have struggled in what federal data show is among the most dangerous occupations. Originally from El Salvador, Mr. Ramos joined an effort to bring labor-union representation to the Cargill plant in Dayton, Virginia. That effort failed last year. Now Mr. Ramos and others who have temporary protected status face the possibility of deportation, if a 2018 Trump administration decision to end that status survives court challenges.

The pairing of those two concerns – tough work conditions and immigration status – isn’t a mere coincidence. Labor experts say it’s a pattern in the industry, as highlighted in August by immigration raids against poultry plants in Mississippi.

“Their business model is to find the most vulnerable workers – workers who will keep their head down and just do the work,” says Debbie Berkowitz, former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


4. Behind that chicken dinner, immigrants with little workplace voice

Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Children of mainly Latino immigrant parents hold signs in support of them and those individuals picked up during an immigration raid at a food processing plant in Canton, Mississippi, in August. The rally followed a Catholic mass in Canton on Aug. 11, 2019.

It’s late Sunday afternoon and the church meeting hall still smells like pupusas as Carlos Ramos rubs his neck and reflects on his 15 years handling turkeys at a nearby poultry plant in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. 

“The human body adapts to the work,” he says through an interpreter. 

But the work hasn’t yet been adapted to the human body, he says. So this fall, Mr. Ramos says, he’ll get surgery – on his own dime – to repair two slipped discs in his neck. 

Originally from El Salvador, Mr. Ramos has organized the meeting at this church to discuss a presidential decision in 2018 to end temporary protected status for him and other immigrants – many of whom work with him and experience similar injuries. Now, many of them face the possibility of deportation if the federal policy survives court challenges.

The pairing of those two concerns – tough work conditions and immigration status – isn’t a mere coincidence. Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, according to federal data. Workers are exposed to chemicals and use knives and scissors in cold, slippery conditions. Injury rates have decreased significantly over the past 25 years, but there remains a persistent problem of underreporting.

The jobs have also been increasingly filled by immigrants. Experts say the patterns reflect race-to-the-bottom forces in an industry that is labor intensive, price competitive, and which operates largely out of the public eye.

“Their business model is to find the most vulnerable workers – workers who will keep their head down and just do the work and won’t complain, and when they get injured, they leave,” says Debbie Berkowitz, former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “That’s how the industry is able to rely on immigrant workers.”

ICE-raid tremors

The industry’s heavy reliance on immigrants ​– often a mix of legal and unauthorized ​– was highlighted in August by immigration enforcement raids in Mississippi. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided seven chicken processing plants and arrested nearly 700 unauthorized immigrants. 

The raid sent shock waves throughout the industry, yet the plants were able to remain open. Even as the industry scrambles to fill vacant jobs, labor activists say it is workers, more than corporations, who face deepening uncertainty. Worries over immigration status and enforcement are now piled on top of workers who feel little ability to advocate for themselves or organize.

Mr. Ramos’ experience is a case study in the challenges workers confront. Three years ago, he and others tried to start a union to improve working conditions at their plant in Dayton, just southwest of Harrisonburg. They put pressure on management and worked with community members to stage protests, but it wasn’t enough. Their former office in Harrisonburg is now empty.

“I was one of the few workers who talked to the supervisors during break time and participated in any march in front of them,” said Mr. Ramos. “It was just a few of us who went out to see these [protests]. I was really frustrated.”

Union organizing can be difficult anywhere in America. But that’s particularly true in the southeastern states where the poultry industry is concentrated, where laws are less welcoming to unions. 

The need for speed

Since its inception, poultry processing has had a history of low wages and poor working conditions. Birds speed along a conveyor belt while human hands cut, debone, and bag them – nimble, precise tasks that have resisted automation and made companies heavily reliant upon human labor.  

“Because it is a labor intensive industry, labor costs are one of the few areas that you need to worry about,” says Roger Horowitz, a food historian. “And that intrinsically makes these firms resistant to union labor ... because they want to maintain that kind of control.”

The industry boomed in the 1990s, as chicken rose alongside pork and beef on American menus. Long reliant on lower-income African American and white workers, companies met that demand by recruiting thousands of Hispanic immigrants.

Mr. Ramos became part of the shift when he arrived over 20 years ago in the Shenandoah Valley – considered by some the birthplace of the modern poultry industry. Now he’s among thousands of Hispanic workers in the region’s poultry plants. 

Worker turnover is high and lines are understaffed, says Jose Cruz Barahona, who is retired after 15 years at the Dayton plant. 

“Now that there’s less workers, the work is so much harder. But it always ends up getting done,” he says through an interpreter. “The American worker isn’t able to keep up with that. It’s only the immigrant worker, the Latino worker that stays.”

Staying carries risks. Nationwide, about every other day between 2015 and 2018, a worker lost a body part or was sent to the hospital for in-patient treatment. An ammonia leak earlier this summer sent several workers at the Dayton Cargill plant to the hospital. 

One of the largest poultry companies, Cargill disputes the view that workers are at risk, saying in a written statement that “we believe safe operations are the cornerstone of productive operations. We take a balanced approach to incentives that focuses on factors such as safety performance, food safety and quality, employee engagement, process efficiencies and productivity.”

“OSHA never does anything”

But some recent national trends raise concerns. The industry just successfully lobbied the Trump administration to increase the line speed. OSHA is operating with the fewest safety and health inspectors in its 48-year history, and a federal court ruling last year may limit the scope of agency inspections. Furthermore, a Government Accountability Office report revealed that OSHA may not be aware of the scope of problems because workers are reluctant to contact the agency for fear of employer retaliation. 

“OSHA never does anything. They come to investigate and they just go to human resources,” says Wilfredo Flores, a former Dayton worker who says Cargill fired him in 2016 for talking publicly about the plant’s working conditions, a charge Cargill disputes. “Thirteen years there, I never had OSHA ask me how I was being treated.”

Amid complaints, poultry companies have added “health clinics” to address injuries on-site in recent decades. But that doesn’t address the fear that still exists in the plants, says Salvador Portillo, who has worked at the Dayton plant for 25 years.

“People are afraid to go to the company doctor,” he says, referring to employee concerns that managers may count it against them. 

Seeking a union

When Mr. Ramos and other workers tried to unionize the Dayton plan, one hurdle was the state’s “right to work” legal landscape and a trend of decline for organized labor.

Some poultry plants had been unionized in the past, but by the 1990s “the industry started hiring more immigrant and undocumented labor, groups [that] are less likely to participate in union activities,” says Ted Genoways, author of a book about labor conditions in the meatpacking industry.

That fed another challenge: simply communicating. The Dayton plant had over 1,100 workers working various shifts around the clock, and a substantial refugee population speaking nine different languages. 

Their prospects for rallying workers grew still bleaker when Cargill learned about the effort and hired a labor relations consultancy known for union-busting tactics.

“The resistance to the union was strong by the employer, a powerful multinational company,” says Jonathan Williams, communications director for the union involved, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400. 

The union campaign fizzled out last year. But Mr. Ramos is happy they tried. Wages have gone up, bonuses are more frequent, and workers doing more strenuous work get paid more, he says.

“Right now Cargill is the one that’s doing a little bit better with its workers,” he says. “I think part of that was what happened with the union.” 

The Dayton plant might be an outlier, however. A recent lawsuit alleges that top companies conspired to keep immigrant wages low. And although the ICE raids come amid pledges by President Donald Trump to crack down on illegal immigration, activists also claim company owners are using ICE raids to retaliate against workers who have organized or publicly decried conditions, including the Mississippi raids in September.

“What’s going on there is an American argument that if you come and endure all of this, you’re working towards something, you’re building a nest egg for you and your family, your kids will be born into citizenship,” says Mr. Genoways. “All of those minor promises have been made to that workforce for a generation. And now, as there’s a growing anxiety about the number of people who have taken that deal, there’s this move at a political level to remove those benefits.”

It happened here in Virginia, too: Immigration officials raided the Dayton plant in 2008 because they suspected Cargill knowingly hired over 400 unauthorized employees. Mr. Ramos says the hiring practices changed, but labor conditions did not. Now, more than a decade later, he’s still bagging turkeys to keep his family – including his American-born daughter – afloat. 

“Hispanic people are sort of modern slaves of this country,” he says. “We’re slaves because we have to ask permission on the line to go to the bathroom, to ask for this, to ask for that. We have our car, we have our house – but under a certain system.”

On Film

Hitler as an imaginary friend? ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and the state of satire.

Political satire offers more than comic relief; it cuts to the bone in order to right wrongs. But is there room for satire in a world where outlandish headlines already border on the absurd?

Kimberley French/Twentieth Century Fox Film
In “Jojo Rabbit,” Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has dinner with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (writer-director Taika Waititi) and his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). The film is billed as “an anti-hate satire.”

5. Hitler as an imaginary friend? ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and the state of satire.

Is political satire possible today? I don’t mean late-night talk show japes and “Saturday Night Live” burlesques but the real, subversive deal: ridicule with a reformist’s zeal.

These thoughts came to mind while attending the world premiere of Taika Waititi’s overscaled, underachieving “Jojo Rabbit” at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s about a fatherless 10-year-old boy (Roman Griffin Davis) in 1945 Germany whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi as a goofball oaf. In the course of the film the boy bonds with the Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) that his mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, has hidden in the attic, and learns that Jews don’t have horns.  

The movie is being gingerly marketed as “an anti-hate satire,” but that’s misleading. It’s more romp than satire, and its politics boil down to love-is-the-answer platitudes. I sympathize with the marketeers’ worries, though. A movie with this kind of content is bound to roil.

That the movie is not nearly as daring as it wants to be is nothing new for Hollywood, which for the most part has avoided political satire as a genre – too risky, too uncommercial. There is an added impediment now: How can satirical political comedies compete with the unceasing barrage of global headlines that seemingly assert absurdity is the new reality? 

What we don’t really have right now is what is needed most – political satire that cuts to the bone in order to right wrongs. Comedy that makes us laugh in order to make us think. And perhaps we don’t see more of this because the cause of reformist satire these days is particularly fraught. How can satire ignite change when our politicians can’t come together on much of anything?

Nicola Dove/IFC Films/AP
“The Death of Stalin” was a critical hit and banned in Russia.

I like Plato’s advice when he was asked by a friend what book to read to understand Athenian society. The philosopher referred him to the plays of Aristophanes. One of the great boons of powerful political satire has always been its ability to dissect society’s transgressions in a way that the more staid pronouncements – the position papers and Op-Ed columns – can’t approach. We can learn more about a culture from its comics than its pundits. This is true not only in democratic societies but in totalitarian regimes, where, no surprise, political satire is essentially banned. But the censuring often just drives the satire underground. Some of the sharpest cinematic political satires came out of Soviet-era Eastern Europe, such as Milos Forman’s 1967 “The Fireman’s Ball,” a thinly disguised take-down of party leadership that, naturally, was banned in the former Czechoslovakia following the Russian invasion. Unsurprisingly, the British writer-director Armando Iannucci’s savagely funny “The Death of Stalin,” easily the best of the recent satires, was banned in Russia for its “extremism.”

The current state of political satire, especially on late-night TV, functions less as a righting of wrongs than as an escape hatch – a way of keeping sane. This is a lesser achievement but not to be denigrated. You take what you can get. Most of the sharpest political satires in the movies have been in this vein. Who would want to see a scabrous “Duck Soup”? The Marx Brothers romp is, improbably, one of the greatest antiwar movies ever made. The finest of all political movie satires, 1964’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” was a triumphant piece of nihilism, a great big cackle in the face of despair. And, like “Jojo Rabbit,” it was gingerly marketed – in a Cold War era of fallout shelters and red alerts – as “the hot-line suspense comedy.”

Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” played with what everybody was thinking in 1940: Chaplin and Hitler bore a striking resemblance. Chaplin played a dual role in that film (made when America was not yet at war with Germany). He was the Little Tramp-like Jewish barber, and he was also Adenoid Hynkel, who in the film’s most famous and unsettling sequence, does a deft ballet with an inflated globe, all set to Wagner’s prelude to “Lohengrin.” Chaplin wrote in his 1964 autobiography that he could not have made the film if he knew then the horror of the concentration camps.

Which brings us back to “Jojo Rabbit.” You might think from my high praise of the above mentioned films, or, for that matter, of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” that I would have no problem with the goofy burlesque underscoring the implicit and explicit horrors in this film. But its ostensible high ambitions outweigh its slim achievement. As I also felt about “Life Is Beautiful,” the comedic stuff isn’t on a much higher level than “Hogan’s Heroes,” while the “serious” stuff is heartfelt but mawkishly conventional.  

Brooks could get away with “The Producers” because the movie was his mocking way of saying, in effect, “we Jews survived, you didn’t.” But “Jojo Rabbit” comes out at a time when global anti-Semitism is on the rise, and so I think more is needed, something that deepens our understanding of hate and redemption. Waititi, referencing Germany in 1933, said after the Toronto premiere that “the ignorance, and the arrogance to forget, is a big human flaw. That’s why it’s important to tell these stories.” But it’s also important to tell these stories with the complexity they demand. Waititi wanted to light a bonfire but, at best, what we get is a sputtering candle.

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Patience as a tool of statecraft

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Anger is such an accepted part of modern politics and statecraft that its opposite, patience, is too little noticed. One place where patience is now on full display is Africa’s second-most populous country, Ethiopia. In 2018 a new leader, Abiy Ahmed, took over as prime minister from authoritarian rulers and immediately set free political dissidents and revived democracy. There was just one problem. The new freedoms also unleashed deep tensions among the country’s 80-some ethnic groups that had been suppressed by previous regimes.

Last year, Ethiopia had the world’s highest level of violence-related internal displacement. Mr. Abiy is now touring the country asking for patience from ethnic groups demanding referendums on whether they can set up their own regional entity. He sees patience as just one part of his strategy to rely on love and forgiveness to revive Ethiopia and unite its diverse people.

His task – creating a citizen-based nationalism to replace ethnic-based nationalism – is a long one. It requires him to keep reminding Ethiopians to be grateful for reforms already underway. No wonder he asks for patience. The virtue is built on an appreciation of steady if ofttimes slow progress.


Patience as a tool of statecraft

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Anger is such an accepted part of modern politics and statecraft that its opposite, patience, is too little noticed. Case in point: Who is grateful for the European Union’s forbearance toward Britain as it sorts out Brexit? Or who notes Mexico’s quiet restraint in the face of difficult demands on migration and trade from the United States?

One place where patience is now on full display is Africa’s second most populous country, Ethiopia. In 2018 a new leader, Abiy Ahmed, took over as prime minister from authoritarian rulers and immediately set free political dissidents and revived democracy. There was just one problem. The new freedoms also unleashed deep tensions among the country’s 80-some ethnic groups that had been suppressed by previous governments and could now easily complain of being marginalized.

Last year, Ethiopia had the world’s highest level of violence-related internal displacement – almost 2.9 million people out of 105 million citizens. Mr. Abiy, who is Africa’s youngest leader, is now touring the country asking for patience from ethnic groups demanding referendums on whether they can set up their own regional entity, a right allowed under the constitution. At least 11 groups have submitted such bids. Ethiopia already has nine ethnic-based regional states.

In July, violence broke out in one minority community, the Sidama ethnic group. On Sunday, Mr. Abiy visited the Kafficho group, which is also demanding a federal state. “If you think that statehood will solve your problems, that’s a shortcut,” he said, asking it instead to help build “a great Ethiopia.”

Mr. Abiy sees patience as just one part of his strategy to rely on love and forgiveness to revive Ethiopia and unite its diverse people. His Ministry of Peace has organized the return of most displaced people to their areas of origin. He is eager to hold elections next May that will be free and fair enough to help shape a stronger Ethiopian identity. The country will be a model of peace and development, he said, “by loving each other and casting away the spirit of hatred and revenge.”

His task – creating a citizen-based nationalism to replace ethnic-based nationalism – is a long one. It requires him to keep reminding Ethiopians to be grateful for reforms already underway. No wonder he asks for patience. The virtue is built on an appreciation of steady if ofttimes slow progress.

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.

Programmed for peace

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With war drums beating in the Middle East, it’s easy to wonder, can cycles of violence and revenge ever be broken? Here’s an article that considers the idea that God’s children are made to feel and express peace, not conflict.


1. Programmed for peace

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Conversation at a pre-wedding dinner turned to world affairs, particularly in the Middle East. How can the cycle of violence and revenge be broken? The father of the bride became suddenly serious. “It will never be broken,” he said. End of conversation. But end of hope, too?

Not at all, but there are things going on in the world that certainly don’t inspire wide-eyed optimism. Some wonder, Are human beings programmed for war?

Or are we programmed for peace? Like “good news” stories that go underreported in the daily news cycle, the “goodness model” of existence struggles to be heard.

But the divine Science of Christ reveals that there are higher laws – divine laws – that, when understood, bring greater peace to our experience.

It’s clear that war doesn’t end through simply inventing better biotechnologies or social engineering. But there’s a wholly healing force in a perhaps surprising place: in how we think about God and His creation, about ourselves, and what we cherish as Truth.

It’s true that when the Scriptures are read literally, it’s hard to miss the images of a warlike deity. In the book of Deuteronomy, for example, one of Moses’ poems records God as saying, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence” (32:35).

However, as Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, emphasized in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” there are differing interpretations of the Bible: literal and spiritual, doctrinal and inspired. “The Scriptures are very sacred,” she wrote. “Our aim must be to have them understood spiritually, for only by this understanding can truth be gained. The true theory of the universe, including man, is not in material history but in spiritual development” (p. 547).

Perhaps the deepest human urge is for spiritual development. This yearning shines through a New Testament passage that gives new meaning to Moses’ poem: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. ... Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

Good necessarily overpowers evil because God, goodness itself, is supreme. Good is the only legitimate power. Evil is like a shadow: Ultimately, it can’t resist its own elimination. In interpersonal as well as international relationships, the light of Christ, the divine nature Jesus manifested, can repair connections and restore peace.

This divine influence is unconfined by biology, history, and even religion; each of us can welcome the Christ into our thought. This inspires us to respond calmly instead of to react, and to collaborate and share resources. Good overcomes evil on the collective scene as individual hearts and minds are changed.

And there are signs that people are willing to work together to break cycles of revenge, even in some of the most conflict-filled parts of the world. For instance, as a recent Monitor article highlighted, civic unity in Iraq and Tunisia – Arab democracies that have faced major religious divides in the recent past – continues to increase (see “Elections that shape identity, not just shift power,” CSMonitor.com, Sept. 13, 2019).

Such developments hint at what can happen as human knowledge yields to the divine influence that’s present in all of us.

Adapted from an editorial published in the Dec. 15, 2003, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.


Patriotic poultry

Luis Cortes/Reuters
Supporters wait for Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to shout the “Cry of Independence” as Mexico marks its independence from Spain at the National Palace in Mexico City Sept. 15, 2019. “Me canso ganso” is a popular phrase with AMLO that means “I’m as good as my word.” Ganso is goose in Spanish.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow when our week of Covering Climate Now continues with a collaboration between me and Honolulu Civil Beat’s Nathan Eagle exploring Hawaii’s pioneering quest to wean itself off fossil fuels.

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