2019
October
29
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s issue, our hand-picked stories explore the changing face of political conspiracies, camaraderie among Trump tailgaters, fighting fake political videos, how Afghan art inspires perseverance, and self-sufficiency on rollerblades in Congo.  

First, every decade or so, a really big man comes along in the NBA. Yao Ming and Manute Bol come to mind. Their stature alone gave everyone pause.

Tacko Fall may be that player today. He can dunk without jumping.

At 7 feet, 6 inches and 310 pounds, he redefines the term Big Man. For context, LeBron James is 10 inches shorter and 65 pounds lighter. 

To be clear, Tacko Fall is no LeBron James. His game is a work in progress. But he works hard and is smart. In 2015, the Bleacher Report asked him if he could be King James or Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the computer science major replied, “I would be Steve Jobs.” 

That answer might be different today. 

On Saturday night, as the Boston Celtics' lead stretched to 25 points, Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden started chanting, “We want Tacko!” 

New York fans are not known for their grace or generosity of spirit, especially toward a Boston team. But that makes what happened so remarkable. They chanted until, well, they got Tacko. 

For the final 3:38, the Senegalese skyscraper worked the court, including two dunks. The crowd loved it. “For an undrafted player on the road in his first career game, the whole scene is incredibly surreal ... but as long as Tacko brings opposing fans together, I think it’s a beautiful thing,” wrote Deadspin’s Lauren Theisen.

Here’s to the beauty of unity inspired by awe. 

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1. Rising conspiracy theories in US politics: why now?

U.S. politics has historically been laced with conspiracies. Our reporter finds these tall tales may offer comfort in times of perceived threats. But one analyst says the nature of conspiracies is evolving.

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In America conspiratorial thinking took root with the arrival of the colonists. Every party that has ever taken part in the nation’s politics, at one time or another, has embraced allegations that networks of secret power are working toward some hidden purpose, according to Rachel Hope Cleves, a historian who studies conspiracy theories in public life.

Today people also may see conspiracy theories as a means to impose a narrative on events they find inexplicable and threatening. After all, it’s a natural impulse to try to make sense out of things that seem random. In that context conspiracy theories can be a sort of pathway through seemingly dangerous times. Many Democrats still struggle to understand why President Donald Trump won in 2016. Many Republicans see the diversifying demographics of the U.S., and worry it threatens their vision of a predominantly white, Christian America – as well as their party’s future.

Some experts also think the current era exhibits something new – conspiracy charges that leave off the theory part. Harvard politics professor Nancy Rosenblum calls this “conspiracism.” Its force is often packed in a single word: “corrupt,” “rigged,” “treason.” In conspiracism, the fantastical claim comes first. The search for evidence happens later, if at all.

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Rising conspiracy theories in US politics: why now?

Conspiracy theories have been intertwined with American politics since 1776 – perhaps earlier. But today they may be at the center of national public life more than ever in modern times.

Take President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine. It was partly inspired by a discredited tale involving the Democratic National Committee, a cyber firm named CrowdStrike, and a server spirited to Ukraine, allegedly to hide the fact that Russia didn’t hack the 2016 U.S. election.

Prior to that citizen Donald Trump got his political start pushing the discredited “birther” theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and thus ineligible for office. “Growing up no one knew him,” Mr. Trump said falsely in a 2011 interview. “The whole thing is very strange.”

The left can think conspiratorially, too. Democratic Twitter “experts” who feverishly connect dots to prove that President Trump is Vladimir Putin’s paid agent can attract hundreds of thousands of followers. Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton said Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is being “groomed” by Republicans for a third party run in 2020. Ms. Clinton also called Representative Gabbard “a favorite of the Russians,” spawning a wave of social media conspiracy theories.

Why are conspiracy theories so prevalent now? One reason may be today’s us-vs-them, polarized political era. When the other side is deemed a villain, conspiracy theories are easier to accept. Maybe they don’t seem quite as outlandish as they otherwise might.

Today people also may see conspiracy theories as a means to impose a narrative on events they find inexplicable and threatening. After all, it’s a natural impulse to try to make sense out of things that seem random. In that context conspiracy theories can be a sort of pathway through seemingly dangerous times. Many Democrats still struggle to understand why President Trump won in 2016. Many Republicans see the diversifying demographics of the U.S., and worry it threatens their vision of a predominantly white, Christian America – as well as their party’s future.

Some experts also think the current era exhibits something new – conspiracy charges that leave off the theory part. Harvard politics professor Nancy Rosenblum calls this “conspiracism.” Its force is often packed in a single word: “corrupt,” “rigged,” “treason.” In conspiracism, the fantastical claim comes first. The search for evidence happens later, if at all.

“It is the property of the right today, but if it is effective ... it is quite possible people on other parts of the spectrum would adopt it,” says Dr. Rosenblum.

Conspiracies arrived with the colonists

In America conspiratorial thinking took root with the arrival of the colonists. Every party that has ever taken part in the nation’s politics, at time or another, has embraced allegations that networks of secret power are working towards some hidden purpose, according to Rachel Hope Cleves, a historian at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, who studies conspiracy theories in public life.

Early in the republic the populist Jeffersonian faction of leaders warned that establishment Federalists, such as Alexander Hamilton, were plotting to make America a monarchy. In the election of 1800 some conservatives charged in return that Thomas Jefferson and his followers were in league with the Illuminati, a group of European elites plotting to overthrow governments, seize private property, and destroy Christianity.

Prior to the Civil War many Northerners feared that a shadowy Southern “slave power” controlled the nation’s government via murder and blackmail. A popular 1864 book, “The Adder’s Den,” was a conspiracy manifesto that charged the “slave power” had tried to assassinate President James Buchanan by poisoning all the sugar cubes in Washington’s National Hotel.

Conspiracy theories targeting Freemasons were rife in America’s early days. In the 20th century some conservatives charged that fluoridation of the U.S. water supply was a communist conspiracy to weaken the nation. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare conspiracy claimed the Soviet Union had infiltrated virtually every department of government. The assassination of John F. Kennedy has spawned dozens of conspiracy theories, which weave in Cuba, the Mafia, the C.I.A., and Lyndon Johnson as suspects.

Conspiracy theories reflect a mode of thinking, say those who study them. Some are true. Some have a grain of truth. Many are false.

In the U.S. this mode of thought is rooted in the 18th century republican belief that power is ambitious and expansive and liberty is always on the defensive, according to Dr. Cleves. This was labeled the “paranoid style in American politics” by historian Richard Hofstadter in a famous essay in 1964.

People and parties who feel powerless are attracted to conspiracy theories, say experts. They can provide comforting explanations for their predicament. But sometimes they are attractive to the powerful as well – if the powerful are uneasy in their position.

The Federalists, for instance, held the presidency when some of them pushed the fantastical Illuminati charges against their foes. They could see that their hierarchical vision of the U.S. republic would likely be supplanted by the Jeffersonians’ more egalitarian vision, says Dr. Cleves. A sea change was coming and they felt threatened.

That could be comparable to the position today of the Republican Party, she says. The electorate is moving quickly toward becoming majority-minority. The whites who predominate in the GOP could feel threatened.

“Conspiratorial thinking might be attractive to [today’s GOP-controlled] executive branch because it senses a vulnerability of future political structure. It’s under threat from shifting demographics and shifting ideals of who belongs in power,” Dr. Cleves says.

Intuitionists vs. rationalists

In America, conspiracy theories aren’t just for people who wear proverbial tin foil hats. A substantial number of voters subscribe to surprising beliefs about politics and the nation at large.

University of Chicago political science professor Eric Oliver says this came as a big shock to him when he began studying conspiracy theories years ago. He says if you take a survey listing five or six popular conspiracy theories, such as the false charge that NASA faked the moon landing, or that Lee Harvey Oswald was a CIA plant, half of all respondents will mark at least one as “true.”

NASA/File
This close-up view shows an Apollo 11 astronaut's footprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm camera during the extravehicular activity on the moon in July 1969.

The one that typically gets the most support, he says, is the untrue charge that the F.D.A. is withholding naturally derived cures for cancer due to pressure from big food and drug firms.

When President Obama was in office, 23% to 25% of Americans said they believed in the “birther” fraud, Dr. Oliver points out. About 19% today claim to believe the “truther” lie that 9/11 was an inside job.

People with supernatural views – who believe in ghosts and extra-sensory perception – are the most prone to ascribe truth to conspiracy theories, according to Dr. Oliver. He divides the electorate into two groups: intuitionists, who draw on their own feelings and gut instincts to make sense of the world; and rationalists, who put more stock in studies and facts.

“Right now we are seeing the public polarizing in these two world views,” Dr. Oliver says.

The right wing of the political spectrum is becoming more intuitionist, he says. There are still leftists who ascribe to conspiracy theories – the anti-vaccine movement, for instance, is concentrated in left-leaning areas. But the movement of evangelical Christians into the Republican Party, and the rise and influence of President Trump, have greatly increased the GOP’s susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking, according to Dr. Oliver.

“President Trump is the embodiment of an intuitionist thinker,” he says.

President Trump’s embrace of the false narrative of Obama “birtherism” is perhaps his most well-known embrace of a political conspiracy theory. He was the most prominent person to push the discredited notion that President Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii, and it helped raise his political profile in the years leading up to his jump into presidential politics.

In September 2016, as the election approached, Mr. Trump acknowledged that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” But this statement was brief and came at the end of a press appearance at which he extolled the virtues of his new Washington hotel.

The conspiracy theory that the president appears to be embracing most at the moment involves the cyber defense firm CrowdStrike and Ukraine. That is what he was referring do in his famous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy when he said “The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

The CrowdStrike theory is almost baroque in its complications. Simplified, it holds that the hacking of DNC emails prior to the 2016 vote was not carried out by Russia, as U.S. intelligence holds, but Ukraine – and it was designed to help Mrs. Clinton, by pinning the deed on the Kremlin. Proof of this allegedly lies in an American computer server that has been hidden in Ukraine to keep it safe.

CrowdStrike, the private firm that first detected the DNC intrusion, is complicit, goes the theory. It also supposedly is partly owned by a Ukrainian oligarch (it isn’t, actually) which supposedly explains the hidden-server-in-Ukraine connection.

The list of things that would have to be true for the CrowdStrike theory to make sense is a long one. Among other things, hundreds of people, including Deep State bureaucrats, the heads of U.S. intelligence and the Justice Department, and numerous foreign officials, would have to be in on the scam.

Mr. Trump’s first homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossart, warned the president this theory was “completely debunked.” Yet President Trump in July appeared to be very interested in a Ukrainian investigation of the subject. Whether he withheld military aid to force such a probe, as well as a look at business dealings in Ukraine by Hunter Biden, is at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

Conspiracy without theory

Conspiracy theories are an old political trope. But conspiracy without theory is something new, and suddenly prevalent, according to Dr. Rosenblum of Harvard University, co-author of the new book “A Lot of People are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy.”

“We’ve never had a president with a conspiracy-minded mindset like Trump’s,” she says.

She labels the new approach “conspiracism.” It operates with bare assertion, she says: the election is “rigged,” the press is “corrupt,” Democrats are engaging in “treason.” In their breadth these charges are almost impossible to prove or disprove. They get power from constant repetition, Dr. Rosenblum says.

Conspiracism is disorienting because it is an assault on our sense of reality, and on the knowledge-based institutions that might challenge conspiratorial thinking. As employed by the president, it does not seem to have an ideological or political purpose, beyond keeping him in office, she adds.

Social media is fertile ground for conspiracism to spread. Currently it is used by the right, but the left is not immune from conspiracy thinking in general, so there is no reason to think a Democrat with a Trumpian approach isn’t possible, Dr. Rosenblum says.

Repeating truth in the face of conspiracy is one way to fight it, she says. But it is elected officials, people with a partisan connection to their constituents, who have a particular responsibility to stand up to such attacks.

“There are all kinds of institutional ways to resist,” she says.

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Hillary Clinton said Russia was “grooming” a Democrat aligned with Kremlin interests to run as a third-party candidate in the 2020 election. Ms. Clinton actually said it was the Republicans who were grooming the candidate, whom she also called “a favorite of the Russians.”

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A deeper look

2. These superfans travel miles to see Donald Trump – and each other

For President Trump’s most ardent supporters, a MAGA rally is like a rock concert and a revival rolled into one. It’s as much about finding community and fellowship as it is about politics.

David
Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Randal Thom (center), a self-employed painter from Lakefield, Minnesota, and other Trump supporters counter-protest in front of a massive inflatable "Trump baby" in Minneapolis.

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The city of Minneapolis wasn’t ready for Dan Nelson.

Mr. Nelson, an engineer from Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, was so early to President Donald Trump’s rally that local security kept giving him conflicting directions about where to start the line. Each time, he would repack his backpack, heavy with three days’ worth of supplies: coffee, water, crossword puzzles, a Bible, a change of clothes, and a couple of sandwiches his wife made. He forgot a pillow, but that’s OK. He says he’ll probably be too excited to sleep.

“It’s really all about watching the hype build,” he says.

For many mega-MAGA fans, the pre-rally festivities are just as important as the actual event. They sleep in lawn chairs; share Subway sandwiches, cigarettes, and water bottles; and swap stories about the fake news media and Democrats’ incessant witch hunt of the president.

It’s like tailgating before the Big Game, but so much more – a multiday sleepover that, for participants, blends passionate allegiance to a cause with a sense of connectedness that’s increasingly rare in modern life. 

“We were all strangers, but now we’re lifelong friends,” says Jennifer Petito, a retired nurse who’s come all the way from New York City. “We’re family.”

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These superfans travel miles to see Donald Trump – and each other

Like Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon, Dan Nelson unfolds his lawn chair and digs it proudly into the gray carpet of the Minneapolis Skyway. He takes off his shoes and sips coffee from his silver thermos. He twitches his toes inside his striped blue socks while watching commuters with briefcases speed past.

Now, Mr. Nelson, a process engineer at an electronics company from Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, has to wait. Not just for President Donald Trump’s rally to begin in roughly 36 hours – but for his fellow rally attendees to arrive. For that, he doesn’t have to wait long. 

Mega-MAGA fans frequently travel across the country, arriving days before rallies in an effort to secure front-row seats. For many, the pre-rally festivities are just as important as the actual event. They spend days together sleeping in lawn chairs, and warmly greeting friends they’ve met online in Facebook groups. They share Subway sandwiches, cigarettes, and water bottles, swapping stories about the fake news media and Democrats’ incessant witch hunt of the president. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Dan Nelson, an engineer from Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, was the first in line at the Minneapolis Skyway, setting up his lawn chair some 36 hours before President Donald Trump's rally was scheduled to begin, on Oct. 9, 2019.

The experience is about more than politics, or even Mr. Trump himself. Attendees say the rallies – while condemned by Trump critics as displays of intolerance and hate – are really all about fellowship and camaraderie. It’s like tailgating before the Big Game, but so much more – a multiday sleepover that, for participants, blends passionate allegiance to a cause with a sense of connectedness that’s increasingly rare in modern life. 

“We were all strangers, but now we’re lifelong friends. We’re family,” says Jennifer Petito, a retired nurse who’s come all the way from New York City. She guesses this is her “20th-something” rally, but she’s lost count. Ms. Petito has a VIP ticket, so she could have arrived right before Mr. Trump was scheduled to take the stage and still gotten a front-row seat. But she chose to arrive days in advance to camp out.

“I couldn’t miss this. This is the best part,” says Ms. Petito, gesturing to the dozen other attendees who have lined up behind Mr. Nelson in the Skyway. “Like, we could be at Thanksgiving dinner and not have this much in common with everyone.”

36 hours out

The city of Minneapolis wasn’t ready for Mr. Nelson.

He was so early to the event – for which he’d taken three vacation days off work – that local security had not yet agreed on where to start the line. At least three times Wednesday morning, he crisscrossed the Minneapolis Skywalk, a network of fluorescent-lit hallways that hover above the city’s cold streets, dutifully following the conflicting directions of city police, Skywalk security, and Target Center security. Each time, he would unpack and repack his backpack, heavy with three days’ worth of supplies: coffee, water, a fruit and vegetable smoothie, some crossword puzzles, a Bible, his cellphone and charger, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, a change of clothes, and a couple of sandwiches his wife made. He brought two chairs: one for himself, and an extra just in case his friend from Facebook needs one. He forgot his pillow, but that’s OK. He says he’ll probably be too excited to sleep.

“It’s really all about watching the hype build,” he says.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen mega-MAGA fans have joined Mr. Nelson, moving between their encircled lawn chairs to catch up with friends from previous rallies. Mr. Nelson, Ms. Petito, and the others take turns trying to describe how much they value this sense of belonging. Back home, red hats can attract heckling, one of them says to the nods of others. But here in the rally line, around a proverbial campfire of overnight bags and MAGA gear, they’re celebrated. 

“I might not know your name. But I know about you,” says Randal Thom. A self-employed painter from Lakefield, Minnesota, Mr. Thom has earned a reputation as one of the president’s most ardent supporters. He’s been suspended from Facebook – twice – for posting what he describes as Trump-related news 7 to 10 times a day. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Trump fans play card games in the Minneapolis Skyway while waiting in line for the president's rally to begin.

This is Mr. Thom’s 56th rally. He drives to almost all of them; for the Montana rallies he clocked 22 hours in the car. A big man with a gray handlebar mustache and a gravelly voice, he is known in the MAGA fan community as the founder of the “Front Row Joes.” Anyone is welcome in the group, he says, gesturing to two other men sitting beside him with #FRJ monogrammed baseball jerseys, as long as they “love America, love President Trump, and bleed red, white, and blue.”

Since announcing his presidential candidacy in 2015, Mr. Trump has held about 400 rallies. Unlike other modern presidents, he kept up his rally schedule after winning the election. In 2018 alone, Mr. Trump held 40 rallies. By comparison, President Barack Obama had held 10 rallies from the start of his presidency in January 2009 through mid-October 2010.

The mega-MAGA fans typically learn about upcoming rallies by searching and refreshing DonaldJTrump.com. As soon as a new one is posted, they communicate with one another on Facebook and Twitter, coordinating carpools, hotel rooms, and supplies. They also spend a lot of time on Facebook at the rally, livestreaming for friends who couldn’t make it.

There’s a competitive element to some of it. Rally attendance and arrival times are currency among this group, signaling depth of support for the president.  

“Dallas next week?” Richard Snowden, a former nightclub owner from Las Vegas who has attended 56 rallies, asks a man walking by. The man responds with a sad shake of his head. 

“I’ll be there,” says Mr. Snowden, proudly. “Each time, I say this is going to be my last one.” 

Having attended only two other rallies, a fact that he reveals reluctantly, Mr. Nelson was determined to be one of the first attendees in line at the Target Center.

“Man, I don’t do nearly as much as you do,” Mr. Nelson tells one of the regulars who works with Mr. Trump’s campaign. “I just do some stuff on Twitter and give a little money. But you’re great, man. I appreciate it and I know Trump appreciates it.”

The night before

As the afternoon transitions to evening, Mr. Thom announces to the group assembled in the Skywalk that it is time for a “flag drop.” Everyone becomes visibly giddy, pulling hats, flags, and other MAGA gear from their bags. After securing “Trump 2020” flags to the ends of fishing rods, they head outside. 

Despite all the talk about feeling ostracized for their political beliefs at home, the “flag drop” is an unapologetic bid for attention. As the MAGA fans march down the sidewalk waving their Trump flags, some drivers and pedestrians cheer in support – but others yell profanities out their windows. Several pedestrians tell the group they are not welcome in Minneapolis; one person throws a Pepsi can at them.

Mr. Thom then announces a plan to head to a nearby bar where someone had seen a massive inflatable “Trump baby” earlier. When the group arrives at The Saloon, which describes itself as “the cornerstone of downtown Minneapolis nightlife and gay life,” they are denied admission by the bouncer. So, they walk to the back of the bar, where patrons are mingling on an outdoor patio.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Randal Thom (front) and other "Front Row Joes" go for a "flag drop" on the sidewalks of downtown Minneapolis, waving Trump 2020 flags on the ends of fishing rods.

Many mega-MAGA fans say it’s like they’ve found their team. And while individual team members may be strangers, they’re ready – eager, even – to defend the team with all their might. For about half an hour, the Front Row Joes and Saloon patrons hurl insults back and forth, as bystanders record videos. Finally, the Front Row Joes leave. 

But why go there in the first place? The bar patrons were minding their own business and catching up with friends – just as Mr. Thom and the other megafans had been doing. 

Mr. Thom thinks quietly for a moment before answering, ripping off a piece of teriyaki beef jerky with his teeth. 

“If we didn’t go there, they’d think we were scared,” he says. “We wanted to show them that just like they have their rights, we have ours.” 

The big day arrives

By Thursday morning, the line behind Mr. Nelson’s gray folding chair stretches into the thousands. It snakes to the end of the Skyway’s first floor and wraps down a parking garage stairwell. The rush occurred between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., say the Front Row Joes, who spent those hours taking turns napping in cars and engaging in “late-night shenanigans,” such as putting on a big dog’s head mask and waking unsuspecting sleepers.

As the collective energy builds, so does the hallway’s temperature. Condensation builds up on the Skyway’s windows and it begins to smell like sweat. To pass the time, fans play card games and watch videos on their phones. Many make their way up to the “Line Starts Here” sign to see who claimed the first spot. Strangers congratulate Mr. Nelson, shaking his hand or giving him high-fives. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters fill the Target Center in Minneapolis on Oct. 10, 2019.

“Everyone wants to talk to the first person in line,” says Mr. Nelson, who has put on a baseball hat that says “God Wins” and changed into socks with red, white, and blue stars. “But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about him.”

He signals to a life-size cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump, propped up against a traffic cone, smiling with two thumbs up.

As at other MAGA rallies, the snaking line pulses with a small economy. Mr. Thom sells Front Row Joes “packs,” complete with a red vest, Trump flag and fishing rod, sign, and “a small surprise,” for $50. He says he’s saving up to buy a Front Row Joes RV to drive to rallies, picking up friends along the way. Several people walk up and down the line selling neon yellow “MAGA-sota” shirts for $20. Mr. Snowden, the retired nightclub owner from Las Vegas, has sold out of everything he brought: 1,000 pins ($1 each), 25 big pins ($3), and 10 posters ($10). 

Just as the rallies themselves have predictable rhythms and rituals – from “Lock Her Up” chants to booing the “fake news” media – so does the pre-rally routine. Mr. Thom paces up and down the line, leading chants of “USA!” and “Four more years!” and “Trump, Trump, Trump!” from his bullhorn. The line erupts in cheers, and fans take selfies wearing Trump paraphernalia.

A little before 2 p.m., security begins to usher the line into the Target Center. Mr. Nelson proudly leads the thousands of other fans behind him. They walk slowly with big smiles, savoring the moment for which they have planned and waited so long. But it’s a touch bittersweet. Soon, it will all be over and everyone will head home, back to their real lives, away from their team.  

As the rally gets underway that evening, Mr. Trump’s son Eric Trump takes the stage. He points to someone in the crowd.

“I see a hat down there that says ‘God wins,’” he says. “God does win.”

Mr. Nelson later says he “cried tears of joy” when the younger Mr. Trump called out his hat. 

“I knew then that they know who I am, and they know how much I thank them and love them,” says Mr. Nelson.

“It was one of the most powerful moments of my life.”

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The Explainer

3. Surviving the first ‘deepfake’ election: Three questions

Integrity is a core principle in a democracy. For the 2020 U.S. presidential election, two states are taking steps to help voters trust what their eyes see.

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Political disinformation has been a part of U.S. elections since the first days of the republic. In the 2020 election cycle, however, voters may encounter an entirely new vehicle for deceptive content: deepfakes. Altered video and audio are becoming increasingly convincing as “deep learning” technology progresses, with one computer science professor projecting that deepfake videos could become undetectable by the end of the 2020 campaign.

The technology’s progress prompted legislators in Texas and California to pass laws to limit the production of political deepfakes before an election. The House Intelligence Committee held its first hearing to discuss manipulated media and deepfakes in June after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the subject of a “cheapfake” video that was produced with only basic video editing techniques and was shared more than 2 million times on Facebook alone.

For individuals, not sharing or liking known fake or manipulated political content is a start. But insisting that candidates and elected officials do the same is another step. The best advice, meanwhile, might also be the most difficult to follow. “Be ever vigilant,” says Michael Kearns of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Surviving the first ‘deepfake’ election: Three questions

Deepfakes – altered video or audio that seems convincingly real – raise questions about truth in the political process. With 2020 campaigns underway, two states have passed laws aimed at preventing deepfakes from influencing elections. 

What exactly is a deepfake?

Deepfakes are made using deep learning technology, which uses computer algorithms to teach itself a task.

Picture a rose. To create a likeness of a rose using this technology, you’d put pictures of roses and pictures of tulips (“not roses,” for comparison) into a deep learning application, downloadable from the web. The application identifies the rose’s distinguishing characteristics and uses that information to create a synthetic image. The program can hone the algorithm (and image) further by comparing pictures of real roses with the generated image and identifying the differences. The process repeats and is like a “personal trainer” for the software, says Michael Kearns, a computer and information science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Each time the program successfully identifies the differences between the synthetic rose and the real ones, the next fake it produces becomes more seemingly authentic. Soon, the difference between the synthetic image and the photos is indistinguishable to the eye. 

This process, known as a generative adversarial network, can also be used with video and audio files. It underlies many sophisticated deepfakes. 

Deepfake videos of celebrities, intended as comedy, began circulating on the internet in early 2018, but one of the original uses of deepfake technology was less benign. Deepfake sex videos, using the faces of celebrities, were exposed by a Motherboard report in December 2017. 

How could deepfakes affect 2020?

Even before deepfakes, voters have needed to sort through disinformation, which has even come from campaigns themselves. 

“You don’t need deepfakes to spread disinformation,” says Hao Li, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Southern California who worked on a federally funded project to spot deepfakes. 

With advances in technology, however, Professor Li predicts that undetectable deepfake videos are between six and 12 months away – a period that corresponds roughly with the election season. 

Considering how social media platforms were used to spread disinformation ahead of the 2016 election, Danielle Citron, a law professor at Boston University who studies deepfakes, warns that they might affect the political process. Deepfakes, she says, could undermine the legitimacy of an election.

Who should address political deepfakes? 

Texas and California have passed laws aimed at limiting the influence of political deepfakes in recent months. Texas’ SB 751 and California’s AB 730 make it illegal to create a deepfake with the intent of injuring a political candidate or influencing an election or to distribute such a video close to an election.

In June, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee held its first hearing to discuss manipulated media and deepfakes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the subject of a “cheapfake” video, created by slowing down footage from a public talk to give the appearance that she was drunk. The video used basic video editing techniques, not deep learning, but was shared more than 2 million times on Facebook.

For individuals, not sharing or liking known fake or manipulated political content is a start. But insisting that candidates and elected officials do the same is another step. 

Professor Citron, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee, co-authored an eight-point plan for presidential campaigns to adopt in advance of a deepfake crisis. Point 1: All candidates should issue a statement that says they will not knowingly disseminate fake or manipulated content and requests their supporters abide by the same commitment.  

Professor Li points out that deepfakes are not inherently a bad thing. The discussions they generate should remind people to question what they see, check the facts, and consider the intention of a video, he says. 

The best advice, however, might also be the most difficult to follow.

“Be ever vigilant,” says Professor Kearns.

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4. Amid war, ancient art is timely reminder of national dignity

For a nation riven by conflict, recovering ancient artworks holds out the promise of not just reconnecting with the past, but finding the pride – and strength – to persevere in the present.

David
Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Michael Barry, a historian of the Islamic world and professor at the American University of Afghanistan, teaches students about the significance of medieval Afghan art, May 16, 2019, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Michael Barry, a historian of the Islamic world at the American University of Afghanistan, has spent years retrieving the past glories of Afghanistan’s Islamic art. The delicate works – painted on small manuscript pages for royalty in medieval Afghan palaces – had been cut from their bindings and sold, dispersed in collections around the world.

But today that art, expertly reproduced into images 4 feet tall, is on display in Kabul and Herat, in their day both centers of Islamic artistry. And it is reminding Afghans of a more distinguished past.

The public reaction has been powerful, says Omar Sharifi, a social anthropologist, noting that the visitor’s book at the permanent exhibit in Herat Castle exudes surprise and fascination. For a lot of Afghans, he says, “it is a sense of return to normalcy, despite the war, something that is bringing a level of peace that is very elusive in this country.”

“The challenge is to pierce this pall of miserable-ism,” says Dr. Barry. “To bring to light the petals of the rose, and not just the thorns, is part of a balanced appreciation for a human community.”

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Amid war, ancient art is timely reminder of national dignity

For centuries, the past glories of Afghanistan’s Islamic art – delicate works meticulously painted in bold hues on small manuscript pages – had been scattered. Sliced from their bindings and sold, they landed in collections around the world.

Amid the nation’s gruesome modern history of war, the meaning and significance of the art – created for royalty in medieval Afghan palaces as reflections of mystic poetry and meditations on love, power, and the divine – were lost and largely forgotten.

But today that art is finding new illumination, reminding Afghans of a more distinguished past as they view high-quality, large reproductions of the originals on display in Kabul and Herat, in their day both centers of Islamic artistry.

“It is no exaggeration to say that in Herat people have literally wept at recovering this glory, this jolt of dignity recovered, this notion that, ‘We, too, have given to the world,’” says Michael Barry, a historian of the Islamic world at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

“The effort has been to restore the fundamental dignity, the cultural dignity of the Afghan people, by making available to them for the first time, in practically half a thousand years, the works of art created by their ancestors,” says Dr. Barry, who taught for years at Princeton and has been instrumental in locating more than 1,000 artworks and interpreting them anew.

“The challenge is to pierce this pall of miserable-ism. ... Everything in Afghanistan is associated with war, crime, corruption, violations of human rights, poverty, what have you,” he says. “To bring to light the petals of the rose, and not just the thorns, is part of a balanced appreciation for a human community.”

The public reaction has been powerful, says Omar Sharifi, a social anthropologist and country director of Boston University’s American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS). The visitor’s book at the permanent exhibit in Herat Citadel, where many of the paintings were first created in northwest Afghanistan, exudes surprise and fascination, he says.

“Oh, we do exist”

“A lot of [Afghans] put it in the context of post-2001, [as] a process of rebirth, after years of war and a lot of things lost,” says Dr. Sharifi, who is also a Kabul-trained physician. “For a lot of them, it is a sense of return to normalcy, despite the war, something that is bringing a level of peace that is very elusive in this country.”

For many it was also an affirmation, says Dr. Sharifi, quoting one visitor’s book entry: “Oh, we do exist, we’re not just always a blank space in the life of the region, in the cultural history of the region.”

Dr. Barry spent years locating the dispersed pages of the ancient manuscripts, recovering them from nearly 30 collections and institutions from Los Angeles to Kuwait City to Bombay.

Working closely with the AIAS, which secured funding from the U.S. and French Embassies in Kabul, Dr. Barry was able to have the intricate paintings – each one just 6 by 8 inches in size – expertly photographed and reproduced with no loss of resolution into images 4 feet tall.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Michael Barry, lecturing at the American University of Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2019, in Kabul, has identified more than 1,000 artworks in 30 collections around the world, all painted in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries in Afghanistan, when the kingdoms of Herat and Kabul had a far-reaching cultural impact.

More than 100 of the paintings are today on permanent display in Herat, and another set lines the halls of the AUAF campus in Kabul. Yet another may soon be shown in the recently renovated Darulaman Palace in Kabul.

“It is completely forgotten today that the Kingdom of Herat in the 15th century was the most important center of Islamic art, literature, and science in the entire Islamic community,” says Dr. Barry.

Islamic sultanates from Spain to Turkey, Egypt, and India all looked toward the art of Herat “as their fountainhead and as their Florence. ... It was the school, that’s where the masters came from,” he says.

For Afghans, a revelation

The result has been a revelation that has captivated ordinary Afghans.

“I was surprised when I received an e-mail saying we have lectures on Islamic art, and I said, ‘Is there any Islamic art that exists on this earth? Is that possible?’” recalls Shafiqa Khpalwak, a fourth-year political science student at AUAF.

“I never had any idea of that,” she says. “We live in an Islamic country. ... We have been taught Islamic knowledge since grade one, but they never talked to us about these things.”

Dr. Sharifi, the anthropologist who is currently teaching at AUAF, recalls how emotions welled up during one tour he gave of the art on campus to a member of President Ashraf Ghani’s office.

“Why? Because the way the message of the painting was deeply woven, both in an Islamic way [that] life is seen, and the larger context of what love and faith mean,” recalls Dr. Sharifi. “So when I explained that, I saw the tears coming to this man, and he said: ‘I feel like I am awakened after a long sleep.’”

Dr. Barry’s love of Afghanistan dates back to his first childhood visits in the early 1960s. After the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979, he helped bring medicine to mujahideen fighters by pack train, dodging helicopter attacks and living perilously with Afghans of all backgrounds.

His scholarship has been key to interpreting the art he has gathered back together on Afghan soil for the first time since it disappeared from here in the 16th century.

“These books were cut to pieces; the paintings were extracted from them. Their connection to any body of literature [was] practically abolished,” says Dr. Barry. “The curators of this art ... purposely ignored the literary context that these paintings are actually meditations upon.

“This language had become as mute as Egyptian hieroglyphs at the beginning of the 19th century,” he says. His work has aimed to recover that symbolic language, in which “every human gesture ... every horse, every fox, every bird, corresponds to a specific allegory” in Islamic mysticism.

Afghanistan’s gifts

As he walks among the images at AUAF, Dr. Barry describes them with enthusiasm, connecting dots between the words of poetry – rendered in exquisite calligraphy, and read with theatrical gravitas – and the symbolism that played with time-honored narratives that celebrate love, the power of the “unseen world,” and gardens of Paradise.

One measure of the Kingdom of Herat’s wealth was a description by the first Portuguese agent to reach Hormuz, on the Persian Gulf, who in 1504 said that “every day” 4,000 camels arrived from Herat, laden with silk.

Centuries later, the French painter Henri Matisse was heavily influenced by exhibitions he saw of the Afghan art, and their use of rich pigments, displayed with other Islamic arts in Paris in 1903, and Munich in 1910.

With the regathering of that artwork now in Afghanistan itself, for the first time, it is the turn of the Afghans to be impressed with their own legacy, beyond their current headlines about war.

“To recognize the high civilization of the people you help is to tell people: ‘Right now you are going through hard times. ... But to recognize what you have created, the beautiful things you have contributed to the civilization of all humanity, is to appreciate your gifts to us, and not just our gifts to you,’” says Dr. Barry.

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5. Their city’s known for war and Ebola. What about rollerblading?

If the Congolese city of Beni makes international news, it’s generally for its civil war or the Ebola outbreak. But the women of the Dream Team Rollers skating team show us another side: self-sufficiency on wheels.

David
Kudra Maliro
Alice Nguru Bagheni (left), Chakila Melchois (second from left), and a teammate prepare to begin a drill with their coach Joel Kavuya (right) in Beni, Congo. The women are members of the Dream Team Rollers, the city's only competitive skating team.

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Around the crowded streets of Beni, at the heart of eastern Congo’s long-running conflict and ongoing Ebola outbreak, are many things you might expect. NGO vehicles. United Nations peacekeepers. Heavily laden motorcycles.

And then there are the skaters. 

None of the Dream Team Rollers, as the city’s only competitive in-line skating team is called, have seen an ice rink. But here, where fighting has dragged on for years, even navigating the roads’ ready-made obstacle courses is its own kind of reward.

“You feel zen when you do it,” says Alice Nguru Bagheni, a lanky law student. “You don’t think of anything else.”

The team began two years ago, with the self-sufficiency that is common here – by necessity. Humanitarians speak of “Congo fatigue,” the idea that the world is tired of giving to a place whose fortunes never seem to improve. A U.N. base sits at the city’s edge. But more than 600 citizens have been killed since June 2017. Among them are Ms. Bagheni’s brother, uncle, and grandparents.

“I am trying to be careful, and be safe, but also to be present and just live my life,” she says as she tightens the straps on her skates, and stares into a smooth stretch of pavement ahead.

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Their city’s known for war and Ebola. What about rollerblading?

The roads that slice through this city in Congo’s eastern borderlands are not for the faint of heart.

Motorcycles loaded down with cords of firewood or one-too-many passengers swivel between hulking United Nations peacekeeping tanks. And lately, both compete for space with dirt-streaked SUVs emblazoned with an alphabet soup of nongovernmental organization logos: MSF, UNICEF, ALIMA – the most visible signs of the massive international response to the Ebola outbreak still simmering across the region.

But as 22-year-old Alice Nguru Bagheni straps on her rollerblades on a recent morning, the pandemonium barely seems to register. While car horns and roosters squawk around her, she hurtles herself forward on one of Beni’s main roads, shooting past vegetable hawkers and signs warning residents to sleep under mosquito nets to avoid malaria.

“When people see me do this, they say, ‘It’s not just any girl who could do what you do,’” she says. “And I say, ‘You underestimate us.’”

A lanky law student at a local university, Ms. Bagheni is one of four women who compete for the Dream Team Rollers, the city’s only competitive in-line skating team. At least twice a week, she and her teammates rise at dawn to run speed drills up and down the city’s few paved roads.

None have seen an ice rink – at least outside of YouTube – but they dream of becoming the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first Olympic speedskaters. In the meantime, it turns out that navigating Beni’s ready-made obstacle course on four wheels is its own kind of reward.

“You feel zen when you do it,” Ms. Bagheni says. “You don’t think of anything else.”

For her and her teammates, that zen is a rare gift in a place at the heart of eastern Congo’s long-running military conflict. Despite a large U.N. base huddled behind barbed wire at the city’s edge and legions of casques bleus – U.N. peacekeepers in their signature blue helmets – patrolling the streets in armored cars, Beni remains a frequent target for the militant groups hiding out in the lush rainforests that encase the city. More than 600 civilians have been murdered in and around the city since June 2017, many by a Ugandan rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces. Among the victims are Ms. Bagheni’s brother, uncle, and grandparents.

“I am trying to be careful, and be safe, but also to be present and just live my life,” says Ms. Bagheni as she tightens the straps on her skates and stares into a smooth stretch of pavement ahead.

The Dream Team Rollers was founded in 2017 by Joel Kavuya, a veterinary medicine student, who was introduced to the sport when he ran into a young American on blades at a youth conference in Tanzania. Soon after, he bought himself his first pair of secondhand blades and started spending his afternoons falling into black holes of professional figure skating videos on YouTube. He was especially taken by the elegance and athleticism of pairs ice dancing.

“It felt like I was seeing people do the impossible,” he says. And if they could, why not him too?

Kudra Maliro
Alice Nguru Bagheni says that when people tell her they're surprised to see young women skating, she tells them, "You underestimate us."

It’s a common attitude in eastern Congo, a region long overlooked by both the national government in Kinshasa and faraway donor nations. (Humanitarians in the region speak of an international affliction called “Congo fatigue” – the idea that the world has grown tired of giving to a region whose fortunes never seem to improve.) The result is a kind of brusque, no-nonsense self-sufficiency. The government power grid doesn’t work? Fine, band together with your neighbors to buy a generator. Can’t find a job? Buy a big bag of charcoal, divide it into smaller bags of charcoal, and voilà, you’ve started your own business.

In Mr. Kavuya’s case, what he wanted was a skating team. So he created a skating team. The rules were simple: You had to buy your own skates. And school came first. Drop out, or start failing your classes, and you were off the team, no second chance.

At first, his numbers were small. But as crowds began to gather at the team’s practices, membership grew. Today, he has about 50 skaters, ranging in age from 8 to early 20s. They compete in races across the region, and some have even won awards.

One of them is Chakila Melchois, a stern 17-year-old who earlier this year took first place in a 14-kilometer race (8.7 miles) for women in the nearby city of Butembo.

“When I saw boys were doing this sport, I thought, why not me too?” she says.

Like many coaches, Mr. Kavuya sees all kinds of life lessons in skating, and often speaks in earnest taglines reminiscent of inspirational posters and Nike commercials.

“This sport demands you believe in yourself,” he says. “If you don’t, just like in your life, you’re just going to fall over.”

Ms. Bagheni never doubted she could do it, she says, from the moment she first saw Mr. Kavuya speeding around the city’s main roundabout last year. From then on, she stashed away money whenever she could by selling used clothes in a local market. When she had $25, she bought her first pair of skates, and took her first wobbling ride.

It look her about a month to learn how to move like the skaters she’d seen on YouTube, she says. But now she glides lightly over the cracked pavement.

“These Congolese ladies are strong,” says Isaac Muhindo, a motorcycle taxi driver, slouched over his handlebars watching the skating practice as he waits for customers on a recent morning. “What they’re doing, it makes our city look good.”

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The Monitor's View

Are job skills and an education the same thing?

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Chaim Bloom, the new chief of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, graduated from Yale University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Latin classics. His goal may be getting players to work together in harmony (e pluribus unum), but his professional skills also now include a knowledge of statistical analysis as applied to player assessment, a topic absent from the ancient writings of Cicero or Heraclitus.

The debate over whether a college education should essentially be advanced job training, or whether it has other valuable purposes, goes on. A new statistic could chill proponents of the liberal arts: The number of English majors is down about 25% since a decade ago, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But liberal arts majors aren’t suffering on payday nearly as much as many might assume. STEM grads race ahead on salaries with diploma in hand, but by age 40 those with humanities degrees have caught up, according to two researchers at Harvard University.

So let students see the big picture of the world first. Then they’ll find where they fit in. Humanities graduates become lawyers and teachers and entrepreneurs and so many other things.

Sometimes even baseball executives.

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Are job skills and an education the same thing?

Chaim Bloom, the fresh-faced new chief of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, graduated from Yale University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Latin classics. His team goals may include getting the players to work together in harmony (e pluribus unum) but his professional skills also now include an intricate knowledge of statistical analysis as applied to player assessment, a topic absent from the ancient writings of Cicero or Heraclitus.

The debate over whether a college education should essentially be advanced job training, or whether it has other valuable purposes, goes on, and isn’t likely to be resolved soon. A new statistic could chill proponents of the liberal arts: The number of English majors is down about 25% since the Great Recession a decade ago, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yet college enrollment in general has risen.

For many worthy reasons advocates have pushed hard for more students to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – or STEM – fields. These skills are in ever-increasing demand by employers. 

Many students are under the pressure of making a hard financial calculation: Will the job I enter out of college pay enough to offset the student loan debts I’ll pile up? When choosing a major, practicality may win out over passion.

Less well known, however, is that liberal arts majors aren’t suffering on payday nearly as much as many might assume. STEM grads race ahead on salaries with diploma in hand, but by age 40 those with humanities degrees have caught up, according to two researchers at Harvard University.

By its very nature liberal arts studies force students to dip into topics they've never thought about. Who might they become as adults? Their imaginations can be set free in unexpected ways, something that drilling down into a highly specialized STEM field too quickly may lack. 

“You should pick a major you’re excited about, and you’re not going to know that for a couple of years,” former first lady Michelle Obama told a group of students who were the first in their families to attend college and wondering how to take advantage of the experience. “So just get out there and try some classes that make you feel excited, and pretty soon you’ll get a sense of which way to go. But take your time. There is no rush.”

Or as Derek Fox, a professor of astronomy (a STEM field) at The Pennsylvania State University, has put it: “Take humanities because of how they make you feel. Take humanities because of how much you love to think. Take humanities because when you push yourself, really push yourself, you realize how far you have to grow and how fast you are capable of getting there.”

Providing a moment in early adulthood when the kaleidoscope of life’s possibilities can be explored is something as many young Americans as possible should experience.

Let them see the big picture of the world first. Then they’ll find where they best fit in. Humanities graduates routinely become lawyers and teachers and entrepreneurs and so many other things. 

Sometimes even baseball executives. 

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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.

Praying the news

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When we strive to see others as God sees them, we find that it is indeed possible to resist the pull of despair and disgust and to engage with the news in a thoughtful, healing way.

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Praying the news

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Following the news can feel pretty grim these days. Each day, there seems to be further news of power abused, governments run amok, and partisan polarization becoming increasingly entrenched around the world. I’ve heard some friends say that they simply don’t tune in anymore – and having closed my computer in despair on more than one occasion, I can relate to that sentiment.

Yet it seems to me that the world needs citizens who are more engaged, not less. Is it possible to follow current events in a productive way, without being consumed by them?

An experience I once had gave me a new perspective on what it means to not just follow the news as a passive consumer, but actively “pray the news.” By this I mean bringing my prayers to bear on the news, and allowing God, the infinitely loving divine intelligence, to guide my response.

I was deeply concerned about an upcoming election. One of the candidates not only didn’t align with my political ideals, but also appeared to have significant moral shortcomings. Each day I became more incensed and aghast at the prospect of this individual winning the election. While it’s important not to be complacent in the face of wrongdoing, I was uncomfortable with the extent to which hatred and disgust were dominating my thinking on a daily basis.

As I’m accustomed to doing whenever I feel afraid or uneasy, I decided to pray. I wasn’t pleading with God to change the circumstances or this candidate, but rather seeking peace in my own thoughts and approach to the election. Almost as soon as I began to pray, this thought came to me clearly: “You need to pray for [that particular candidate].”

Not exactly the answer that I’d expected. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled. Still, I was reluctantly obedient.

I began to think about one of Christ Jesus’ prayers at the time of his crucifixion: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus didn’t ignore things that needed to be addressed. Check out the Gospels, and you’ll see that Jesus left many of the people he healed with instructions: Dump the bad behavior. But where most people saw hopeless sinners, Jesus consistently saw people as redeemable and worthy of healing – inherently capable of living up to their true, spiritual identity as the children of God.

I have to believe that Jesus’ seeing those individuals in this light not only kept him from falling into hopelessness and despair but also must have profoundly impacted those he forgave to go forward and change for the better.

So my prayers affirmed the true nature of everyone – not everyone except this politician! – as God’s child, created to express the intelligence, selflessness, and purity of the Divine. As I prayed, I started to see that I could disagree (often strongly) with this individual without hating or wishing ill upon them. This realization helped me resist the pull of hate and despair and engage with the news in a more thoughtful, hopeful way.

Praying the news doesn’t mean that things always go our way. But as we bring our sincere prayers – our heartfelt desire to witness the spiritual reality that underlies existence – to bear on the act of following the news, we are changed. We are less subject to the ups and downs of the news cycle, no longer easily swayed by the currents of emotion that accompany particular stories and events. And we glimpse more of the goodness that God expresses in all His children – evidenced in intolerance yielding to kindness, hatred being dissolved by patient love, and incivility being replaced by mutual respect and understanding.

Regardless of where we live or who we vote for, that’s something our world desperately needs – and something we can each be a part of.

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Viewfinder

Life in a wildfire zone

This week, we’re adding voices to portraits of those affected by the California wildfires. Meet Barry Gruber. He’s a volunteer with the Red Cross, managing a San Francisco shelter for Northern Californians displaced by the Kincade fire. Hear his story below.

– Photo and reporting by Monitor photographer Ann Hermes

( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( October 30th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about the Boeing CEO’s testimony before Congress and the delicate art of apologies.

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October 29, 2019
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