2019
November
08
Friday

Today we explore the burdens of conscience that veterans carry, the historical precedent for presidents and back-channel diplomacy, rugby as a reflection of inclusion in South Africa, the role of the Sabbath as sanctuary in modern life, and the power of music to capture the zeitgeist of tumultuous times.

But first, the Donald Trump presidential era has been something of a golden age for the sale of political books.

Just look at the latest New York Times bestseller list and you’ll see what that means. A book of satirical Trump poems by the actor John Lithgow, and a pro-Trump book by journalist Lee Smith titled “The Plot Against the President,” are both in the top 10 for sales of e-book and print nonfiction.

But today I’m going to highlight another big book hit. No, it’s not that new one by an anonymous alleged Trump insider.

It’s the Constitution of the United States.

Sales of the Constitution have risen by double digits since 2016, according to NPD BookScan, a publishing sales tracker. Buyers have snapped up an average of nearly 20,000 copies a month since President Trump took office.

Apparently, at a time of constitutional strain, as the Democratic-led House and the Republican chief executive struggle to establish their powers relative to each other, lots of Americans want to see for themselves what the nation’s founding document says about our situation.

Maybe that will help us find a way out of the nation’s polarized morass.

“Regardless of your political affiliation,” says NPD analyst Kristen McLean, “there is no doubt that our current political climate has done wonders for constitutional engagement.”

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A deeper look

1. For US veterans, what does it mean to heal a moral injury?

For our first story, we have a special cover story from the Monitor Weekly, a deeply moving window into the ”wounds to the soul” that many veterans carry – and the evolving efforts to help them heal.

Peter
Ann Hermes/Staff
Ryan Berg, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran twice deployed in Iraq, stands outside the Concord Vet Center on Oct. 25, 2019, in Concord, California. Mr. Berg is a founding creator of Returning Veterans of Diablo Valley, which serves veterans in Northern California.

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War shaped Ryan Berg. He wishes some days he had chosen another path. He wishes every day his friend Gino had lived.

The intensity of two combat tours in Iraq cast Mr. Berg adrift within himself after his discharge in 2007. He fought against the feral memories of war. He sprayed anger at family, friends, strangers.

He sought escape from himself in drinking and drugs.

As returning troops readapt to the ethical dimensions of civilian life, the rationale for their behavior in war can appear indefensible in hindsight, clashing with long-held personal beliefs and perceptions of their own humanity. The lack of a peaceful resolution in Iraq and Afghanistan can intensify that self-reproach as they second-guess their faith in the military and the mission.

The unintended effects of America’s “forever wars” include a dawning awareness among clinicians about what they call moral injury.

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder attempts to alleviate fear and repair the mind. Therapy for moral injury seeks to ease guilt and mend the spirit. Research showing a potential link between moral injury and a higher risk of suicide among active-duty troops illuminates the perils of providers missing signs of the condition.

Mr. Berg revived his spirit by degrees. He learned to look ahead when stray thoughts wrenched him into the past. Instead of retreating inward, he looks to help other veterans of the forever wars. He knows some remain trapped on an unseen battlefield. He seeks to bring them back.

“It’s been hard for me to feel proud of what I did in Iraq,” he says. “I don’t want them going through that. I don’t want them to feel alone.”

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For US veterans, what does it mean to heal a moral injury?

The Marine Corps observes its birthday every Nov. 10. On that day in 2004, as the Corps turned 229, Peter Giannopoulos spotted his friend Ryan Berg inside a mess tent on a U.S. military base in central Iraq.

Both men had deployed weeks earlier with the Marine Corps Reserve to an area known as the Triangle of Death. By then, less than two years after American forces had invaded, bloodshed and chaos engulfed the country as the Iraqi insurgency burned to full flame.

The two corporals smiled at the chance meeting, their first in the war zone. “Happy birthday, Marines,” Giannopoulos said to Berg and a few others seated by him. Berg chatted with him for a minute before Gino, as most called him, strode outside to join his platoon for its next mission.

The following day, after returning to base from a patrol, Berg stood talking with his squad leader. Another Marine from Giannopoulos’ unit rushed toward them. Distress choked his voice. “It’s Gino! It’s Gino!” he said.

Insurgents had attacked their platoon. Gino was 22. He died on Veterans Day.

The loss of Corporal Giannopoulos on a distant battlefield 15 years ago lies at the heart of Mr. Berg’s complex emotions about the Iraq War.

“When you’re there, everything has extreme significance. It all really matters in the moment,” he says. The demands of combat left little time to ponder the reasons for the U.S. military’s broader mission or to grieve for Gino. “You’re trying to survive. That’s it.”

The passage of years has brought the fog of war into focus for Mr. Berg, who deployed again to the country in 2006 and whose doubts  about the conflict’s purpose have sharpened. He regards the ongoing turmoil in Iraq, where security forces in Baghdad killed more than 100 people during anti-government protests last month, as a repudiation of the U.S. war effort.

“What did we come away with? Did we really influence the country and make it a better place?” asks Mr. Berg, who lives in Concord, California, northeast of San Francisco. He mentions the deaths of almost 4,600 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians since the invasion in 2003. “I do feel let down. There wasn’t much of a plan to create order after we got there, and a lot of people have been killed. It’s really hard to say it was worth it.”

His perspective aligns with the majority of veterans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as revealed by a poll earlier this year from the Pew Research Center. The survey found that most of the men and women sent to fight the longest wars in U.S. history now question whether the cause justified the risks they endured and the lives that were sacrificed.

The violence that persists in both countries – the latest peace talks between U.S. and Afghan Taliban officials collapsed in September – magnifies war’s personal toll for many veterans. Their pride in once wearing the uniform collides with a feeling of futility about what their service achieved and a belief that military leaders failed or deceived them and their fallen comrades. The sense of violation can contribute to a lingering crisis of the conscience and spirit – a concept that behavioral health providers call moral injury.

“After nearly two decades of these wars, there has been less clarity about the purpose and the value of fighting them,” Dr. Shauna Springer says. A psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has counseled hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans coping with combat trauma. “For some service members, the question of what they were really doing can become harder to answer.”

For Mr. Berg, the hazy intent of the Iraq War compounds the piercing absence of his friend. “Did Gino losing his life there matter? I don’t know,” he says. “We were expendable – that’s how it felt.”

The toll of moral injury

The unintended effects of America’s “forever wars” include a dawning awareness among clinicians about moral injury. Endless conflict has wrought greater insight into the unending anguish that combat can impose on troops.

Researchers describe moral injury as a breach of a person’s ethical code that inflicts lasting behavioral, emotional, and psychological damage. This “wound to the soul” most often occurs when individuals commit, fail to prevent, or witness an act that cuts against their moral beliefs. The experience burdens them with acute guilt and shame that at once distorts their self-identity and provokes reflexive distrust of others.

“It’s something that obliterates your expectation of life as you understand it,” says Dr. Brett Litz, a psychologist with the Veterans Affairs system in Boston and a leading researcher into moral injury. “It reflects a profound and intense and debilitating experience that changes how you see yourself and the world around you.”

In the context of troops at war, moral injury arises from diverse causes: killing an enemy combatant or civilian; giving an order that results in the injury or death of another service member; failing to save the life of a comrade; witnessing the death of civilians.

A moment from Anthony Anderson’s first tour in Iraq in 2004 still shadows him. Rockets and mortars fired by insurgents had wounded civilians outside the perimeter of his unit’s base. His platoon later rolled out in a convoy for the day’s mission, and beyond his truck’s windows, he saw bodies splayed on the ground.

His eyes met the agonized gaze of a man whose white shalwar kameez had turned crimson from a stomach wound. Mr. Anderson asked over the radio if the troops could stop to provide medical aid. The order came back to keep moving.

His shame over what he perceived as a betrayal of the Iraqi people has never waned. In the wounded man’s stare, he glimpsed a nation’s misery, a covenant broken – an entire war gone wrong.

“Do I think getting rid of Saddam Hussein was something worth doing? Yes,” says Mr. Anderson, who works for a legal services company in Houston. “But you can’t point to any part of life – in America or Iraq – that’s better because we invaded.”

His second combat tour in 2007 further battered his conscience. Six years later, he joined a fellow Iraq War veteran on a 2,700-mile hike from their native Wisconsin to the California coast. The duo traversed the contours of their guilt and grief in a journey captured in the documentary “Almost Sunrise” that sought to draw attention to moral injury.

During the five-month trek, Mr. Anderson began to resurface from his desolation, and he since has reclaimed his self-worth through fatherhood and serving as a veteran peer counselor. Yet his memories of war are embalmed in remorse.

“Even though I was proud to have served, I felt like a fraud,” he says. “I feel guilty because I contributed to the problems the Iraqi people continue to have today.”

A deepening regret

Psychiatrist and author Jonathan Shay introduced the idea of moral injury through his work with Vietnam War veterans in the 1980s and ’90s. More than a quarter-century later, the concept remains unrecognized as a formal diagnosis, less studied and understood by mental health providers than the clinical condition of post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD refers to a mental and biological reaction that recurs for months and sometimes years after an individual endures or witnesses a traumatic event or series of events. The anxiety and fear that linger can induce abrupt mood swings, avoidance of public settings, and withdrawal from family and friends. Combat veterans diagnosed with the disorder also tend to exhibit hypervigilance, a state of extreme alertness that carries over from the war zone.

In treating veterans of America’s 21st-century wars, Dr. Litz and a coterie of clinicians have expanded research into moral injury, framing the condition as related to yet distinct from PTSD.

Their studies identify guilt as a crucial factor that distinguishes moral injury, even as other symptoms – anxiety and despair, flashbacks and nightmares, social isolation and suicidal thoughts – overlap with PTSD. The findings suggest that guilt and shame typically emerge over months or years as combat veterans gain perspective on a morally injurious act or event.

As returning troops readapt to the ethical dimensions of civilian life, the rationale for their behavior in war can appear indefensible in hindsight, clashing with long-held personal beliefs and perceptions of their own humanity. The lack of a peaceful resolution in Iraq and Afghanistan can intensify that self-reproach as they second-guess their faith in the military and the mission.

“If they feel the sacrifice has a degree of nobility and the war has the right outcome, it moderates the damage done psychologically,” Dr. Litz says. Without sustained stability in either country, “there will be some who say, ‘I feel like a sucker.’”

Former Army Sgt. Nate Vass deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 convinced he had entered a just war. His view of the U.S. occupation, then in its fifth year, changed over the ensuing 16 months as he learned about the Afghan people and culture. He remembers wondering, “Why are we trying to westernize a country that really does not want to be westernized?”

Soon after his tour, Mr. Vass left the Army and returned home to California, disillusioned with the military and himself. He drank to submerge his anxiety and anger. He grew more detached, his days bereft of meaning, his nights suffused with dread.

VA clinicians diagnosed him with PTSD, and since moving to northern Montana two years ago, he has found solace in the serenity of the Rocky Mountains. His therapy takes the form of hiking and skiing, yet as his mind has calmed, his service in a war he deems misguided weighs on his spirit, a millstone heavier than any military medal.

“I feel a sense of bitterness about all of it,” Mr. Vass says of a conflict that has killed nearly 2,300 U.S. troops and passed the 18-year mark last month. “Not so much about what I had to deal with. But I have friends who came back and committed suicide and other guys who were killed on deployments. For what?”

U.S. military and civilian forces in Afghanistan expanded access to education for girls, strengthened voting rights, and trained and equipped Afghan security forces. Mr. Vass lists those examples as evidence that America’s intervention held potential to benefit the country – before adding that much of the progress has stalled and soon could vanish as the Taliban reasserts its influence.

He hears about the strife in Afghanistan and Iraq from friends in the military who have deployed in recent years. His regret deepens as the unrest passes almost without comment in America.

“We mourn our soldiers who die there. But we don’t mourn Afghan and Iraqi civilians – the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of civilians – who have been killed. What about them and their families? What do we owe them?”

Mending the spirit

Dr. Litz and his colleagues developed a treatment regimen for moral injury a decade ago called adaptive disclosure. One phase of the eight-week program involves a clinician guiding a veteran through a conversation with an imaginary and benevolent “moral authority” to talk about the act or event that has caused suffering. The patient then describes the regret and sorrow that has followed, and asks for forgiveness or a chance to atone.

“It’s akin to secular confession,” Dr. Litz says. “It’s to help the person divulge and unearth memories and details so those emotions can be felt and explored.”

An estimated 11% to 20% of the 2.7 million men and women who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have received a diagnosis of PTSD linked to their service. The percentage of former service members coping with moral injury appears comparable. A study last year showed that 9 in 10 veterans diagnosed with PTSD also exhibited at least one symptom associated with moral injury.

But with the VA’s prevailing emphasis on PTSD as a mental health diagnosis for combat veterans, the authors of another recent report warn that moral injury “can often go unrecognized and ignored” by clinicians.

Treatment for PTSD attempts to alleviate fear and repair the mind. Therapy for moral injury seeks to ease guilt and mend the spirit. Research showing a potential link between moral injury and a higher risk of suicide among active-duty troops illuminates the perils of providers missing signs of the condition.

“There’s an incredible urgency and need to elevate awareness around moral injury,” says Dr. Springer, who has treated veterans for the past decade, first within the VA system and now in private practice. She points out that most people diagnosed with PTSD either recover from or learn to manage their symptoms. “We have to make people familiar with moral injury in the way we’ve done with post-traumatic stress.”

Ann Hermes/Staff
Noel Lipana, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan, and Dr. Mieko Hatano, Executive Director of the Oakland Symphony, stand for a portrait in the symphony's office on October 23, 2019 in Oakland, California. Lipana is partnering with the Oakland Symphony's string section for a performance he is producing on moral injury.

Noel Lipana survived a therapy gauntlet in his journey toward recovery from moral injury. In 2008, he returned from Afghanistan without truly coming home. An Air Force major at the time, he trained U.S. troops how to detect and disable improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents.

He worked with two Army soldiers who died in separate explosions during his deployment. Mr. Lipana blamed himself for their deaths and those of four Afghan children killed in another blast.

He received a diagnosis of PTSD a few years after his discharge as he struggled with anger, flashbacks, and insomnia. VA clinicians in California prescribed medication and enrolled him in successive programs of long-term therapy. Nothing assuaged his guilt. His outlook darkened.

“Obviously, I forfeit my membership card to humanity,” he recalls thinking. “I don’t deserve to be healed.”

His spiral stopped with the help of a pair of clinicians in Sacramento who run a group therapy program for veterans beset by moral injury. The sessions enabled Mr. Lipana to excavate his unresolved guilt and grief as he and his fellow veterans discussed the scalding emotional extremes of war, its random cruelties.

As part of the program, he wrote letters to the two soldiers and four kids who died to request their forgiveness. The process allowed him to remember, to mourn – and, in time, to heal.

“The fact is, no one’s moral architecture can withstand the exigencies of combat,” says Mr. Lipana, who co-founded the Center for Post-Traumatic Growth in Sacramento to promote recovery from psychological wounds. He has mined his ordeal to create a performance art piece titled “Quiet Summons” that translates the internal torment of moral injury through music, dance, and storytelling. He wants to offer hope to veterans edging toward the void.

“The basic message is, ‘It’s OK if you’re a little jacked-up, a little broken. We all are.’”

Searching for closure

Bobby Ehrig deployed with the Army to Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring Croatia as part of a peacekeeping mission in 1998. The region’s recent war had hollowed out cities, villages, and everyday life.

A couple of years ago, a friend of Mr. Ehrig’s visited Bosnia and sent him photos of areas where his unit had patrolled. The images elicited a stunned smile. He saw cities reborn and landscapes restored. The scars of violence had faded.

“That gave me a sense of elation,” he says. “I was like, ‘Wow, the sacrifice we made did something. We made a positive difference.’”

A veterans advocate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mr. Ehrig deployed twice to Iraq. A bomb blast in 2006 caused third-degree burns over 40% of his body, cutting short his second tour and military career. He seldom tracks news about the country but realizes the odds for peace are long. “There’s no sense of closure,” he says.

Mr. Ehrig avoids dwelling on whether the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were worth fighting. “That doesn’t help anything,” he says. Yet the ongoing upheaval in both countries can exacerbate the moral injury of veterans who consider the conflicts a betrayal, who believe they were duped, then discarded.

Kristofer Goldsmith deployed to Iraq in 2004 at age 19. Before flying over, he recalls his Army commanders referring to the unit’s role as that of a “cleanup crew,” as if the war would end any day. Driving from Kuwait to Baghdad with his platoon, he noticed troops replacing tents with semi-permanent structures at bases along the route.

“I knew we’d been lied to,” he says.

Mr. Goldsmith’s job required him to photograph mass graves, civilian casualties, and other grim scenes of war. The work preyed on his mind, and rather than deploy again in 2007, he attempted suicide. Army officials charged him with misconduct and kicked him out of the service.

“I don’t feel like my year in Iraq was worth anything. But I’ve still been dealing with the effects of it for most of my life,” says Mr. Goldsmith, who after leaving the military launched High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a nonprofit group in New York. He suggests that only a lasting peace could begin to redress the war’s costs in troop deaths, civilian casualties, and veteran suicides.

“If Iraq were a place I could return to as a tourist – and every veteran could return to – I think that would do a world of good and would help a lot of veterans heal,” he says. “Because now it’s like, ‘Does anybody remember what the mission was?’”

Ann Hermes/Staff
“We have to make people familiar with moral injury in the way we’ve done with post-traumatic stress,” says Dr. Shauna Springer, a behavioral health provider who often works with veterans. Above, medals gifted to her by veterans on display in her office on Oct. 23, 2019, in Walnut Creek, California.

A devotion to fellow veterans

War shaped Ryan Berg. He wishes some days he had chosen another path. He wishes every day his friend Gino had lived.

The intensity of two combat tours in Iraq cast Mr. Berg adrift within himself after his discharge in 2007. He fought against the feral memories of war, the specter of death close at hand. He sprayed anger at family, friends, strangers. He sought escape from himself in drinking and drugs.

Mr. Berg revived his spirit by degrees. He finished college and graduate school. He co-founded a veterans support organization and began hosting a TV program about former service members. He learned to look ahead when stray thoughts wrenched him into the past.

Each time he fills up his car, the smell of gas reminds him of Iraq, where the oilfields burned and his friend perished. The question arrives unbidden. “How did Gino losing his life in Iraq make sense?”

Mr. Berg answers with his devotion to veterans of the forever wars. He knows some remain trapped on an unseen battlefield. He seeks to bring them back.

“It’s been hard for me to feel proud of what I did in Iraq,” he says. “I don’t want them going through that. I don’t want them to feel alone.”

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The Explainer

2. Giuliani, Ukraine, and back-channel diplomacy. Three precedents.

Donald Trump is both lauded and criticized for defying presidential precedent. His reliance on close friends and back channels often falls into this category. But is it really all that unique?

Peter

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Many presidents have used close aides or friends to handle crucial international assignments, particularly at times of national stress.

Some of these low-profile envoys had official roles. President Richard Nixon was close to national security adviser Henry Kissinger, using him for back-channel negotiations on Chinese and Soviet relations that excluded State Department experts.

Others, like Rudy Giuliani, have had flexible or unofficial positions. President Woodrow Wilson leaned heavily on Edward House, nicknamed Colonel House, a Texas backroom politician, for political and foreign policy advice. Prior to World War I, Wilson sent House to Europe to try and prevent hostilities. After the war, House was sent back to push armistice terms.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, if anything, even more reliant on Harry Hopkins, a social program administrator whom FDR met when he was governor of New York. Hopkins held a number of government positions, but after 1940 his chief role was arguably to serve as Roosevelt’s alter ego, sounding board, and unofficial envoy to the leaders of allied powers.

The difference with Mr. Giuliani may be in what he’s done in Ukraine – push for investigations that might help President Trump politically. Critics say that means he’s pursuing personal rather than national interests.

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Giuliani, Ukraine, and back-channel diplomacy. Three precedents.

Rudy Giuliani was running a back-channel foreign policy on Ukraine separate from the normal processes of U.S. diplomacy. That’s a common point many witnesses have made to the House impeachment inquiry, according to transcripts released in recent days.

“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, testified on Oct. 17, for example.

In its basic structure, that’s not unprecedented. Many presidents have used close aides, friends, or other insiders to handle crucial international assignments, particularly at times of national stress.

Some of these low-profile envoys had official roles. President Richard Nixon was close to national security adviser Henry Kissinger, using him for back-channel negotiations on Chinese and Soviet relations that excluded State Department experts.

Others, like Mr. Giuliani, have had flexible or unofficial positions. President Woodrow Wilson leaned heavily on Edward House, nicknamed Colonel House, a Texas backroom politician and early Wilson supporter, for political and foreign policy advice. Prior to World War I, Wilson sent House to Europe to try and prevent hostilities. After the war ended, House was quickly sent back to push armistice terms.

“I have not given you any instructions, because I feel that you will know what to do,” Wilson told him.

What does history say?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, if anything, even more reliant on Harry Hopkins, a social program administrator whom FDR met when he was governor of New York. Hopkins held a number of government positions, including secretary of commerce. But after 1940 his chief role was arguably to serve as Roosevelt’s alter ego, sounding board, and unofficial envoy to the leaders of allied powers.

FDR sent Hopkins to Britain in 1941 to judge the nation’s capacity for resistance to Hitler. (His report was favorable.) Hopkins was present at all the major wartime conferences, from Cairo to Yalta. He even moved into the White House. When Hopkins remarried in 1942 the president – who served as best man at the ceremony – just gave him a bigger suite of rooms.

What ties these examples together? It may be that the presidents involved had what journalist and historian Joseph Lelyveld, in his book on FDR’s final months, terms a “highly personalized style of policy-making.”

Wilson and Roosevelt both operated as their own secretaries of State, Mr. Lelyveld writes. They depended on key aides operating outside, and around, normal bureaucratic channels. Nixon arguably dealt with many major foreign policies the same way.

President Donald Trump’s defenders might put Mr. Giuliani’s back-channel actions in this context. The president has his own way of doing things, and distrusts a bureaucracy he considers full of “deep state” proponents. Mr. Giuliani is just implementing presidential priorities with which career State Department diplomats simply disagree, in this view.

What’s different this time?

This is where historical analogy frays, and the Ukraine example veers into unprecedented territory, critics say. It’s not so much the existence of a special channel, as what the special channel was used to do.

Like Harry Hopkins, Rudy Giuliani has no official position in the White House, but does have the president’s trust, says James Goldgeier, a professor in the School of International Service at American University and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. 

“The difference is that while F.D.R. used Hopkins to advance the country’s national interest during World War II, Trump used Giuliani not on behalf of America but for his own personal political gain and invited foreign interference in the American presidential election,” says Dr. Goldgeier in an email.

Ironically it is the day-to-day work of normal diplomacy that has exposed Mr. Giuliani’s abuse of the process, according to Dr. Goldgeier. A string of experienced diplomats and government foreign policy analysts have acted as they normally do, keeping records, communicating with colleagues, and ultimately testifying to Congress, despite the objections of the White House.

“In this case, what may matter in the end is something that has plenty of precedent: the regular diplomatic channel,” write Dr. Goldgeier and Brookings colleague Elizabeth Saunders in an analysis of how much President Trump’s actions in Ukraine have deviated from presidential norms.

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3. How rugby became a marker for inclusion in South Africa

Team sports have an uncanny power to unite – and divide. That contradiction is particularly stark in South Africa, where sports have long played an oversized role in how South Africans see themselves.

Peter
Jerome Delay/AP
Captain Siya Kolisi holds up the Webb Ellis Cup commemorating the Springboks' Rugby World Cup win during a victory parade in Soweto, South Africa, Nov. 7, 2019.

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When Siya Kolisi hoisted the trophy from the Rugby World Cup over his head to thunderous applause, the symbolism was hard to miss. For black rugby players and fans here, the Springboks’ World Cup win confirmed something they’d spent years trying to convince their families and neighbors. Rugby didn’t just belong to white people anymore.

When apartheid ended at last in the early 1990s, sports were seen as an equally important turf for reconciliation. But even as successive governments forced professional teams to field more black players, the highest echelons of the sport were still fed mostly by disproportionately white suburban prep schools.

“When you grow up in Soweto, you grow up hearing that rugby is a sport for white people, for rich people, and soccer is a sport for black people,” says Chris Litau, the founder of the Soweto Rugby School Academy, which runs training camps and youth rugby teams for 250 kids across the township. “If you’ve been told all your life that this sport is not for you,” he says, “then it means something big to go out there and play it anyway.”

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How rugby became a marker for inclusion in South Africa

Call it Invictus, version 2.0.  

The open-top bus came thundering up South Africa’s most famous street to the roar of cheers and bleating car horns. It wound past Nelson Mandela’s old house and Desmond Tutu’s current one, carrying Soweto’s newest heroes: South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks.

The moment had the syrupy-sweet feel of a Hollywood sports drama. Three decades ago, the team was a global symbol of apartheid, the beloved sports icons of South Africa’s white minority. Soweto, a black satellite city on the southern edge of Johannesburg that crackled with protests, was a global symbol of resistance to that same system. 

Now, as the Springboks’ first black captain, Siya Kolisi, hoisted the trophy from the Rugby World Cup – which the team won Saturday – over his head to thunderous applause here, the symbolism was hard to miss.

“There’s a stereotype that this is a white sport, but we aren’t defined by that,” says Nthabiseng Mamogobo, the captain of a high school rugby team in Soweto called the Warriors.

For Ms. Mamogobo, the Springboks’ win, and their visit to Soweto, also confirmed something she’d spent two years convincing her family and friends. Rugby didn’t just belong to white people anymore. It was hers too.

For black rugby players and fans here, that feeling of inclusion matters immensely. But it’s also, many say, not nearly enough.

“If the last 25 years has taught us anything, it is that a captain and a coach can make us weep, but a rugby match cannot give us a second chance at nationhood,” wrote writer and social commentator Sisonke Msimang on the website Africa Is a Country.

Indeed, at every level, from the lush private school pitches at the heart of youth rugby to the country’s professional leagues, South African rugby is still white dominated. In a country that is 90% black, just eight black players were part of the 23-man squad in the World Cup final. And if the 2019 Springboks squad is the team of Mr. Kolisi, with his rags-to-riches story of overcoming poverty to win a rugby scholarship to an elite prep school, it is also the team of Eben Etzebeth, who is currently facing racial abuse and assault charges.

Themba Hadebe/AP
Fans await the arrival of the South Africa Springbok rugby team at the O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg Nov. 5, 2019. South Africa beat England in the Rugby World Cup final Saturday 32-12.

For many black South Africans, there is still no sport so intimately linked with whiteness, or their country’s painful history of exclusion.

“There’s been a strong push since the end of apartheid to depoliticize sports and see them simply as a thing that unites us like nothing else can,” says Francois Cleophas, a senior lecturer in sport history at Stellenbosch University. But to do that, he adds, you have to will yourself to forget both “the history of this country and the huge inequalities in opportunity that still exist today.”

Sports have long played an oversized – and deeply complicated – role in how South Africans see themselves. For decades during apartheid, sports-mad South Africa was barred from the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup for refusing to integrate its teams. When the Springboks traveled abroad for matches, meanwhile, they were met with hordes of protesters and booing crowds. So when apartheid ended at last in the early 1990s, sports were an equally important turf for reconciliation.

One moment in particular became iconic. It was June 1995. Standing on a Johannesburg rugby pitch, the Springboks’ green and gold jersey buttoned awkwardly to the collar, was Nelson Mandela. At his back was a roar of 60,000 South African rugby fans, and in front of him, their hero, Francois Pienaar, the Springboks’ captain.

For the first time since the end of apartheid the year before, a South African sports team had won a major international tournament, the Rugby World Cup – and Mr. Mandela was there to congratulate them. Forget for a second, his presence seemed to say, that all but one of the members of the squad were white. Forget that most of the fans were, too. For now, for this moment, the country was in this together.

“Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire,” Mr. Mandela later famously said. “It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

But even in the years after the Springboks’ 1995 victory, rugby struggled to remake itself for the new South Africa. Successive governments enforced, amid bitter protest, quotas that forced professional teams to field more black players. But the highest echelons of the sport were still fed mostly by disproportionately white suburban prep schools.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
“There’s a stereotype that this is a white sport, but we aren’t defined by that,” says Nthabiseng Mamogobo (pink shirt), who captains a high school rugby team in Soweto, near Johannesburg.

“When you grow up in Soweto, you grow up hearing that rugby is a sport for white people, for rich people, and soccer is a sport for black people,” says Chris Litau, the founder of the Soweto Rugby School Academy, which runs training camps and youth rugby teams for 250 kids across the township.

On a recent afternoon, a few dozen of Mr. Litau’s charges ran drills on a scruffy field in the Meadowlands section of Soweto. Many still wore their pressed school uniforms and black oxfords, crunching over broken beer bottles as they ran across a field scabbed by big patches of bald dirt. In the background rose the massive yellow mine dumps that once acted like walls separating Soweto from the white city to its north.

“There is no sport like rugby,” says Khanyisile Makumbana as she warmed up with her teammates, before launching into a greatest hits list of the sport’s best attributes: It made her see her body as tough and powerful, instead of boyish and undesirable. It made her less afraid to walk through the township at night on her own. It gave her a new crew of best friends. 

Ms. Makumbana began playing for the Rugby School Academy two years ago, when she was 15. Before then, she says, she’d never watched a rugby match in her life. Now she doodles diagrams of plays instead of diagrams of cells during science class and dreams of playing for the national women’s side.

“And when I make it, I’ll be like Siya [Kolisi],” she says. “I won’t forget where I came from.”

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Chris Litau founded the Soweto Rugby School Academy in 2016 to help fill the gap in training young black South Africans to play rugby, historically considered a “white” sport here.

But despite their skill and grit, Mr. Litau’s players still often find themselves playing David to suburban teams’ Goliath in local tournaments.

“It hurts when you go to a match and their pitch is really nice, their kit is really nice, and their parents are all there to watch with snacks for them,” Ms. Makumbana says. Her own parents, she says, are her biggest fans. But neither her mom, a school lunch lady, nor her dad, a security guard, have the time to come to her games, or the few dollars it would cost them to cross town for the privilege.

Since Mr. Litau founded his rugby academy – which provides academic support as well as sports training – in 2016, he has never had a consistent sponsor. He often digs into his own pocket to send his players to games or training camps. But he says he believes it’s an important thing to do, and not just because rugby is fun.

“If you’ve been told all your life that this sport is not for you, then it means something big to go out there and play it anyway,” he says.

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The Ten

How people use the Commandments in daily life

4. ‘Remember the sabbath’: How one family lives the Fourth Commandment

As Laura Nash and her husband raised their sons, they put a high value on family Sabbath traditions. Part 5 in a series looking at the Ten Commandments through modern lives.

Peter
Ann Hermes/Staff
Laura Nash stands in Beth Judah Temple as she prepares to attend a Shabbat service on Oct. 18, 2019, in Wildwood, New Jersey.

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As Laura Nash and her husband, Jack Greenberg, considered religious options when their sons were young, the sacredness of family Sabbath traditions in Judaism emerged as a big draw.

And so in 2000, Dr. Nash, who had been a nonpracticing Roman Catholic, converted to her husband’s native Judaism. From then on, she has observed the Jewish custom of lighting candles to usher in the Sabbath and has cooked a nice family meal for Friday evening.

“I like the fact that we have this way of stopping and celebrating, of resting and honoring God,” she says.

Dr. Nash, a school psychologist in central New Jersey, talked with the Monitor about the Fourth Commandment, which begins, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Her conversation is part of our series examining the ways ancient religious ideas like the Ten Commandments continue to matter in today’s world.

Dr. Nash hasn’t been one to miss a week of observance lest the tradition be lost. “It doesn’t have to be the fanciest meal,” she says. “The bottom line is [that being] thankful for light, food, and fruit brings you back to a state of gratefulness.”

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‘Remember the sabbath’: How one family lives the Fourth Commandment

The worshippers at Beth Judah Temple could be family. They arrive at dusk on a brisk autumn Friday with leisurely hugs, hellos, and a little something for the dinner table. It’s Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath – at Laura Nash’s small jewel of a synagogue, nestled in a tired part of this beach town, where worshippers have gathered for more than a century. Dr. Nash and her husband, Jack Greenberg, who live in central New Jersey, often begin Shabbat here when visiting their vacation home nearby.

The couple feel a sense of “mission accomplished” once they arrive on Friday evening, having successfully dispensed with traffic, work, and the city pace. And having turned off their phones, finally, they step into the hushed 90-year-old sanctuary, its peaceful, glowing light enveloping. There they join two dozen fellow worshippers for an hour of psalms, chant, and prayer.

Dr. Nash, a school psychologist, talked with the Monitor about the Fourth Commandment, which deals with the Sabbath, as part of our series examining the ways ancient religious ideas like the Ten Commandments continue to matter in today’s world.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

While quick to differentiate her family’s Reform practices from more traditional Jewish movements’, Dr. Nash nevertheless established firm rituals that anchored the family’s Sabbath when they were raising their children. They modified their customs as their family traveled, matured, and changed. She hasn’t been one to miss a week lest the tradition be lost: “You want to continue good habits,” she says.

From mixed faiths when they married 26 years ago, the couple considered a number of religious options when their sons were young. “We both wanted religion in our family – a religion we felt good about,” she explains. After considering some less theistic variations of church, they adopted his native Judaism. “Ethical monotheism,” Dr. Nash calls it. A nonpracticing Roman Catholic at the time, she converted in 2000. The sacredness of family Sabbath traditions was a big draw.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Laura Nash wears a ring with the Star of David at Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood, New Jersey. She grew up in the Roman Catholic faith but now practices Judaism with her husband.

“I like the fact that we have this way of stopping and celebrating, of resting and honoring God,” she says. “So many things are complicated. This is like a little vacation.” She notes the imitation of God implicit in the celebration: “He rested and said, ‘This is good,’” she says, referring to Genesis 2:3.

“We are called to imitate the best qualities of God,” says Beth Judah’s Rabbi Ron Isaacs, who adds that it’s up to individuals to determine how to make the Sabbath special. “I never tell people what to do. Orthodox people wouldn’t be gardening on the Sabbath [as prohibited in Jewish law]. I wouldn’t be gardening on the Sabbath. But I’m sure some from Beth Judah would. People pick and choose how they’re going to live that Commandment.”

From the start, Dr. Nash has observed the Jewish custom of lighting candles to usher in the Sabbath and has cooked a nice family meal for Friday evening. She limited the extracurriculars for her three sons, now in their 20s, to a single sport, plus music and religious studies. They passed on travel sports teams, which would have placed an added pressure on the family, and on Boy Scouts, which met on Friday nights. She says, “You can’t be afraid to tell your kids, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ Families need time to be together.”

Since then, wherever the family goes, the Sabbath goes. At the farm vacations the couple took with their school-age sons, they’d light a pair of “traveling” candles at the dinner table, bringing some grape juice for the boys and wine for themselves. Now, with their children grown, Dr. Nash and her husband continue adapting, celebrating as a couple or with friends, even using battery-powered candles to withstand the wind at their beach home. When an unavoidable appointment takes them well into the evening on a Friday, the couple will still go home to light the candles and share a simple meal.

“It doesn’t take that long. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest meal. The bottom line is [that being] thankful for light, food, and fruit brings you back to a state of gratefulness,” Dr. Nash says.

Wherever they are, they say blessings over the candles, food, and wine in Hebrew, translating for a guest who might be there, and praying in part, “Come, let us welcome Shabbat. Thank you, God, for the mitzvah [commandment] of lighting the candles. May they shine upon us in love and peace.”

Ann Hermes/Staff
Laura Nash sits outside Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood, New Jersey. She and her husband often begin Shabbat here when visiting their vacation home nearby.

Whereas their larger, suburban synagogue back home gets into the necessities of education, training, and inquiry, the Beth Judah congregation is mellow. There might be Shabbat on the beach, open to the public. This evening, which marks the Sukkot holiday, there will be dinner after the service. It’s a casual, varied crowd, which might include a cashier from the local five-and-ten, a minister from a nearby Methodist church, or a one-time summer worshipper looking for a place to pray. At home, Dr. Nash says, “everyone is rushing off to soccer practice,” but here, the congregation feels like rest itself.

Dr. Nash likes the service, especially the Mourner’s Kaddish, which includes prayers not just for the recently deceased, but also for “those who lie in nameless graves.” “It reminds you you are a link in the chain. In 150 years, maybe no one will remember me, but these people – a [Jewish] nation – will remember me,” she says.

She also likes the fact that the congregation accepts her free-form practice of the faith. “Some people would not touch a light switch” on Shabbat, she says. “That is too rigid for me.”

Dr. Nash reserves Saturday for “what I really want to do.” There’s no professional work, and always something outdoors in recognition of “the gift of the earth” – a walk by the ocean, pulling some weeds in the garden, even cleaning up trash-strewn public areas. She counts bill paying as among her allowed activities: “I don’t feel like going to the bank is a crime. This makes me feel good; balancing my budget helps my family stay intact.”

As a psychologist in a public elementary school, Dr. Nash doesn’t bring religion to work, but she is all for religious traditions like the Shabbat for her students nonetheless. “What’s important for children is to have a sense of belonging – however you can belong,” she says. Few of the parents of her students are American-born, she explains, and many of the families come from cultures with rich traditions. When she sees that sense of belonging, she says simply, “It makes me happy for them.”

Part 1: The Commandments as a moral source code in modern life

Part 2: How does the First Commandment fit in today?

Part 3: ‘I have to have humility’: How Second Commandment helped man find freedom

Part 4: One woman embraces Third Commandment in feeding 1,600 at Thanksgiving

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5. Let freedom ring: How music helped fell the Berlin Wall

Did rock music cause the Berlin Wall to fall? Perhaps not directly, but as a powerful cultural touchstone, it captured and broadcast the zeitgeist of the time: a shift from complacency to a strong desire for freedom.

Peter

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My wife and I traveled to East Germany several times in the months leading up to what Germans call die Wende (“the turn”) on Nov. 9, 1989, when the wall was opened. Those trips gave us a ground-level view of what day-to-day life was like for many East Germans, and why some of them were increasingly discontented. 

In December 1988, we met a couple in Leipzig, East Germany’s second-largest city. Stephan and Marta were among the 85,000 fans who attended English rocker Joe Cocker’s open-air concert in East Berlin. “It was great!” Stephan exclaimed. “We went with a big group of friends and we all loved every moment of it.”

The euphoria of going to the concert stayed with them for days. “And then something happened,” Marta said. The couple and many of their friends became angry – angry at everything, with no clear justification. 

“It was such a great time” at the concert, Stephan said, “but we realized that it would’ve been so much more fun if we had been able to do it when we were younger.” 

That was when the couple decided to apply to leave. “We don’t want to lose any more of our lives.”

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Let freedom ring: How music helped fell the Berlin Wall

The significance of a shift in thought and how it moves people to act is often only discernible after the fact. That’s why, on this year’s 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I think back to what happened before it fell. And I think of Joe Cocker.

My wife and I traveled to East Germany several times in the 12 months leading up to what Germans call die Wende (“the turn”) on Nov. 9, 1989, when the wall was opened. Those trips gave us a ground-level view of what day-to-day life was like for many East Germans, and why some of them were increasingly discontented. Frustration with the government was subtle, but evident. Many people we met used the same word to describe how they were treated by government officials: Bevormundung meaning “to be spoken to in a condescending way,” to be treated like a child, ignored.

Rock music provided a focal point for the dissatisfaction of younger East Germans, but in unexpected ways.

In December 1988, a year before the wall came down, we met a couple in Leipzig, East Germany’s second-largest city. The two had officially applied to emigrate. We were surprised to learn that it was possible to leave. A treaty from the 1970s “détente” era allowed for free movement of people, at least in theory. In fact, anyone who applied would endure one to three years of harassment from East German bureaucrats before the West German government eventually was allowed to pay a de facto ransom and let the applicant leave. What had motivated this couple to take such a drastic step?

Stephan, Marta, and their 8-year-old son lived in an apartment on a stone-paved city street, in a neighborhood of three-story prewar brick buildings, all of them coated with a layer of brown grime from the soft coal used to heat them. Inside, though, the apartment was clean, tidy, and surprisingly modern. In the living room, Stephan showed us his stereo. It was not as up to date as what a western audiophile might’ve had then, but it was sophisticated enough to show that the owner was serious about music.

The subject of music came up when Stephan and Marta told us about their decision to leave the country. “Do you know Joe Cocker?” they asked. In June the gravel-voiced English rocker had been one of the first big-name western performers to play in East Germany. 

Stephan and Marta were among the 85,000 fans who attended Cocker’s open-air concert in East Berlin. “It was great!” Stephan exclaimed. “We went with a big group of friends and we all loved every moment of it.”

The euphoria of going to the concert stayed with them for a number of days. “And then something happened,” Marta said. Without necessarily talking with each other, the couple and many of their friends became angry – angry at everything, with no clear justification. When they got together to talk about it, the source of their upset became clear. 

“It was such a great time” at the concert, Stephan said, “but we realized that it would’ve been so much more fun if we had been able to do it when we were younger.” 

The concert made them realize that what should have been a normal activity when they were teenagers had been withheld from them until they were in their 30s. “We felt like a lot of our youth had been stolen,” Marta added.

That was when the couple decided to apply to leave. They knew the cost. The moment they submitted the application, everything about their lives in Leipzig would change. Everyone from the police to their employers and relatives would try to talk them out of it – for years. But it no longer mattered: “We don’t want to lose any more of our lives.”

So did rock music cause the Berlin Wall to fall? The answer is probably jein, a combination of ja and nein, or yes and no. Music didn’t bring down the wall, but it definitely signaled that the zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – had changed from complacency with the status quo to a much greater desire for more freedom.

I don’t have any souvenir pieces of the Berlin Wall – we gave those away to nieces and nephews years ago. But the memories of that unusually poignant time come vividly to life each time I hear a recording of Joe Cocker’s raspy voice sing “Unchain My Heart.”

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The Monitor's View

The uniting politics of second-chance justice

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Oklahoma’s approval of the largest single-day commutation in American history was long overdue. It also represents an opportunity. With the median age of those released just under 40, they have much left to live. Parents are coming back to children. Friends are being reunited. Their releases reflect a shifting model of criminal justice, in which law enforcement does not label someone a criminal forever after a conviction.

Long a law-and-order state, Oklahoma is reforming its prison system. Until now, it had the highest incarceration rate in the country. Even after the dip, it’s still in second. For a system focused so long on punishment alone, the sudden act of forgiveness presents a second chance of its own.

The reforms may signal a change in perspective among Americans toward more rehabilitation and less retribution in criminal justice. More politicians are taking note and cooperating to make such reforms.

Perhaps this is the key lesson from Oklahoma’s commutations. If forgiveness needs a stronger place in criminal justice, it may also have a place in politics, not just for individual politicians, but also for the system as a whole.

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The uniting politics of second-chance justice

A unanimous vote last week by Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board began, for the state, a week of second chances. The board approved the largest single-day commutation in American history. More than 500 people convicted of low-level drug and nonviolent offenses were pardoned. 

The decision was in one sense long overdue. In 2016, the state Legislature reclassified crimes with penalties under $1,000 from felonies to misdemeanors. This January, it voted to make the law retroactive. More than 800 prisoners applied for commuted sentences, and 65% were approved. Now, those in Oklahoma prisons are receiving the same punishments they would today.

For the 527 people leaving prison, the decision represents an opportunity. With the median age of those released just under 40, they have much left to live. Parents are coming back to children. Friends are being reunited. Their releases reflect a shifting model of criminal justice, in which law enforcement does not label someone a criminal forever after a conviction.

Long a law-and-order state, Oklahoma is reforming its prison system. Until now, it had the highest incarceration rate in the country. Even after the dip, it’s still in second. For a system focused so long on punishment alone, the sudden act of forgiveness presents a second chance of its own. Criminal justice in Oklahoma is capable of reform. Even now, it’s underway.

Demand for that reform comes from the bottom up. Announcing the decision, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state was “implementing the will of the people.” Oklahoma has a Republican-dominated Legislature, but it is taking a bipartisan approach toward developing a more compassionate legal system. Even if interparty acrimony on many issues seems high in the United States, criminal justice reform passed in Oklahoma with overwhelming support.

The reforms may signal a change in perspective among Americans toward more rehabilitation and less retribution in criminal justice. More politicians are taking note and cooperating to make such reforms. 

Perhaps this is the key lesson from Oklahoma’s commutations. If forgiveness needs a stronger place in criminal justice, it may also have a place in politics, not just for individual politicians, but also for the system as a whole. If Americans can unite behind ideals of love and forgiveness, and government can enable that cooperation, then maybe the political system itself deserves a second chance.

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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.

A life overflowing with meaning

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No one is excluded from experiencing consistent satisfaction and meaning in life. Each day provides fresh opportunities to feel the joy and contentment that come from loving others.

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A life overflowing with meaning

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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It’s natural for everyone to desire fulfillment and happiness. Most of us can probably think back on meaningful things we’ve done and remember how we felt a real fire about the activity, along with a powerful feeling of satisfaction and well-being.

Are times like this in our lives meant to be short-lived? Or are there ways to experience consistent, long-term meaning? Veterans Day can be a good time to consider these questions. Those in the military often have a roller coaster ride of experiences. Very soon after committing to service, they can be given huge responsibilities. They may be taught very quickly how to operate multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment and answer for the lives of fellow soldiers. A strong sense of purpose and duty is often found in this work. But there’s also constant adrenaline rushes that may leave some feeling addicted to the excitement. Once one’s military duties are complete, some have found that civilian life can feel inconsequential, even meaningless.

After his discharge, a friend of mine found himself unthinkingly going out at night, simply searching for someone to fight. Then he finally recognized that he was really just searching for those intense emotional infusions he’d experienced prior to and in battle. Once he realized this, it wasn’t so hard for him to turn from those hollow desires. Adrenaline rushes and intense emotions are so short-lived, but living a meaningful life doesn’t have to be.

Finding lasting satisfaction and meaning in our lives takes place as we stop looking for it in physicality and human emotions. In fact, many veterans have discovered that it is in God where we can find a more permanent peace (see Ryder Stevens, “Living to serve,” Nov. 9, 2006, JSH-Online.com and Janet Horton, “A spiritual response to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” November 23, 2010, JSH-Online.com). Rather than a show of weakness, searching for satisfaction in God truly is evidence of valor. Substantial, even great, accomplishments happen in selfless service to God.

Christ Jesus certainly understood this; his greatest desire was to share with others how they could live a life with profound meaning. He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Having a more abundant life filled with meaning and substance, with joy and accomplishment, is the natural result of putting God first in our lives, serving Him by loving others and ourselves. This is what we were created to do, because God, whom the Bible calls Love, simply cannot go unexpressed.

We each, as Love’s offspring, are the active proof of God’s loving nature and caring presence. It’s right to commit to bringing out God’s love in everyday life because of the wonderful ways it can enrich the world. Respected author Henry Drummond wrote, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love” (“The Greatest Thing in the World,” p. 60).

In our commitment to love and serve God, we may encounter some rough places, but through understanding that God hasn’t sent such trials but redeems us from them, we find that those tough obstructions give us handholds to help us go higher. You can’t climb a smooth mountain, as the saying goes. Facing those rough places turns us more unreservedly to God, and it’s through humbly turning to God for strength that anything can be faced and overcome. “When the smoke of battle clears away, you will discern the good you have done, and receive according to your deserving,” wrote Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy in her book about prayer and healing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (p. 22).

A life with deep meaning is a beautiful life, a life where one’s satisfaction is still a priority, but it’s gained through the joyful understanding that abundant goodness is bestowed on us by infinite Spirit, not from any form of materiality. As Mrs. Eddy puts it in another of her books, “The sublime summary of an honest life satisfies the mind craving a higher good, and bathes it in the cool waters of peace on earth; till it grows into the full stature of wisdom, reckoning its own by the amount of happiness it has bestowed upon others” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 227).

This powerful, joyful satisfaction can never be short-lived, since opportunities to serve God, love God, and express God are consistently coming to us, giving every single day of life constant, lasting meaning.

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Viewfinder

A chimp haven

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
The small islands in Lake Victoria off the coast of Uganda have been home to fishermen and their families for centuries. But in 1998, one of these communities was relocated in order to make room for a different home: the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a haven for rescued and orphaned chimps confiscated by wildlife officers who found them living as pets or being sold on the illegal market. Today, there are 50 chimps on the island, each with its own personality and distinctive facial features. Tourists can take a 45-minute speedboat ride across the lake to reach the 100-acre tropical rainforest sanctuary. Our group is met by a smiling guide named Boris Waiga. Chimps are “as strong as five Rambos,” he says.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( November 12th, 2019 )

Thanks for joining us today. Keep an eye out Monday for a special audio issue for Veterans Day, featuring an interview with Martin Kuz on the fallacy of the “broken vet.” We’ll be back Tuesday with a dispatch from the unprecedented protests in Lebanon.

Before you go, we have a quick note for the graphic that appeared with the Nov. 5 story “Surveying hope: Can US instill optimism in regions of ‘despair’?” The standard deviations have been corrected for the effects on life satisfaction of being “employed full time” and of “unemployment.” The correct numbers are 0.01 and -0.04, respectively. And in one map, two states no longer are outlined in red for the highest “deaths of despair”; the deaths are high in those two states, but not in the top tier.

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