2020
February
28
Friday

Monitor Daily Podcast

February 28, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Coronavirus, risk, and our perceptions

Here’s today’s table of contents: a face-to-face conversation with the Taliban about Afghanistan’s future, Joe Biden and what’s happening with centrism in America, how Pete Buttigieg’s sexual orientation plays in the South, state bills to ban discrimination against people due to their natural hair, and uphill skiing.

Health experts say the coronavirus is a threat almost tailor-made to induce fear.

It’s new. Scientists don’t fully understand it. News coverage of each new patient adds to the sense that it’s out of control.

It’s not a risk we’ve chosen to run, as is, say, driving a car.

Rolled together these attributes can produce a “crowding-out effect,” where our emotions override our cognitive faculties, says Ann Bostrom, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, in today’s New York Times.

We overlook things that might make us feel less fearful – such as a new study’s assertion that 81% of COVID-19 cases in China are mild. We disregard that many doctors say that right now it is more important to guard ourselves against the flu.

As of Feb. 28, Johns Hopkins University health care experts continue to say that “at this time the general risk of exposure to COVID-19 is very low in the United States,” though the worldwide number of cases continues to rise.

One problem in the U.S. may be that politicians are doing a lot of the coronavirus messaging. 

When people become anxious about disease outbreaks, they become more trusting of health experts, but not of government officials per se, according to Shana Gadarian, a professor of political science at Syracuse University and co-author of “Anxious Politics.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “should be out in front leading the messaging, not the White House,” Dr. Gadarian tweeted on Friday.

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Inside the Taliban: What these jihadis say about long-sought peace

If peace is to come to Afghanistan, shifting attitudes among the Taliban are key. Our reporter ventured into jihadi-held territory to speak in person with fighters. They are not of one mind on peace.

Peter

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For Taliban Deputy District Chief Suleiman Roostami, his mind-changing moment came last year, after attacking Afghan police posts in Wardak Province. “We killed them all,” he says. Nine policemen died, and three of the dozen or so Taliban attackers.

But the result? “Nothing, there was no result,” says Mr. Roostami – aside from changing his mind to see the futility of continuing the war. “Now we understand that this, our country, is being damaged,” he says.

Taliban leaders have been negotiating in Doha, Qatar, where a deal is to be signed Saturday on a U.S. withdrawal that could lead to the end of America’s longest war. But it is moments of illumination among local Taliban that will determine whether peace can be forged.

Among Afghans there is skepticism about the true intentions of the Taliban leadership. And even if the leaders are committed to peace, can they control more radical commanders and fighters who are not?

One such fighter, who gives a nom de guerre that means one who rushes forward helter-skelter, says he distrusts the leaders. “This peace and this cease-fire are useless, because our prophet, our fathers, our grandfathers, our leaders were always in jihad, so that’s our only way, to continue jihad.”

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Inside the Taliban: What these jihadis say about long-sought peace

Rahmat Gul/AP/File
Taliban fighters gather with residents to celebrate a three-day cease-fire marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 16, 2018. Many Afghans view Saturday's expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban deal on an American withdrawal with a heavy dose of skepticism.

On a stony hillside in Taliban territory southwest of Kabul, a cluster of graves of Afghan security forces killed fighting the Taliban are marked with the red, green, and black flags of Afghanistan.

A stone’s throw away, a cluster of graves of Taliban fighters – entombed in the same frozen Afghan soil, and buffeted by the same winter wind as their dead enemies – are marked with the white flags of the jihadist insurgency.

As Afghanistan today nears the end of a seven-day reduction in violence to test the possibilities of peace – and with a U.S. troop withdrawal agreement due for signing Saturday to pave the way for ending America’s longest war – the proximity of these graves in Taliban-controlled Wardak Province symbolizes how minds have shifted toward peace among some insurgent fighters.

Taliban leaders have been negotiating with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar, where the withdrawal deal is to be signed. But it is moments of illumination among local Taliban in places like this – along the Kabul-Kandahar road, with snow-covered mountains to the east, and citrus groves and farms to the west – that will determine whether peace can be forged.

Just down the road from the graves is where Taliban deputy district chief Suleiman Roostami says his mind changed, after last year attacking Afghan police posts at either end of a bridge.

“We killed them all,” says Mr. Roostami, a long-bearded, young-faced Taliban with an ocher skull cap and brown shawl draped over his leather jacket to ward off the chill. Nine policemen died, and three of the dozen or so attackers.

But the result? “Nothing, there was no result,” says Mr. Roostami – aside from changing his mind to see the futility of continuing the war along a road that for years has seen daily battles, is cratered from explosions, and is often besieged by Taliban snipers and kidnappers.

“Now we understand that this, our country, is being damaged,” says Mr. Roostami. “When I heard about these seven days [of reduced violence], I became very happy, because there is 40 years of war in this country.

“We are human and we want to enjoy a peaceful environment,” he says. “There is a good chance for all Afghans, because we are really tired ­– both sides – from the war.”

Shared skepticism

Among Afghans, however, there is no shortage of skepticism about the true intentions of the Taliban leadership – about accepting power sharing, and respecting nearly two decades of dramatic social change.

And even if the leaders are committed, can they control more radical commanders and fighters who are not?

The Taliban have steadily advanced against U.S.- and NATO-backed Afghan security forces, and now control or have influence in more than half the country – more than at any point since the U.S. military ousted the ultra-conservative Taliban in 2001.

Last year was the sixth in a row that saw more than 10,000 Afghan civilians killed and wounded, with the toll from Taliban attacks up 21% over 2018, according to United Nations figures. And with poverty as stultifying as ever, many jihadist fighters are recognizing the need for peace, says Mr. Roostami.

People living in the Taliban-held areas, he adds, “are still in poverty, still in conflict, and the government does not give services to them.”

Minds began changing in June 2018 during a three-day cease-fire, he says, when citizens and fighters on both sides crossed front lines and met “the other.” The current lull – officially a “reduction in violence” and not a cease-fire – only confirmed for many the possibility and desire for national reconciliation. Afghan officials said 21 security force members and 9 civilians were killed this week, less than half the number reported the week before.

A different Taliban?

There is no way to quantify the scale of change among the Taliban rank-and-file, since such expressions are anecdotal. The Taliban leadership in Doha insist they are today a kinder, gentler movement evolved from the iron-fisted enforcers that ran the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in the late 1990s.

“We were busy with fighting, we never thought that peace would come. Our one purpose was to become a martyr, to go to God’s side,” says Mr. Roostami, tracing his own rethinking. “Peace is also the way to God. So, we will enjoy the peace, but we will bring some Islamic changes to this new government.”

Parwiz/Reuters
Afghan youth and peace activists celebrate the week-long reduction in violence that was declared to facilitate the signing of a U.S.-Taliban deal, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Feb, 28, 2020.

The Taliban leadership now says they recognize that women should work, and girls get an education, though under “Islamic” guidelines they have not defined. They also say they are ready for the next step – after a U.S. agreement to withdraw forces – to conduct an intra-Afghan dialogue with the Kabul government they long dismissed as a U.S. “puppet.”

Such talks are to begin March 10 and meant to eventually lead to a power-sharing deal and permanent cease-fire. But many voice doubts.

Amir Mohammad Malakzai, governor of Saydabad district further south in Wardak Province, plays audio messages issued several times a day from Taliban leaders in Pakistan to fighters, encouraging them to keep shooting Afghan policemen and soldiers – but refrain from killing Americans – despite the reduction in violence.

“We have some spy intelligence inside the Taliban, and hear what they say,” says Mr. Malakzai, himself a jihadist who battled the Soviets as a Mujahid in the 1980s. “They tell their people, ‘We beat the English, we beat the Russians, this is the third superpower we beat. After the deal is signed, we will create our own government, and kill and eradicate those who worked for the previous [U.S.-backed] governments.’”

Fighting “for our religion”

Another wild card are Taliban fighters who reject what they consider an “infidel” government in Kabul, led by President Ashraf Ghani.

One such fighter with piercing eyes gives his first name of Rahmatullah, and nom de guerre of Mullah Sarbakhod, which means one who rushes forward wildly, helter-skelter, without thinking.

“This peace and this cease-fire are useless, because our Prophet, our fathers, our grandfathers, our leaders were always in jihad, so that’s our only way, to continue jihad,” says the militant with mud on his black, ankle-high shoes – a signature accessory of many Taliban.

He says he doesn’t trust Taliban leaders, if they prefer money or promotions to the dangers of the frontline. And he says he kept up the pressure Wednesday – halfway through the reduction in violence and just a day before being interviewed – by helping blow up a nearby bridge.

“When they ordered me to destroy the bridge, I thought, ‘This is not jihad,’” says Rahmatullah, whose phone ringtone is a Taliban song. “Still we don’t know who we work for. They tell us, blow up this bridge ... kill this one, kill that one, attack this station, these police.

“But we don’t know who the order is from. Is it from Pakistan? From Iran? From India? From America?” the 50-year-old jihadist asks. “The only reason we are fighting is for our religion, to kill ourselves in this Islamic way, to become a martyr.”

Still, the war will continue if American troops remain, says Rahmatullah. He says he “really enjoyed” one operation in 2017, in which he helped place roadside bombs that destroyed two U.S. armored vehicles and killed seven or eight Americans.

Rahmat Gul/AP
Afghan security personnel gather at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2020. Officials says a bomb placed in a motorbike wounded nine people. A reduction in violence starting Feb. 21 sought to set the stage for the United States and Taliban to sign a deal on a U.S. withdrawal aimed at ending America's longest war.

He ticks off a list of unsubstantiated Taliban talking points, accusing U.S. forces of “burning our holy Quran” and setting fire to mosques. He says if the Americans leave, it will be easy to make peace with the Afghan “brothers” of the government – unless they reject more Islamic rule.

Taliban negotiators calculate that they can control such radicals in their ranks if they reject the Doha deal.

Seeking a “bright future”

For some Afghans, the change in Taliban thinking started long ago. Atiqullah Omid is a businessman from Wardak who served the 1990s Taliban regime in its finance department.

When the Taliban began to ratchet up their insurgency a decade ago, they were convinced they would once again seize control of the government.

“They called me and said, ‘Choose your house in Kabul, and when we take over we will give it to you,’” says Mr. Omid. “Now when I am in touch with the Taliban, they say they are paying attention to the reduction in violence. ... I believe if they announce peace, no one will take up weapons, because people are so tired.”

That is the conclusion of Mr. Roostami, the district official, who now thinks about his children living at peace, as much as fighting. He has two boys and two girls, all under the age of 6.

“I want a bright future for them,” he says. “First they should be educated in Islamic religion, and second they should be educated in every subject, both my sons and my daughters.”

Reporters on the Job
Staff writer Scott Peterson gives the inside scoop

When the seven-day “reduction in violence” was announced in Afghanistan, I quickly flew to Kabul – spotting the possibility of speaking to the Taliban across front lines that for years have been too dangerous even to approach.

There was little time to organize a trip like this, which relied on a chain of local Afghans who trust each other and have contact with the Taliban. I rolled right off an overnight flight and we drove to Wardak province, a hotbed of the insurgency.

“Too much dangerous over here!” said one of my guides, as we drove deeper into the province. We passed forlorn government outposts and bumped through craters left by roadside bombs. My guides pointed to thickets of trees where Taliban snipers usually hung out. Along the road that day, children played cricket in the snowy dirt. For a moment the war seemed far away.

“This is one week everyone can enjoy, people can go anywhere,” said one local Afghan. “Next week, we don’t know.”

In Joe Biden’s last stand, a test for American centrism

Individuals run for president. But Joe Biden’s candidacy is more than a test of the American public’s faith in one man. It is a test of how relevant centrism is in modern American politics.

Peter
Randall Hill/Reuters
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden talks with the Rev. Isaac Holt during Sunday services at Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 23, 2020.

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For 50 years, Joe Biden has been a standard bearer for American centrists. Now, it's up to South Carolina to decide whether that way of looking at the world still has a place in divided Washington.

It’s unclear whether a campaign centered around decency and restoration will be enough. But take this exchange at a CNN town hall Monday night with a Charleston pastor who lost his wife when a white supremacist murdered nine parishioners as they prayed.

“Well, Reverend, I kind of know what it’s like to lose family, and my heart goes out to you,” responded the former vice president. “I don’t know how you’ve dealt with it, Reverend. But ... I’ve only been able to deal with it by realizing they’re part of my being,” he said, fighting tears.

The emotional exchange underscored what may be one of Mr. Biden’s most powerful assets as a candidate – not his decades of governing experience or his connection to former President Barack Obama, but his humanity. The tragedies he’s endured, and his ability to wrest meaning from them, connects him to many voters in a way that transcends politics.

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In Joe Biden’s last stand, a test for American centrism

Updated March 1, 2020: Joe Biden resoundingly won South Carolina, garnering 48% of the votes. Sen. Bernie Sanders finished a distant second with 20%, and Tom Steyer finished third at 11%.

It all comes down to South Carolina.

For 50 years, American centrists had an established way of looking at the world. And for 50 years, Joe Biden has been a standard bearer for that bipartisan way of life.

Now, after dismal showings in the first two contests and a stronger effort last weekend in Nevada, the former vice president and his brand of politics have one last chance to make a stand in this critical Southern state.

Swooping into Charleston after a second-place finish in Nevada, Mr. Biden is demonstrating there’s some fight in him yet – an “edge,” as one voter said after a campaign event on Monday. This week, influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsed his longtime friend, after a feisty debate performance brought praise from pundits and over $1 million in donations in a single day. South Carolina polls show him with a growing lead, and his crowds have swelled to sizes not seen since he first launched his campaign.

Still, those facts belie a tough truth: A three-time presidential candidate, Mr. Biden has never won a single primary or caucus. And even if he wins on Saturday, he faces a difficult road ahead, with little in the way of campaign infrastructure or money for TV advertising in the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday. More broadly, it remains unclear whether he – or any Democrat today – can successfully revive the coalition of voters that put President Barack Obama in the White House for eight years, and which the party will likely need to defeat President Donald Trump.

“When you come off three consecutive losses, it leads people to wonder, ‘Is this somebody who can deliver the general election to the Democrats?’” says Jennifer Lawless, a political scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She adds: “This is an opportunity for him to really turn things around. He seems more invested in making a case for himself.”

It has been done before, in this very place.

South Carolina Democrats decisively threw their weight behind newcomer Barack Obama in 2008, giving him a critical boost on his path to the nomination. Looking for an experienced and affable partner to help him govern, Mr. Obama tapped Mr. Biden for the ticket. The pair won reelection in 2012.

Mr. Biden’s ties to the Democratic electorate here, which is two-thirds African American, are personal and abiding.

“He is definitely one of us, he knows us, he belongs here,” says Pleshette Grant, who came to hear Mr. Biden speak at the College of Charleston on Monday.

A bond forged in faith

As vice president, Mr. Biden prayed with families after a white supremacist killed nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015.

That connection led to a remarkable moment at a CNN town hall on Monday, when a pastor who lost his wife in that shooting asked Mr. Biden how his faith would inform his decision-making as president.

“Well, Reverend, I kind of know what it’s like to lose family, and my heart goes out to you,” responded the former vice president, who lost his wife and infant daughter in a car crash on the eve of his first Senate term, and more recently lost his son Beau to cancer. “I don’t know how you’ve dealt with it, Reverend. But ... I’ve only been able to deal with it by realizing they’re part of my being. My son Beau is my soul,” he said, fighting tears.

Referencing his Roman Catholic faith, Mr. Biden said, “For me, it’s important because it gives me some reason to have hope and purpose.” He added: “It took a long time for me to get to the point to realize that that purpose is the thing that would save me. And it has.”

The emotional exchange underscored what may be one of Mr. Biden’s most powerful assets as a candidate – not his decades of governing experience or his connection to Mr. Obama, but his humanity. The tragedies he’s endured in the public eye, and his ability to wrest meaning from them, connects him to many voters in a way that transcends politics.

“It is the president who has the responsibility to demonstrate not only empathy and compassion but also a vision for moving forward,” says Professor Lawless. “Biden’s life story embodies that.”

Randall Hill/Reuters
Supporters of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden listen to him speak at a campaign rally on the night of the New Hampshire primary in Columbia, South Carolina, Feb. 11, 2020.

Still, it’s unclear whether that sense of personal connection, and a campaign centered around decency and restoration, will be enough. Throughout much of this cycle, the party’s energy has seemed to be with the fiery left-wing candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose passionate call to overhaul a system he says is rigged against average Americans has inspired many young people and newcomers to get involved.

“Joe Biden is a decent, inherently good person who does respect America, its laws, its morals, and its mores,” says Dalhi Myers, a young Richland County Council member who switched her endorsement from Mr. Biden to Mr. Sanders in January. “But I did not think [the Biden campaign] was well placed to bring people into the fold.”

Many younger Democrats see Mr. Biden as “basically a mainstream Republican,” says J. Miles Coleman, a political analyst at “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Perhaps even more problematic are concerns about his skills as a candidate. Many of Mr. Biden’s debate performances and campaign events have been lackluster, to put it kindly, with a frequent tendency to go off-script and lose the thread.

“The idea of Biden is much better than the reality of Biden on the campaign trail,” says Allan Lichtman, a political scientist at American University in Washington.

Still, most head-to-head polls to date show Mr. Biden defeating President Trump by a wider margin in key swing states than any other Democrat. And the Trump campaign has seemed more worried about his candidacy than any other – as seen in President Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to investigate the former vice president and his son.

On Wednesday, former President Obama asked South Carolina TV stations to yank ads by a pro-Trump PAC featuring a clip of him using the term “plantation politics” in a way that misleadingly implied he was talking about Mr. Biden.

The comeback candidate?

The other thing Mr. Biden may have going for him is Americans’ love of a comeback.

“When his back is against the wall, Biden does come out swinging and fighting,” says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia. In some ways, she adds, “it is amazing that Biden has overcome these horrible tragedies to the point where he can still be out on the public stage fighting for the American people.”

Tall and straight as a two-by-four, with a reedy punch to his at times scattershot delivery, Mr. Biden strides the stage at an event at the College of Charleston, vigorously stabbing at the air with his finger.

In response to Mr. Sanders’ calls for free college education, Mr. Biden offers what he calls a more “reality-based” proposal on college debt, including forgiveness of 10% of loan balances per year of service to the country.

He also talks about gun violence – an issue of particular importance to the African American community, and one where Mr. Sanders, who in the past voted against the Brady Bill and in support of a bill shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits, may be vulnerable.

“I defeated the NRA twice,” Mr. Biden says.

Indignantly referring to the president as “that fella,” he calls the Trump administration “more George Orwell than George Washington.”

Then, the veteran politician who first came to Washington when Richard Nixon was president, grew thoughtful.

“We have to remember that it’s an idea that holds our country together – an idea,” he says. “This is really about the soul of America. This is where we can turn it around. It is all within your power. You can win this election right here.” 

A deeper look

After early success, a historic candidacy faces a much steeper hurdle

Religion and LGBTQ rights both make up a big part of Pete Buttigieg’s life and historic candidacy. Is the South ready to vote for that particular combination?

Peter

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Win or lose, Pete Buttigieg has cut a historic path to the highest office.

As the first openly gay candidate in a Democratic presidential race, Mr. Buttigieg and his long-shot bid have become a signifier of how much attitudes have shifted on LGBTQ rights in a party that a decade ago didn’t support same-sex marriage. For all the talk of identity politics, his sexual orientation doesn’t rate a mention at many of his events, which highlight his calm, respectful tone and progressive platform.

“Pete has been competing just like every other candidate, and he’s been judged by the same standards as every other candidate. And that’s a remarkable thing,” says Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

But as the race has moved South, where faith and race intersect with politics, Mr. Buttigieg has found stonier ground. Some African Americans say his sexuality is an issue, though others argue his real stumbling block is his record on racial justice as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“You’re in the South, the Bible Belt. It’s gonna be relevant. But it’s not as relevant as people are making it out to be,” says Michael Bailey, spokesman for the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina.

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After early success, a historic candidacy faces a much steeper hurdle

Eric Thayer/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg attends a church service at First Baptist Church of James Island in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 23, 2020.

On a rainy afternoon, Pete Buttigieg is on his feet inside the fellowship hall of a Baptist church, fielding questions from a mixed-race audience, when an African American woman takes the microphone. 

She introduces herself as an educator and points out that South Carolina ranks 42nd out of 50 states on education. How does Mr. Buttigieg, who is running for president, plan to create equity in public schools, she asks. The audience applauds. 

He thanks her for her public service. “As someone who’s married to a teacher, I feel like I get an education about education every time I come home,” he says, generating a laugh from the crowd. 

What Mr. Buttigieg leaves unsaid, as he speaks of the need to raise teachers’ salaries, is that his spouse at home in South Bend, Indiana, is a man. 

As the first openly gay candidate in a Democratic presidential race, Mr. Buttigieg and his long-shot bid have become a signifier of how much attitudes have shifted on LGBTQ rights in a political party that a decade ago didn’t support same-sex marriage. For all the talk of Democratic identity politics, his sexual orientation doesn’t rate a mention at many of his public events, where he pitches himself as a thoughtful technocrat with a calm, respectful tone and a progressive platform. 

As he tries to build a more diverse coalition in Southern states, Mr. Buttigieg knows that some voters may recoil from the idea of electing a gay president. But for most Democrats, Mr. Buttigieg’s sexual orientation is far from disqualifying; in a crowded early primary field, it was something of an asset for an unknown Midwestern mayor. 

Later that day, Mr. Buttigieg is asked by a voter at a CNN town hall about a 9-year-old boy in Colorado who asked for advice from “Mayor Pete” about coming out as gay. 

“There have been so many moments like that, whether it’s a young person who is wondering where they fit, and this campaign sends a signal to them that they belong,” he says. 

He adds: “I’m under no illusions about the struggle toward equality in this country for anyone, including LGBTQ Americans.” But, he continues, his baritone voice rising a notch, it’s possible “to see those prejudices overcome and to do it in a way that brings more and more people along.” 

The sea change in opinion on LGBTQ equality traces the life of Mr. Buttigieg, who was born in 1982. In a Gallup poll the following year, less than a third of respondents said they’d vote for a qualified gay candidate for office. Today that proportion has swung to 78% of respondents. 

Mr. Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015 in an op-ed in a South Bend newspaper. He was reelected later that year as the city’s mayor with an increased majority. 

Having a young, openly gay candidate in the race makes many Democrats feel good about their brand, says Don Haider-Markel, a politics professor at Kansas University. “He speaks to their inclusiveness.” And if he fails to make the final cut, Democrats may reason, rightly or not, that it wasn’t down to anti-gay prejudice in their ranks. 

When Mr. Buttigieg does speak directly to his identity, unprompted, he ties it into his narrative of public service – a struggle to reconcile his sexuality with his political goals – and his Christian faith. That resonates with the Rev. Colin Kerr, pastor of Parkside Church in Charleston, who has endorsed his candidacy. 

Most politicians genuflect to religion in making their electoral pitch, but Mr. Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, invokes his faith in a far more thoughtful way, says Mr. Kerr. “It’s an exciting dynamic. We see someone who is both a devout Christian and is very open about his orientation.” 

In a 2019 Pew survey, 66% of mainline Protestants said they favored same-sex marriage. Among white evangelicals, though, only 29% did. Attitudes also vary by age: Half of baby boomers said they oppose same-sex marriage. 

Mr. Buttigieg acknowledges the whiplash that some have felt since same-sex marriage became a constitutional right in 2015, the year that he came out. “I recognize that marriage equality in particular was a change that came so fast,” he told Monday’s CNN town hall. “A lot of people were disoriented by it.” 

That conservatism is stronger here in the South, where faith and race intersect with politics, making it thornier ground for Mr. Buttigieg, who has struggled to win over African American voters. Some African American leaders have indicated that his sexuality is an issue, though others have argued his real stumbling block has been political, citing his record in South Bend in handling racial justice. 

For supporters in the LGBTQ community here, Mr. Buttigieg’s candidacy is both a marker of progress and a reminder of the resistance that remains. 

“He won’t get enough votes down South, and that’s what I’m worried about,” says Molly Shields, a medical student in Charleston who identifies as queer and says she felt the disapproval of classmates when she told them she was in a relationship with a woman. “There may be more tolerance, but that’s not the same as acceptance.”

Still, win or lose, Mr. Buttigieg has cut a historic path to the highest office. 

“Pete has been competing just like every other candidate, and he’s been judged by the same standards as every other candidate. And that’s a remarkable thing,” says Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. 

Eric Thayer/Reuters
A woman watches through a window as Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (not pictured) speaks during a church service at First Baptist Church of James Island in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 23, 2020.

Elite education, hardscrabble hometown

The only son of academics at Notre Dame – his Maltese father translated Antonio Gramasci, an Italian Marxist – Mr. Buttigieg has the smooth cadence of a baseball announcer turned professor. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, his rapid ascent on the national stage irks some and dazzles others, though he wears his learning lightly, preferring to emphasize his roots in a hardscrabble city. 

Last April, he announced his run for president in a former auto plant in South Bend that now houses tech startups. At the time, he was 37. “I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he told the crowd. 

At the end of the speech, a bespectacled man in slacks and a blue shirt climbed on stage and waved. He kissed the mayor on the cheek and embraced him. The hometown crowd knew him as Chasten, the teacher who married Mr. Buttigieg a year earlier at their Episcopal church. 

While Mr. Buttigieg has faced criticism from Democratic rivals for raising money from the ultrawealthy, his campaign also got early support from pro-LGBTQ donors who helped sustain his run in a crowded field.

The 2018 midterms saw an unprecedented number of candidates who identified as LGBTQ. In all, 180 candidates, nearly all Democrats, were elected to state legislatures, including 70 incumbents, according to a study co-written by Mr. Haider-Markel. Ten were elected to the U.S. Congress. Most, though not all, ran in left-leaning urban districts. 

The study found that sexual orientation didn’t appear to make a difference to candidates’ chances of success, controlling for other factors. Still, that doesn’t necessarily apply to Mr. Buttigieg, were he to become the presidential nominee. “A national race is unprecedented,” says Mr. Haider-Markel. “The candidate doesn’t get to choose the district.” 

He says that while most of those opposed to LGBTQ candidates would be staunch Republicans, “there’s a real question if he could get enough support among independents or ... Republicans who switch” between elections. 

On the campaign trail, Mr. Buttigieg has rarely leaned into the historic nature of his candidacy. “I’m not running to be the gay president of the United States,” he has said. 

He is a stoical, even-keeled campaigner, in contrast to the more raucous notes hit by rivals. As a result, his more emotional moments have gotten attention, including a speech in New Hampshire where he reflected on the empowering message that his victory in Iowa sent to young Americans who wondered if they belonged. 

At other rallies, he has pledged his support for LGBTQ equality legislation and ending discrimination against transgender individuals.

“I’m standing right in front of you as a veteran, happily married, running for president of the United States,” he told a rally in Arlington, Virginia. 

Campaigning in the Bible Belt

That combination may not have served Mr. Buttigieg quite as well in South Carolina, where a majority of Democratic voters are African American and religious conservatism runs deep. 

Renard Chisolm calls it an “X” factor, and perhaps not in a good way. 

Mr. Chisolm, who is African American and a member of a Baptist church in Jonesville, says he believes Mr. Buttigieg has a right to his own private life, but that a presidency would put that private life on official display. 

“I don’t know much else about him, so I’m willing to be open-minded and listen to what he’s got to say. But for me at least, a first husband would be hard to stomach,” says Mr. Chisolm. 

In focus groups held here last summer by the Buttigieg campaign that later leaked to McClatchy, some undecided black voters also said they were uncomfortable with a gay candidate – or even discussing the topic. “I don’t like the fact that he threw out there that he lives with his husband,” one man said. 

Still, others resist the idea that African Americans won’t vote for a qualified gay candidate. They say Mr. Buttigieg’s failure to win over more black voters is better explained by his lack of national experience and a mixed record on social justice in South Bend, as well as the stronger outreach made by candidates with longer track records in South Carolina. 

“You’re in the South, the Bible Belt. It’s gonna be relevant. But it’s not as relevant as people are making it out to be,” says Michael Bailey, a spokesman for the Democratic Black Caucus of South Carolina.

Jordan Ragusa, a political scientist at the College of Charleston College, says Mr. Buttigieg has had few endorsements by African American officeholders, and that counts in a tight primary. Black primary voters tend to be less ideological and are laser-focused on who can defeat President Donald Trump in November. 

And while gay marriage is a no-no for some conservative voters, this attitude isn’t limited to one racial community. “That’s happening with all races and education levels. There’s a generational gap on this issue,” says Mr. Ragusa, co-author of “First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters.” 

Indeed, in Iowa, a middle-aged white woman was filmed asking to retract her vote for Mr. Buttigieg after being told he was married to a man. 

He later told ABC News that he was running to be her president too. “I wish she was able to see that my love is the same as her love for those that she cares about,” he said. 

“Am I here to judge?”

Last Sunday, Cassandra Whaley heard Mr. Buttigieg address worshippers at her church on Jones Island outside Charleston. The next day she drove to his town hall to learn more about his policies on health – she works at a hospital – and youth services. 

When she found out Mr. Buttigieg was gay, Ms. Whaley decided to set it aside and listen. “Am I here to judge? No. Jesus didn’t judge. He gave us parables. He still loved,” she says, as she waited in line with a mostly white crowd. 

Will other voters in her community be as accepting? She pauses. “We’re not there yet.” 

Inside the hall, Mike Tecosky, a banker, sat in the third row. He was undecided on a primary candidate and curious to hear how Mr. Buttigieg proposed to tackle racism. Mr. Tecosky, who is white, says he would be happy to elect a gay candidate, but wasn’t sure everyone else would. 

“It’s 2020. You wouldn’t think that racism exists but it does, so religious beliefs may impact how people feel about Buttigieg,” he says. 

Should Mr. Buttigieg actually become the Democratic nominee, he knows his sexual orientation will be weaponized by opponents. “He does this with his eyes open. He goes in knowing what may happen,” says Ms. Parker. 

She should know. In 2009, she ran for mayor of Houston and was the target of anti-LGBTQ leaflets during a runoff with a Democratic opponent. Ms. Parker, who had already held public office as a married lesbian with two children, won the election and became a high-profile LGBTQ mayor.

Her opponent in that race was black. “The African American community is no different from the rest of America,” she says, noting her success in building a diverse coalition. 

Mr. Haider-Markel says Mr. Buttigieg’s willingness to talk about his struggle to come out as a public figure gives him an authenticity for some voters. He draws a parallel with another historic candidate, President Barack Obama, who ran in 2008 as a unifier and tried not to be defined by race.  

Just as Mr. Obama did in 2008 after a controversy over his pastor’s politics, however, Mr. Buttigieg may be forced to speak more pointedly about his sexual orientation and to offer a path to understanding. “I suspect that at some point if Buttigieg continues to rack up delegates and stays in the race ... then he’ll have to give some kind of speech,” he says.   

Two Midwest marriages

Mr. Buttigieg has spoken about how he suppressed his sexuality because he aspired to a conventional Midwestern life: marriage, kids, public service. “You could be married and have kids, or you could be gay. You couldn’t be both,” he told The Daily podcast in November. 

It took a legal battle in Ohio to flip that script. Jim Obergefell petitioned the Supreme Court after appealing Ohio’s refusal to put him on the death certificate of his late husband, whom he married in Maryland in 2013. The justices ruled in 2015 that Ohio’s refusal to recognize Mr. Obergefell’s same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Three years later, Pete and Chasten Buttigieg got married. Among the readings at the service was the ending of Obergefell v. Hodgesthe decision that made the wedding possible. 

“I think it’s amazing,” says Mr. Obergefell, the litigant in the landmark case. “I love the fact that he is running, and he’s out there with his husband.” 

Mr. Obergefell, who advocates for LGBTQ rights in Ohio, says while he’s thrilled to see Mr. Buttigieg on the national stage, he also worries about what might be unleashed. “It will embolden people who are our opponents to become louder and more hateful if he becomes the nominee.” 

But he’s optimistic that Mr. Buttigieg can break down more barriers. “One of Pete’s greatest strengths is that he’s openly gay, but he’s also a person of faith and that appeals to a huge segment of society. He served our country. That appeals to a large segment of society.”

Staff writer Patrik Jonsson contributed reporting from Jonesville, S.C.

As natural hair is embraced, states adopt laws to protect it

Discrimination based on race is illegal. So why is it still largely legal to discriminate against people because of their natural hair? Some lawmakers have started to grapple with that question.

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Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun/AP
Yasmine Young finishes styling the hair of Sabrina Bullock at the Diaspora Salon in Baltimore on Jan. 3, 2020.

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When “Hair Love,” a short animated film about a father styling his daughter’s natural hair for the first time, won an Oscar earlier this month, co-winner Matthew A. Cherry singled out a piece of legislation for special mention in his acceptance speech.

“There’s a very important issue that’s out there, it’s the CROWN Act,” he said. “And if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states, it will help” prevent discrimination against people with natural hair and hairstyles.

That effort is being realized. Virginia will likely soon become the fourth state to pass the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, with around two dozen other states and Congress weighing similar efforts.

The bill doesn’t just protect people who feel targeted by racist grooming standards. It also, advocates say, codifies an element of cultural pride for many African Americans who have long been conditioned to hide their natural selves.

“Hair is not just hair to black people,” says Jade Magnus Ogunnaike of Color of Change, a civil rights nonprofit involved in the CROWN Campaign. “It’s cultural expression and something that differentiates us from a lot of other people within the country.”

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As natural hair is embraced, states adopt laws to protect it

Standing in the back of her barbershop, Yolanda Gonzalez Jackson shampoos the woman sitting in front of her. As R&B music plays in the background, Ms. Jackson methodically curls her client’s hair into light finger waves, a hairstyle reminiscent of the Roaring ’20s.

As with almost all of her clients at Studio Kutz and Styles, Ms. Jackson is not using harsh chemicals, such as artificial softeners or relaxers. Having been in the business for almost 30 years, that alone is a major change. 

“Hair is hair,” she says. At the barbershop, “we’re familiar with all ethnicities, all textures, all types. And we learn it, instead of being fearful of it.” 

The same, experts and activists say, has historically not been true for the American public. African Americans’ natural hair and hairstyles, they argue, have long been the target of discrimination, leading many to hide it behind a curtain of harmful chemicals and flat irons. 

But beauty standards are changing – as is the law. Growing out of the mid-2000s, the natural hair movement encourages black men and women to embrace their untreated hair in whatever style they like. A nationwide push to ban hair discrimination has followed, and Virginia will likely soon become the fourth state to do so, with a bill only awaiting the governor’s signature. Legislatures in Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota are working on bills, and around two dozen other states and Congress are weighing similar efforts.

Known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, the bill against hair discrimination protects people who feel targeted by racist grooming standards. It also, advocates say, codifies an element of cultural pride for many African Americans who have long been conditioned to hide their natural selves.

“Hair is not just hair to black people,” says Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior campaign director for Color of Change, a civil rights nonprofit involved in the CROWN Campaign to ban hair discrimination. “It’s cultural expression and something that differentiates us from a lot of other people within the country.”

Shifting standards

That differentiation, though, has rarely been celebrated in American history. The distinct texture of African American hair made it a particular target of discrimination during the slavery and Jim Crow eras, when overt racism was common in the country, says Lori Tharps, a professor of journalism at Temple University and co-author of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.” 

Because African Americans with more European-looking hair were treated more humanely, she says black people early on used oils, butter, or makeshift flat irons to straighten their hair – a practice that carried into the country’s grooming standards. 

“From post-slavery till today, black women, black men understand that their hair has to conform to societal expectations in order to be taken seriously in the world of business, in the world of entertainment, in any kind of professional space,” says Professor Tharps, who writes on other issues relating to race on her blog, My American Meltingpot

Whereas natural hairstyles such as the Afro were used as a political statement during the civil rights era, Professor Tharps says the more contemporary and widespread natural hair movement is focused more on shifting beauty standards. But that doesn’t make it any less revolutionary. She sees the legal changes occurring now as a product of the movement’s broader social momentum, which has already affected the entertainment and beauty industries.

“Hair Love,” this year’s Oscar winner for Best Short Film (Animated), is about a father styling his daughter’s natural hair for the first time. During his acceptance speech, co-recipient Matthew A. Cherry – who wrote the film – cited the CROWN Act as a crucial step “to normalize black hair.”

The problem with “messy”

The reforms are also the result of grassroots advocacy to ban hair discrimination, increasingly called into attention by widely publicized incidents across the country. Video spread online in December 2018 of a high school wrestler in New Jersey who was forced to cut his dreadlocks before his match. A student in Texas this year was also suspended for having dreadlocks and told he couldn’t walk in his high school graduation unless he cut them. 

Research shows black men and women are more likely to feel policed by grooming standards in schools and the workforce, says Bernice B. Rumala, a co-founder of the CROWN Campaign. Since New York City passed a ban last February, she and a team of researchers, journalists, lawyers, and businesses have advocated for bans against hair discrimination, which she sees as part of more systemic racism. 

“It is much deeper than hair,” says Dr. Rumala, pointing to case studies that suggest this form of discrimination encourages bullying in schools, can have lasting mental health consequences, and adversely affects African Americans in the workforce.

In 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which an Alabama woman lost her job for refusing to cut her dreadlocks, when a manager told her they violated company policy for being “messy.”  

The vocabulary used in grooming standards, says Shemekka Ebony, another co-founder of the CROWN Campaign, is often racialized, with words such as “unkempt” or “messy” pointing toward natural African American hair. She says that raised awareness of the issue worldwide explains the increased number of states considering banning hair discrimination. 

“I don’t think it’s just news stories that are [coming out],” says Ms. Ebony. “But there’s old stories and existing stories and people that are still fighting and are now feeling that they can come out and say something.”

A simple form of self-expression

The intense social politics surrounding hair ultimately distract from what should be a simple form of self-expression, says Ms. Jackson, continuing to curl the hair on the woman in front of her. 

The only daughter in her family, Ms. Jackson learned to style hair as a young girl. Her mother didn’t know how, so she practiced on her own “big, curly, unruly” hair, only learning later that she could turn her hobby into a business.  

Ms. Jackson encourages her clients to use natural products and hairstyles mostly to avoid the harmful effects of chemicals, which she says break off and thin the hair. But she also knows the value of style in expressing identity, something she thinks others should keep in mind before they draw conclusions.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” she says.

Editor's note: The original version misstated the source of “Hair Love.”

Going uphill: More skiers take the sport back to its roots

As ski resorts expand their glamorous amenities and lift lines lengthen, some skiers are seeking a simpler, more natural experience in the snowy mountains.

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Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
Skiers taking a lesson climb uphill at Bluebird Backcountry, outside Kremmling, Colorado. The new ski area is designed to help skiers and snowboarders interested in ascending mountains without lifts get the equipment, instruction, and controlled environment they need.

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This winter, many skiers have faced long lift lines and traffic jams on their way to the slopes, and resorts are getting increasingly glamorous. 

As a result, some are turning to uphill skiing in the backcountry for a different kind of experience. It offers intense aerobic activity removed from the glitz associated with traditional resorts. The rise in interest in this challenging, self-powered approach to skiing in the backcountry reveals a desire among some to immerse themselves in the frozen alpine environment without distraction.

But for newbies looking to try it out, there are few entry points. The gear is specialized and expensive, lessons are not readily available, and safety in the backcountry is of utmost concern.

That’s where Colorado’s new liftless ski area comes in. Bluebird Backcountry is testing an approach that offers skiers a place to explore getting up slopes under their own power with convenient access to rental equipment, instruction, community, ski patrol, and a more controlled environment than they’d get in the true backcountry.

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Going uphill: More skiers take the sport back to its roots

At Colorado’s newest ski area, visitors can expect abundant powder, untracked slopes, sparse crowds, and zero lift lines.

Also: no lifts.

The concept behind Kremmling’s Bluebird Backcountry is simple – and in the realm of ski areas, untested. In a world where most ski resorts emphasize their glitzy amenities, this ski area strips alpine skiing down to its bare bones.

Uphill skiing is a rapidly growing trend among downhill skiers. With “alpine touring,” as it’s called, skiers install bindings that can free their heels to move uphill or click in for control on the downhill, and attach nylon “skins” to their skis for grip. Alpine touring equipment sales have risen by 388% since 2009, according to trade association SnowSports Industries America (SIA), with a particularly big spike in the past few years.

For some, the appeal of such uphill skiing lies in a return to the basics. It offers intense aerobic activity removed from the ease and glamour associated with traditional resorts. The rise in interest in this challenging, self-powered approach to skiing in the backcountry reveals a desire among some to immerse themselves in the frozen alpine environment without distraction.

In an era of multimountain passes and lift lines as long as two hours, the backcountry can be an appealing alternative, says Nick Sargent, president of SIA. “It gives them the ability to get outside, get on snow, hike, get exercise, get the beauty around them, uninhibited by snowcats, people, whatever.”

Numerous traditional ski areas – including Aspen and Snowmass in Colorado – have been embracing the uphill trends, with some allowing uphill skiers for free at any time, and others allowing them at certain times and on certain routes.

But for those seeking a more natural skiing environment, and newbies just looking to try it out, there are few entry points. The gear is specialized and expensive, lessons are not readily available, and safety in the backcountry is of utmost concern.

“I accidentally discovered [backcountry skiing] through my outdoor network,” says Erik Lambert, a co-founder of Bluebird Backcountry, sitting in Bluebird’s lodge area at the end of its opening weekend. “But not everybody has that.”

Bluebird’s “backcountry lite” approach offers beginners a place to explore getting up slopes under their own power with convenient access to rental equipment, instruction, community, ski patrol, and a more controlled environment than they’d get in the true backcountry.

“We get to introduce something that’s really special to more people, and provide an outlet for people to have a fun and different outdoor experience,” Mr. Lambert says. “People are ready to be away from the crowds.”

Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
Sam Gifford, an instructor at Bluebird Backcountry outside Kremmling, Colorado, stands in front of Whiteley Peak and teaches beginner backcountry skiers how to transition from uphill mode to downhill mode.

For its opening weekend over Presidents Day, the ski area limited visitors to around 50 a day. Those who made it were treated to mild temperatures, blue skies, and deep powder: a vision of white blanketed over the undulating wilderness of the Rabbit Ears Range. 

Backcountry has always appealed to Jamie Pfahl, a public health planner from Colorado Springs, but she worries about safety, doesn’t have the gear, and considers herself a “novice-level” resort skier. She ventured to Bluebird with three friends and signed up for a backcountry lesson. As she leaves the lodge, Ms. Pfahl stops by to greet Mr. Lambert, a smile plastered on her face: “As a beginner, this was so awesome!”

Bluebird’s founders aim for the ski area to offer community and a few amenities to more seasoned backcountry aficionados, too.

“There’s a lot of knowledge here,” says Mason Moomey, a recent college graduate from Denver. “It’s a really good atmosphere.” Mr. Moomey says he and a friend came for Bluebird’s opening weekend to support the concept, make new connections, and learn new skills.

Like others with backcountry experience, the pair checks in and heads immediately for the steep ascent that leads to the roughly 400 acres of “in-bounds” terrain. Many others get fitted with rental gear and opt for a lesson.

They’re outfitted with an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe, and either alpine touring skis or “splitboards” – snowboards that separate and act like skis for the uphill. Instructors brief them on using the safety gear, how to put the skins on their skis for uphill traction, how to shift bindings to lock heels down, and proper uphill style. That style includes a technique to cut switchbacks called a “kick turn,” an acrobatic move in which a skier sweeps one ski around so it’s facing the opposite direction, using a pole for balance.

The enthusiasm – despite a tough ascent – is palpable, and once they reach the first ridge, skiers take the skins off and cut fresh tracks down to a remote warming hut, where free hot cocoa and bacon awaits.

Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
In "The Perch," a backcountry warming hut at the base of Whiteley Peak, a Bluebird Backcountry volunteer cooks up bacon for backcountry skiers in the middle of their day.

It’s far from clear that Bluebird Backcountry can succeed. This year, it’s relying heavily on volunteers, and Mr. Lambert and his co-founder Jeff Woodward are watching everything from skier numbers to snowpack at this location, which they’re leasing from a rancher.

“We believe the demand is there, but you never fully believe it until you see it,” says Mr. Woodward.

Others are watching, too. After photos of two-hour lift lines at Vail Resorts went viral, and skiers swapped stories of epic traffic jams on the interstate and crowds on the slopes, the notion of returning to a simpler incarnation of the sport is intriguing.

“I really like the fact that it’s another option,” says Mr. Sargent, of SIA. “There are a lot of people that would love to go to an organized liftless ski area and get away from the crowds.”

At Bluebird, Mr. Lambert and Mr. Woodward are trying to get those skiers out in a more pristine setting, too.

Backcountry is “about forming connections that you don’t normally get in a busier, more commercial place – connections with people, but also connections with nature and wildlife, connections with the spirit of winter,” explains Mr. Lambert. And, he adds, “I like the challenge and reward of getting to the top under my own power.”

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Billions of good deeds to defeat an epidemic

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After giving a bonus to people directly battling the coronavirus, Singapore’s government decided today that all political officeholders, from members of Parliament to the president, should take a one month pay cut. “We are all in this together,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Singapore has earned praise for the ways it has curbed the outbreak. Now it is setting a model by highlighting the collective need for selfless sharing in the task of ending the epidemic.

Across the dozens of countries coping with the virus, billions of people are either acting selflessly or quietly accepting burdens imposed by government, such as quarantines or travel restrictions.

While the focus has been on the spread of the virus and fears of it, the world is also witnessing a bursting of good deeds. Across the globe, people are sacrificing personal freedoms or daily activities for the safety of their neighbors, even for the world. Such acts are a form of love that, on their own, send a message of healing to those struck by the virus or those deathly afraid of it. We are, indeed, all in this together.

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Billions of good deeds to defeat an epidemic

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A volunteer takes a package of face masks for a resident at a distribution drive in Singapore.

To honor the sacrifice of its front-line workers battling the coronavirus, Singapore’s government decided today to give them a special bonus. From cleaners to security guards to nurses, they will all receive a one month salary bonus.

Yet that was not enough. To pay for this financial gratitude, the government decided all political office holders, from members of Parliament to the president, should take a one month pay cut. “We are all in this together,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. That sense of shared duty extended to many companies in the Asian nation-state of nearly 6 million people. In response to the effects of the virus on the economy, firms announced pay freezes or salary reductions.

Singapore has earned praise for the ways it has curbed the outbreak on its densely populated island. Harvard University says it sets the “gold standard.” Now it is setting a model by highlighting the collective need for selfless sharing in the task of ending the epidemic.

Across the dozens of countries coping with the virus, billions of people are either acting selflessly or quietly accepting burdens imposed by government, such as quarantines or travel restrictions. Japan, for example, has closed schools for a month. China told some 150 million people to stay in their homes. In many places, holiday events have been canceled. In Italy, Venice shut down its Carnival festival.

“This could be a long fight that will require shared sacrifice,” tweeted Scott Gottlieb, who was President Donald Trump’s first director of the Food and Drug Administration.

Many leaders are also praising health workers. “We must feel the duty to thank those who are operating with effort, sacrifice, abnegation to counter the danger of coronavirus,” said Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

While the focus has been on the spread of the virus and fears of it, the world is also witnessing a bursting of good deeds. Across the globe, people are sacrificing personal freedoms or daily activities for the safety of their neighbors, even for the world. Such acts are a form of love that, on their own, send a message of healing to those struck by the virus or those deathly afraid of it. We are, indeed, all in this together.

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.

Quick healing of flu symptoms

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In every season and wherever we may be, we all have an ability to feel and express our God-given joy and health.

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Quick healing of flu symptoms

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

About seven years ago, I experienced the powerful healing effect of the Lord’s Prayer. It happened on a day when I had commuted from my home to my office about five hours away. While on the train, I had symptoms of the flu. I did my best to pray, because I’ve found prayer helpful when faced with problems of any kind. But the discomfort was so distracting that it made it difficult for me to think clearly or pray.

When I got off the train at my destination, I was almost in tears as I went to my office building. I tried to accomplish a few things, but soon felt I had to leave and go to my “home away from home” (the nearby apartment of a friend) and rest. My plan was to crawl into bed and sleep all night. I couldn’t wait to get there! At that point it was early evening.

When I reached the apartment, I got into my pajamas and lay down. I was so grateful to be in a quiet place and in the home of my friend. My thought turned to the Lord’s Prayer. I like to pray it in its traditional wording from the King James Version, which begins, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).

This brought to mind seven Bible-based synonyms, or names, that Mary Baker Eddy gives for God in the Christian Science textbook: Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, and Mind (see “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 115). I took each one of these names for God and expanded upon it to help me better understand why God’s name is hallowed, that is, “greatly revered and honored,” as one dictionary puts it.

It was effortless; my prayer just flowed for the next 30 to 40 minutes in this way:

- Hallowed be Your name of Love, because as Love, You comfort, protect, nurture, and give compassion.

- Hallowed be Your name of Truth, because as Truth, You show forth all that is divinely true about creation, which is full of all that is honest, sincere, and correct. Truth sets us free.

- Hallowed be Your name of Life, because as Life, You are eternal, life-giving, full of divine good and unrestricted motion.

- Hallowed be Your name of Mind, because as Mind, You know all, and know only good; it follows that as Your children, created in Your image, we are naturally good and able to understand what Mind communicates – to hear and understand Your wisdom and direction.

- Hallowed be Your name of Principle, because as Principle, You govern with divine law, which keeps us in a state of harmony, in line with Your law of good.

- Hallowed be Your name of Soul, because as Soul, You establish all true identity as spiritual, intact, and safe. How can there be pain or discord in divine Soul, Spirit?

- Hallowed be Your name of Spirit, which bathes me in the ever-present light of the Christ – the Truth that Jesus so fully demonstrated – and sets me free.

It was a simple, natural, and effective prayer. My thought became so filled with the hallowed nature of God as all-loving and all-powerful that the illness just left me. Completely. Instead of going to sleep right away, I got up and was active and energetic for the next six hours, and then rested normally and naturally. I have not had a return of those symptoms.

At certain times of the year in the United States, pharmacy doors and roadside billboards notify us that it’s “flu season.” But I’ve found that, actually, whether it’s fall, winter, spring, or summer, one thing remains unchanged: our ability to feel and express our God-given joy and health.

Adapted from a testimony published in the Feb. 24, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Viewfinder

Where past meets present

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
I admit that before I arrived in Tallinn this winter, my idea of the Baltic city was based on stereotypical Soviet images. I imagined a gray, cold place with aging infrastructure and limited access to consumer goods. Instead, I found a city that wore its history with pride and dignity, but also embraced its future. After 50 years of what residents call “the Soviet occupation,” Estonia declared independence in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004. Tallinn became a thriving economic, political, and cultural center. The Soviet past has not been entirely erased. But I was moved to see how something so beautiful was created from such a dark period. – Alfredo Sosa, Staff
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Come back Monday. We'll have Part 2 of our Navigating Uncertainty series, with Ann Tyson reporting from Taiwan about China busting the rules of the world-order club.

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