2020
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Tuesday

Monitor Daily Podcast

June 23, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Bubba Wallace, a noose, and the anti-racist road ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Honestly, I’m not much of a stock car racing fan. But I can’t help be drawn by what’s happening in NASCAR.

No doubt you’ve heard the Confederate battle flag was banned from all NASCAR events two weeks ago. And the lone full-time Black driver, Bubba Wallace, turned his Chevy Camaro into a 200 mph Black Lives Matter banner. 

But progress, human history tells us, is halting. Fear often resists. 

On Sunday, one of Mr. Wallace’s crew members found a noose hanging inside their garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. 

​Mr. Wallace responded on Twitter: “Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be.”​

NASCAR officials were outraged and vowed to ban the perpetrator from the sport for life. The FBI was called in to investigate. It was likely an inside job, since no fans are allowed into that part of the track. 

But what happened next speaks volumes about the sport and America today.

On Monday afternoon, the entire field of 39 drivers and their crews quietly marched behind Mr. Wallace down the pit lane, pushing his car ahead of them and onto the track. It was an extraordinary statement of solidarity and a rebuke of racism. 

Mr. Wallace climbed out of his car and wept. 

[Editor's note: After our deadline Tuesday, the FBI determined the noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage has been there since October, and no federal law has been broken. Mr. Wallace told CNN, "...whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose."]

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Trump and Biden are campaigning again. Sort of.

The stark contrast between Republican and Democratic campaign events offers a window on how the candidates – and voters – view leadership and security amid the pandemic. 

David
Matt Slocum/AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks June 17, 2020, in Darby, Pennsylvania.

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After a break from formal campaigning, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are ramping up their in-person events for the first time since the pandemic began. President Trump took the stage Saturday night for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Days earlier, Mr. Biden spoke to local officials and business owners in Darby, Pennsylvania, all wearing masks and spaced across the floor.

Tuesday, Mr. Trump headed to Yuma, Arizona, to visit a newly-completed stretch of the border wall before delivering remarks to students in Phoenix. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, was set to hold a virtual fundraiser with former President Barack Obama.

The candidates’ reemergence reflects their contrasting styles – Mr. Trump has always fed off the energy of crowds, while Mr. Biden tends toward face-to-face interactions – as well as the concerns of their voters, particularly when it comes to COVID-19. More broadly, it is reinforcing how far from “normal” this political season is proving to be.

“So far, this is not unfolding like a traditional campaign,” says Matthew Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College in Vermont. “Like all things in the age of the coronavirus, this is uncharted territory.”

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1. Trump and Biden are campaigning again. Sort of.

After a break from formal campaigning, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have hit the trail again. But judging by recent appearances, politics as usual remain a long way off.

Both candidates are ramping up their schedule of in-person events for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on mass gatherings. President Trump took the stage Saturday night for one of his signature rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a smaller-than-expected crowd. Attendees had their temperatures checked upon entry and were offered face masks, although many did not wear them. 

Three days earlier in Darby, Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden spoke to an invitation-only room of about two dozen local officials, business owners, and reporters, all wearing masks and sitting within designated white circles spaced across the floor.

Tuesday offers its own side-by-side comparison, with Mr. Trump traveling to Yuma, Arizona, to visit a newly-completed stretch of the border wall before delivering remarks to a group of students in Phoenix. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, was set to hold a virtual fundraiser with former President Barack Obama, the first official 2020 event Mr. Obama has hosted for his onetime VP.

The candidates’ reemergence reflects their contrasting styles – President Trump has always fed off the energy of crowds, while Mr. Biden tends toward smaller events and face-to-face interactions – as well as the concerns and priorities of their voters, particularly when it comes to COVID-19.

More broadly, it is reinforcing the extent to which the campaign, in both form and substance, is likely to continue to be shaped by the pandemic and the turmoil over racial justice. Indeed, with less the two months before the parties are scheduled to hold their summer conventions, the only predictable aspect to the 2020 campaign is how far from “normal” this political season is proving to be.

“So far, this is not unfolding like a traditional campaign,” says Matthew Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College in Vermont. “Like all things in the age of the coronavirus, this is uncharted territory.”

Uncertainty surrounding conventions

The upcoming conventions offer a clear contrast between the candidates’ approaches to COVID-19 precautions, as well as the differing partisan perspectives on the issue even as cases spike in two dozen states.

Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee pushed back the date of its convention in Milwaukee from July to August. The party chair currently says he is unsure of attendance size, and many are speculating that at least part of the convention will take place online.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, recently moved the main events for the Republican National Convention in August from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, after failing to come to an agreement with North Carolina’s Democratic governor about how to handle large in-person gatherings.

If the rally in Tulsa was any indication, the president’s goal of a traditional convention may be easier said than done.

Ian Maule/Tulsa World/AP
President Donald Trump walks toward the stage while supporters cheer during his campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

Despite the president’s claim that almost 1 million people requested tickets to the Tulsa event, large sections of the 19,000-seat BOK Center remained empty. (The city’s fire department estimated that fewer than 6,200 people attended the event, while the Trump campaign said 12,000 attended.) Before Mr. Trump took the podium Saturday evening for an almost two-hour-long rambling speech, his team broke down an outdoor stage that had been created for an overflow crowd that never materialized.

Some users of TikTok, a social media app that shares short videos, claimed credit for the lower-than-expected turnout in Tulsa, after videos calling for Trump opponents to register for the event and not attend went viral. The Trump campaign, for its part, blamed protesters – whose anticipated presence, they said, discouraged many older Trump supporters and those with young children from attending. Media reports suggested the actual number of protestors was relatively low.

Of course, it’s still notable that Mr. Trump was able to draw thousands of supporters in person during a pandemic. “There is no comparison between the Darby and Tulsa events. [Mr. Biden’s event] looks like an elementary school cafeteria, compared to the massive arenas that Trump has filled and will continue to fill,” says Tricia Hope, a rally attendee and real estate agent from Houston, who spoke to the Monitor by phone after the rally.

Nevertheless, concerns about a massive indoor rally in a state with rising COVID-19 cases might have kept some supporters away; the Trump campaign’s efforts to hype the attendance numbers in advance may have worked against them in that regard. And that’s a challenge that may well persist, as the virus currently is on the uptick in a number of states where the president is expected to campaign, such as Arizona, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.

After the Tulsa rally, the campaign revealed that two members of its advance team, who had attended the indoor event, tested positive for the virus. Six other advance team workers had tested positive before the rally.

Still, Randall Thom, a Trump supporter from Minnesota who has attended 64 rallies including the event in Tulsa, argues that if anything the safety precautions in Tulsa were too strict, complicating the entry process.

“Having the rallies is not a bad thing – we have to get back to normal, and not the new normal that is being pushed down our throats as Americans,” writes Mr. Thom in a text message. “I am not afraid of the virus. I am afraid that if Biden gets elected my freedom and liberty will be taken.”

Advantage Biden (for now)

Mr. Trump isn’t the only one struggling to chart a way back to normal. Mr. Biden has also found himself campaigning under restrictive conditions that are in some ways ill-suited to his strengths.

Current polls, however, suggest Mr. Biden is in a strong position. A Fox News poll from mid-June has Mr. Biden ahead by 12 points nationally, and recent surveys from critical swing states such as Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin also show Mr. Biden ahead. While the president has a substantial financial advantage over his Democratic opponent, Mr. Biden out-raised Mr. Trump in the month of May, bringing in almost $81 million to the president’s $74 million.

“In this instance, you don’t have to boil the ocean. It’s about campaigning in a thoughtful way that activates your voters and persuades independents to consider voting for you,” says Scott Mulhauser, a political communications expert and former deputy chief of staff for Mr. Biden during the 2012 election. “You’re not competing for a total number of Twitter followers, you’re competing for electoral votes.”

When campaigning against an unpopular incumbent (Mr. Trump’s average approval rating over the past four years of 40% puts him 13 points below the average president), the longstanding political wisdom for a challenger has always been to get out of the way, says Alvin Tillery, director of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.

“Journalists, pundits, and Twitterati want to talk about Biden’s virtual campaign not being visible enough,” says Mr. Tillery. “But why have the normal rules of politics changed just because it’s online?”

Indeed, the restricted 2020 campaign may actually be benefiting the gaffe-prone Mr. Biden, who often struggles speaking off the cuff – and who, throughout the Democratic primary season, rarely drew large crowds.

“At the end of the day, think about the optics of Biden barely being able to fill a small reception hall,” says Rachel Bitcofer, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University. “For Biden, the less visible he is, probably the better.”

Fewer than 2,500 people were watching, for example, when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett introduced Mr. Biden for a virtual Wisconsin “rally” in late May. To close out the event, Mr. Biden passed the proverbial mic to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who was sitting in front of a white wall with a Biden logo crookedly taped to the left of her head.

“You have more Trump supporters engaging with campaign staff [and surrogates] than you have Biden supporters engaging with the actual candidate,” says Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist and director of the Center for Campaign Innovation, referring to virtual events with Mr. Trump’s family and advisors.

Mr. Biden’s relative seclusion has seemed to frustrate the Trump campaign. This week, campaign manager Brad Parscale challenged the Biden team to four presidential debates instead of three.

“It is now established that Joe Biden prefers campaigning from the comfort of his basement,” Tim Murtaugh, Mr. Trump’s campaign communications director, wrote in a press release Tuesday.

Mismatched campaigns

This isn’t the first time in U.S. history that the presidential race has had a notable mismatch in approaches to campaigning, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

In 1896, Republican William McKinley ran a “front porch campaign” largely from his home in Ohio – then the norm for presidential candidates – while his opponent, Democrat William Jennings Bryan, traveled the country making some 600 speeches. Mr. Bryan lost, but following the turn of the 20th century, his strategy of in-person campaigning became the norm.

“It became about wanting to relate to the people directly,” says Ms. Perry. “But since then, every now and again, we have an outlier.”

More recently, in 1980, Democratic President Jimmy Carter felt it would be distasteful to travel the country amid the Iranian hostage crisis, and largely ran his reelection campaign from the White House Rose Garden. His opponent, Republican Ronald Reagan, won in a landslide.

Protect the vote, or the voter? In African elections, no easy choice.

Here’s another look at the nexus of public health and the health of democracy: In theory, they’d go hand in hand. But in countries where both are unstable, the pandemic raises tough questions about how elections should go forward – if at all.

David
Ernest Mwale/Reuters
Malawians queue to vote in a re-run of a discredited presidential election in Thyolo, Malawi, June 23, 2020.

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Across the world, the COVID-19 crisis has introduced a new wrinkle into the already complicated business of holding an election. Traditional campaigning, after all, is built on closeness – handshaking and posing for photos and the show of strength that is a mass rally. Voting itself often forces people into proximity.

Across Africa, the stakes are especially high. On a continent where many health systems are fragile and transfers of power often tenuous, the balance between public health and democracy has been particularly hard to strike. Some countries, like Ethiopia, have canceled or pushed back votes – prompting cries of foul play from critics who say it’s a pretext to cling to power. Some, like Benin and Mali, have held elections while attempting to enforce social distancing rules. And still others, like Malawi – where citizens vote today – have charged ahead full speed, insisting the show must go on.

In the end, experts say, the most important thing is not necessarily whether or not an election is held, but how the decision is reached in either case.

“It’s the transparency of what you choose in either case, and who has a say in making it happen,” says Emmaculate Liaga, a visiting researcher at the University of Basel.

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2. Protect the vote, or the voter? In African elections, no easy choice.

The crowd gathered in Kasungu, stretched down its main street and bunched around a small stage. Some wore sky-blue skirts and dresses emblazoned with the face of Peter Mutharika, the country’s president. Others waved handkerchiefs or flyers stamped with four ears of corn – the logo of his political party, the Democratic Progressive Party. Shoulder to shoulder, they jostled for a view of his black SUV.

As it parted the crowd, they cheered and ululated. Soon he was onstage, promising in a booming voice that his second term would bring a raft of good fortune to this town in central Malawi.

It looks like a scene from another era, before social distancing made gatherings like this a near-impossibility in many parts of the world. But this rally was filmed in mid-June, as Malawi entered the final run-up to its election – held today.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Across the world, the COVID-19 crisis has introduced a new wrinkle into the already complicated business of holding an election. Traditional campaigning, after all, is built on closeness – handshaking and posing for photos and the show of strength that is a mass rally. And voting itself often forces people to scrunch together in queues, touching the same polling-place door handles and touch screens and ink pads. How do you do that when experts say touch and breath could spread a deadly disease?

Across Africa, the stakes are especially high. On a continent where many health systems are fragile and transfers of power often tenuous, the balance between public health and democracy has been particularly hard to strike. In some countries, like Ethiopia, governments have canceled or pushed back elections, often prompting cries of foul play from their opposition, who argue those in power are using the pretext of a pandemic to cling to power. Some, like Benin and Mali, have tried to walk a middle line, holding elections while attempting – with mixed success – to enforce rules about masks and social distancing. And in still others, like Burundi and Malawi, elections have charged forward full speed, ignoring all advice to the contrary, insisting that in democracy the show must go on.

“The problem is we are in an election period and our colleagues on the other side are also defying the [country’s public health] guidelines [prohibiting large gatherings]. They are saying something and doing the opposite,” says Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, spokesperson for the United Transformation Movement, an opposition party in Malawi. “If government itself is not obeying, what’s the opposition going to do?”

The short answer: Hold rallies, shake hands, campaign as normal. “Let’s all go and vote,” shouted Lazarus Chakwera, the candidate for the opposition Tonse Alliance, at a mass rally filmed in the town of Karonga on June 10. “We are going to have elections whether someone likes it or not,” he bellowed to loud cheers.

Eldson Chagara/Reuters
Opposition supporters celebrate after a court annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner, in Lilongwe, Malawi, Feb. 4, 2020.

Historic decision

Malawi’s election was fraught long before COVID-19 arrived on the scene. The vote was originally held in May of last year, with Dr. Mutharika declared the winner. But the opposition cried foul, saying that Tipp-Ex correction fluid had been used to alter results from several polling stations, and that others were faked or duplicated. In February, the country’s Constitutional Court nullified the 2019 vote and called for a fresh election – only the second time that a court in sub-Saharan Africa has done so.

Then came a pandemic.

On March 20, before Malawi had a single confirmed case of COVID-19, President Mutharika ordered schools closed and banned gatherings of more than 100 people. The country’s first three confirmed cases were announced on April 2. The government then announced a lockdown, but protests erupted, and the High Court ordered it could not be implemented until it included measures to protect poor people. Today, Malawi has 803 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.

Despite a widespread lack of testing, members of both government and the opposition have downplayed the significance of the country’s outbreak, and the dangers associated with holding an election during it.

Similar attitudes emerged in Burundi ahead of its May 20 national election. Jean-Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, spokesperson for the country’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, explained to the BBC that Burundi had “signed a special pact with God” that would protect it from the coronavirus.

Just before the vote, Burundi’s government expelled four World Health Organization representatives coordinating a response to the coronavirus.

Then, three weeks after the election – which was won in disputed circumstances by Mr. Nkurunziza’s favored successor, Évariste Ndayishimiye – the former president died suddenly.

Officially, the cause was cardiac arrest. But his wife had already been treated in Kenya for a suspected case of COVID-19, and diplomats told the Financial Times that they believed Mr. Nkurunziza had likely been infected as well.

For experts, the president’s death underscored the dangers of pandemic denial. Officially the country has only 144 cases and one death, but the true figure is suspected to be far higher.

“Burundi was a huge lesson – that in a basic way you must respect that there is a global public health crisis,” says Olufunto Akinduro, a senior program officer at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance who studies African elections. “When you deny that, this is what can happen.”

For Mr. Nkurunziza, downplaying the pandemic was part of a tool kit to skew the election in his party’s favor that also included the arrest, torture, and disappearance of opposition members and human rights activists, and vote rigging.

“There is no playbook here to fall back on” when holding an election during the COVID-19 crisis, says Comfort Ero, program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group. “But it is clear that done poorly it can provoke further tensions in already fraught and fragile situations.” 

Clovis Guy Siboniyo/Reuters
Voters queue at a polling station during the presidential, legislative, and communal council elections amid simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ngozi, Burundi, May 20, 2020.

Whose call?

But steamrolling over a public health crisis to hold an election is not the only way governments can use the pandemic to their political advantage, Ms. Ero notes.

Other countries have postponed their elections, arguing that they cannot prepare or hold them safely. These concerns are often well placed, says Ms. Akinduro. The pandemic, after all, makes even processes like the importation of ballot papers or the presence of international observers far more difficult.

But in some cases, members of the political opposition, as well as human rights defenders, have protested, saying that the delays seem calculated to keep the ruling party in power.

In Ethiopia, for instance, the general election originally scheduled for August was to be the first since reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in April 2018, promising to promote democracy in the rigidly autocratic state.

But ethnic violence had marred the lead-up to the vote, and in late March, shortly after Ethiopia’s first cases of coronavirus were confirmed, Mr. Abiy announced the election would be postponed. In May, he extended that postponement indefinitely, meaning that his government could still be in power when its mandate expires in October.

In Uganda, meanwhile, the government of Yoweri Museveni, who has been president since 1986, has said it will go ahead with a general election next year – but bar all campaign rallies. There, like in many African countries, rallies are one of the few ways for opposition candidates to reach many voters, who may not have access to the internet, and whose TV and radio options may be limited to government-controlled stations.

“Even without a pandemic, the incumbent has the advantage,” says Ms. Ero. “The crucial thing now is to make sure restrictions don’t give the authorities blanket authority and inhibit political space and free speech.”

In the end, experts say, the most important thing is not necessarily whether or not an election is held – but how the decision is reached.

“It’s the transparency of what you choose in either case, and who has a say in making it happen,” says Emmaculate Liaga, a visiting researcher at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Back in Malawi, daily mass rallies by both the president’s Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Tonse Alliance continued full speed in the run-up to today’s vote, despite warnings from the country’s health authorities.

“Unfortunately, [political parties’] behavior during this campaign period has taken us backwards,” says Dr. Charles Mwansambo, chief of health services at Malawi’s Ministry of Health. “We stand to lose more than what we will gain.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

How outrage over killing of Iranian girl is boosting women’s rights

Just as a brutal killing in America is changing perceptions about racism, a killing in Iran is challenging traditions that have long devalued the lives and rights of women and children.

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Women in Iran are afflicted by killings by male relatives at a rate of about one each day. And, as they often do in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and elsewhere, most intrafamily murders in Iran disappear in silence. But the barbarous details of Romina Ashrafi’s death, beheaded by her father in a so-called honor killing, spread quickly, moving the needle of outrage and change toward protecting the lives of women and children.

Lawmakers quickly approved a measure to criminalize child abuse and neglect, now often called “Romina’s law,” that had languished for 11 years. President Hassan Rouhani urged that the bill be fast-tracked, along with another drafted 8 years ago criminalizing sexual and physical abuse of women.

Critical in this case is widespread anger over Iran’s current law, which stipulates that Romina’s father, as the male guardian of his daughter and therefore “owner of the blood,” can’t face the death penalty. At most, he faces 10 years in prison.

“It’s a long road to change the culture of a nation,” says Nasrin Izadpanah, a lawyer in Tehran. “You can’t change it overnight, but like other nations that have done that, it is doable,” she says. “People’s social consciousness will change, the culture will evolve.”

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3. How outrage over killing of Iranian girl is boosting women’s rights

Farmer Reza Ashrafi may have considered the death of his 14-year-old daughter Romina in the name of family honor inevitable. But its ability to spark an uproar that is challenging Iranian traditions of patriarchy and improving women’s and children’s rights had to appear unlikely.

After all, hundreds of Iranian women die each year in so-called honor killings.

Yet revulsion over Romina’s gruesome murder by his hand in late May, amplified by the power of social media, has done just that: prompted a national debate in Iran that shows how significant evolutionary change can come to even the most traditional corners of a society.

Romina had a boyfriend, 15 years older: a biker with a bearded hipster look, three tattoos on his neck, and a reputation for “harassing” girls at the local school in their village of Sefid Sangan in northwestern Iran.

Romina’s father did not approve, according to family accounts told to Iranian media. He bought rat poison and told his wife to convince Romina to use it to commit suicide, or at least teach her to “hang herself,” to save him the trouble of killing her.

Amid such threats, the student with A grades, long black hair, and an easy smile – whose once-adoring father used to bring her cakes and snacks, according to the school principal – last month ran away with her boyfriend.

“I’m leaving, Daddy. You were going to kill me anyway, right?” Romina reportedly wrote in a goodbye note. “If people ask about me, tell them I died.”

When Mr. Ashrafi located her, days later, he convinced authorities despite her protests that Romina would be safe in his care. Yet the father beheaded his daughter with a sickle as she slept.

Most intrafamily murders in Iran disappear in silence, as they often do in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and elsewhere. But the barbarous details of Romina’s death spread quickly, moving the needle of outrage and change toward protecting the lives of women and children.

A deputy justice minister whose portfolio includes children’s rights, Mahmoud Abbasi, said Romina’s father was “stuck in the Middle Ages.”

“Owner of the blood”

Lawmakers quickly approved a measure to criminalize child abuse and neglect, now frequently referred to as “Romina’s law,” that had languished for 11 years. President Hassan Rouhani urged that the bill be fast-tracked, along with another drafted eight years ago criminalizing sexual and physical abuse of women.

That latter bill has yet to be passed, even though official 2018 statistics indicate that two-thirds of married women have been exposed to domestic violence. But the steps signal how social media – with both the wider awareness it engenders, and popular pressure it can bring to bear – has enhanced the impact of activists pushing for social change, even among the most hidebound.

Critical in this case is widespread anger over Iran’s current law, based on Shiite Muslim tradition, which stipulates that Mr. Ashrafi, as the male guardian of his daughter and therefore “owner of the blood,” can’t face the death penalty for murdering her. At most, he faces 10 years in prison.

“It’s a long road to change the culture of a nation, the thinking of a person that, for hundreds of years, from their dads and their grandfathers, they’ve learned if your child says something, you can kill them, if your wife says something, you can do that,” says Nasrin Izadpanah, a lawyer in Tehran who often handles family cases.

“You can’t change it overnight, but like other nations that have done that, it is doable,” says Ms. Izadpanah. Removing “cultural poverty” requires starting with how children are taught at school to “learn that they can’t act as the law,” she says.

“Five years from now, maybe we can’t change anything about the law, but people’s social consciousness will change, the culture will evolve,” she says.

Indeed, Iranian women have achieved far more than most of their regional peers. They are vice presidents, doctors, and lawyers – even a Nobel Peace Prize winner – and form the majority of university students and graduates.

Many killings

Yet they are afflicted by killings by male relatives at a rate of at least one each day in the country of 83 million. At a conference on the “Pathology of Filicide” in Tehran, convened after Romina’s death, sociologist Saeed Madani stated that 20% of all murders in Iran are honor killings.

Those percentages track rare official figures released by Iranian police in 2013 and 2014. In 2011, at least 340 Iranian women were victims of honor killings.

Wide exposure of Romina’s case has, in fact, triggered a cascade of news about half a dozen other recent grisly murders, which include poisoning, the forced drinking of acid, stabbing of a pregnant wife, and a father’s killing of his adult daughter with an iron bar for coming home late at night.

“We’re at this stage that, with people’s access to social media ... access to information has changed exponentially, even in the last six  or seven years,” says Tara Sepehri Far, the Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch in Washington, D.C.

“A whole generation of people who never caught up with lap-tops and e-mail now use a phone, have social media accounts, and use WhatsApp and Telegram,” says Ms. Sepehri Far, noting that even remote villages have 3G and 4G networks.

“So what is happening is these cases are getting more attention, while the [past] grassroots work is finally paying off. Because ultimately, you’re dealing with a society that is evolving,” she says. “When this sparks domestic outrage, then [authorities] have to move the ball in some way.”

Urgent legal reforms are needed, lawyer Alireza Azarbaijani told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). But the real problem is patriarchy “exacerbated by traditional fanaticism and ignorance that are sugarcoated with such notions as honor, dignity, or protection of namous [family female chastity].”

Cases “kept hidden”

Even the death penalty may not be deterrent enough, suggests Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, a senior lawyer.

“We have dozens or perhaps hundreds of Romina-like cases in Iran, but they are kept hidden and receive no media coverage,” he told ILNA. The solution is “raising awareness ... to avert such harsh treatment of women at the hands of men.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not spoken publicly of Romina’s death. But his website reposted these comments from 1997: “Any violation or physical harm against women has to be responded to with severe punishment.”

Yet the challenge is encapsulated in Romina’s own divided family. Her mother, Rana Dashti, says she can’t look her husband in the eyes and will seek the death penalty. But the death notice does not include a portrait of Romina – a red rose is pictured in its place – and Mr. Ashrafi is listed as the top “mourner” of a males-only lineup.

Still, few defend the murder. The conservative Farhikhtegan newspaper called prison a “lenient punishment.”

Even Kobra Khazali, the ultraconservative head of the Socio-Cultural Council of Women and Family – who argues vehemently against raising the minimum marriage age for girls above 13, or allowing women into sports stadiums – called for the judge to “focus on the larger public aspects of the crime and sentence the man to death.”

Graphic reporting “created a shock and spread like wildfire,” says a political analyst in Tehran, who asked not to be named. “The direction of the wind is changing, even among the conservatives. They cannot accept that a father can kill his children. Maybe it was tacitly agreed decades ago, but not anymore.”

An old battle

Still the challenge of making change is immense, says Parvin Ardalan, a veteran women’s rights activist. In 2005 – after dozens of women were attacked by police for street protests – she launched the One Million Signatures Campaign, which some credit as the seed for today’s progress.

When the Monitor spoke to her in Tehran in early 2009, she had just been awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom, and faced multiple security charges.

The petition aimed to “increase consciousness in society and thinking of equality,” she said back then. These days, that same dynamic is enhanced exponentially by social media and “mass awareness,” which pressures authorities to make changes, says Ms. Ardalan, who now lives in Malmö, Sweden.

She recalls the limits of the previous era of grassroots activism, when she and fellow campaigners went door to door to spread their message. During a seven-day stint in Evin prison, she gave a women’s rights booklet to an interested female guard.

“We tried to use everywhere as a platform for ourselves,” recalls Ms. Ardalan. “What has changed? Now the news is increasing a lot ... making people have a reaction, to demand a response.”

Farm to food bank: Moving farmers from ‘dump’ to ‘donate’

The U.S. pandemic brought two problems: Farmers with surplus crops and people going hungry. Our reporter looks at how ingenuity and government funding simultaneously solved both problems. 

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For months, those involved in the agricultural sector have witnessed two concerning developments. Farmers who sell to the “food away from home” sector have lost their markets, and have been left to throw out milk, leave vegetables unharvested, and even euthanize unprocessed pigs and chickens. At the same time, the number of people who need food assistance has skyrocketed.

The number of food-insecure Americans jumped from 37 million in 2018 to as many as 54 million today, according to data from the Department of Agriculture and Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger relief organization.

Now, a growing number of nonprofit programs and government initiatives are working to solve these parallel needs – finding a way to give farmers a new market by taking unsellable food and getting it to those individuals and families who are hungry. 

Thanks to an initiative by the agriculture nonprofit A Greener World, Georgia rancher Chad Hunter was able to give the grass-fed beef he usually sells to restaurants to a local food pantry instead – and still get paid. 

“It seems like such an obvious solution right now,” says Emily Moose of A Greener World. “Why not do what we can to help those two get connected?”

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4. Farm to food bank: Moving farmers from ‘dump’ to ‘donate’

On a recent Monday morning, Tom Brugato went to watch his company deliver food.

This, by itself, was not unusual. Mr. Brugato is president of the Pacific Coast Fruit Co., one of the Northwest’s largest produce distributors, with nearly 200,000 square feet of warehouse space and a client base that includes dozens of restaurants, grocery stores, processors, and wholesalers.  

But this time the distribution center was a church. And it was the priest, wearing mask and gloves, who gave out food boxes – some 650 over the course of about 45 minutes, part of a new federal effort to pay farmers and distributors to get their wares to a rapidly growing food-insecure population.

“We watched three big lines of cars go around the church blocks,” Mr. Brugato says. “The need. I didn’t realize the need.”

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For months, those involved in the agricultural sector have watched two alarming trends. Farmers who sell to the “food away from home” sector – schools, restaurants, stadiums, and so forth – have lost their markets, and have been left to throw out milk, leave vegetables unharvested, and even euthanize unprocessed pigs and chickens. At the same time, the number of people who need food assistance has skyrocketed.

The number of food-insecure Americans jumped from 37 million in 2018 to as many as 54 million today, according to data from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger relief organization. Feeding America estimated in early May that an additional 17.1 million Americans could soon find themselves without enough food, on top of the 40 million people the organization and its network of 200 food banks already serve. 

Now, a growing number of nonprofit programs, as well as federal and state initiatives, are working to solve these parallel needs – finding a way to give farmers a new market by taking unsellable food and getting it to those individuals and families who are hungry. 

“It seems like such an obvious solution right now,” says Emily Moose, director of communications and outreach for A Greener World, an agriculture nonprofit that helps farmers develop environmentally sustainable and animal welfare-approved practices. “Why not do what we can to help those two get connected?”

In April, her organization launched a series of fundraisers to pay farmers 90% of market rate for giving their products to local food banks. This meant that ranchers such as Chad Hunter, from Jakin, Georgia, had something to do with the grass-fed beef he usually sells to local restaurants.   

For four years now, the ranch his grandfather started, Hunter Farms Inc., has worked to raise and process cattle more sustainably and humanely than it had as a conventional, grain-feed operation. It’s a more costly process, Mr. Hunter says, but more rewarding, and he has developed a following among local chefs who like sourcing his beef for their menus.

But with the pandemic, he says, that restaurant market evaporated. So when he got the call from A Greener World, “it was just great,” he says. He reached out to a local church to see if it might be willing to distribute his food as part of its food pantry efforts; the answer was an enthusiastic yes. So he happily delivered his grass-fed steaks, knowing that they would go to a good cause and that he would also get paid. 

“A catalytic opportunity” 

A Greener World is one of many nonprofits that have tried to connect farmers to food-insecure populations. In Hudson, New York, the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming has recently launched the Local Food for Every Table initiative, an effort to coordinate with local farmers to purchase set amounts of food that will go into the food relief system. Giving farmers a contract for the season helps them plan their operations, explains Kathleen Finlay, Glynwood’s president, and also helps food pantries connect with smaller, regional growers.

“There’s a catalytic opportunity right now,” says Ms. Finlay, whose organization has already raised tens of thousands of dollars for the initiative. “Can we integrate regional food systems and emergency food systems in a way that will serve folks in need well beyond this pandemic?”

Glynwood’s efforts come on top of a recently announced New York state program, Nourish New York, that earmarks $25 million for food banks throughout the state to purchase surplus agricultural products from New York farms. A new federal program, the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, has a similar mission – to use government dollars to buy food that had been going to institutional markets and redirect it to people who are hungry.

These government efforts have garnered both praise and criticism. The federal food box program asks farmers and distributors to bid for contracts, and some agricultural groups have raised questions about how and why the USDA picked some producers over others. Others worry that smaller farm operations are being left out of the process. Some food banks, meanwhile, have suggested that the federal program is reinventing the wheel, sidestepping the state-level hunger relief distribution system that is already in place. 

A shift toward fresh produce

For some years, says Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, food pantries have been shifting away from canned and other shelf-stable products toward fresh food. This is partly due to fewer donations from grocery stores, which themselves have less waste because of increasingly refined inventory systems. But it is also due to a growing movement to get high-nutrition food to those who arguably need it most.  

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, for instance, distributes more than 1 million pounds of local vegetables every year, Mr. Morehouse says; add in food sourced from a Quebec distributor that collects and resells produce, and from retail stores, and the number goes up to 3 million pounds. The food bank also recently bought a farm in the fertile Pioneer Valley and has contracted with two local farmers to farm it; they will pay rent in produce, which will in turn go to those in need, Mr. Morehouse says.

In other words, this trend toward getting fresh, local food into food pantries and other hunger relief programs has been accelerating even before the coronavirus pandemic.  

Most agricultural groups are applauding the government’s efforts. They see the new programs as lifelines for farmers who are facing huge financial stress.

“It represents an unprecedented investment in fresh produce by the federal government,” says Mollie Van Lieu, senior director of nutrition policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, of the farmers-to-families program. “They are going to buy more in the first month [of the USDA program] than they have in the past few years combined.”

Mr. Brugato’s Pacific Coast Fruit Co. was one of the companies that won a contract through this initiative. The government money, he says, helped him keep employees at work, pay farmers for produce, and even send enough orders to his packing box manufacturer that it was able to bring back its workforce.

“It’s impacting us in a beyond positive way,” he says.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Difference-maker

Drivers of change

A different kind of care package: Concertgoers ‘Blanket the Homeless’

The act of giving is transformative. For fans who help musician Ken Newman distribute bags of essentials to homeless people, one reward is making a human connection with someone they might otherwise ignore.

David
Tony Avelar/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Musician Ken Newman displays care packages June 11, 2020, in San Francisco, that will go to people in need. His Blanket the Homeless charity asks concert goers to help by distributing the bags of emergency blankets and small essentials.

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Ken Newman understands how difficult it can be to interact with people who are facing homelessness. He admits he gets disheartened seeing someone openly using drugs, or trashing a space.  But there are people on the street who are “absolutely filled with grace and benevolence that you never expect,” he says.

Mr. Newman’s own awareness of homelessness grew a few years ago into a charity he calls Blanket the Homeless. After his concerts, his fans can take care packages of items such as emergency blankets and nutrition bars that they then give to those in need. A resource guide in each bag is the result of a partnership with a nonprofit that also targets the vulnerable, St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco.

Mr. Newman tells the story of a fan who skeptically took a few bags after a show but returned while he was packing up his guitars. When the fan handed a package to a homeless person, the recipient kept repeating, “Is this for me?” The fan says, “The next thing, we’re standing on the street, hugging in the rain.”

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5. A different kind of care package: Concertgoers ‘Blanket the Homeless’

When Ken Newman plays a concert, his merch table looks quite different from that of other musicians. 

Whether he’s playing solo acoustic gigs or amps-cranked-to-the-max shows with his trio, Berkeley Bronx, the San Francisco-based frontman sets out the same unusual set of goods. His display consists of bags stuffed with emergency blankets, socks, gloves, nutrition bars, antiseptic creams, and contraceptives.

The bundles are free. But they’re not intended for the audience members to keep for themselves.

When Mr. Newman isn’t singing tonsil-baring songs by Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and Radiohead – “I have a wide range,” says the vocalist – he uses his voice to enlist concertgoers to assist his unique charity, Blanket the Homeless. The part-time musician asks his audiences to take his care packages and distribute them to San Francisco’s transient population. It’s an ingenious distribution system. Since 2017, his informal street teams of volunteers have given out over 5,000 bundles. They’re vital supplies delivered with a human touch.

“It’s not just, ‘Here’s a Clif Bar. This will give you something to eat,’” says Mr. Newman during a recent video call. “You have no idea the impact that you can have just by saying ‘hello,’ just by acknowledging the person’s presence on the street.”

Mr. Newman came to his endeavor through evolution. His first spark of awareness came during an earlier career as a freelance photographer. A newspaper assigned him to photograph children at a child care center for homeless people in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. “Here are these kids acting just like kids and having a really good time and running around and squealing,” says Mr. Newman. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, they don’t have homes.’”

Fast-forward to several years ago, when Mr. Newman recalls walking down Chenery Street after playing an exhilarating gig at a bar with the quartet he was in at the time. The tip jar split five ways amounted to $10 each. It wasn’t like Mr. Newman needed the money. By then he’d launched Magnet Productions, a successful live trade show presentations company. Why not donate all gratuities from future shows instead?

“Here’s the thing: When I made the decision to do that, I started to see [homelessness] around me more,” says Mr. Newman, who started playing regular benefit shows for the nonprofit Compass Family Services. “I just woke up to it.”

Eager to do more, Mr. Newman was inspired by the story of a friend who had started distributing blankets to homeless people in Boston. Mr. Newman spent $500 on blankets. Then he talked to a songwriter who’d once lived on the streets and she recommended that he bundle in other essentials, too. Blanket the Homeless was born.

The power of connection

What Mr. Newman didn’t anticipate was the effect of asking his street teams – the fans who typically help by handing out flyers and putting up posters – to interact with people on the street they might otherwise not talk to. He recalls a show at the Lost Church theater in which one attendee had a snarky attitude about the packages but took a few with him. Twenty minutes later, while Mr. Newman was packing up his guitars, the audience member returned. He was soaking wet. The man told him that when he’d handed a package to a homeless person,  he stared at the package in disbelief and kept repeating over and over again, “Is this for me?” The homeless man began crying. The concertgoer told Mr. Newman, “The next thing, we’re standing on the street hugging in the rain.”

Tony Avelar/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Shari Wooldridge is executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Society, a 160-year-old San Francisco nonprofit whose goals align with Blanket the Homeless. For the care packages, they provide a resource guide of information on where to get free food and shelter.

Mr. Newman’s voice catches as he recounts the anecdote. He wipes his eyes. “His story gets to me because of the look on his face. He looked at me like something fundamental had shifted in him.”

Mr. Newman understands the difficulty for the more well-off to interact with those on the streets. There are days when he gets riled up because homeless people trash a garden at the building that his girlfriend manages. He gets disheartened when he sees someone openly using drugs. He gets angry when they yell inappropriate comments to his girlfriend on the street. So why does he persist with Blanket the Homeless? There are people experiencing homelessness “absolutely filled with grace and benevolence that you never expect,” he says.

Mr. Newman cites comedian Margaret Cho’s street performances on behalf of homeless people as inspiration. Years ago, her “Be Robin” fundraisers – a nod to comic Robin Williams, renowned for helping people experiencing homelessness – featured performers including Mr. Newman. (Ms. Cho has been known to join him for a rendition of “Wonderwall” by Oasis.) The sign on a guitar case, opened to collect donations, read, “If you have, give; if you need, take.”

Ms. Cho says it’s the opposite of a model in which donors just shell out money to forget about the problem. “With something like Blanket the Homeless or Be Robin, there’s a really direct result,” says Ms. Cho. “I think that’s a real charitable donation. Your time and effort is being spent on something that isn’t too much about financial contribution. It’s more of a heart contribution.”

Helping hands of a nonprofit

Mr. Newman’s full-hearted efforts to develop Blanket the Homeless began to run into logistical issues. On the day of a show, he’d unlock his storage unit and fill as many as 100 supply bags. Enter the St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco. The goals of the nonreligious nonprofit, established in 1860 to help the city’s most vulnerable community members, aligned perfectly with that of Blanket the Homeless, says Executive Director Shari Wooldridge. They offered Mr. Newman a helping hand – many hands, really – to put the packages together. They also added weather-proof laminated brochures to the bundle.

“They’re a resource guide,” explains Ms. Wooldridge. “It provides information about where shelters are, where survivors of domestic abuse can go, addresses and phone numbers for legal services, where people give out meals, and where San Francisco restrooms are.”

The partnership has been a mutual blessing because it has introduced the St. Vincent de Paul Society to potential new donors. “Promoting his events through our website gives us an opportunity to be seen by a new group of people,” says Ms. Wooldridge.

Mr. Newman’s latest fundraising venture on behalf of his charity is a vinyl compilation album titled “Blanket the Homeless.” Among the contributions from local artists is a plaintive piano ballad by Mr. Newman.

“I wrote a song called ‘We Should Do It Again,’ which was just culled from stories that I heard and cardboard signs that I read by people living on the streets.” When Mr. Newman looks out his window, he thinks of people who don’t have the luxury of four walls. It’s made him less quick to complain, more grateful for the good in his life.

“The benefits that I’ve gotten from my commitment to homelessness far, far, far outweigh the costs,” says Mr. Newman. “Someone called and told me, ‘I just saw this guy wrapped up in an emergency blanket and looking at one of the blue brochures.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s great!’ That’s what keeps you going.”

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Seeds of honesty in a US reckoning on race

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Over the past half-century, more than 40 countries have convened truth commissions to move their societies forward. Most have followed mass violence or harsh governance. Is the United States now at a similar point of introspection in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd?

Certainly more white Americans are searching for ways to change society on race issues. Book sales for titles on race have reached new highs. Corporations are reevaluating their diversity policies. Recent protests are conspicuously more diverse. Perhaps the most lasting change will be local. Small communities have begun dialogues about race.

Societies seeking justice, reform, and reconciliation often first rely on exposing the truth about the past. In the U.S., that would mean finding a consensus narrative about the history of race relations. The cleansing power of truth-telling is in its ability to allow people to move beyond victimhood and powerlessness. Taking common stock of the most painful thread of U.S. history opens the way toward what former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called “a beautiful manifestation of what is possible”: an enriched humanity in which individuals may realize their potential unconstrained by actions or adverse conditions imposed on them.

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Seeds of honesty in a US reckoning on race

Over the past half-century, more than 40 countries have convened truth commissions to move their societies forward. Most have followed dark chapters of mass violence or harsh governance. Others were established to address unacknowledged abuses targeting a minority or indigenous group. Is the United States now at a similar point of introspection in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd?

Certainly many more white Americans are searching for ways to change themselves and their society on race issues. Most Black Americans, even if cautiously hopeful that this time will be different, are exhausted by the frequent reality of racism and the struggle for progress. The nation, as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee so poignantly said in a recent Washington Post video interview, “needs to weep.”

It may still be too soon to say the U.S. has reached a true inflection point in its treatment of its citizens of African descent. But it has certainly reached a reflection point.

The gap between white and Black perceptions about race is narrowing, according to YouGov polls. Book sales for titles on race have reached new highs. Corporations and media are reevaluating their diversity policies. Recent protest marches are conspicuously more diverse.

Perhaps the most lasting change will be local. Small communities have begun rolling dialogues about race. The residents of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, for example, a town that is 83% white, have begun an open Zoom series on race called “Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.” In Dallas, about 200 people gathered in a park in mid-June for a “potluck protest.” It used a picnic of food and music to create “a safe space for people to ask questions,” as one organizer put it.

The reforms sought by the Black Lives Matter movement and similar groups are not new to the U.S. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson established the Kerner Commission to identify the socioeconomic drivers of recent riots in many cities. The commission blamed racism; bias against Black people in policing, criminal justice, and credit practices; voter suppression; poor housing; and disproportionately high unemployment in Black communities. Three decades later, President Bill Clinton’s initiative on racism targeted those same problems. They are still central issues now.

Societies seeking mass justice, reform, and reconciliation often first rely on exposing the truth about the past. In the U.S., that would mean finding a consensus narrative about the history of race relations – in particular the Black experience – derived from personal testimony and documentary evidence. Based on attempts by other countries that relied on truth commissions, the U.S. would need to find a balance between disclosure of past wrongs and justice for those wrongs.

That goal was elusive in many countries. Yet the restorative power of being heard is undeniable. For the U.S., the stories of ordinary Black families can help white people understand how the historic benefits of being white have often hindered progress for Blacks. They may bring an awakening that shapes current debates over the removal of symbols, such as Confederate statues, or that leads to lasting reform, such as better race-sensitive police practices. 

The cleansing power of truth-telling is in its ability to allow people to move beyond victimhood and powerlessness. Taking common stock of the most painful thread of U.S. history opens the way toward what former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called “a beautiful manifestation of what is possible”: an enriched humanity in which individuals may realize their potential unconstrained by actions or adverse conditions imposed on them. No matter how the truth about race is commissioned into service, it is the power behind social healing.

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 prayer for solutions

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If we’re feeling that solutions to problems in our homes, communities, and world are elusive, it’s worth considering what God’s limitless care for His children can mean for us today.

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1. A prayer for solutions

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When I was in college, my roommate and I found ourselves totally out of food with no money in either of our bank accounts. I was really praying for help, because I was afraid; I had no idea how this would get resolved. But the one thing that I did feel certain of was that God provides. Period.

And that’s exactly what happened. Unexpectedly, my roommate’s mother appeared at our door with two armfuls of groceries. We were dumbfounded and asked, “How did you know?”

“I didn’t know,” she said. “I was just in the grocery store when I suddenly thought, ‘I’m going to buy food for the girls.’” What she brought was more than enough to tide us over until the next check arrived.

And for me, as a relatively new student of Christian Science, this was evidence of a spiritual law of good I was learning about that is always in operation, a law that I have since seen bring solutions to light in a similar way in far tougher situations of need.

This law of good is something I’ve been thinking about in light of the uncertainty in the world today. My heart goes out to all who are looking for solutions. I yearn to feel that there are answers that will help everyone.

I’ve taken comfort from Jesus’ words, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), as well as a passage from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, which to me seems correlated: “As mortals gain more correct views of God and man, multitudinous objects of creation, which before were invisible, will become visible” (p. 264).

I can see in both of these statements a promise to help meet the present need. Possible solutions could emerge – “become visible” – even where answers have not been apparent. How? By gaining “more correct views of God and man.”

What exactly is a correct view of God and man? Well, for one thing, the Bible reveals God as all-powerful Love, which is ever present. And each of us is the very much cherished child of God. That means infinite Love is with all of us. Furthermore, this Love is expressed in all of us, at every moment. This spiritual reality assures us that we can expect to be cared for in situations of all kinds.

The basis for this understanding lies in the fact that God’s creation is already intact, including abundant provision. So it isn’t that God has to conjure something up to meet our need, but that as we understand more clearly this infinite nature of God, we see the impossibility of God’s spiritual offspring ever lacking anything. And solutions start to appear.

No one perceived this more clearly than Jesus Christ, whose exquisitely correct view of God, and of each of us as dearly loved by God, allowed him to see solutions where no one else could. In one instance, Jesus was teaching and preaching to a crowd of thousands out in a remote desolate area (see Luke 9:11-17). His disciples, realizing the people had been there for hours and were hungry, suggested that Jesus send the crowd to villages to buy food.

But Jesus, knowing God’s goodness is always present everywhere, took the food they had on hand – five loaves of bread and two fish – and blessed it, and then instructed his disciples to hand out food to all. And it turned out there was more than enough for everyone. Jesus’ understanding of God allowed what was invisible – supply for all – to become visible.

This example of seeing a solution emerge in a moment of need can be viewed as the operation of that spiritual law of good, evidencing God’s constant care for each of us as His children. As we prayerfully acknowledge and accept that this law is operating today just as it did in Jesus’ time, it becomes natural to expect to see evidence of the same law bringing to light solutions to wider issues we care about in the world.

God’s law is always in operation. Our job is to shift our focus from what might seem like a no-win situation to an expectation that the answers we need already exist. We’re all capable of seeing this God-created reality become more tangible. The divine Love that met the needs of thousands of hungry people in Jesus’ time is the same Love that’s present today. Its power to reveal blessings for each one of us has been proven and can be proven again, step by step.

Viewfinder

Have clippers, will travel

Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Brazilian barber Renan Estate gives a haircut to a child at home as part of his Delivery Barber service in the Complexo do Alemão favela in Rio de Janeiro on June 22, 2020. Brazil’s COVID-19 cases just passed 1 million.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about the ethical quandaries raised by “immunity passports.”

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