2020
October
19
Monday

Monitor Daily Podcast

October 19, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Early voting and breaking records

I voted Saturday – an annual act of civic participation that reminded me of the bond so many Americans share in getting to the voting booth.

My family’s experience on the first day of early voting in Massachusetts was not like that of many of the 28 million people who have broken voting records this fall. We didn’t, for example, have to show up at 2:45 a.m. to beat long lines – the choice 79-year-old Maxine Shelby and her niece made Saturday in Marrero, Louisiana, after Ms. Shelby’s daughter endured a seven-hour wait Friday. Some queues were easily explained: In Boston, the opportunity to vote at historic Fenway Park proved a strong lure. But in Georgia, the impact of a dearth of polling places – which did not keep pace with surging voter registration – was hard to countenance. 

Still, we witnessed, as so many people have, the reliable calm of the poll workers, the applause for young citizens casting their first presidential votes, the friendly nods as ballots drop into the collection box. Across the nation, groups like Pizza to the Polls or Chefs for the Polls have stepped up to nourish weary voters and hard-working volunteers. And I couldn’t help but be struck by how, in an indisputably challenging year, a powerful lot of patience and strong spirit is on display as Americans show their commitment to making their voices heard. 

Student protesters push Thai politics into uncharted waters

A new generation is propelling the escalating protests in Thailand. These young people are bold and impatient – and, as one expert notes, “They’re more and more the driving force in Thai politics.”

Amelia
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Pro-democracy demonstrators hold posters of protest leaders who have been arrested, during an anti-government protest at Victory Monument in Bangkok Oct. 18, 2020.

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When 16-year-old Petch protests in downtown Bangkok, at one of the city’s busiest intersections, he feels he’s on sacred ground. This is where so-called red shirt protesters, including his grandmother, camped out for months in 2010, before the demonstration was violently broken up by troops.

Thailand is no stranger to protests. In the past decade, there have been several waves of demonstrations, as well as a military coup. But this summer and fall have shown a new face of government opposition: mostly students, as well as young workers. Their movement is built on a broader set of concerns about Thai society, including the power of both the military-backed government, and of the traditionally revered monarchy. Analysts say such demands herald a new and potentially tumultuous trajectory.

In recent days, authorities arrested dozens of protesters and banned gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok. Thousands continued to protest, and police used water cannons laced with chemicals to disperse crowds. 

Petch became absorbed in politics by listening to his grandmother’s stories as he grew up in rural Thailand. Moving to Bangkok, he’s seen firsthand the inequality she spoke of. 

“I want to fight for democracy and the causes that I believe in,” he says.

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1. Student protesters push Thai politics into uncharted waters

Like high school students all over the world, Petch has seen his studies upended this year by the global pandemic. But it’s also been a year of turmoil for another reason: Thai students are on the march, demanding political and social change. 

Last week, Petch, age 16, stood in a rain-lashed crowd at Rajprasong, a downtown transit intersection, wearing his school uniform and soaking up the atmosphere of defiance in the air. He’s part of the largest protests to sweep Bangkok since a military coup in 2014, the second in his lifetime: a movement that is challenging the powers of Thailand’s military-backed government and, increasingly, of its constitutional monarchy, long considered off-limits for criticism.

“I’m not afraid of the government’s power. They can arrest hundreds or thousands of people, but we will keep fighting because every one of us is the leader,” says Petch, who asked to be identified by his nickname. 

Unlike a decade ago, when Thai troops put down prolonged protests by mostly middle-aged “red shirt” workers and farmers, the face of opposition this time is high school and college students, as well as young workers. And their defiance of the authorities is built on a broader set of concerns about Thai society, one that goes beyond the elite power struggles of previous rounds of street protests. Analysts say their willingness to question the wealth and power of one of Asia’s last surviving royal families heralds a new and potentially tumultuous trajectory.  

“You have a generation of Thais who are impatient and have begun to be aware that the role of the monarchy and the military in their society is very different from the role that those institutions play in other societies,” says Michael Montesano, an expert on Thailand at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “They’re more and more the driving force in Thai politics.” 

Peeradon Ariyanukooltorn/Reuters
Pro-democracy demonstrators attend an anti-government protest in Bangkok Oct. 18, 2020. Dozens of protesters have been arrested in recent days.

In recent days, political turmoil has escalated since authorities arrested dozens of protesters, including prominent leaders, and issued an emergency declaration that banned gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok. Over the weekend, thousands continued to defy the ban, and there were tense standoffs with police who used water cannons laced with blue dye and chemicals to disperse crowds. Smaller protests erupted nationwide.

In one incident, protesters on the route of a royal motorcade flashed a three-finger salute from “The Hunger Games” trilogy that is popular at demonstrations. Two protesters were charged with an obscure criminal offense for their defiance of the monarchy – for which they could face life imprisonment.

Mounting frustration

Protest leaders have called for the dissolution of the government and a new constitution to replace a military-drafted one that they say is undemocratic. Kanniti Limcharoen, a student leader, says he’s confident that the movement can prevail. “I don’t think it will be a long fight. The legitimacy of the government has become less and less,” he says. 

Last year Thais voted in the first election held since the 2014 coup. The military-controlled Senate and a coalition of parties in the legislature then installed Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the army general who led the coup, as prime minister, defying calls for an end to the military’s involvement in politics. 

Among those opposing the military was the Future Forward Party, led by a charismatic young leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. In February this year, Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved Future Forward Party for receiving a loan from Mr. Thanathorn, the scion of a wealthy business family. His party had received more than 6 million votes in the election, the third largest share of the vote. 

Supporters accused the court of doing the bidding of the military, but plans to hold rallies were put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the Thai government imposed a national state of emergency, which included a nighttime curfew. 

While Thailand has largely managed to contain the coronavirus, its economy has been flattened by the shocks to global trade and tourism. This has exacerbated the frustrations of young Thais who see the pro-military coalition as incapable of leading the country out of crisis. 

“It’s unfortunate for the country when the old generations are not very supportive, when those in power see this movement as a threat to the country, rather than to make Thailand better, more democratic, to ensure better redistribution of public resources,” says Titipol Phakdeewanich, the dean of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.

By July, a group called Free Youth had begun organizing rallies in defiance of the emergency rule. (The group later renamed itself Free People, after merging with other pro-democracy groups.) Since then, the protests have swelled to tens of thousands of people, and their demands have grown bolder. 

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Pro-democracy protesters attend an anti-government protest in Bangkok Oct. 18, 2020. Many demonstrators this summer and fall have been young students, in contrast to previous waves of protests.

In August, at a rally held at Thammasat University, activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read out an unusually frank movement manifesto. Among its 10 demands was the abolition of Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law that criminalizes speech deemed critical of the royal family. The law has long been used to silence critics of the monarchy. The current ruler, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, took power after the death of his long-serving father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in 2016. He lives mostly in Germany and commands little of the respect accorded to his father. 

Some protesters are wary of attacking the monarchy directly, arguing that it’s more practical to rewrite the constitution first and that political reform needs broad support, including from older Thais who are more reverent toward the crown. Others see this moment as a turning point in Thai history and have used symbols of royalty to represent their dissent.

The dates of protests are also symbolic: For example, Oct. 14, the start of last week’s demonstrations, was the date of a 1976 massacre of students by Thai troops and police.

“I am not scared”

Petch grew up in rural Thailand with his grandmother. She’s a red shirt, a supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed in a 2006 coup and later convicted of abusing his power. His political base in rural Thailand made him a formidable foe of Bangkok’s royalist elite whom he challenged for power, fomenting mass protests from exile. Rival yellow shirt protesters, many of them royalists, also took to the streets during this period. 

Petch says he absorbed politics by listening to his grandmother’s stories, then after the 2014 coup became more engaged. Moving to Bangkok for high school, Petch saw firsthand the social inequality that his grandmother, who farms rice, had spoken of. “Students in Bangkok get better education and a better chance than kids in the rural area,” he says. “What chance do kids in rural areas have if there’s no [fair] distribution of [government] budget?”

Joining this year’s anti-government protests put Petch in touch with student activists and has opened his eyes to social prejudices, as well as economic inequities. He identifies as gay, and says he’s been ridiculed by teachers and fellow students. He’s spoken out at rallies against military-style discipline at schools, a shared frustration among protesters who see a through line from social conservatism to politics.

Speaking in public is empowering, he says. “When there’s no prominent leader, everybody becomes the protest leader, and they can come up to the microphone and speak about what they believe in. It’s been so amazing,” he says. 

Last week, as he joined the protest at Rajprasong, the transit intersection, Petch knew that he was running the same risk as the red shirts like his grandmother, who camped there for months in 2010. The sit-in was bloodily broken up by troops, and this is sacred ground for him, though his grandmother left before the violence.

“I am not scared of violence if authorities will disperse us. I am young, but if I die, it’s alright. I want to fight for democracy and the causes that I believe in,” he says. 

Staff writer Simon Montlake contributed reporting.

Debate over statues goes north, with Canada’s founder caught in middle

This question goes to the heart of the many controversies that have emerged over historical statues: Can a monument ever be contextualized enough to tell two sides of a story?

Amelia
Sara Miller Llana/The Christian Science Monitor
Jim Rodger is a brainchild of the "Prime Ministers Path," a project that was intended to take Canadians on a tour of their 22 former prime ministers, including William Lyon MacKenzie King, shown here. But amid controversy over the legacy of the first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, the idea is on hold.

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Sir John A. Macdonald is often called the father of Canada since he oversaw confederation more than 150 years ago. But he has recently been scrutinized for another legacy: as a key architect of the residential school system for Indigenous children that a landmark report in Canada concluded was “cultural genocide.”

And that is leading to debate over the statues dedicated to him, and how to memorialize a past that is now widely seen as a stain on Canadian history.

At the heart of the dispute here is whether a monument can ever be contextualized enough to tell two sides of a story, especially when a figure embodies values that are anathema today. It’s a debate that David MacDonald, a comparative Indigenous politics professor at the University of Guelph, says he believes will grow in North America and Europe as frustrations mount over stubborn systematic racism and as sensibilities change.

“John A. is kind of the beginning of the process, rather than the end of the process,” he says.

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2. Debate over statues goes north, with Canada’s founder caught in middle

The “Prime Ministers Path” circles a grassy field outside this town hall. Begun in 2016, the path was meant to lead Canadians on a tour of their history told through bronze statues of their 22 former leaders.

The first statue to go up along the trail was that of Sir John A. Macdonald, often called the father of Canada since he oversaw confederation over 150 years ago. Four others followed in 2017 and 2018. This summer four more were supposed to go up, making nine.

Instead, amid vandalization, sit-ins, and heated virtual town council meetings, the council decided to take Macdonald’s down.

Today it sits in an undisclosed location and the entire project is on hold as Wilmot Township, in rural Ontario, grapples with Macdonald’s other legacy – as a key architect of the residential school system for Indigenous children that a landmark report in Canada concluded was “cultural genocide.”

In the United States and Europe, debates have raged as monuments of Confederate generals or slave traders have come down at a rapid clip after anti-racism protests erupted around the globe this summer. Similarly in Canada, views are divided about how to memorialize a past that is now widely seen as a stain on Canadian history. In Baden, dueling petitions surfaced over the summer – to both preserve and pull down Macdonald.

At the heart of the dispute here is whether a monument can ever be contextualized enough to tell two sides of a story, especially when a figure embodies values that are anathema today. It’s a debate that David MacDonald, a comparative Indigenous politics professor at the University of Guelph, says he believes will grow in North America and Europe as frustrations mount over stubborn systematic racism and as sensibilities change.

“John A. is kind of the beginning of the process, rather than the end of the process,” he says.

“They’re there for you to interact with”

The “Prime Ministers Path” was never meant as an homage, argues Jim Rodger, a mastermind of the project. When he was a high school principal, he had previously erected a statue of William Lyon Mackenzie King, a former prime minister and school alumnus. So when a local business leader contacted him, they set out to provide a walk through history. They purposely didn’t commission works that would sit on plinths or loom larger-than-life. Instead the statues are life-size and at ground level.

The project had already been rejected twice – from a nearby city and university – before Wilmot expressed interest, but that didn’t deter Mr. Rodger’s conviction that this was an educational tool intended to spur debate and face hard questions.

“It’s not the Lincoln Memorial. It’s not the Washington Monument. It’s just Lester Pearson. It’s just Robert Borden. They’re our size. And they’re there for you to interact with, confront, or admire, whatever it is you choose to do,” he says.

One of the statues still standing today is of Kim Campbell, because although she served briefly, she is Canada’s only female prime minister. Lori Campbell, who teaches Indigenous studies at the University of Waterloo, says that in the midst of the debate, a community member spoke up about how their daughter was inspired by that statue. But what about an Indigenous child who sees Macdonald as a symbol of oppression toward his or her people?

“I think it’s important that we talk about who we are harming, not just who we are benefiting,” says Professor Campbell, who is Cree-Métis. She started one of the petitions this summer to stop the path.

Robert Roth launched the other, calling to save the statues. To take them down is to suppress free speech, says the former newspaperman, and it’s not anyone’s right today to decide who should remain standing or not. William Lyon Mackenzie King, who stands in the path, turned back a boat of 900 Jewish refugees in 1939 (the Canadian government only apologized for it in 2018). The last residential school didn’t close down until 1996, so all the leaders of the 20th century are in some ways complicit.

“Not one of those statues would remain if everybody had to be perfect,” he says.

Applying the same standards to the U.S., one would have to chisel Thomas Jefferson and George Washington out of Mount Rushmore because they were slaveowners, he argues. “They existed in the time of slavery. But they weren’t put there to manifest white power,” he says. “It’s a bigger issue than just the statues. It’s about how we make decisions and how we dialog in society.”

Professor Campbell believes Macdonald played a role in creating the Canada we know today and that his policies should be studied. “I think it’s important for all of us, Indigenous, non-Indigenous, from the earliest settlers to the newest newcomers, to have a very fulsome education about the history of the formation of Canada.”

But she says public space is not the place. She supports the monuments being moved to a museum, where Canadians can intentionally go to educate themselves about the past.

Rethinking Macdonald’s legacy

Wilmot Township is undergoing a consultation with Indigenous communities and will issue a report in March – a process that many can agree is the right way forward and that doesn’t mean one outcome. Some communities have chosen to keep up statues or residential school structures in other places. “It’s up to the descendants of those that have been structurally damaged by people like Macdonald, I think, to make some of those decisions,” says Dr. MacDonald.

Baden is certainly not the only town to grapple with this. A statue of John A. Macdonald was toppled by activists at an anti-racism protest in August in Montreal. An online poll performed by marketing analysts Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies showed that half of respondents say they oppose removing statues or monuments, even if leaders were behind racist policies; the other half supported it or weren’t sure what should be done.

Macdonald’s role in Canada’s assimilationist policies hasn’t been broadly taught or understood until recently. In the Leger poll, while 44% said they considered him foremost the architect of Canadian Confederation, 15% cited his anti-Indigenous policies. It wasn’t until the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its findings in 2015 on residential schooling that mainstream society began to learn more about the traumas the system wrought. The United Nations has for several years condemned Canada, saying it “faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country.”

At the same time, Indigenous communities have been frustrated by the slow pace of the government’s response to the commission’s 94 Calls to Action toward justice and equality. Their frustration has grown with a lack of action on a national inquiry concluded last year into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and with claims of structural racism on the part of authorities. This month the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia is facing criticism it has not intervened fairly in a dispute between commercial and Mi’kmaw fisherman that led to vandalism of the Mi’kmaw facility.

Macdonald is often the object of those frustrations.

“A very difficult time”

Today, where the statue of Macdonald once stood in Baden, there is now just a cement slab. A few red specks recall the recent protests.

“If you walked by here and you don’t know what was there, you’re certainly never going to think about Sir John A. Macdonald or even residential schools,” says Mr. Rodger, pointing to the site. He’d prefer to keep him standing, even if vandalized. “I would choose to have him there. And you live with what happens.”

Mary Margaret Laing is using the cement slab as a bench on a recent day, treating her grandson to a snack from Tim Hortons. She says she doesn’t need the statue to teach her about Macdonald’s full legacy; for that, she took a university course on Reconciliation that she calls “life-changing,” including redefining herself as a “settler.” Opposing the statue, for her, is an act of solidarity and she hopes the debate spurs soul-searching within others.

“We’re going through a very difficult time in this country with our Indigenous community. And I think most people are working hard to figure out how they can participate in Reconciliation,” she says. “I think this is one way they can participate.”

A deeper look

Pulling together: Lessons from first all-Black high school rowing team

Arshay Cooper remembers the moment he realized he had to tell his story, now both a book and a documentary, because “on the other side of that despair, on the other side of that fear, there is courage and healing and hope and the opportunity to grow.”

Amelia
Clayton Hauck/50 Eggs Films
The Manley crew team returns to the water in Chicago.

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Like much of the nation today, the rowing world, so steeped in symbols of wealth and white privilege, has been reexamining its efforts to make college programs and rowing clubs better reflect the full array of people in society.

Yet if the story of the nation’s first all-Black high school rowing team offers a glimpse of how to make these efforts work – launching Arshay Cooper, author of the 2020 memoir “A Most Beautiful Thing,” as an eager ambassador for a sport that remains overwhelmingly white – it began more simply. It was just an effort to reach out to students who looked like him, who were enduring the same kind of despair he had growing up on the streets of Chicago.

“A teacher would always say, ‘Oh, Arshay, you are a walking storm,’” says Mr. Cooper. “But rowing was the only sport that was able to calm the storm in a lot of us, and it was beautiful.”

Rowing helped calm the storms within him by instilling practical traits: discipline and determination and a deeper understanding of working as a team. “Leave the boathouse better than you found it, which to me means, how do you leave your school, your work, your company better than you found it?” he says. “How do you leave the world better than you found it?”

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3. Pulling together: Lessons from first all-Black high school rowing team

Arshay Cooper knew, almost in a single moment, that he had to find a way to write his story.

Over 20 years ago, he was captain of the first all-Black high school rowing team, a crew that launched in 1997 when he was a student at Manley Career Academy High School on the West Side of Chicago, in what is still one of the most violent neighborhoods in the nation.

How could a Black kid like him from the West Side of Chicago, “a war zone” of gang turfs and drug corners, he says, punctuated by the perpetual sound of gunshots and police sirens, discover the most peaceful and restoring moments of his life within the rhythmic pulls of rowing?

“A teacher would always say, ‘Oh, Arshay, you are a walking storm,’” says Mr. Cooper, whose 2020 memoir “A Most Beautiful Thing,” along with a documentary of the same name, has captivated the rowing world and many others this year. “But rowing was the only sport that was able to calm the storm in a lot of us, and it was beautiful.” 

Like much of the nation today, the rowing world, so steeped in symbols of wealth and white privilege, has been reexamining its efforts to make college programs and rowing clubs better reflect the full array of people in society.

Yet if the story of the nation’s first all-Black high school rowing team offers a glimpse of how to make these efforts work – launching Mr. Cooper, too, as an eager ambassador for a sport that remains overwhelmingly white – it began more simply. It was just an effort to reach out to students who looked like him, who were enduring the same kind of despair he had growing up on the streets of Chicago.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Arshay Cooper, author of a memoir about the first all-Black high school rowing team, stands next to Newtown Creek in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

It was true – rowing helped calm the storms within him by instilling practical traits: discipline and determination and a deeper understanding of working as a team. “Leave the boathouse better than you found it, which to me means, how do you leave your school, your work, your company better than you found it?” he says. “How do you leave the world better than you found it?”

These values helped set him on a course to become a successful chef after he graduated from Manley, where he cultivated a second passion – for cooking. Without his experiences in rowing, he’s convinced, he would never have studied culinary arts in London, gotten into a training program at the famed Le Cordon Bleu, or, years later, landed a gig with World Wrestling Entertainment as a chef on tour, where he fed famous entertainers like John Cena and the Undertaker.

When he moved to New York City to do something different, to find a bigger stage, he says, he felt called to work with students who were facing the same kind of experiences he had as a teen on Chicago’s West Side. 

So he became a culinary instructor in the city’s public schools, starting a young chef program and continuing to cook in school cafeterias. And he took every opportunity to share the story of Manley crew. 

Not long after he landed one of his first jobs at Beginning With Children Charter School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, he was relating some of the lessons he learned as a rower. 

“And I’ll never forget it,” Mr. Cooper says. “I remember telling them about my mother, how much I hated her at that time, when she’d be gone because of her addictions, how she’d steal money, steal our Christmas presents, leave us for days with nothing to eat.” 

“And then one kid, all of the sudden, he started punching the table – just punching, not stopping,” he says. “One of the teachers told him to leave the classroom, but I told him, ‘No, no, no, you don’t have to leave.’ I said, ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ He shook his head, then kept saying, ‘My mom’s so stupid, my mom’s so stupid.’” 

The boy’s mother had been murdered recently in a nearby project complex, he finally said. Then another student said his uncle, too, had been murdered in the same building the year before. Other students started to share similar stories. 

“I know that we’re raised to be like, don’t say nothing, be tough, be a man, don’t let anyone in,” he says. “But all these young Black boys, these young Hispanic boys, they were crying over these couple of kids who told their stories.”

“What they needed to see was a broken Arshay, a kid whose mother was a drug addict, who never said the word ‘dad’ a day in his life,” Mr. Cooper says. 

His mother had recovered when he was at Manley. She found her way to a program run by Victory Outreach, an urban ministry that includes patients’ families in group discussions. Mr. Cooper remembered how the patients’ stories of pain and trauma left such an impression on him, and in a strange and ironic way, helped them recover and families reconcile.

“That’s when I realized, right then, that ... I wanted to write this story,” says Mr. Cooper. “I felt like it was my responsibility to write this story, because on the other side of that despair, on the other side of that fear, there is courage and healing and hope and the opportunity to grow,” he says.

“I wanted to write how the water was my way.”

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
The home where Arshay Cooper grew up, in a dangerous neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, was torn down and is now a parking lot for a church.

“I have to meet this guy”

In the summer of 2015, Richard Butler received a handwritten letter from a person he doesn’t even remember. But it urged him to read the new self-published memoir “Suga Water” by a former high school rower from Chicago named Arshay Cooper.

At the time, Mr. Butler was the diversity and inclusion manager for USRowing, the governing body of the sport. He was intrigued. For six years part of his job had been to find ways to connect boathouses to a wider range of people in their communities, especially in U.S. cities. Finding role models, so important for garnering interest in the expensive, exclusive sport, was one of his biggest challenges.

“Most boathouses are actually located within urban areas, for lots of reasons,” says Mr. Butler, who became the first Black director of a U.S. rowing club when he ran Three Rivers Rowing Association in Pittsburgh in the early 2000s. “But people in the urban areas are not rowing.”

In 2019, only 1.3% of USRowing’s 75,000 members nationwide identified themselves as Black or African American, the agency reports. In the history of the Olympics, there have only been five Black U.S. rowers.

Since the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans at the hands of police this year, many in the rowing world have been seeking Mr. Butler out. “I never knew how much of an influencer I was in this sport until my text messages and my social media started blowing up and everyone’s asking for advice,” he says.

Five years ago, however, he was a key catalyst in the emergence of Mr. Cooper as an influencer as well. 

“I was on a plane, and I’m finishing ‘Suga Water,’ and I’m sobbing, like, just smack sobbing in the middle of the flight,” says Mr. Butler. “I thought, oh my gosh, I have to meet this guy.”

At the time, Mr. Cooper didn’t know much about USRowing. He didn’t know much about writing or publishing a book, either. The career chef simply went to YouTube to watch writer’s workshops, reading as many memoirs as he could as well. After self-publishing “Suga Water,” he focused on distributing books to schools and local rowing clubs. 

After they met, Mr. Butler invited Mr. Cooper to speak at USRowing’s national convention – and once again, the sport of rowing changed Mr. Cooper’s life. His audience began to grow by orders of magnitude.

“The stories that he told at the session – and the stories he tells in ‘Suga Water’ and the way he tells them – because they had this roughness, this honesty, they really reached into my heart,” says Pat Tirone, founder and head coach of Delta Sculling Center in Stockton, California.

“I saw Arshay very much as a healer, as someone who could, if he was able to touch my soul, I thought he could touch thousands of souls,” she says. “So I went up to him afterward and I said, ‘Can I buy 10 of your books, to bring back to Stockton?’”

The city of 300,000 in California’s Central Valley has similar problems to Chicago, if on a smaller scale, so she eventually invited Mr. Cooper to come to Stockton to speak. He was tireless in his efforts, she says. He spoke at local schools, and with the help of Ms. Tirone, organized meetings with a Black student caucus in town, and did a spot on the morning news.

“But when he spoke in Stockton’s housing projects, it blew my mind,” Ms. Tirone says. “He had all the grandmas there and they were just brimming with so much hope for their kids afterwards.” 

In the years since, Mr. Cooper’s life has been a flurry of activity on behalf of rowing, beyond his initial hope to reach through the emotional barriers of students living with trauma. In 2017 he founded the only New York City public school rowing team at East Side Community School in Manhattan, and he now sits on the USRowing strategic planning committee for diversity and inclusion. He also works with Row New York, the largest and most diverse rowing program in the country.

“You know, all of this is the kind of stuff we learned in entrepreneurship class while we were rowing in high school,” Mr. Cooper says. “How to become that go-getter, how to get your ideas out there, how to locate key decision-makers.”

He gets emotional when he talks about the instructor of the entrepreneurship class, Ken Alpart, owner of a trading company at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Mr. Alpart was the driving force behind the idea of forming the first all-Black high school rowing team. One of Mr. Alpart’s employees, the late Michael O’Gorman, a medal-winning coxswain for the U.S. national team, suggested they fund a team in one of the troubled neighborhoods in their city. 

“I was excited about the idea of debunking some of the stereotypes surrounding this sport,” said Mr. Alpart, a former rower at the University of Pennsylvania, in the documentary “A Most Beautiful Thing.” At the first meeting in 1997, he told the students, “Michael Jordan wouldn’t be the MVP for rowing, because in a boat of four or eight you will not notice one person, but a team. One unit. Everyone works as one.” 

As many in the rowing world began talking about the memoir “Suga Water,” former Olympic rower and documentary filmmaker Mary Mazzio, who had just released the acclaimed film “I Am Jane Doe,” about sex trafficking, tweeted to @arshaycooper, “A compelling read.” 

“And then this tweet comes immediately rocketing back at me, and my phone rings 20 minutes later, and it’s Arshay Cooper,” says Ms. Mazzio. “It was a perfect storm in many ways. He said, ‘Would you ever ...?’ And I remember gulping, thinking, ‘what a story,’ and it’s a sport we both love. So I was just, like, ‘yes, I’m in, you had me at hello.”

Richard Schultz/50 Eggs Films
Members of the team get together two decades later in Oakland, California, to train for a race in Chicago, in this photo (top) from “A Most Beautiful Thing,” a documentary based on the book.

They formed a plan to reunite the team to race once again at the Chicago Sprints, retelling on camera the basic story of “Suga Water,” which had been picked up by the publisher Flatiron Books in New York and retitled “A Most Beautiful Thing.”

But Mr. Cooper had another idea: He wanted to organize a crew made up of the former Manley rowers and a group of Chicago police officers.

“In Chicago, the relationship with the police is so intense that I just wanted to have that conversation,” Mr. Cooper says. “I have never committed a crime or broken a law or was ever even suspended from school. Still, I had my face pressed down on a police car dozens of times.”

“When we lose an unarmed Black person at the hands of the police, we say, ‘Say their name,’” he says. “And I just thought to myself while we were filming, as everyone was talking about the people we lost to gangs and at the hands of the police, what if they knew our names?”

“We need not just the teacher, not just the store owner, not just the grandmothers; we need the cops to work together with us, too,” he says. 

Forging unlikely friendships

Police officer Louis “big Lou” Green immediately decided to volunteer when his sergeant mentioned that a group of guys from the West Side wanted to row with the Chicago PD.

Just three years on the force, Mr. Green had been a professional basketball player in Germany before coming home to join the police academy, and he thought learning to row would not only be a fun and challenging experience, but also be a way to reach out to different groups. “I’m all about trying to help the community feel good and trying to bring people together,” he says.

A younger millennial, he had decided to study criminal justice when he attended Seattle University, graduating in 2013. “I came from the Chicagoland area where there has been issues between the law enforcement and the rest of the community, and I wanted to be a part of the shifts happening in law enforcement,” says Mr. Green, who also volunteers as a basketball coach for a local community group.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
“I’m all about trying to help the community feel good and trying to bring people together.” – Louis Green, one of several Chicago police officers who rowed with a group that included former gang members from the city’s West Side.

Since Mr. Cooper’s memoir had been widely circulating in the rowing world and plans for the documentary were well underway, the five core members of Manley crew had agreed to reunite and race once again. Mr. Cooper also asked the legendary six-time Olympian and current head coach of the men’s U.S. national team, Mike Teti, to help them regain their form. 

Coach Teti agreed and invited them to train in San Francisco with David Banks, one of the five Black rowers who had once competed for the United States in the Olympics. “It was pretty cool what they were trying to do,” says Mr. Banks, who was on the 2008 and 2012 U.S. teams. “These guys, they all went their separate ways after high school – seeing them bond again on the boat, it was really impactful to me.” 

But just as the former crew started to regain their form, Mr. Cooper brought up his notion of training with Chicago police officers.

“When Arshay came up with the idea to row with the cops, I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t really agree with it at all,” says Alvin Ross, who had helped Mr. Cooper and the filmmaker Ms. Mazzio develop the documentary’s story. “I have had run-ins with them since being a kid, and it was always a bad experience.”

Both he and another of the original five, Preston Grandberry, had served time in prison, and both had harrowing experiences with police. Rowing is an intimate sport and demands precise teamwork. Few of the guys thought it was a good idea at first.  

“But, man, the relationship with Big Lou? It was instant, man,” Mr. Ross says, recalling the moment they met with the four Chicago police officers, including Mr. Green. “We didn’t talk much at the [training] tank and everything, but when we were walking down, I asked him if he’d ever been on the water before, and he told me, no.” 

“I’m not really a water sports person, so, yeah getting on and off the boat was a little shaky,” Mr. Green says. “But Alvin and Arshay really just kind of – they found something in me that they liked.”

“The longer I was on the boat, the more comfortable I got with it and I was able to get in a rhythm,” he says. “To have such chemistry is a challenge, but we met it head-on and we did what we came to do.”

As it turned out, the four Chicago police officers agreed to form a men’s eight crew with four of the former Manley rowers and race together at the Chicago Sprints in July 2019. They placed second.

They remain close, and all of them keep in contact on a group text. “We talked as if we knew each other for a long time, you know,” says Mr. Ross. “We talked about going to a barbecue; we talked about getting together after the movie came out, and everything.”  

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted their plans, but Mr. Cooper says after the murder of George Floyd, officers reached out to the crew members, expressing their sorrow, too. Despite being cursed at on the streets as the unrest grew in Chicago and rioters burned police cars and smashed windows, Mr. Green expressed support for Black Lives Matter on his Instagram page.

“I want my city to change,” Mr. Cooper says in the documentary. “I’m so tired of hearing about kids killing kids in my neighborhood. I’m so tired of hearing about the misconduct of police in my community. So how do we fix it?”

Richard Schultz/50 Eggs Films
Malcolm Hawkins works out on a rowing machine as teammates urge him on in Oakland, California, in a photo from the film “A Most Beautiful Thing.”

Finding peace

When Mr. Cooper decided to write the story of the first all-Black high school rowing team, back in that moment of anguish and despair in a New York classroom, his aim was simply to reach young people who were experiencing the same hopelessness he had felt, and to show them the lessons he learned on the water. 

Since then, his book won the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for best inspirational memoir, USRowing gave him the Golden Oars Award for achieving measurable success in expanding the diversity of the sport, and the documentary “A Most Beautiful Thing” was narrated by the rap star Common and produced by former NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade. 

As Mr. Cooper continues to speak at corporations, boathouses, and colleges about Manley crew and diversifying the sport, he’s given himself yet another challenge. 

“There’s never been an African American male who rowed on American soil in the Olympics,” Mr. Cooper says. “Never. And there’s only been one Black female. I want to be the first to help to make that happen” when the Olympics are held in Los Angeles in 2028.

“That’s the goal,” he says. “How do I get that boat that’s always so white to reflect the diversity in this country? I’m trying to identify those young people. I’m giving them the tools they need and the training they need and the connections they need to be on that podium and then use that platform to tell their stories.”

For Mr. Ross, who spent 4 1/2 years in prison after being involved in a shooting nearly a decade ago, the story of the first all-Black rowing team was deeply personal. “Out there on the water, that’s where everything changed,” says Mr. Ross. “Hearing the oars in the waves, the cars driving by and blowing the horns at us, cheering us on – when you’re outside just runnin’ with the guys you run with, looking for trouble everyday, you’re never at peace.” 

“But being out there on the water, you know, feeling at peace – that changed a lot about us, especially about me.”

Essay

I’m Black and Republican – hear me out

A young Black conservative, Chris Prudhome says he is often ostracized and judged. But, he says, “chastising and ridiculing people without hearing their thoughts is not how to solve things.”

Amelia

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Chris Prudhome says that, despite widespread perceptions, he’s far from the only Republican who is Black. Why will he be voting for Donald Trump? “There are many reasons for Black voters to support Mr. Trump,” Mr. Prudhome says, ticking off the First Step Act, low pre-pandemic Black unemployment rates, and Mr. Trump’s Platinum Plan, which pledges to “increase access to capital in Black communities by almost $500 billon.”

Running parallel to Mr. Prudhome’s political views is a plea for people to listen to each other – across political divides. “We cannot say that because you are a Democrat or a Republican, you cannot have a voice,” he urges. “That is an us or nothing mentality. … It’s OK to have diversity of thought.” In fact, he argues, we need “independent thinkers.”

“The world is not a zero-sum game,” Mr. Prudhome adds. “It is so important that we listen with open hearts and minds. … The only way we can grow and build is together. … We need to listen to understand, not to reply, and we need to remember that together we will and can prevail – but only if we truly respect each other and hear each other.”

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4. I’m Black and Republican – hear me out

I am a 35-year-old Black man, I have been a conservative from Day One, and I support President Donald Trump. This may seem incongruous to many people. But if you watched the Republican National Convention, you saw other African Americans who think the way I do. We represent just a small slice of the Republican Party – and among Black people, we are a small minority – yet we are strong in force.

We are living in very challenging and polarizing times. It is important that we look at each other as people, not political perspectives. Our nation is divided. Problems between law enforcement and the Black community are at an all-time high. Now, more than ever, we need diversity of thoughts and opinions.

Oftentimes, as a media personality and conservative, I get ostracized because of my views. In many instances, I am judged for being conservative. But I face the same problems other Black men face. Many don’t know, but I had a gun pulled on me in Washington, D.C., by an officer at a Walgreens over not wearing a mask. This was in early spring, when wearing masks was not enforced everywhere.

We had a miscommunication that resulted in me fearing for my life and him pointing a gun in my face as I screamed “Please don’t shoot!” over and over while he pushed me to the ground in the middle of the street. It was a crazy experience.

But I will never forget police officer A.J. Smith, a white man, who was very kind and saw to it that I was treated fairly, even insisting that the other officer, who was also white, give me my paperwork after I was released. Officer Smith was direct and had my back.

Trump’s benefits for African Americans

The world is not a zero-sum game. We need to be able to listen to each other even if we disagree. Many people in the Black community demonize me because I am conservative and support Mr. Trump. But chastising and ridiculing people without hearing their thoughts is not how to solve things.

There are many reasons for Black voters to support Mr. Trump. Look at the First Step Act, which redresses sentencing rules leading to high rates of imprisonment among Black men and women and bans, with a few exceptions, shackling of women giving birth in federal prisons. In its first 18 months, nearly 1,700 inmates had sentences reduced, 91% of whom were Black.

In addition, the Black unemployment rate fell to 5.4% in October 2019, and Mr. Trump signed legislation securing a decade of annual funding for historically Black colleges and universities in December 2019. The preceding year, Mr. Trump nominated the first Black woman for promotion to brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Lastly, I want to point out the president’s Platinum Plan, released in September, which pledges to “increase access to capital in Black communities by almost $500 billon.” President Trump is doing these things because he cares.

Unfair criticism of the president

Some have stated that the Charlottesville comment in which Mr. Trump stated that there were “very fine people, on both sides” is bad. However, this is an attempt by the media and the left to distort the president’s words. A minute later, he clearly condemned Nazis and white supremacists when he said, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists – because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Being conservative does not prevent me from being an effective voice for minority needs. We live in a country where free speech is essential. I believe it’s time to look at each other as equal human beings, and that goes well beyond skin color. We cannot say that because you are a Democrat or a Republican, you cannot have a voice. That is an us or nothing mentality. You should not be forced to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris just because you are Black. It’s OK to have diversity of thought.

Look at the streets of Baltimore. Look at the effectiveness of Maryland’s Republican congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik’s recent ad, which drew national attention. Why was it so effective? Because people are tired! We have had the same leaders around for decades with broken promises. Many of our communities are impoverished and disenfranchised. People are ready to be independent thinkers.

Listening across political fault lines

The expectation for many is that if you are Black, you are expected to be a Democrat. People hear you are Republican and automatically shut you out. Yet we walk around saying we are all in this together.  

Of course, I have had my issues with racial injustice. But I continue to rise because I believe racism is not what America stands for. It is time for a change. It is time to be looked at fairly, regardless of our views.

I am not going to bully someone in the streets because he doesn’t think the way I want him to. It is time for us to respect each other as a nation. It seems to me you can be Black and a Republican and still think this country has work to do on race. Peacefully! Not by rioting, looting, and tearing down statues, but by embracing all the opportunities this country offers.

Let me leave you with one thing: It is so important that we listen with open hearts and minds. Despite our disagreements, no matter how much you don’t like the candidate your friend or family members support, the only way we can grow and build is together. We cannot stand united if we are not willing to hold each other up and truly hear each other out. We need to listen to understand, not to reply, and we need to remember that together we will and can prevail – but only if we truly respect each other and hear each other.

Difference-maker

Drivers of change

With older poll workers sidelined, young Americans step up

Students are another group that frequently gets labeled – with apathy. But have you noticed those really young workers at polling stations? They're challenging that image by the thousands.

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Leo Kamin is just 20 days too young to vote this year, but that was no excuse to sit out the election. He became a poll worker in March and has since helped recruit 30,000 poll workers, many of them high schoolers like himself, through Poll Hero Project.

Even in a good year, the small army of election officials needed each November is hard to rally. Add in a pandemic, which disproportionately affects the older Americans who make up the majority of poll workers, and many feared a crisis.

Yet even if some shortages still remain, the deluge of young people stepping up to take their place has been enormous – and may ripple into a new generation of poll workers civically engaged for years to come.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about my generation: We’re lazier, not connecting to the real world. We’re zombies to social media and our phones and stuff,” Mr. Kamin says. “But this has truly shown me that is just not at all true. There are so many people my age who are just looking for any opportunity to get involved.”

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5. With older poll workers sidelined, young Americans step up

The air was freezing, the sun had yet to rise, and Leo Kamin had just arrived at the church for his 6 a.m. shift – which meant he only had 15 hours to go.

Out came the tents and tables, mercifully arranged around heating lamps in the gusty parking lot. Inside, he and a team of poll workers puzzled together dividers, printers, tables, tablets, computers, and their all-
important voting machines. 

All that was left was the voters. And at Mr. Kamin’s polling station in Denver on March 3, they would soon arrive in hundreds. By the time he left at 9 in the evening, Mr. Kamin had used so much hand sanitizer his skin was beginning to crack.

But among the many ballots he saw cast that day, not one was his own. A high school junior, Mr. Kamin is 17 and just 20 days too young to vote this year. For him, that wasn’t an excuse to sit out the election. Mr. Kamin turned to poll working and first pitched in during the primaries in March. This November he’ll return, and likely send thousands of other young poll workers to voting stations.  

Partly motivated by his experience in March, Mr. Kamin helped found the Poll Hero Project, a nationwide drive to register poll workers for this year’s election. Their initial goal, says Ryan Schwieger, a senior at Princeton University and another co-founder, was to recruit 1,000 poll workers in the first month. They hit that number in a week, and have since added almost 30,000 more – mostly still in high school, and like Mr. Kamin, unable to vote themselves. 

Poll Hero’s work is at the vanguard of a countrywide call to action for young people to help run this year’s election. Even in a good year, the small army of election officials needed each November is hard to rally. Add in a pandemic, which disproportionately affects the older Americans who make up the majority of poll workers, and many feared a crisis. 

Yet even if some shortages still remain, the deluge of young people stepping up to take their place has been enormous – and may ripple into a new generation of poll workers civically engaged for years to come.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about my generation: We’re lazier, not connecting to the real world. We’re zombies to social media and our phones and stuff,” Mr. Kamin says. “But this has truly shown me that is just not at all true. There are so many people my age who are just looking for any opportunity to get involved.”

The heart of democracy

If there ever was a time to get involved in elections, it’s this year, says Quentin Palfrey, chairman of the Voter Protection Corps (VPC).

A national election requires about 115,000 polling places and 900,000 poll workers, he says. But since in a typical season some 60% of poll workers are age 60 or older, the people most likely to work the polls are also those most threatened by COVID-19. 

During the primaries, the pandemic led to mass shortages of poll workers in states like Georgia and Wisconsin – shuttering more than 90% of polling places in some locales. These closures forced tight bottlenecks and hourslong waits to vote. The result, says Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org,
was logistical disenfranchisement of voters who didn’t know where to vote or have the time to wait. 

There is no comprehensive data for American election officials, but research from the VPC and Carnegie Mellon University suggests that 485 counties in eight battleground states are still at a high risk for poll worker shortages. 

While absentee voting and voting by mail are now more available than ever, not everyone has or prefers that option, says Mr. Palfrey. Particularly for long-disenfranchised groups, he says, there’s a certain comfort in casting a ballot in person. 

And to do that, people need poll workers, says Rachael Cobb, chair of political science and legal studies at Suffolk University in Boston.

From answering questions to keeping records to reporting votes, these front-line election workers manage American democracy’s most important day from start to finish.

“The whole health and wellness of our democracy at the end of the day comes down to people filling out their ballots,” says Ms. Hailey. “When you go in person, poll workers are the people who are going to guide that experience.”

Answering the call of duty

A desire to experience that other side of elections brought Bree Baccaglini, a law student at Stanford University, to a four-hour poll worker training in 2018. In that informational monsoon, she learned how to troubleshoot the voting machines, handle ballots, and manage the human error bound to come. 

When she arrived at the polling place weeks later at 6 a.m., she entered one of the most rigorous civic educations of her life. 

“Elections are mammoth national events run by bajillions of individuals,” she says. “We view it as a rarefied process, but it’s really just a lot of normal people showing up to do their jobs.”

Ms. Baccaglini will return to work the polls this November, freshly motivated to play her part during the pandemic. Her sense of purpose – shared by thousands of other young people working the polls this November – hints at a rise in collective spirit among a group often viewed as civically apathetic. 

Of the more than 600,000 poll workers that the nationwide campaign Power the Polls has attracted this year, around 40% are under 35 and 65% are under 50, says Robert Brandon, president and CEO of Fair Elections Center, one of the campaign’s founding organizations.

Each of the many young poll workers interviewed for this story mentioned a desire to protect voting rights and more at-risk Americans who may need to stay at home. 

“Older and more immuno-vulnerable people should definitely not have to bear this burden,” says Ms. Baccaglini. 

The upshot is a new sense of collective engagement among some, brought to light by the pandemic and tense election. To steal a phrase, says Ms. Hailey of Vote.org, many younger Americans are not asking what the election can do for them. They’re asking what they can do for their election. 

Emily Luan, an adjunct professor who lives in Brooklyn, plans to work the polls for the first time this November. She doesn’t feel particularly inspired by the candidates this year, but she wants to be sure that anyone around her who wants to vote can vote. 

Anika Rice, who will work the polls even while working on her Ph.D. in geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes to engage with her community and help protect voting rights. 

Leah Rocketto, an editor at Woman’s Day in New York, is stepping up on Election Day just because she can. She feels privileged to be young, healthy, and employed during the pandemic. Why not use that privilege to help people vote? 

And then there’s Mr. Kamin, who will return to the polling place hoping for better weather this November. 

His first foray into election work let him witness some heartwarming moments: applause for first-time voters, civic excitement from new citizens, the grace of the older poll workers who remind him of his grandmother. He hopes for more such moments in the fall, and another chance to participate in the collective effort of Election Day.

“For people like me especially who cannot vote, it just feels good to make an impact,” he says. “And you’re making an impact on hundreds of people instead of just casting one ballot.”

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The pandemic upends debate on migration

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Since March, the pandemic has not only shut national borders, but has also led to fresh thinking about issues of migration across borders. In many countries, the absence of new migrants has made the heart grow fonder of them.

In Canada, which ranked as the most-accepting country for migrants in 2019, the flow of immigrants has slowed to a trickle. This has caused the government to plan for 351,000 new permanent residents next year, the highest number in a century.

Perhaps the most welcome debate over migration is in Europe. Last month, the European Commission proposed a new policy that would reshuffle the burdens of migration among its 27 member states. The aim, says commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is to remind Europeans that migration “defined our societies, enriched our cultures, and shaped many of our lives.

”The pandemic has made daily life for many seem inhospitable. The best antidote could be in making the world more hospitable, by broadening the welcome mat for migrants when borders reopen.

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The pandemic upends debate on migration

Since March, the pandemic has not only shut national borders, but has also led to fresh thinking about issues of migration across borders. In many countries, the absence of new migrants has made the heart grow fonder for them.

In Canada, which ranked as the most-accepting country for migrants in 2019, the flow of immigrants has slowed to a trickle. This has caused the government to plan for 351,000 new permanent residents next year, the highest number in a century. 

Australia has seen its net migration fall to negative levels for the first time since World War II, sparking debate about the impact of having fewer migrants in the economy. 

In the United States, where a drop in migration was influenced by both COVID-19 and the restrictive policies of the Trump administration, a Gallup Poll finds Americans want more immigration rather than less for the first time since 1965. In the election campaign, only 15% of voters see immigration as an issue. Just two years ago, it was the most important issue. “Public support for immigration shows far less of a partisan divide,” the Gallup survey found.

Perhaps the most welcome debate over migration is in Europe. Last month, the European Commission proposed a new policy that would reshuffle the burdens of migration between its 27 member states. The aim, says EC President Ursula von der Leyen, is to remind Europeans that migration “defined our societies, enriched our cultures, and shaped many of our lives.” That point was made clear during the pandemic by the spotlight put on the outsize role of migrants in “essential” jobs.

Ever since 2015, when Europe was flooded with refugees from Africa and the Middle East, the European Union has sought a cohesive migration policy. At first it tried to impose quotas on member states to accept asylum-seekers. The new plan is more genial, offering them alternative ways to contribute. Finding a compromise is critical if the EU wants to save its so-called Schengen system of border-free internal travel once restrictions on travel are lifted after the pandemic.

Countries that rethink their immigration policies now might be better positioned to use migration in recovering from the pandemic. “People on the move can be part of the solution,” said António Vitorino, head of the International Organization for Migration. He hopes Europe can “reimagine the governance of migration and human mobility as safe, orderly, inclusive and human rights centered.” 

The pandemic has made daily life for many seem inhospitable. The best antidote could be in making the world more hospitable, by broadening the welcome mat for migrants when borders reopen.

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.

God’s guidance led me

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Wherever we are, God’s intelligence and wisdom are here to help us find our way – as a woman experienced quite literally when her GPS failed her in an unfamiliar remote area.

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1. God’s guidance led me

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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My GPS was definitely not working. I had been driving for hours trying to find a particular conference center in a remote area far from home, but I was only getting farther into “nowhere.” It was also getting late, and it had already been a long day.

I turned earnestly to God, seeking a solution. Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the textbook of Christian Science, explains that God is Mind, and that each of us is in reality a spiritual idea of this Mind. This means we can never be cut off from divine intelligence and needed guidance.

As I prayed, I felt inspired to pause my quest and to head in a different direction. When I passed a restaurant that was still open even though it was so late, I stopped. As I walked to the front of the restaurant, three people said joyfully, “There you are, Rosalie!”

They were also attending the meeting the next day, and they knew how to get to the place I’d spent hours searching for.

In a short time, I was happily ensconced in my room at the conference center, rejoicing in the fact that my prayers had led me to such reliable guides to help me navigate the now very dark roads. My frustration at not having been able to find my way earlier was erased, and the weariness I’d been feeling was lifted. I was so grateful for God’s answer to my prayer.

Reliance on divine Mind has helped me find my way in all aspects of my life, including facing health and work difficulties. As the Bible declares, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

I love that concept of God’s joy in and love for each of us, His spiritual offspring. No one, no matter what their religion, age, or background, is left out of this joy.

The Bible makes this clear through accounts of how Christ Jesus and his earliest followers were willing to help and heal a variety of people, including some who were not well thought of. They consistently relied on God for direction.

In one case, a disciple named Philip felt very specific guidance from God that led him to a transformational encounter with a prominent Ethiopian. An angel, a spiritual intuition from divine Mind, impelled him to go to a particular desert road. Once there he saw the man sitting in a chariot, reading, and he felt divinely prompted to go alongside.

The man was yearning for guidance to understand words prophesying the advent of Jesus that had been spoken by the prophet Isaiah, which Philip was able to explain to him. The man’s heart was touched, and at his request Philip baptized him. As they emerged from the water, “the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39, Revised Standard Version).

In comparison to this example of God’s guidance, resolving my navigation problem was small. But the beauty of God’s love is that it is there for all of us, no matter what is needed.

In fact, Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need. It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good” (p. 494).

This is true for each of us, no matter who or where we are, or how minor or significant our need. We can make the mental shift from ruminating on a problem to identifying ourselves as the spiritual ideas of divine Mind, Love, whose divine intelligence is expressed in us. Instead of relying on a material view of things – going in circles, as I was that night – we can turn to Love’s infinite view. This lifts pressure, confusion, and so on. Divine Love is all light, all intelligence. Love’s intuitions, or angel thoughts, guide us to the right steps.

Divine Love doesn’t know about street signs, stoplights, or chariots. But this divine Mind provides us with intelligence and insight, as well as confidence and peace, each day. Under Love’s care, we gain guidance and joy. And this brings practical help and solutions during trials.

Viewfinder

Upcycling

Carl Recine/Reuters
A new Banksy artwork is seen in Rothesay Avenue, Nottingham, England, Oct. 17, 2020.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

I hope you enjoyed starting off your week with today's stories. Join us tomorrow to meet Lina Zedriga, a lawyer who thought she was done with politics. Instead, she is now deputy to Bobi Wine, whose campaign to upset Uganda's long-ruling president in February elections is sparking excitement.

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