2021
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Monitor Daily Podcast

June 04, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

On Tiananmen anniversary, Hong Kong’s powerful message

Ann Scott Tyson
Staff writer

Sometimes the most powerful messages are not shouted but whispered. They are hinted at, or even left unspoken, yet still conveyed.

Hong Kongers proved this today. 

For 30 years, the city held the biggest annual commemoration for those who died in China’s June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests centered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. A huge candlelight vigil attended by thousands in Victoria Park, it marked the only large-scale Tiananmen memorial on Chinese soil.

Over the past year, authorities have imposed harsh new measures, such as an anti-subversion law, aimed at snuffing out such events – and, it seems, public memories of Tiananmen in Hong Kong. They have jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy activists for attending earlier Tiananmen events, altered or censored textbooks and public broadcasts, and earlier this week closed a small museum dedicated to the movement.

Yet in the face of thousands of patrolling police and a ban on the Victoria Park gathering, Hong Kongers found subtle ways to remember those who fought for political freedoms and perished on June 4, 1989.

Hundreds flocked to churches for commemorative masses, promoted on posters with vague but nonetheless searing statements such as, “Let’s not forget history.”

Scattered around the city, groups gathered, some wearing black, the traditional color of Hong Kong protesters. In Mongkok and the shopping district of Causeway Bay, once locations of huge pro-democracy protests, scores of people beamed their cellphone lights and lit candles after dark.

“It’s more or less in Hong Kong people’s DNA now,” lawyer and organizer Chow Hang Tung told the BBC earlier. “I am willing to pay the price for fighting for democracy,” said Ms. Chow. She was arrested today in Hong Kong. 

Tiananmen activist Han Dongfang, who was almost killed in the Beijing crackdown 32 years ago, spoke of hope and light as he relaxed on a bench in Victoria Park today, despite the presence of dozens of police. 

Dressed in black, he told Reuters, “Today, I just feel like being here.”

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Critical race theory: Who gets to decide what is history?

A tug of war over the teaching of American history and race is playing out in state legislatures. Given the chasm between views on either side, what is the best path forward?

Ann
Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/AP
Students fill the gallery at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise April 26, 2021. Conservative politicians in 16 states have introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting concepts they cite as divisive and that they attribute to critical race theory. So far, bills have passed into law in Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

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A culture war is heating up just as students and teachers are starting to break for summer.

Conservative politicians in 16 states have introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting the teaching of concepts they cite as divisive and often attribute to critical race theory, a decades-old idea that considers the ways race and racism influence American politics, culture, and law. So far, laws have been passed in Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, with another awaiting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

Those in favor of the new laws want more restrictions as classroom discussions and hastily implemented anti-racist lesson plans have taken hold in the past year. Those opposed say rules could have a chilling effect on conversation about racism and race in schools just when it is needed most.

“The debate isn’t about whether there’s been racism; it’s about what racism has meant and what it’s done to America. Is it something that’s been progressively overcome as we move toward fulfilling our national ideals, or is it something that’s been a constant force in society, making society itself irredeemably racist?” says Jonathan Zimmerman, author of “Whose America?” “What we need is for each side to have the courage to let that debate happen in our classrooms.” 

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Critical race theory: Who gets to decide what is history?

Kenya Minott and Robin Steenman are both concerned about the national uproar around critical race theory, but for different reasons. 

For Dr. Minott, a consultant in Houston who provides anti-racism training, the recent bill passed by Texas lawmakers is a frightening effort to discourage conversations about systemic racism that could lead to better racial justice. It targets what the politicians say are concepts found in critical race theory, a decades-old idea that considers the ways race and racism influence American politics, culture, and law.

“One of the things this legislation and others around the country is causing is keeping the silence [about racism] ... and that’s harmful for all of us but most particularly students of color,” she says. 

Ms. Steenman, who lives in Franklin, Tennessee, and runs a local chapter of the national group Moms for Liberty, has a different view. She sees critical race theory as an effort to sow strife among Americans and overturn racial progress. 

“It seeks to divide along racial lines,” she says. “When you start bringing up critical race theory and bringing up skin color, you ... go back to neo-racism and neo-segregation and it’s a tragedy.” 

A culture war is heating up just as students and teachers are starting to break for summer. Stoking the divisiveness is a push by conservative politicians to focus on critical race theory and whether its tenets are adversely affecting school climate and should be prohibited. Arguments for and against the approach do not always track precisely along political, racial, or ideological lines. In general, those in favor of the new laws want more restrictions as classroom discussions and hastily implemented anti-racist lesson plans have taken hold in the past year. Those opposed say statehouse rules could have a chilling effect on conversation about racism and race in schools just when it is needed most. 

A key step toward finding middle ground will be if opponents can agree to “let kids in on the secret that we disagree,” and allow teachers to present both sides of the debate in class, says Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of the history of education at the University of Pennsylvania. 

“The debate isn’t about whether there’s been racism; it’s about what racism has meant and what it’s done to America. Is it something that’s been progressively overcome as we move toward fulfilling our national ideals, or is it something that’s been a constant force in society, making society itself irredeemably racist?” says Professor Zimmerman, author of “Whose America?: Culture Wars in the Public Schools.” “What we need is for each side to have the courage to let that debate happen in our classrooms.”

Nationally, the discussion of race shows no sign of abating. This week the United States is remembering the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre – one of the worst incidents of race-related violence in the country’s history. It’s an event that Americans by and large learned little about in school, as actor Tom Hanks wrote in an opinion piece Friday. Former Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in on the subject in a speech on Thursday calling systemic racism a “left-wing myth.” 

To date, conservative politicians in 16 states have introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting concepts they cite as divisive and often attribute to critical race theory. So far, bills have passed into law in Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. A Texas bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. Many school board meetings and elections are seeing robust parent turnout, spurred by disputes, in part, over critical race theory and anti-racist curricula. 

Of the bills introduced or passed so far, three out of the 16 include the words “critical race theory.” Most of the bills do not seek to ban teaching it as an academic subject, but instead often prohibit teaching that individuals are “inherently” racist based on their sex or race, for example. The Dallas Independent School District is considering legal action in response to the legislation in Texas, which it opposed

Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News/AP
Supporters and counterprotesters gather on the steps outside the Capitol in Salt Lake City on May 19, 2021, to address Utah lawmakers' plans to pass resolutions encouraging a ban of critical race theory concepts.

The change is partly in response to efforts initiated by school districts in the past year after the murder of George Floyd in police custody, such as diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives; anti-bias training; and anti-racist curricula. Schools are poorly implementing well-intentioned efforts to address racism, some critics say. They point to instances such as third grade students reportedly ranking themselves on their power and privilege, or training materials that suggest focusing on the “right answer” in math is a sign of white supremacy culture. 

“The vast majority of parents think kids should do homework, get grades, show their work ... because these are healthy, structurally responsible, sensible things to do,” says Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Conservative groups seek to associate critical race theory with Marxism and The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic effort to rethink slavery’s role in America’s founding. 

With no national standardized history or social studies curricula, and no national data collection, it’s not clear how many teachers across the county’s 13,000 school districts are teaching critical race theory as an academic concept, or how many districts are implementing anti-racist practices. A nationally representative survey by EdWeek Research Center in August 2020 found that 81% of educators identify themselves as “anti-racist/abolitionist” educators and 84% are very or somewhat willing to teach or support the implementation of anti-racist curricula. 

“There’s a fear among classroom teachers,” says Marvin Lynn, dean of the college of education at Portland State University and co-founder of the Critical Race Studies in Education Association. He says teachers now wonder, “Can I talk about race, gender, difficult parts of American history, or do I need to ignore that?”

Ms. Steenman, in Tennessee, says that “there are lots of lessons to learn in history,” including slavery and Jim Crow. But she worries about where the emphasis falls. “There’s mistakes that we’ve made, but there are also redemptive elements. When you only teach the mistakes and not redemption, [students] will be ashamed of their country,” she says. 

What is critical race theory?

Critical race theory and anti-racist education policies are being misrepresented, say those who oppose the laws, noting that beliefs such as the idea that the theory teaches that individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, or ethnicity are not part of instruction. 

Complicating the situation is that people are following different definitions, says Richard Delgado, one of the founders of critical race theory, an academic framework developed by legal scholars in the U.S. in the 1970s in response to what some saw as a stalling of civil rights gains. 

“I’m concerned that it’s becoming a conservative talking point that’s not based on any sort of a deep knowledge or interest in critical race theory as a scholarly movement,” says Professor Delgado, who teaches at the University of Alabama School of Law and co-wrote “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.”

Basic tenets of critical race theory include the premises that racism is “ordinary, not aberrational,” that it “is difficult to address or cure because it is not acknowledged,” and that “race and races are products of social thought and relations,” according to Professor Delgado’s book, co-written by Jean Stefancic. Critical race theorists are frustrated with principles such as colorblindness and believe “only aggressive, color-conscious efforts to change the way things are will do much to ameliorate misery.”

Opponents of the legislation like Dr. Lynn say it’s already creating confusion for teachers and students – and stifling discussion.

Oklahoma City Community College has canceled a summer course on race and ethnicity pending review of the state’s new legislation, they note, with the news of the cancellation coming a few days before the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre. They also point overall to evidence suggesting that educators can struggle with bias, including recent news reports of a teacher allegedly penning white supremacist articles, and point to ongoing inequities in education such as higher discipline rates for students of color.

“We need to talk about it” 

While divisions over the issue remain significant, some people argue for continuing discussion.

Yvonne Shen, a 14-year-old student in Boise, Idaho, recently attended the debate over Idaho House Bill 377 with several friends. Together, they started the Idaho AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders) Youth Alliance in March after an increase in anti-Asian attacks. Yvonne was intrigued by the legislative debate, but disappointed by the bill’s passage. 

“I feel like talking about racism and getting the conversation started is something that everyone should agree on,” says Yvonne. 

She points to an example when a classmate at the start of the pandemic urged peers not to go near her because she’s from China. “I was kind of shocked,” she says. “In order to face [racism] we need to talk about it ourselves so we can be actively fighting it.” She suggests using a more inclusive history curriculum that better represents Asian Americans and other underrepresented groups. 

Discussing specific books and elements of curricula can help embattled school communities move forward, says Dr. Hess. “Everything gets more divisive when it’s abstract,” but there’s more clarity if people come together for a concrete conversation about materials and incorporating multiple perspectives, he says. 

He has found agreement with others on areas such as teaching a “full, unflinching” history of America, examining disparate rates of school discipline and policing by racial groups, expanding the narrative of whose voices are included in historical accounts, and expanding access to advanced-level classes. 

For Professor Delgado, activities that bring people together across racial lines are an important way to foster common humanity and make progress, even though he also believes racism is found at a systemic level in institutions and not solely among individuals. 

“I think it happens through everyday events,” such as youth sports, he says. “With exposure, people become comfortable with diversity and stop attributing evil motives to each other.”

Ashley Lipscomb, a former middle school teacher who co-founded the New Jersey-based Institute for Anti-Racist Education last summer, says she’s “struggling” to find common ground in the heated critical race theory debate, but hopes she and others can practice listening and loving. 

“I wonder if the common ground, when we think about it in schools, is wanting the best for students, for every student, not just some,” says Ms. Lipscomb, who also serves as a youth minister in her church. “We can go beyond whatever fears about what’s being taught and listen to those who say, ‘I need you to hear me; I’ve been hurt for years.’ The common ground may be active listening.”  

The Explainer

An Indigenous children’s grave unearths Canada’s grim history

The discovery of the remains of more than 200 children at a former school in British Columbia could highlight Canada’s abuse of Indigenous peoples the way George Floyd’s killing did to police brutality against Black Americans.

Dennis Owen/Reuters
Kamloops residents and First Nations peoples gather to listen to drummers and singers at a memorial in front of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, on May 31, 2021, after the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were found at the site last week.

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The discovery of an unmarked grave holding the remains of more than 200 Indigenous children, including one possibly as young as age 3, has shaken Canada. The burial place was found using a ground-penetrating radar at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia.

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious institutions intended to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children into white culture. A network of 130 residential schools was established across the country beginning in the 1870s, and the last one didn’t close its doors until the mid-1990s. The schools were rife with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Canada committed “cultural genocide” in removing 150,000 Indigenous children from their homes. So far 4,100 children are known to have died in the schools.

But even if the statistics have been known, the current discovery has still been devastating. “We are a country that’s supposed to be the leader in human rights, equality, and justice for all, and embracing diversity to the point where that’s our motto,” says Angela White, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society in British Columbia. “And in one fell swoop, that perception was shattered to the core.”

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An Indigenous children’s grave unearths Canada’s grim history

The discovery of an unmarked grave holding the remains of more than 200 Indigenous children, including one possibly as young as age 3, has shaken Canada. The burial place was found using a ground-penetrating radar at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the preliminary finding near the grounds of what was once the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church and was one of Canada’s largest.

What happened to these children?

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious institutions intended to deal with what was once called the “Indian problem,” by forcibly assimilating Indigenous children into white culture. In the 19th century, Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, is quoted in historical records as saying, “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools, where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.” A network of 130 residential schools was established across the country beginning in the 1870s, and the last one didn’t close its doors until the mid-1990s.

For over a century, children of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples – the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis – were forcibly removed from their homes. Not only were the children banned from speaking their languages and forced to convert to Christianity, but the schools were also rife with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse – and in extreme cases, even death. Survivors have long said that many of their classmates simply disappeared, their actual fates unknown.

Were these sorts of graves a surprise?

They shouldn’t have been. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded that Canada committed “cultural genocide” in removing 150,000 Indigenous children from their homes, and the report’s fourth volume is titled “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.” So far 4,100 children are known to have died, but many estimate the number to be higher.

But even if the statistics have been known, the discovery has been devastating, touching off vigils and commemorations across the country. For survivors, it has resurfaced tragic memories, many of which have been suppressed, says Angela White, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society in British Columbia.

It’s also shocking for the rest of Canada, she says. Much like the video of the murder of George Floyd catapulted society to better understand police brutality against Black Americans, this finding gives proof of the genocidal policies of colonialization. “We are a country that’s supposed to be the leader in human rights, equality, and justice for all, and embracing diversity to the point where that’s our motto,” says Ms. White. “And in one fell swoop, that perception was shattered to the core.”

How is Canada responding?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who came into office with reconciliation with Indigenous groups as a key promise, called the discovery of the children’s bodies “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”

But for many this is not about the past, but about the present life of Indigenous communities across the country. Residential schools may be closed but their legacy can still be felt, most directly in the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous children in foster care. “We’re living in an era where there are more Indigenous children in [foster] care than there ever were in residential schools,” says John Borrows, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous law at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

Despite flags flying at half-staff and outrage expressed by Canadian officials, many Indigenous communities fault the government for lofty rhetoric that does not match reality. For example, while the government has awarded $3.23 billion (Canadian; U.S.$2.67 billion) in compensation to survivors of residential schools, it is also involved in a lengthy and costly fight against survivors from a notorious former residential school in Ontario.

With this most recent finding, the government is under pressure to move faster on the 94 Calls to Action issued by the TRC. The government said this week it would distribute $27 million to help Indigenous communities locate the remains of other victims of residential schooling.

In polarizing election, Peru hears echoes of the past

Peru’s polarizing presidential election is calling up violent memories of the past, despite nearly two decades of peace and reconciliation. Overcoming these divides is key to putting the nation on a positive path forward.

Ann

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Peru’s presidential runoff is kicking up dust of its bloody, not-so-distant past, as a right-wing candidate faces off against a far-left politician. On the table are the very issues that have torn Peru apart since the 1980s – terrorism, corruption, inequality – supercharged by a pandemic that has battered the economy and sharply increased poverty.

But the left-right divisions played up during the campaign – that a leftist like former teacher Pedro Castillo will put Peru on a path like Venezuela’s, or that Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a now-imprisoned former president, will lead Peru with an autocratic hand – have overpowered actual policy proposals. “What concerns me is that people could come to the conclusion that things won’t change with elections,” says Giovanna Peñaflor Guerra, a political analyst.

If the country cannot move on quickly from the bruising election, with the losing party promptly acknowledging the victor, observers say Peru’s challenges could deepen, with possible repeats of the drama of the past few years: presidential impeachments, shuttered legislatures, and instability.

“The polarization is so extreme that people will end up voting for the candidate who scares them less. ... [It] could create even more instability,” says Luis Benavente, executive director of a Lima polling firm.

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In polarizing election, Peru hears echoes of the past

Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters
Peru's right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori and socialist candidate Pedro Castillo wave at the end of their debate ahead of the June 6 runoff election, in Arequipa, Peru, May 30, 2021.

Peruvian voters face a stark choice when they cast their ballots in the June 6 presidential runoff between a left-wing rural school teacher and the daughter of a right-wing imprisoned president. Analysts worry the sharp divisions emerging in this neck-and-neck campaign could spell a bumpy road ahead for Peru, regardless of the victor. 

The campaign has dredged up the country’s troubled history of corruption, inequality, and terrorism, creating an eery feeling of déjà vu from one of Peru’s most turbulent modern periods. That sense of unease has been supercharged by the pandemic, which has exposed government failures to improve social services, despite two decades of economic growth.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Peru suffered both guerrilla warfare and government-backed human rights abuses, in attempts to control the violence. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported in 2003 that nearly 70,000 people died or disappeared in political violence, with two Marxist guerrilla groups responsible for half those deaths – primarily, the Shining Path. Just last month the Shining Path was blamed for the massacre of 16 people in Peru’s central jungle. Stereotypes still link leftists with the nation’s violent past, and Keiko Fujimori, the candidate on the right, hints that terrorism would come surging back if her opponent wins. Candidate Pedro Castillo, on the left, says his opponent is little more than a corrupt crime boss, ready to line the pockets of wealthy people at the expense of poor people.

The name-calling and imagery of the past not only spark fear on both sides, but has observers increasingly worried that polarization could deepen Peru’s more recent political crisis. The past few years have seen a revolving-door presidency, and if it continued, would make healing divides all the more difficult.

“The polarization is so extreme that people will end up voting for the candidate who scares them less. ... [It] could create even more instability,” says Luis Benavente, executive director of Vox Populi Consultoría, a consulting and polling firm in Lima.

AP
Supporters of Popular Force party presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori hold a photo of her father, former President Alberto Fujimori, at her closing campaign rally in Lima, Peru, June 3, 2021.

In-and-out presidents

Peru’s politics have been in disarray for years. Of the country’s most recent democratically elected presidents, Alberto Fujimori – Ms. Fujimori’s father – is in jail for human rights violations, and two are under house arrest for corruption. One ex-president is waiting to stand trial on a money laundering case, and a fifth, Alan García, killed himself in 2019 to avoid arrest in a corruption investigation.

Last fall, Peru had three presidents over the course of one week. Former President Martín Vizcarra was impeached and his successor lasted only a few days, forced out after pro-democracy rallies. Interim President Francisco Sagasti took office last November, with his term slated to expire at the end of July. Still, Congress has held two censure votes to oust him, the last one in early May.

Supreme Court judges, members of Congress, mayors, governors, and even Ms. Fujimori have been jailed in corruption investigations. She’s alleged to have received more than $17 million in undeclared contributions during her 2011 presidential run, charges she calls political persecution.

The pandemic has made corruption all the more real for Peruvians. Hospitals lacked beds and oxygen when COVID-19 arrived, despite administrations’ assertions that investment in health and social services was strong. Remote students and workers struggled with patchy telecom infrastructure, and in-person classes aren’t expected to resume until March 2022.

Public frustration was spurred, in part, by the idea that 20 years of growth had supposedly established a robust middle class. Yet over the past year, poverty levels increased to 30%, and unemployment more than doubled, remaining above 15%. Inequality, which fueled much of the insurgency of the 1980s and ’90s, has worsened. And more than 180,000 Peruvians have died of COVID-19, the highest death rate in the world.

The Castillo and Fujimori campaigns have different ideas about dealing with the pandemic – and just about everything else – but key messages about growing the economy, and improving public services like education and water, have been lost in the sea of political attacks.

The lack of focus on the content of each candidate’s platform could have long-term consequences, says Giovanna Peñaflor Guerra, a political analyst who runs the Imasen marketing firm.

“What concerns me is that people could come to the conclusion that things won’t change with elections,” she says. That could lead to less political participation – and less faith in democracy as a whole.

Mr. Castillo proposes increasing the role of the state in the economy, giving it a much bigger role in natural resource extraction, energy production, and industry. His government says it would negotiate higher taxes for mining and other sectors, like electricity. He rejects allegations his government would confiscate private property.

Ms. Fujimori would also like more revenue from natural resources, but her plan calls for voluntary contributions. She says she would expand social programs and ramp up infrastructure, paying for programs with more thorough tax collection, not higher taxes.

Guadalupe Pardo/AP
Free Peru party presidential candidate Pedro Castillo carries a large, mock pencil during his closing campaign rally in Lima, Peru, June 3, 2021. The former rural school teacher will face rival candidate Keiko Fujimori in a June 6 election.

More political battles ahead? 

The tone of the campaign has split the electorate. Ms. Fujimori’s backers worry that a Castillo victory would make Peru look more like crisis-ridden Venezuela. Mr. Castillo’s supporters worry Ms. Fujimori’s embrace of the status quo would mean continued corruption – and possibly a throwback to her father’s authoritarianism.

A recent poll by the firm CPI has Ms. Fujimori leading by double-digits in Lima. But Mr. Castillo is up, and by huge margins, in other zones, with close to 80% support in the southern and central highlands. Gonzalo Banda, who teaches political science in the southern city of Arequipa, says the groundswell of support for Mr. Castillo is linked to an undercurrent of racism and classism in the election.

“People voting for Castillo feel as though the attacks against him [and] the way he speaks or dresses, are [reflective of] the way they are often treated,” Mr. Banda says. Mr. Castillo typically dons an oversize cowboy hat and has arrived at campaign events on horseback. “They say he is ridiculed for not what he says, but how he says it.”

That’s why Hugo González, a small-business owner in Arequipa, is in Mr. Castillo’s camp. “I’m voting for Castillo not for his policies, but because he has been mistreated by the people with power,” he says.

But for Fernando Chávez, a sales executive in Lima, a vote for Ms. Fujimori is a way to rise above divisive messaging. He says he will vote for her simply in order to stop Mr. Castillo, someone who he says represents a return to past, failed ideas. “I don’t want Peru to be the next Cuba or Venezuela. Castillo’s message is one of division,” he says.

The polarization of this election could create gridlock just as the country is emerging from the second wave of the pandemic, says Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, a political science professor in Lima. 

“I fear that the loser may not accept the results if they are close. The polarization has reached levels of irresponsibility,” he says.

The best outcome would be a clear victory by either candidate, says Mr. Benavente. And, while they might not like it, the losing team needs to promptly recognize the winning ticket.

If not, he says foreign investment will likely diminish and unemployment will remain high. He and other pollsters caution that a protracted fight, with cries of fraud, could even affect the COVID-19 vaccination effort that is just starting to show results.

“The next government takes over with the coffers empty, but with a need to spend on the pandemic and reactivation [of the economy],” Mr. Benavente says.

“This will not happen if the political battles continue after the voting.”

A couch is not a home: Where the hidden homeless get housing vouchers

Being housed can be far from being at home. In Boston, a new aid effort recognizes the vulnerability of “doubled-up” parents and children – a couch-surfing homeless population traditionally overlooked by subsidized housing programs.

Ann
Jingnan Peng/The Christian Science Monitor
Milesly Fernandez (left) and her two young children were displaced by an earthquake in Puerto Rico in January 2020. They relocated to the Boston area, where they had to “double up” with her brother. Here, the family is shown in their one-room space in March. A new Boston program recognizing couch-surfing families as homeless provided Ms. Fernandez with a voucher for her own apartment.

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When a parent runs out of money for rent it’s their social capital they often spend to stay off the streets – asking to couch surf with a relative or acquaintance willing to open doors, clear out a bedroom, put up with extra kids, and violate lease terms and occupancy codes.

It’s called “doubling up,” and 7-year-old Cristynn was part of that population most of her life until her mom, Taylor López, was placed in a subsidized apartment of her own last January through a new Boston aid effort recognizing and serving couch-surfing homeless families.

Doubled-up families account for three-quarters of the more than 1 million homeless students in U.S. public schools, according to federal government data. And while this growing population is recognized as homeless by the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the agency that funds housing assistance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, does not consider them homeless.

The Boston program, launched when the pandemic forced shelters to reduce occupancy, has housed 300 families, using public schools to connect doubled-up families to housing agencies with vouchers. Minneapolis and Chicago have created similar collaborations.

Such programs are “critical and long overdue,” says Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection. “It’s a model that should be replicated across the country.”

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A couch is not a home: Where the hidden homeless get housing vouchers

Seven-year-old Cristynn was scared to be left in her bedroom alone. She followed her mother, Taylor López, everywhere in their new apartment. Ms. López had an idea why. Homeless since birth, Cristynn had always stuck by her side as the two bounced from one crowded apartment to the next, huddling on a sofa at night, living by the grace – and the rules – of other families.

“We probably shared space in other people’s homes for so long that she had no idea what to do with her own space, her own toys, her own TV,” says Ms. López, a young mother working delivery gigs to supplement her unemployment benefits. 

“I would tell her this is her home, and she gets to do what she wants here.”

Ms. López and Cristynn moved into their new Boston-area two-bedroom apartment in January, thanks to a major Boston effort to recognize and house a long overlooked homeless population: “doubled-up” families, a homeless group that falls between the cracks of housing services in their last-ditch effort to stay off the street by couch surfing.

Their circumstances outwardly invisible, people sheltering in others’ homes are believed to be a majority of the homeless population in the United States, says Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Couch-surfing families account for three-quarters of the more than 1 million homeless students in U.S. public schools, according to data from the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program. Yet this growing population is traditionally shut out of the housing aid system, which regards them as less vulnerable because, technically, they are housed.

The Boston program, which has housed 300 families over the past year, is part of a growing number of efforts nationwide to reach this underserved population, family advocates say. 

“There’s this misconception that [doubling up] is more stable, more secure,” says Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a national advocacy group for homeless children. “Very often, people who are doubled up have the exact same problems, even more so, than somebody in a shelter, somebody in a motel.”

Indeed, there’s inconsistent recognition of doubled-up families as homeless. While the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services consider couch surfing a form of homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which funds government housing assistance programs, does not. In most jurisdictions, doubled-up families do not qualify for programs such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act, a bipartisan bill recently re-introduced to Congress, expands HUD’s definition of homelessness to include doubling up. 

Boston began serving doubled-up families during the early stage of the pandemic in spring 2020, when shelters reduced capacity to stem contagion. The city designated 500 subsidized housing vouchers for doubled-up families with children enrolled in public schools. 

Jingnan Peng/The Christian Science Monitor
Milesly Fernandez’s two children attended school remotely, in March, in the cramped room the family lived in.

Eligible families are identified by each school’s “homeless liaison” and referred to FamilyAid Boston, a homeless service group that helps them secure a voucher and a new home. Families are typically housed in under a year, about half the time it takes for those in shelters to obtain housing, says Larry Seamans, president of FamilyAid Boston.

Minneapolis and Chicago have created similar collaborations between public schools and local housing authorities. Such efforts are “critical and long overdue,” says Ms. Duffield. “It’s a model that should be replicated across the country.”

Boston’s “miracle” voucher

The voucher was the miracle Milesly Fernandez says she prayed for. 

Displaced by an earthquake in Puerto Rico, she and her two children arrived in Quincy, Massachusetts, in February 2020. They moved in with Ms. Fernandez’s brother, who has a family of four, thinking they could get into public housing in a few months.

The waitlists turned out to be 5-10 years long. Then the pandemic derailed Ms. Fernandez’s plan to work and learn English. The three spent most of their time in a small room crammed with furniture, sharing a single sofa bed. 

With four kids in the household taking online classes, the internet failed often. Ms. Fernandez says her 7-year-old daughter cried every night, asking when she could have her own room. She never told her children how long the waitlists were, but instead, she says in Spanish, “I told them that at any time, God would perform a miracle. He would bring us a house for the three of us, even if it was little.” The miracle arrived last fall, when her children’s school connected her with FamilyAid Boston, which helped Ms. Fernandez find a three-bedroom subsidized apartment. 

But weeks before her move-in date, the housing manager of her brother’s discovered the extra tenants. Ms. Fernandez and her children had to move into a shelter for the last stretch of their wait. 

Doubling up is “an untenable lifeboat,” says Mr. Seamans of FamilyAid Boston, because the living arrangement often violates the lease and city sanitary codes, risking eviction for both hosts and guests. Overcrowding also can breed conflict that can jeopardize the guest family’s stay, he says. 

Most families that end up in the Massachusetts shelter system were previously doubled up, says Judith Cohen, a housing specialist at FamilyAid Boston. 

“One big misconception is that doubled-up families are a different population from families in shelter, families in cars,” says Ms. Duffield. “That’s just where they are on that particular day.”

And, says Claas Ehlers, CEO of Family Promise, a national homeless services group, “Doubling up is not qualitatively better than other homeless situations. It can be in some circumstances, and in others it can be worse.”

Research shows that doubling up harms children’s well-being and academic outcomes much the way other forms of homelessness do. 

In her years of homelessness, says Ms. López, the closest feeling of having her own space was actually in a shared two-bedroom shelter apartment, not when she and Cristynn stayed with relatives and acquaintances. 

Doubling up, says Ms. Lopez, is like “you don’t really have a voice, because it’s not your own home.”

Sleeping in others’ living rooms meant the two could not have their own schedule or space. They could only go to bed after everyone else. And as soon as the others got up, they had to clear out the sofa they slept on. Quality sleep was rare: Ms. López often had to sit up, so Cristynn could “really lie down.” Cristynn rarely had quiet time to do homework, and her grades suffered. 

Then there were the times when two families clashed on how to discipline the kids, and the kids protested: “Why am I treated differently?” Ms. López sometimes had to take Cristynn outside to “lower the tension.”

Couch surfing can be traumatic

Ms. Duffield says the uncertainty in doubling up is “a traumatic stress” in itself: “You don’t know when someone’s going to tell you to leave. You can’t protect your kids from what else is going on in that environment.” 

But still, in early 2020, Ms. López and Cristynn had to leave a friend’s place, because a third desperate family moved in, making it 10 people in a three-bedroom apartment. So the two bounced between two apartments amid the pandemic, staying a few days at a time at each place so as not to overwhelm their hosts. Cristynn missed many school days. And, Ms. López says she was physically attacked once at one of the apartments.

Boston’s 500 vouchers is “a drop in the bucket,” says Mr. Seamans. The city’s public schools identified 2,000 couch-surfing students in the 2019-20 school year, and family homelessness is poised to spike once pandemic safety net programs phase out. 

But, he adds, “We’re hopeful that as new vouchers come online through [the Biden administration’s] American Rescue Plan, the city and the housing authority will continue to look at this population.”

Today, Cristynn is no longer scared of her room. “Now she feels at home, and she wants to be home,” says her mom, who is also getting used to the space that allowed her to cook her first big family meal, ever, at Easter.

In Pictures

How Venetian artisans marry tradition and innovation

Are tradition and modernity always at odds? For the artisans of Venice, adherence to centuries-old guild specifications is paramount. But these glass blowers, bookbinders, and shipbuilders constantly seek to improve their crafts as well.

Ann
Avedis Hadjian
Stefano Coluccio specializes in making mirrors in the style popularized by Jan van Eyck in his 1434 painting, “The Arnolfini Portrait.” The first mirrors in Venice were produced in the 14th century.

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Subtle, yet significant. Those are the ways to describe the innovations pursued over the centuries by Venice’s glass blowers, bookbinders, and shipbuilders, whose Old World attention to detail and use of quality materials still resonate today.

In fact, the constant pursuit of innovation is a bit of a tradition itself. It’s how, in 1574, workers at the Arsenale shipyard assembled a galley in an hour – complete with ropes, sails, oars, and armament – with an assembly-line process that predated Henry Ford’s by more than 300 years.

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How Venetian artisans marry tradition and innovation

The crafts of glassmaking, bookbinding, and gondola-building have changed little over the centuries in this city, which is celebrating its 1,600th anniversary this year. Artisans ply their skills according to precise guild specifications that predate the Italian Renaissance. 

“There are rules that govern color combinations and proportions,” says Stefano Coluccio, explaining why he does not accept special commissions for his mirrors. 

Yet for all the adherence to tradition, the 1,000 or so artisans in Venice also find ways to innovate within the parameters of their craft. For example, while gondolas have been in existence since the 11th century, their design has evolved in subtle yet significant ways. On a recent visit, shipwright Matteo Tamassia, whose gondolas can take a month or more to construct, discussed an improvement to the gunwale with a fellow boat-maker who dropped by.

That spirit of invention was on display as early as the 16th century. The story goes that in 1574 Henry III of Valois, king of France and Poland, attended a dinner at the Arsenale shipyard, where he watched as a galley was assembled within the hour – complete with ropes, sails, oars, and armament. The Arsenale’s efficient assembly-line process predates Henry Ford’s by more than 300 years.

As the pandemic dried up tourism, the artisans of Venice have continued to pursue their craft. Shipwrights are still taking orders for new gondolas. Bookbinders are still producing the notebooks that made Venice famous back in the Gutenberg era. Mask-makers are devising fabulous creations even as the Venice Carnival was canceled this year. Centuries of changing fortunes have fostered patience.

A common thread binds all these artisans: They keep experimenting, improving techniques, and introducing novelties – invisible to the untrained eye – to their ancient crafts. These arts are not just old; they are timeless. 

Avedis Hadjian
Master bookbinder Paolo Olbi cuts cardboard as he begins work on a notebook. His handmade notebooks sell to a select clientele throughout the world.

Avedis Hadjian
Paolo Olbi (on the left) and illustrator Anna Scovacricchi experiment with a technique to stamp velvet covers at Antica Stamperia Armena.
Avedis Hadjian
Mask-maker Gualtiero Dall’Osto wears the Red Bull mask, one of his most distinctive creations.
Avedis Hadjian
Master craftsman Simone Giordani at Barovier & Toso makes the glass arm of a chandelier.
Avedis Hadjian
Shipwright Matteo Tamassia works on a gondola. The trademark vessels have plied the waters of Venice’s famed canals since the 11th century.
Avedis Hadjian
Massimiliano Ballarin examines a modern chandelier in Barovier & Toso’s showroom. Founded in 1295, the glassmaking company produces contemporary as well as classical lighting.
Avedis Hadjian
Squero di San Trovaso, the boatyard of shipwright Lorenzo della Toffola, offers maintenance and repair services for gondolas and other boats.

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Helping would-be migrants stay put

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Since 2015, when more than 200,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea monthly from North Africa in search of work and safe harbor from conflict, it not only altered the politics in Europe, but it also pushed the European Union to spend roughly $550 million in Libya to help stem the human flow.

But containment measures do not tell the full story of what is happening in Libya and why it matters to U.S. and European efforts to end illegal immigration.

A new study of migrants in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest port, offers timely insights into the motivations and solutions for human flight. The findings are more intuitive than surprising: Economic and security stability in Misurata increased its need for migrant labor and decreased the need for those laborers to move onward to, for instance, Europe.

The study confirms the better intentions of the United States and EU to stabilize both the sources of illegal immigration and the countries whose economies are dependent on legal migrant labor.

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Helping would-be migrants stay put

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Migrants off the coast of Libya are picked up by a rescue ship last year.

Since 2015, when more than 200,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea monthly from North Africa in search of work and safe harbor from conflict, it not only altered the politics in Europe, but it also pushed the European Union to spend roughly $550 million in Libya to help stem the human flow. The funding put more ships off the Libyan coast to intercept migrant flotillas. It improved detention centers in the country. By one measure the investment has paid off. The monthly average of migrants crossing from North Africa so far this year has dropped to roughly 5,500.

But containment measures do not tell the full story of what is happening in Libya and why it matters to U.S. and European efforts to end illegal immigration. A new study of migrants in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest port, offers timely insights into the motivations and solutions for human flight. And it comes ahead of two key efforts by Western governments animated by migrant crises. One is a trip by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to Mexico and Guatemala beginning Sunday. The other is a summit in Germany later this month to advance Libya’s transition from civil war to democracy.

Libya was an important destination for migrant labor in Africa for decades. Its economy depended on foreign workers from neighboring countries to fill jobs in farm fields and dockyards that Libyans shunned. That changed after the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and the decade of conflict that followed. Economic collapse and deteriorating security conditions in the rival strongholds of Tripoli and Benghazi drove migrant laborers to seek refuge in Europe. Many of those who were turned back ended up in overcrowded detention facilities in Libya and were subjected to human rights abuses.

Conditions in Misurata, set between those two larger cities, were different. A careful balance of power among the leaders of different armed groups – many of whom are wealthy businessmen – kept civic, social, and economic life humming. The new study, conducted jointly by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, relied on 1,045 in-depth interviews with migrants living in Misurata during the latter half of 2019, providing a fine-grained view of life for the city’s 56,000 migrants. The findings are more intuitive than surprising: Economic and security stability in Misurata increased its need for migrant labor and decreased the need for those laborers to move onward to, for instance, Europe.

Most migrants in Libya come from four neighboring countries facing armed conflict, dire political and economic instability, or both of these conditions: Niger, Egypt, Chad, and Sudan. Roughly 80% arrived within the past four years. The study found that 92% of migrants in Misurata were able to meet their basic needs and 62% had no plans to move onward: “Migrants report that economic factors, like the type of job they have (80%) and the number of available jobs (70%), improved security-related conditions (77%), and their standard of living (72%) provide impetus for them to stay.”

The IOM/Georgetown study confirms the better intentions of the United States and EU to stabilize both the sources of illegal immigration and the countries whose economies are dependent on legal migrant labor. When Vice President Harris meets with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, they will focus on the broad forces of human displacement: economic desperation, violence, corruption, and climate change. Though far from the border, their conversation may be closer to what Harvard scholar Jacqueline Bhabha, author of a book on migration, calls “the imperatives that stem from our common humanity.”

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.

The ‘gentle grace of Love’

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
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No matter what we’re going through, God’s gift of grace is here to heal, bless, and uplift, as this poem highlights. (Read it or listen to it being sung.)

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The ‘gentle grace of Love’

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

O sweet and tender as the dawn,
With mighty power to heal and bless,
Is God’s dear gift to all His own:
The happy grace of gentleness.

How quickly burdens fall away,
How hearts grow light, rejoice, are glad,
When Love with touch of gentleness
Uplifts the sinning and the sad.

This gentle grace of Love divine
Is sweet as breath of opening flower.
Self-love and harshness disappear
Beneath its tender, healing power.
– Ella A. Stone, “Christian Science Hymnal: Hymns 430-603,” No. 545, alt. © CSBD

Audio attribution:
Words: Ella A. Stone, alt.
Music: Marshall Wright
Words alt. © 1932, ren. 1960 The Christian Science Board of Directors
Music © 2017 The Christian Science Board of Directors
Music recording © 2017 The Christian Science Publishing Society

Viewfinder

Seeking refuge, and finally ashore

Hayaturrahmah/Antara Foto/Reuters
A Rohingya refugee girl, after a voyage of more than 100 days from Bangladesh, is seen at Kuala Simpang Ulim beach in East Aceh, Indonesia, on June 4, 2021. Of 90 people who embarked on the journey, 81 survivors now seek a place to stay – something that awaits coordination with the local government. More than 1 million Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Ann Scott Tyson
Staff writer

Thanks for joining us today and have a great weekend! On Monday, we’ll have a story from Jerusalem on the unlikely coalition that agreed on one thing: After 12 years under Benjamin Netanyahu, it is time for someone else to lead Israel.

Finally, a quick correction from Thursday’s article about The Sewing Machine Project: Comments originally attributed to Zaman International were in fact from Gigi Salka, director of Zaman’s B.O.O.S.T. training program.

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