2021
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07
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Monitor Daily Podcast

June 07, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

What’s in a name?

Last week, the Czech Republic’s lower house of Parliament voted 91 to 33 in favor of a proposal to allow women to use the masculine form of their surname, forgoing the feminine “ova.” Former Justice Minister Helena Valkova said the effort aimed to end an “unjustified unequal position.” 

The proposal, headed to the Senate, has faced opposition previously from traditionalists. Still, in promoting a single standard, it reflects a global trend to be more equitable by freeing individuals from gender assumptions or barriers.  

Some countries tread lightly with naming – including the United States, where legal restrictions may focus on things like obscenities or symbols. Others have been more rigid. In 2019, Iceland overrode a law preventing men and women from using the same first names, and moved to allow gender-neutral surnames in specific cases – turning Jónsdóttir (Jon’s daughter) to Jónsbur (Jon’s child), for example. The same year, Colombia’s Constitutional Court asked Congress to give parents greater freedoms, and ruled that certain conventions violated principles of equality. A decade ago, Spain ended a father’s right to put his surname ahead of his wife’s in a child’s name.

To some, it’s simply allowing language to adapt, as it long has. “If linguistic conventions force you to identify yourself in ways that don’t make sense to you, then you will probably seek to challenge those,” says linguistics professor David Danaher. The Czech proposal is “a reflection of a long-term trend in challenging linguistic norms that fail to do justice … to how we understand ourselves.”

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From Israeli coalition: Unity and healing, without Netanyahu

What is binding together the unlikely coalition of rivals bidding to govern Israel? Mostly, it’s opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership and a desire for change and good governance.

Amelia
Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Left-wing protesters in the central Israeli city of Ramat Gan chant slogans and hold flags during a demonstration in support of forming a new government, June 2, 2021. The sign in Hebrew reads, "We are the hope."

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The unlikely coalition that has been formed to lead Israel would include left-wing progressives, right-wing hard-liners, and the first Arab party in a government. What unites these parties that share hardly a shred of ideology is the desire to rid Israel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – on trial for corruption charges – who they say has been overly focused on his legal and political survival.

Such a broad coalition will be looking for measures they can in fact agree on – from building a post-pandemic economy to improving the country’s health and education systems. What they are unlikely to be able to do is make any big moves on the Palestinians or settlements.

Yair Lapid, a secular centrist and former TV newscaster, is the driving force behind the coalition. But Naftali Bennett, a religious nationalist and former settler leader, would serve first as prime minister in rotation.

When Mr. Lapid is asked what drives him, he says he is working to restore “sane government.”

“From Lapid’s perspective ... this new government would work for the interest of all Israelis [and] stop the feeling of turmoil, the hate speech,” says Gayil Talshir, a political science professor. “For him, it’s about responsible governance, and for this he has made sacrifices.”

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From Israeli coalition: Unity and healing, without Netanyahu

In their first group photo since announcing their “change” coalition, the heads of eight Israeli parties from an unprecedented array of ideologies and backgrounds are seen in dark suits, around a long table, with a pair of blue-and-white Israeli flags propped behind them.

The message of the image featured on Israeli front pages Monday was clear: a visual cue to the public to imagine them as willing and competent partners poised to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister. The display of unity also fit with an emerging public priority: to heal internal divides.

Optics and messaging were also on display Sunday night when Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu protégé, took to the Israeli airwaves live in prime time to reassure Israelis that the coalition was not “the biggest election fraud in history,” as Mr. Netanyahu has called it, but the creation of a working democratic process.

Mr. Bennett, a religious nationalist and former settler leader, is slated to serve as prime minister first in a rotation with Yair Lapid, a secular centrist and former TV newscaster and the driving force behind the unlikely coalition.

“It is not a catastrophe, it’s not a disaster; it’s a change of government, something that is routine in all democratic countries,” Mr. Bennett reminded a public gripped by an intense post-election power struggle. A campaign to delegitimize the coalition, by Mr. Netanyahu and some members of the far-right, has included physical threats and incitement against members of two of the three right-wing parties in the coalition, including Mr. Bennett’s, who have been cast as traitors.

“Let go,” Mr. Bennett said in his televised remarks, addressing Mr. Netanyahu directly. “This is not a government of the left; it’s not us versus them. ... No one here is an enemy.”

If approved by parliament, the patchwork coalition would include left-wing progressives, right-wing hard-liners, and the first-ever Arab party in a government. What unites these parties that share hardly a shred of ideology is the desire to rid Israel of Mr. Netanyahu – on trial for corruption charges – who they say has been more focused on his political and legal survival than providing stability and good governance.

Areas of agreement

Such a broad coalition will be looking for measures it can in fact agree on – from passing the first budget in three years, filling long-vacant appointments, and strategizing a post-pandemic economic recovery plan, to improving the country’s health and education systems. What it is unlikely to be able to do is make any big moves on Palestinians or settlements.

“They are all putting aside their differences and doing the job at hand,” says Mitchell Barak, a political consultant. “We need a stable government, and the country has to move on from Netanyahu. It’s time to move the country in a different direction.”

Yaffa Gisser, a Jewish settler and a board member of Prima, an organization aimed at healing rifts in Israeli society, put it this way in an op-ed for Yediot Aharonot, one of Israel’s largest newspapers: “There is no point in denying the emotional and practical complexity, especially in the context of the events of recent weeks, but there is also no point in ignoring the budding brotherhood, even if it is a brotherhood of interests.”

Menahem Kahana/Reuters
Naftali Bennett, a member of parliament from Israel's Yamina party, gives a statement at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, June 6, 2021.

Before a new government can take power, it has to be approved by a plurality in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The exact date for that vote remains uncertain, anywhere from Wednesday to next Monday. The longer a vote is put off, the more time Mr. Netanyahu has to try to peel off defectors from the fragile coalition.

It’s an especially fraught time in the country, which has held four inconclusive elections in two years. The political struggle follows the most recent war between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamic rulers of the Gaza Strip, in which more than 250 people were killed, mostly Palestinians. Yet accompanying 11 days of cross-border rocket fire by Hamas and the Israeli air force’s bombing of Gaza was mob violence between Arabs and Jews in some Israeli cities, the worst internecine fighting in the country’s history.

According to a survey released Monday by the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute, the Israeli public views the tension between Jewish and Arab citizens as the most pressing threat to the country, ahead of both the tensions between the rival political camps and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israelis want the top priority of any new government to be strengthening unity in the country and narrowing the growing economic divide.

The historic inclusion of Raam – the United Arab List, a small, socially conservative Islamic party – has been heralded as a first step to repair some of the harm done not just in the recent fighting, but in the highly sensitive relationship between Jewish Israelis and the Arab minority.

What’s in it for the partners? 

When Mr. Lapid is asked what drives him, he says he is working to restore “sane government.”

“From Lapid’s perspective, his main argument has been that Netanyahu has worked in the interest of nationalist, extremist parts of Israeli society, while he and this new government would work for the interest of all Israelis [and] stop the feeling of turmoil, the hate speech,” says Gayil Talshir, a political science professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “For him, it’s about responsible governance, and for this he has made sacrifices.”

Most noteworthy of those sacrifices was putting himself as the second prime minister in a rotation, two years after Mr. Bennett, in a country where two years is an especially long time and even though his Yesh Atid party, with 17 seats, is the largest bloc in the coalition. Mr. Bennett’s Yemina party has seven, one of which has already defected, but giving him the first crack as premier was the only way to win Yemina’s support.

For Yemina, Hebrew for “rightwards,” and another right-wing party, New Hope, also small at just six seats, joining this coalition is also an act of political survival. If a fifth election were held, they might easily be erased from the political map.

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid speaks to the media in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, June 7, 2021.

The same can be said for Raam, led by Mansour Abbas, which squeaked into the Knesset in March with four seats, the minimum possible. In joining this coalition, it has a chance to prove itself to its electorate.

“Abbas has the most at stake in maintaining this coalition,” says Professor Talshir. “He needs to bring tangible achievements to the Arab citizens of Israel.”

An about-face on the right

Although Mr. Netanyahu had spent a lot of time in recent years demonizing Israel’s Arab minority – Palestinians who live inside Israel’s borders and have citizenship – in the most recent election he did an about-face. He began courting Arab voters in general and the United Arab List specifically as his hold on power appeared increasingly tenuous. That gave the party a legitimacy in right-wing circles that only Mr. Netanyahu, as a hard-line icon, could bestow. It’s what opened the door for Yemina and New Hope to sit with Raam in a government.

“Many in the religious Zionism movement, on the right and across society in general, understand that we now must step out of our ‘pure’ ideological comfort zone (if such a thing exists) and give a functioning and stable government a chance,” wrote Prima’s Dr. Gisser. “This is a government that will have to set aside about 20% of the issues at the heart of the right-left rift, and manage – responsibly, professionally, and with real cooperation – the 80% of the burning issues that remain.”

Mr. Bennett apologized in a TV interview for calling Mr. Abbas a supporter of terrorism in the past. “Our new government will be an opportunity to turn the page between Israel and its Arab citizens,” he offered.

For staunch hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman, also a onetime Netanyahu adviser and loyalist turned rebel, joining this coalition would gain him the influential post of finance minister. A secularist, he also wins as this would be the first government in decades that does not include ultrareligious Jewish parties.

For Labor and Meretz, the two left-wing parties in the coalition, joining gives them a chance to reposition themselves as having governing abilities. Although Labor has been part of occasional unity governments, Meretz, which is further left, has not been in a ruling coalition for over 20 years.

According to Dr. Talshir, there can be strength in having such a government with a minimal numeric edge. If even one partner bolts, all face a new election, making it in no one’s interest to put too much strain on it.

Its superpower is instead, she suggests, being focused on the greater goal: “Bringing Israel back to the brass tacks of politics, economy, and society, to cherish a more inclusive, tolerant, public discourse.”

A deeper look

Lab leak? Why Congress is split on investigating COVID’s origins.

Both sides say it’s important to get the truth of how the pandemic started. Republicans want Congress to investigate the lab leak theory, which has gained new credence. But Democrats are wary of a politicized process.

Amelia

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A year and a half into a pandemic that is blamed for the deaths of more than 3 million people, a Chinese lab in Wuhan is under growing scrutiny for a possible connection to the outbreak of COVID-19. On May 26, President Joe Biden called on the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to collect and analyze any information that could shed light on how the pandemic started. 

Republican lawmakers, who have raised questions since early 2020 about the virus’s origins and China’s lack of transparency, are making a renewed push for bipartisan investigations in Congress. 

“This is about us as a country, the United States of America, getting answers,” says Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the lead Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “We really need an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

But while Democrats say they, too, want to discover the truth, they’re concerned that congressional investigations will just be politicized – especially since the most important answers are likely only obtainable from China.

“We support [the intelligence community’s] efforts to conduct a thorough, objective, evidence-based investigation, without letting anyone’s preferred narrative shape that vital work,” says an official on the Democratic-controlled House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee.

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Lab leak? Why Congress is split on investigating COVID’s origins.

Sarah Silbiger/Reuters
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shown on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 26, 2021, is among the experts who have said that the lab leak theory into COVID-19’s origins merits further investigation.

A year and a half into a worldwide pandemic that is blamed for the deaths of more than 3 million people, a Chinese lab in Wuhan is under growing scrutiny for a possible connection to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Republican members of Congress, who have raised questions since early 2020 about China’s lack of transparency about the virus’s origins, are making a renewed push for bipartisan investigations. But with Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate, any congressional inquiries launched without their support will lack subpoena power and authority to compel witnesses to testify. Without those powers, GOP members of Congress are making little headway.

Just ask Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the lead Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has been pressing for answers from various agencies.

On March 18, she and two GOP colleagues sent the National Institute of Health (NIH) 29 questions requesting information and related documents about how COVID-19 started and whether U.S. taxpayer funds supported research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

Two months later, the NIH responded with a two-page letter, defending its grant process and briefly describing the nature of a 2014 grant to the Wuhan lab. It expressed support for continuing investigation into COVID-19’s origins and offered to discuss the grant further in person, but did not provide any of the documents requested, including standard grant paperwork that could have shed light on the Wuhan lab’s research. 

“I’m disappointed, especially with NIH,” says Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the lead Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over health policy and agencies.

“This is about us as a country, the United States of America, getting answers,” she says, adding that those answers will inform policy changes and help prevent future pandemics. “We really need an all-hands-on-deck approach. ... We are urging the Biden administration to lead – to hold China accountable and get the information we need in the public domain.” 

Ng Han Guan/AP/File
Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in China's Hubei province on Feb. 3, 2021.

As GOP members of Congress urge their Democratic colleagues to lend their weight to the push for answers, both sides worry that partisan politics is getting in the way of truth. Democrats say they, too, want answers about the origins of COVID-19. But they’re concerned that any congressional investigation will just be politicized, further muddying the waters rather than leading to a clear picture – especially since the most important answers are likely only obtainable from China.

In addition, Democrats are concerned that an investigation would allow Republicans to deflect blame from former President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Mr. Trump, who frequently touted the restrictions he placed on travel to the U.S. from China in early February 2020 and his administration’s support for the rapid development of a vaccine, has been roundly criticized for other aspects of his pandemic response, including not better facilitating the distribution of PPE supplies and medical equipment, comparing COVID-19 to the flu, and flouting his own agencies’ guidance on masks.

“Regardless of what we find, whether it lends credence to a natural transmission or a lab accident, it would not vindicate the disastrous response to COVID-19 by former President Trump, including his downplaying the severity of the outbreak during the crucial early months of the pandemic,” says an official on the Democratic-controlled House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, who characterized the origins of the coronavirus and how to prepare for the next potential pandemic as “serious topics of inquiry.”  

The official added that the intelligence community “is continuing to study the origins of COVID-19, and we support its efforts to conduct a thorough, objective, evidence-based investigation, without letting anyone’s preferred narrative shape that vital work.”

On May 26, President Joe Biden called for the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to collect and analyze any information that could shed light on COVID-19’s origins. He asked them to keep Congress “fully apprised” of its work, and report back to the White House within 90 days. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued a statement the same day saying that his committee hoped to finish its deep-dive review of the intelligence community’s response to the pandemic “in the coming months,” and warned against “any premature or politically motivated conclusions.” 

Evan Vucci/AP
President Joe Biden asked U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic May 13, 2021, saying there is insufficient evidence to conclude “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”

Republicans also accuse Democrats of politicizing the pandemic, saying they have used the crisis to expand the reach of government and dramatically increase spending, while avoiding confrontation with China and resisting serious inquiry into the lab leak theory. Some officials within the larger government bureaucracy under former President Trump, including the State Department, reportedly discouraged or possibly blocked investigation into COVID-19’s origins – described by some government officials as a “Pandora’s box,” according to an investigative piece published in Vanity Fair late last month. 

Why lab leak theory is getting a second look

The renewed push for investigating COVID-19’s origins has been fueled in part by new reporting, including a May 23 Wall Street Journal article that said three employees at the Wuhan lab reportedly sought hospital care in November 2019 for symptoms “consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness.” 

The theory of COVID-19’s origins that dominated Democratic discourse and media reports until this spring was that it had been transmitted naturally from animals to humans. An alternative theory, that the virus had escaped from a lab, was dismissed as highly unlikely in February 2020 by a prominent group of scientists including Peter Daszack, who along with the other signatories declared “no competing interests.”

However, the NIH has since acknowledged that Dr. Daszack’s EcoHealth Alliance nonprofit had funneled U.S. federal grant money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is located about nine miles from the wet market originally pinpointed as ground zero of the outbreak. In a May 5, 2021, in-depth analysis of clues about COVID-19’s origins, former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade summarized 2018 and 2019 NIH grant documents involving EcoHealth Alliance as indicating that WIV researchers “set out to create novel coronaviruses with the highest possible infectivity for human cells.” While there is controversy around such research, proponents defend it as crucial to understanding and preventing future pandemics. 

Many media outlets, some of which conflated the lab accident hypothesis with the theory that the virus was engineered in a lab and deliberately released, for months dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as a debunked conspiracy theory with racist or xenophobic undertones. But this spring, a series of in-depth articles and investigative reporting leant new weight to the possibility of a lab leak, prompting a renewed push by those in government to get answers on how the pandemic started. 

After an inquiry organized by the World Health Organization was published on March 30, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that all hypotheses remained on the table and vowed to leave no stone unturned in the quest to determine the source of the virus. 

Ng Han Guan/AP
A WHO-China joint study press conference on Feb. 9, 2021, said that an “intermediary host species” was the most likely origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden administration has raised questions about methodology and conclusions of the WHO-organized report, including Beijing’s influence over the process, and disagreed with its assessment that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” Though many experts still see natural occurrence as the more likely scenario, late last month President Biden, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, all said the lab leak hypothesis merited further investigation.

Representative Rodgers says she and her GOP colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee are still waiting for answers from NIH. The NIH’s May 19 letter did not directly answer questions about what NIH officials knew about how the Wuhan lab addressed concerns raised in 2018 State Department cables about the lab’s biosafety protocols, or why the NIH suspended a grant to the EcoHealth Alliance. The NIH also did not provide any of the requested grant documents that could have shed light on research activities at the Wuhan lab leading up to the outbreak. 

NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, who signed the NIH response, expressed support for further investigation by the WHO into the origins of COVID-19 “without delay,” and offered to discuss the issue further with members of Congress. NIH Director Francis Collins said in an interview published last week by conservative journalist Hugh Hewitt that he was determining how to proceed in concert with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the White House.  

Representative Rodgers and her fellow GOP committee members are also waiting to hear back on a May 6 letter they sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for more information on an earlier State Department assertion that the Wuhan lab cooperated with the Chinese military on “secret projects.” They asked him to provide unclassified documents and declassify other relevant documents related to that assertion, which was made in the final days of the Trump administration.

House Republicans are urging Democrats to join them in getting answers and holding China accountable, something they say is owed to the families of the more than 600,000 Americans and 3 million global citizens whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. 

May 28 letter signed by 209 House Republicans, including the top three GOP leaders, cited “mounting evidence” that COVID-19 started in a Wuhan lab and was covered up by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The House Republicans asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to instruct Democratic committee chairs to join GOP efforts to seek answers, and allocate “the full range of tools available to congressional investigators,” including subpoena powers. 

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said in a phone interview on Saturday that they have yet to receive any response. “It seems very odd that Speaker Pelosi is one of the only people in Washington that doesn’t want to investigate this serious charge,” he said. 

Speaker Pelosi’s office referred the Monitor’s questions to the House Intelligence Committee, which provided the statement cited above by a committee official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Democratic spokespeople declined the Monitor’s requests for an interview with Chairman Schiff or any of his Democratic colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee, and said that New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was not available for an interview. 

GOP members of Congress are encouraged, however, that in a recent hearing, Rep. Diana DeGette, the Democratic chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, affirmed her support for an investigation, including into whether the virus escaped from a lab. She said she had already spoken with Rep. Morgan Griffith, her Republican counterpart on the subcommittee and a co-author of the letters Representative Rodgers sent to the NIH and State Department. “I agree, I think it’s very important,” said Representative DeGette of Colorado. “We’re going to do whatever investigation is appropriate.”

Would clarity bring consequences?

One of the looming questions is whether getting clarity on COVID-19’s origins would result in any significant U.S.-China policy shifts. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who spearheaded a September 2020 report into the origins of COVID-19 and China’s lack of transparency, has recommended removing China from the U.S. supply chain for medical supplies, rare earth minerals, and advanced semiconductors. 

“The CCP went to extreme lengths to cover up their role in the origin of COVID-19,” he said in an emailed statement to the Monitor. “By pulling supply chains out of the region, we can prevent the expansion of China’s economy, hold them accountable for their malign actions, and protect our national security. 

“The Biden Administration must put pressure on China to get to the bottom of this pandemic and protect our world from future pandemics,” he adds. 

Democrats argue that a congressional investigation is not the right vehicle for securing China’s cooperation and producing objective answers. Republicans acknowledge that while they can’t compel Chinese scientists or officials to testify, Congress is a ready-made venue for asking how COVID-19 started, and whether China engaged in a cover-up of a lab leak. Congress already has a multitude of committees with jurisdiction over health policy, foreign relations, and intelligence, with members and staffers who are well versed in those areas and have the ability to convene prominent experts. 

“The Democrats should want these answers just like we do,” says Representative Scalise. “Frankly, there are people all over the world who want to know that answer. But America is one of the few countries positioned to be able to get those facts out.” 

Congress losing patience with military on sexual assault

In the military, commanders get to decide whether sexual assault charges should move forward. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and some military leadership think it’s time to change that practice.

Amelia

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Despite the Pentagon’s best efforts, reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military have long been on the rise. According to Department of Defense surveys, some 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted in 2018 – almost 40% over 2016 figures. 

A bill proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, with wide bipartisan support, would remove commanders from investigation of these assaults, putting the authority with independent military prosecutors. At the same time, commanders are beginning to acknowledge that something must change.

Amy Marsh, who says she was sexually assaulted in her own home by a colleague of her Air Force husband, says, “There are so many times when I wish I hadn’t reported.”

Her alleged assailant was not charged, but instead was allowed to retire. Meanwhile, her husband was reprimanded for fraternization with enlisted troops. “This has destroyed any chance of him being promoted, so he’s going to have to leave the Air Force,” Ms. Marsh says.

Still, “I feel very hopeful that this bill will pass, and that it will prevent retaliation against future victims who come forward,” she says, adding, “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what we went through.”

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Congress losing patience with military on sexual assault

Andrew Harnik/AP
Lynn Rosenthal, chair of the Department of Defense's 90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, accompanied by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, March 24, 2021, in Washington.

When Amy Marsh decided to report a sexual assault at the hands of one of her husband’s colleagues to Air Force officials, she was “very optimistic” that some good would come of it.

“We absolutely loved the Air Force,” says Ms. Marsh. At the time of the assault, her husband was a first lieutenant stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. Plus, it was 2018, after all – the Pentagon was many years into solemn promises and nearly $1 billion in programs to stamp out assault within its ranks. 

After hearing all the details, the base chaplain, too, urged the couple to report the crime. “He told my husband, ‘You’re an officer in the U.S. Air Force – it’s your duty to be a leader in this way.’ My husband and I both felt it was our duty to do the right thing,” Ms. Marsh says, adding, upon reflection, “I don’t think back then we realized how hard it would be.” 

Her husband’s commander ultimately decided against a court-martial for Ms. Marsh’s alleged assailant, instead allowing him to retire after knocking him down one rank. At the same time, the command questioned whether Ms. Marsh, who was honest about the fact that she was drunk at the time, had consumed enough alcohol to be truly incapacitated during the party where she says the rape took place. 

But one of the biggest problems, Ms. Marsh believes, was that her assailant – who denied that anything at all had happened – was a charismatic, well-liked guy and her husband was new to the team, and to the commander. “I don’t know any other situation,” she says, “where your boss is also your judge.”

In the military, commanders decide whether sexual assault charges against their troops should move forward, but a bill proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, with wide bipartisan support, would remove commanders from this process, putting the authority with independent military prosecutors. The senator first proposed legislation on this issue in 2013, to no avail, but the increase in assaults may be changing minds. 

“Sexual assault in our military is an epidemic and it’s clear that the current system is not working for survivors. Despite repeated efforts to protect our women and men in uniform rates of harassment and assault continue to rise while prosecutions decline. Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our service members, and right now we have more work to do,” said Senator Gillibrand in a press release, characterizing the bill as “commonsense steps to deliver justice for survivors of serious crimes and prevent sexual assault in our armed forces.”

This year, Senator Gillibrand’s bill has gained upward of 60 co-sponsors, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, a sexual assault survivor herself. A retired lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, Senator Ernst initially opposed the measure but has since changed her mind after reflecting, she said, upon her own experience as well as the future of her daughter, who attended West Point.

Seth Wenig/AP
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand takes questions during a news conference in New York, March 14, 2021. She has been working for years to address sexual assault in the military. Her current bill on the topic, which has strong bipartisan support, would remove commanders from the investigation of sexual assault cases.

A growing and underreported problem

Pentagon officials have vehemently opposed such changes to military sexual assault prosecution in the past, saying it would erode commanders’ primary responsibility – namely to ensure good order and discipline in their ranks. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued precisely this in his 2019 Senate confirmation hearing, for example. 

But despite the Pentagon’s best efforts, reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military have long been on the rise. According to Department of Defense surveys, some 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted in 2018, a rate that jumped almost 40% over 2016 figures. For women, these figures were at the highest levels since 2006.

At the same time, more than three-quarters of all 2018 victims say they did not report the crime. This is in large part, analysts say, because for those who do pursue charges, 4% of cases result in a court-martial, and 0.8% of offenders are convicted of a nonconsensual sex offense, recent statistics show.

As these dismal reports have flowed into Congress annually, lawmakers have become a bit less deferential to military leaders’ pleas for good faith and patience. They are now weary of the argument, made by Pentagon officials for years, that upticks in reports of sexual assault are actually a good thing, since they show troops are comfortable coming forward. 

At the same time, commanders, too, are beginning to acknowledge that something must change. 

“I was adamantly opposed to that for years,” General Milley told The Associated Press and CNN last month, referring to removing command authority for sexual assault. “But I haven’t seen the needle move.” Speaking of the need to stamp out the crime, he added, “We have to. We must.”

It’s a sentiment that was beginning to take hold back 2015, when then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, though opposed to Senator Gillibrand’s efforts, said he could imagine a different path if there was no improvement. “If we haven’t been able to demonstrate we’re making a difference, you know, then we deserve to be held to the scrutiny and standard.” 

A “no confidence” vote

In addition to sexual assault, Senator Gillibrand’s bill also removes commanders’ ability to prosecute other major crimes, including murder, manslaughter, and child pornography. But there are holdouts. “Commanders are in the best position to determine the morale and discipline needs of their units, and how a particular criminal offense might impact that,” says retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, who served as the Air Force’s deputy judge advocate general and is now the executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke University. “The proposal essentially diminishes the role of the most important person in military society: the commander.” 

What’s more, Senator Gillibrand’s bill, he adds, amounts to a vote of “no confidence” in them.

When it comes to sexual assault, that’s exactly what it is, says retired Col. Don Christensen, chief prosecutor for the Air Force from 2010 to 2014 and now president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy organization. “This says to the military, ‘You failed on this, and you’ve been given time to change and you didn’t, so now you really have to – the way you’re thinking, the way you treat people.” 

An independent panel convened by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is on the verge of going public with its own recommendations to take authority for sexual assault prosecutions away from commanders as well, in an effort, analysts say, to restore the faith that many service members have lost in the system.

Secretary Austin, who retired from the Army as a four-star general, has indicated that “all options are on the table.”

“We must commit ourselves to eliminating these attacks on our own people. I know you have worked this problem for many years,” he wrote in a recent memo to the force. “We simply must admit the hard truth: We must do more.” 

Amy Marsh says that as she reflects on her family’s experience in the wake of her sexual assault, “There are so many times when I wish I hadn’t reported.”

Her husband was ultimately reprimanded for fraternization, because he had enlisted troops over to his house, and Ms. Marsh’s credibility was called into question when commanders learned that the couple were in marriage counseling before the assault. “I thought that meant we’re committed to a strong relationship,” she says. 

The whole episode has essentially ended her husband’s military career. “This has destroyed any chance of him being promoted, so he’s going to have to leave the Air Force. It’s so frustrating because if I hadn’t reported, none of this would’ve happened.” 

Still, “I feel very hopeful that this bill will pass, and that it will prevent retaliation against future victims who come forward,” she says, adding, “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what we went through.”

Good news for grads: Help (really) wanted

After they land that hard-won diploma, college grads want to land that promising job. For the class of 2021, a labor market on the mend offers a brighter picture than peers faced a year ago.

Amelia
Hoang "Leon" Nguyen/The Republican/AP
A group of University of Massachusetts, Amherst graduates throw their caps in the air to celebrate at the commencement ceremony on May 14, 2021, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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Though still short of pre-pandemic levels, the job market is expanding again. Employers added 559,000 jobs in May, double the jobs added in April – brightening the prospects for recent college graduates.

“I’d definitely say it’s better than expected from a year ago,” says Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, adding that widespread vaccination, new job opportunities, and the ability to return to offices have helped. While 2020 grads faced a year of loss, she says the strengthening market is an “opportunity.”

“I’m very, very optimistic about this, about our futures,” says Toshiki Aburaki, a 2021 University of Maryland graduate who landed a gig as an analyst for Deloitte after about a dozen rejections.

It’s possible newly minted grads like Mr. Aburaki are competing with those who graduated last year. But both groups upped their employability simply due to their diplomas: Even during the pandemic, workers 25 and older with higher levels of education experienced lower unemployment rates.

Though Arcadia University class of 2020 grad Heidi Specht saw her postgrad Fulbright program delayed, she says a year of nannying to earn money forced her to think flexibly: “It’s OK that things aren’t going exactly the way I planned, because I’ll get there eventually.”

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Good news for grads: Help (really) wanted

Among a sea of students spaced out across a stadium, Toshiki Aburaki rose from the bleachers for a moment of applause. The University of Maryland Class of 2021 graduate – black robe, red stole – didn’t get the victory lap across a stage he’d hoped for. And yet, honored along with fellow business majors, he felt “super relieved.” 

The May socially distanced ceremony capped an end to his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Virtual senior year – done remotely with family in Tokyo last fall and back at College Park, Maryland, this spring – robbed him of hangouts with friends and afternoon work in the baseball dugout coaching middle schoolers.

Yet the stakes of senior year meant more than academics: The dual Japanese U.S. citizen was competing for a career, napping during the day in Tokyo and rousing himself for remote job interviews well past midnight. After what he estimates were about a dozen rejections, Mr. Aburaki landed a full-time gig as an analyst for Deloitte. It begins remotely in July, but he’s moving to New York City with the prospect of working – someday – in an actual office. 

“I’m very, very optimistic about this, about our futures,” says Mr. Aburaki. 

His optimism reflects an improving job market that notched modest gains last month. Though it’s still short of pre-pandemic levels, employers added 559,000 jobs in May – around double the jobs added in April. The prospects for recent degree-earners appear better than anticipated, especially since the pandemic has spared college graduates more than those without degrees. 

“I’d definitely say it’s better than expected from a year ago,” says Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, adding that widespread vaccination, new job opportunities, and the ability to return to offices have helped.

While 2020 grads faced a year of loss, Dr. Smith says they now have an “opportunity” to take advantage of the strengthening job market.

Courtesy of Toshiki Aburaki
Class of 2021 University of Maryland graduate Toshiki Aburaki attended his socially distanced commencement at the University of Maryland, May 21. After his virtual senior year, he was hired to work remotely as an analyst at Deloitte and starts in July.

Job market – and grads – adapt  

Before life under lockdown, the class of 2020 appeared poised to inherit an era of economic growth. The end of 2019 saw the lowest jobless rate (3.5%) in half a century. 

Enter the pandemic pummel. The recession devoured millions of jobs in a matter of weeks, a downturn that’s proved particularly tough on young workers. The overall unemployment rate in April 2020 hit 14.8% while the rate for 20- to 24-year-olds ballooned to 25.6% – not even counting a large number of recent degree-earners who dropped out of the labor market entirely for months after graduation.

Employment prospects for 20- to 24-year-olds have improved, along with the overall unemployment rate of 5.8% in May. While that’s progress from April 2020, unemployment still hasn’t fallen to pre-pandemic rates.

Not all college graduates are in their early 20s, of course. But Jesse Rothstein, former Labor Department chief economist, says he thinks the youngest current degree-earners will have a harder time breaking into the job market “partly because they’re less likely to have existing labor-market connections.” 

Research by Dr. Rothstein shows that college graduates who joined the job market during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 earned lower wages and experienced lower employment levels than cohorts from prior years. But comparisons to the present are limited, he says, given how the most recent recession has behaved. 

For one, the current economic downtown appears to be shorter term. And while the Great Recession saw job losses at the highest and lowest skill levels, “in this recession, there were just a lot fewer losses for college grads than you would have expected, given the severity,” says Dr. Rothstein, professor of public policy and economics at University of California, Berkeley.

Career services this spring have reported brighter prospects for the class of 2021, in part because companies have adapted to remote recruiting and employment. 

Last year, firms that weren’t yet accustomed to virtual work – or saw their bottom lines take a hit – delayed offers until they could manage onboarding new employees remotely, says Jeff Beavers, executive director of the Michigan State University Career Services Network.

“I’m aware of very few rescinded offers for this year,” says Mr. Beavers, noting that internships, especially, have rebounded. 

Employers planned to hire 7.2% more new college graduates from the class of 2021 than they hired from the previous class, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey from February and March. Though it remains below a pre-pandemic hiring level, the rebound is a sharp increase from a fall 2020 forecast. 

Job search platforms also paint a rosier outlook. Job search website Indeed reports that job postings have overtaken a pre-COVID-19 baseline. And Handshake, which caters to college students, says its job postings spiked 48% in April 2021 compared with April 2019.  

The top three industries hiring the most class of 2021 grads are finance, tech, and education, according to Handshake. A LinkedIn analysis of job postings found that software engineering specialist is the most in-demand entry-level job. 

“Although the 2020 graduating class struggled for a few months last summer, we saw the hiring rate for fresh college grads return to pre-covid hiring levels by October of 2020,” LinkedIn said in a statement, adding it’s “cautiously optimistic” for the latest class.  

Still, many recent grads faced rescinded or delayed offers, and struggled to jump-start careers headed into the fall. For some, pandemic uncertainty made it difficult to plan ahead.

Flexibility to accept a career detour

Arcadia University Class of 2020 grad Heidi Specht saw the dominos fall one by one. Last spring, her summer language institute in Portuguese was suspended, and a research trip to Costa Rica canceled. Her Fulbright to work as an English teacher in Brazil was also delayed.

“It was just kind of like watching everything fall apart,” says the international studies and Spanish major. “I did have a lot of anxiety.” 

The uncertainty stalled her search for work. Not knowing whether or when her Fulbright would start, she wrestled with what she’d say in job interviews.

“What do I tell them? I don’t know if I can give them six months or if I can give them a year,” she says.

Out of convenience, she says she decided to continue nannying, a gig started during college. Though she loves playing on the playground with two young girls, it wasn’t the career start she planned. But she’s made peace, she says, as the pandemic forced her to think flexibly. Originally drawn to a career in diplomacy or nonprofits, she’s now considering education after a year nannying full time. 

“I just have a sense that, you know, it’s OK to take time off. And it felt kind of hard to reckon with myself at first,” says Ms. Specht, whose Fulbright is currently slated for 2022. 

“It’s OK that things aren’t going exactly the way I planned, because I’ll get there eventually.”

It’s possible newly minted grads are competing with those who graduated last year. But both groups upped their employability simply due to their diplomas: Even during the pandemic, workers ages 25 and older with higher levels of education experienced lower unemployment rates.

“[The recession has] pointed out that a postsecondary education is much more likely to be associated with your ability to social distance, and work from home, and do Zoom calls,” says Dr. Smith.

Digital ease helped with job hunting. At West Virginia University, career services director David Durham saw how the convenience of virtual advising meant higher student engagement with his office. He says media coverage of a tough job market may have upped student initiative, too.

“As a whole class ... I think their career awareness was probably the highest I’ve seen in four or five years,” he says.

And the 2021 cohort is the first to prioritize work setups as part of their decision-making – whether fully remote, in person, or hybrid, says Cheryl Rotyliano, interim director of career services at Ithaca College. 

They’ve witnessed how common it is to struggle at home with responsibilities beyond work, she says: “I think more than ever they’re valuing balance.”

Essay

In a crisis on the farm, I learn ‘the wisdom of no escape’

Sometimes an emergency leaves us in no doubt as to what must be done – and that we must be the ones to do it. In this personal essay, our writer and her son learn the joy of coming to the rescue.

Amelia
MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF/FILE
A ewe in Scotland nuzzles one of her two lambs. As our essayist puts it, "birth is not an extreme experience for sheep," but sometimes a helping hand is needed.

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Lambing season at the farm lasts about a month. Birth is not an extreme experience for sheep, but I’d keep an eye on them. Easter Sunday morning, I went out to check. 

Marjorie was over in the corner, distressed. Her low moans were not a sound I had heard before. I called my oldest son.

Will was not born to farm. He finds most of the smells repulsive. I said, “Son, I need you to stand at her head, and hold her still. I’m going to go in and see what’s going on.” 

“Have you done this before?”

“No honey,” I said, “but if I don’t do anything, we’ll lose Marjorie.” 

I prepared myself and put my hands inside. Her baby was breech. I cradled the lamb and gently turned it.

I have done many things in my life, but this was both the hardest and the most magical. A Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, calls it “the wisdom of no escape.” I know exactly what she means.

“Mom,” said Will, staring at me, “that was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

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In a crisis on the farm, I learn ‘the wisdom of no escape’

Lambing season at the farm lasts about a month. I’d be in the barn a lot. Not that the ewes needed me: Birth was not an extreme experience for them. There were no carefully orchestrated birth plans, no ice chips, no plush keepsake to use as a focal point. But I liked to hang out with them, just in case. The seven of us listened to Joni Mitchell on my phone. I’d sit quietly in the corner, watching as my beloved girls brought babies into the world without exclamations. 

Easter Sunday morning, I went out to check. I got there in time to see Dolores deliver her twin lambs, one after another. Up each popped, after all of two minutes, still wet and dazed. I rubbed them down with a towel and put them under Dolores’ teats. Good lambs indeed, they knew just what to do. 

Marjorie was over in the corner, distressed. Standing up, lying down, she could not seem to find a comfortable position. Her low moans were not a sound I had heard before. She was in trouble. I called my oldest son on my phone and told him he had to come out.

“Which boots?” he asked. 

“Not your new Timbs. It could get messy, and they were expensive.”

Will was not born to farm. He found most of the smells repulsive. Splitting and stacking wood was “disgusting,” and the squealing of the pigs totally freaked him out. “It’s all pretty stressful, Mom,” he concluded one day. 

I’d gotten the sheep for him and his brother so they could join 4-H and show the animals at the county fair. They were beyond excited at the prospect and promised they would help with the chores. 

I dropped Will at the fair one morning as his friends were showing sheep, and he was keen to see what it was all about so he’d be prepared for next year. 

Two hours later, he called. “Can you come pick me up?” 

“Really?” I asked. “Is something wrong?” 

“I’ll tell you in the car.”

I’ll tell you in the car was big. It usually meant a 73 on a science project he’d worked really hard on, or a spiteful coach who hadn’t moved him up to varsity. 

“Oh, thanks, honey,” I said, taking the candy apple from him when he sat down in the passenger seat. “So?” I asked. 

“I’m not going to join 4-H or show sheep. It is waaay too much work,” he said. “Sorry, Mom, I know we already have sheep. I promise I’ll help. Just not the mucking-out-the-barn part. I dry-heave.”

Remember that scene in “The Godfather,” when Don Corleone says to Amerigo Bonasera, “Someday – and that day may never come – I will call upon you to do a service for me”? That someday had come to Knot Hollow. It was time for my son to pay up. 

I said, “Son, I need you to stand at her head, and hold her still. I’m going to go in and see what’s going on.” 

“You’re going to stick your hands inside? Do you even know what you are doing? Have you done this before?”

“No honey,” I said, “but if I don’t do anything, we’ll lose Marjorie and however many babies she’s carrying.” 

I prepared myself and put my hands inside. I felt hoofs but no face. Her baby was breech. I was up to my elbows when I felt the head. I cradled the lamb and gently turned it clockwise. It was remarkably roomy in there. And warm. Nothing at all scary about it. Once I got the lamb’s head in position, I pulled it out. 

I have done many things in my life, but this was both the hardest and the most magical. A Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, calls it “the wisdom of no escape.” I know exactly what she means.

I wiped off the lamb, put him under Marjorie’s nose, and watched her nudge and lick him until he could stand up on his own. 

We named him Hay-Zeus. It was Easter Sunday, after all. 

“Mom,” said Will, staring at me, “that was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” 

I started to cry. 

Mr. Fletcher, our gruff neighbor, came into the barn just then. I guess he was coming to get a round bale for his cows. 

“What’s going on?” he said, noticing the lamb. “Is it dead?” 

“No, no, it’s alive!” said Will, full of pride. “Mom pulled it out of her.”

“So why are you crying?” Mr. Fletcher said, looking at me.

“Because I’m a girl, you idiot. Because I’m a girl.” 

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A country that reversed a narrative of poverty

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When former Beatles guitarist George Harrison organized the world’s first rock ’n’ roll benefit concert in 1971, it was to aid one of the world’s poorest countries. Nearly independent from India, Bangladesh was so poor that Henry Kissinger, then U.S. secretary of state, called it “a basket case,” implying beyond hope. Fifty years later, the distilling effects of the pandemic have revealed a wholly hopeful Bangladesh, one that gives caution to writing off any place – or person – as terminally destitute.

In May, for the first time, Bangladesh’s average income earned per person was larger than India’s. Just 14 years ago, it was half of its larger South Asian neighbor. In fact, its income grew 9% during COVID-19 while India’s shrank. It now claims to be the fastest-growing economy in Asia, with a stable currency and stock market.

With a stereotype now reversed, Bangladesh is in a position to lift others. Last month, it came to the aid of Sri Lanka with a $200 million loan. No rock concert was needed. The financial aid was a reflection of a country that had been unwilling to accept a foreign narrative of perpetual poverty.

Any struggle against an imposed narrative starts with a new view of oneself. Or as Mr. Harrison wrote for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh: “All things must pass / None of life’s strings can last.”

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A country that reversed a narrative of poverty

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Muslims offer prayers inside the Baitul Mukarram Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, May 14.

When former Beatles guitarist George Harrison organized the world’s first rock ’n’ roll benefit concert in 1971, it was to aid one of the world’s poorest countries. Nearly independent, Bangladesh was so poor that Henry Kissinger, then U.S. secretary of state, called it “a basket case,” implying beyond hope. While the aid concert did raise some $12 million, it also fueled a stereotype of the world’s poorest countries as chronic victims.

Fifty years later, the distilling effects of the pandemic have revealed a wholly hopeful Bangladesh, one that gives caution to writing off any place – or person – as terminally destitute.

In May, for the first time, Bangladesh’s average income earned per person was larger than India’s. Just 14 years ago, it was half of its larger South Asian neighbor. In fact, its income grew 9% during COVID-19 while India’s shrank. It now claims to be the fastest-growing economy in Asia, with a stable currency and stock market.

Despite a vulnerability to cyclones, an often-unstable democracy, and high durniti (“ill practice,” meaning corruption), Bangladesh has rewritten the rules of prosperity. Its microfinance institutions like Grameen Bank have fed an entrepreneurial culture. It has cut infant mortality and illiteracy while boosting exports with industries such as textiles. Before the pandemic, it was able to cut the poverty rate by half in just 15 years. The United Nations says Bangladesh’s social development is “phenomenal.” In the coming decade, the country is projected to have the world’s 28th largest economy.

With a stereotype now reversed, Bangladesh is in a position to lift others. Last month, it came to the aid of Sri Lanka with a $200 million loan. No rock concert was needed. The financial aid was a reflection of a country that had been unwilling to accept a foreign narrative of perpetual poverty.

Any struggle against an imposed narrative starts with a new view of oneself. Or as Mr. Harrison wrote for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh: “All things must pass / None of life’s strings can last.”

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.

Grace to go forward

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Even when the way is difficult, God’s empowering, healing grace is ever-active and present to impel progress.

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Grace to go forward

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Recently I was spectating at a running race, cheering on everyone who went by. At one point, a participant who was walking and trailing behind most of the others said dejectedly, “I’m just so tired.” He had about two miles to go, and it came to me to offer to walk with him for a bit. His face lit up, and for the next 15 minutes, we walked side by side (at a distance consistent with public health guidelines).

Neither of us said much, but I was so struck by this man’s quiet persistence, his dedication to keeping going, step by step. When the time came for me to head back, he thanked me so sincerely and smiled ear to ear at my assurances that he had what it took to make it to the finish line. It was a moment of grace, in that the strength to finish wasn’t coming from increased human effort. Rather, it felt like it was being given, a result of the joy we were sharing.

Where can we turn to help us keep moving forward (literally or figuratively), even when the way is difficult? We may find motivation from friendly encouragement, or the anticipation of achieving a certain goal, or – less happily – the fear of remaining “stuck” where we are. I’ve certainly experienced all of that at various times. But when push comes to shove, I’ve found that the most empowering motivator is God and the good God is always giving us through grace.

A verse in the “Christian Science Hymnal” refers to asking God for “grace to go forward,” even in the midst of trials (P.M., No. 278). I love that idea. It doesn’t mean we need to beg and plead for God to maybe, hopefully, bestow us with grace. Christ Jesus’ lifework was all about showing that God’s strengthening, healing grace is not confined to a select few, but the birthright of all of God’s children.

In fact, it’s not even that God offers mortals a healthy dose of whatever we need to get through some difficulty. God’s grace is so much more than that! It is reflected in the very fabric of our being, in the spiritual fact that God created each of us – not as a mortal destined to flail through life, but as the expression of the flawless peace, joy, purity, integrity, wisdom, and love of the Divine. We can never truly be without these qualities; they’re forever sustained by God.

Christian Science elucidates these ideas, and the discoverer of this Science, Mary Baker Eddy, describes it as “a law of divine Mind, a persuasive animus, an unerring impetus, an ever-present help” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 3). Could there be a more powerful or reliable force to propel forward action than the promise of God’s goodness, encompassing and expressed throughout all of creation, unfailingly? Honestly striving to live our true, spiritual selfhood – to actively nurture the qualities God expresses in us, to let God, good, animate our thoughts and actions – inevitably moves us forward.

That’s the gift – and the demand – of God’s universal grace. Time and again I’ve found that recognizing and accepting this gift opens the door to healing and improvement in character. It frees us from the pull of frustration, willfulness, or fear that would hamper progress, impelling compassion, patience, and joy instead. And it empowers us to reflect God’s healing love toward others, too.

Each of us can let God’s grace lead us forward, and experience the blessings that ripple out.

Looking for more timely inspiration like this? Check out the “Related stories” below; explore other recent content from the Monitor’s daily Christian Science Perspective column; or sign up for the free weekly newsletters for this column or the Christian Science Sentinel, a sister publication of the Monitor.

Viewfinder

Venice says, ‘Basta!’

Manuel Silvestri/Reuters
Venice residents hold a protest demanding an end to cruise ships passing through the lagoon city, as the first cruise ship of the summer season departs from the Port of Venice in Italy, June 5, 2021.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us as we start the week. Tomorrow, watch for our story on the facts behind the fearful headlines about whether new GOP voting laws in states make it easier to overturn elections.

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