2021
July
30
Friday

Monitor Daily Podcast

July 30, 2021
Loading the player...

TODAY’S INTRO

Generosity in drive: Taking ‘free rides’ to a new level

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

You may have seen Eliot Middleton’s story on a network talk show, delivered as an upbeat little yarn. It’s actually more. Not quite a year ago, this barbecue restaurant owner in South Carolina’s Lowcountry started fixing up vehicles for strangers in need, for free.

His dad taught him how to wield a wrench, and to be kind. Mr. Middleton works back-country style: cars in the open, no fancy shop. The cars aren’t fancy, either. Plenty have what car people call “moon mileage.” Many have surely tallied what would be round trips there from Earth.

Mr. Middleton had given away more than 30 cars before national media found him this month. As his story spread, so did offers of car donations – some 800 from around the country, he tells CBS News, plus more than $100,000 in cash. “Soul-soothing,” he says. 

His work fills gaps. Automobile prices have soared as the supply chain for high-tech components has faltered, dropping new-car inventory and pushing up prices on new and used cars. In Mr. Middleton’s region, transit and ride services are not an option.

So at a time when the “right to repair” is being fought for, affecting vehicles from Teslas to tractors, a spotlight-averse man in Awandaw, South Carolina, is carefully matching generosity to need. 

“The young man is very overwhelmed,” says his sister in a video on their foundation’s Facebook page. He’s also still in drive. He aims to expand his car-collection range outward from the Carolinas and Georgia to broaden his giving. 

“There are so many of us who will do the right thing if someone like Mr. Middleton sets [an] example and walks the walk,” one site visitor posted. “Ripples are turning into waves, and society is showing its Humanity!”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

As pandemic shifts, so does some Americans’ view of it

The United States has been largely drawn into two camps with starkly different views of vaccines and the pandemic. But there is evidence that thought is shifting in areas that have so far been wary.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 6 Min. )

American attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccinations may be slowly shifting toward more widespread acceptance as coronavirus cases surge in some states and officials urge holdouts to get a shot.

Some of the U.S. areas most resistant to vaccines in the past now lead the nation in the number of people getting their first shot. Louisiana, for instance, has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate, but in recent days has seen vaccinations rise to their highest rate since April.

Experts say it’s possible that a new push by some GOP leaders changed some minds in the least vaccinated portions of the country, which tend to be conservative. But it’s more likely that the increases are due to a variety of factors, including the deteriorating health situation in states with a high rate of unvaccinated people, and the urging of family, friends, and medical providers.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated people can seem to live in two different worlds – even when they’re from the same family. Take San Antonio resident Dakota Flores, who is vaccinated, and her adult daughter Patience Flores-Lopez, who is not.

Ms. Flores got her first shot as soon as she could, because she and other family members have conditions that could make them vulnerable.

“I was hoping we were going to get back to normal,” she says.

As pandemic shifts, so does some Americans’ view of it

Collapse
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald/AP
Tugboat captain John Kirkconnell fills out the paperwork to receive his COVID-19 vaccine at a city-run pop-up vaccine clinic, July 21, 2021, in Brownsville, Texas.

American attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccinations may be slowly shifting toward more widespread acceptance as coronavirus cases surge in some states and officials from the White House to many statehouses urge holdouts to get a shot.

That’s seen in the fact that some of the U.S. areas most resistant to vaccines in the past now lead the nation in the number of people getting their first shot of the two-shot vaccine regimen. Louisiana, for instance, has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate among states, but in recent days has seen vaccinations rise to their highest rate since April, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers.

Experts say it’s possible that a new pro-vaccination push by some GOP leaders changed some minds in the least vaccinated portions of the country, which tend to be conservative. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, No. 2 in the House Republican leadership, publicly got his first vaccine shot earlier this month, for instance.

But it’s more likely that the increases are due to a variety of factors, including worry about the deteriorating health situation in states with a high rate of unvaccinated people, and the urging of family, friends, and medical providers.

Edgar Navarro Garza is a pediatrician at a community health center in Killeen, Texas, that focuses on Medicaid families. He says that in the past few months, as COVID-19 cases have surged in the region, he’s seen an increase in people saying they’re going to get the coronavirus vaccine.

He estimates that 85% of his patient population has been or will soon be vaccinated, including parents and children over age 12.

“They’re really into getting the vaccine,” he says. 

Currently, about 31% of Americans over age 18 remain unvaccinated. That means the U.S. remains just short of the goal President Joe Biden wanted to reach by July 4: 70% of the adult population vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the vaccination rate has plummeted since its peak. In mid-July Americans were receiving an average of about 540,000 vaccine doses a day – an 84% decrease from its early April high, according to a database compiled by The New York Times.

With the national case count rising, masks returning in many communities, and the promise of an end to the pandemic appearing to recede, anger is rising among the vaccinated as they blame vaccine hesitance for the backsliding.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated people can seem to live in two different worlds – even when they’re from the same family. Take San Antonio resident Dakota Flores, who is vaccinated, and her adult daughter Patience Flores-Lopez, also of San Antonio, who is not.

Ms. Flores got her first shot as soon as she could, on April 15. She says she acted because she and some other family members have conditions that could make them particularly vulnerable.

“I was hoping we were going to get back to normal,” she says. “And then the new [delta] strain started coming out, and something just told me this isn’t over.”

Vacation encounter

Too many people aren’t taking the resurgence seriously, she says. Recently she and her two younger children took a vacation and flew to the East Coast. On the plane they wore masks and did not take them off, even to drink water or eat snacks.

They visited a family who was not vaccinated. After they returned, they discovered that members of that family had tested positive for the virus.

“We’re like, ‘Dudes! You know how careful we are! ... And they’re like, ‘I didn’t do it on purpose!’” she says.

The unvaccinated peeve her, she says. They don’t understand what’s going on until COVID-19 hits home.

“You choose to play with everyone else’s life. That’s the way I see it,” says Ms. Flores.

Meanwhile, her daughter, who gave birth during the pandemic, says she does not think she is going to get vaccinated.

“I just believe that there’s no way they could find a cure in such a short amount of time,” she says.

She says that she has a friend who was vaccinated and still caught the virus.

Susan Walsh/AP
President Joe Biden answers a question from a reporter after he spoke about COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 29, 2021.

“What’s the point of the vaccine if it’s supposed to keep us safe [but it’s not]?” says Ms. Flores-Lopez, who also worries about a rare side effect with the Johnson & Johnson virus that led to a handful of deaths this spring.

She says she and her mother haven’t really talked about why she’s been hesitant, but her mom knows they don’t see eye to eye. Still – and perhaps importantly – she does not completely close the door on the possibility that she might change her mind.

“I do still think about maybe getting the vaccine. But I don’t think if they ever came up with a way for children to get it, I don’t think I’d let my daughter get it,” she says.

Changing behavior, not minds

It’s extremely difficult to get those who are adamant about refusing vaccines to change their minds, say experts. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from May, this “definitely not” group is about 13% of the U.S. adult population.

But there is also a group of Americans who admit they’ve entertained the idea they might do it. That “wait and see” group is about 12% of U.S. adults, and the group most likely to listen to the Biden administration's pleas. Members of this group tend to be less Republican, more diverse, lower-income, and younger than the “definitely not” cohort.

“The most promising thing by far is to help people act” on their own intentions, says Noel Brewer, a professor in the department of health behavior at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Research shows that interventions aimed at changing people’s thoughts and feelings are unlikely to work.

Changing behaviors is different, though. Offering a day off work or transportation to vaccination sites or $100 payments – as President Biden is promoting – is often enough to motivate some people. 

Unsurprisingly, mandates work as well. The administration’s order for new vaccine rules for federal workers – get vaccinated, or face regular testing – could be a harbinger of more such moves to come.

Overall, says Dr. Brewer, “vaccinations are picking up; governments are using some new programs we haven’t seen before.”

Politicization “slowly fading”

Attitudes toward the vaccines have been fundamentally political since they first became available. To some extent they remain so: A recent Morning Consult poll showed 28% of Republicans remain unwilling to be vaccinated, with another 12% uncertain.

Some loud voices in the GOP remain anti-vaccine, but a number of prominent Republican leaders in recent days have stepped up public endorsements of the shots, notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is running ads in Kentucky urging people to get vaccinated. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on July 13 that “these vaccines are saving lives.”

Politicization of the vaccine is “slowly fading,” says Professor Brewer, pointing to the fact that more than 50% of Republicans have now had at least one shot.

But there are still many who remain adamant about opting out, such as Brian Holzmeier, who lives outside Fort Worth, Texas.

It’s not as though he’s a “pandemic denier,” Mr. Holzmeier says. He’s known about a dozen people who have been diagnosed, and some who died. Last March, he was just as anxious as the next person, as a steady drip of reports described the nation’s collective concern.

But Mr. Holzmeier’s opinion on the pandemic is that it didn’t turn out to be as dangerous as advertised.

“While it was bad, and it was way worse in some areas, I don’t think it turned out to be what it could have been,” Mr. Holzmeier says. 

“The day [Texas Gov. Greg Abbott] shut the state down – and I agreed with that short term – I wrote a check that morning for five figures to buy my wife her own business. It was lockdown at 1 o’clock. It hurt me in the pocketbook,” he adds. 

Meanwhile, Conroe, Texas, resident Carol Greenwade thought her life was speeding back up after she was vaccinated. Ms. Greenwade has a medical condition that could make her susceptible to the virus, and takes care of her elderly mother.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she became a breakthrough COVID-19 patient.

Dealing with the virus so far has been difficult, she says.

But it has convinced some of those around her to change their minds.  

“A lot of other family members that haven’t gotten the vaccine, I think they’re going to get it now,” Ms. Greenwade says.

‘I need to vote.’ Why more Asian Americans are staking a political claim.

Discrimination and violence against Asian Americans have made headlines this year. Overlooked in some coverage, though, is a key part of their communities’ response: renewed pride and a political reawakening.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 6 Min. )

Voter turnout by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased in the 2020 election more than for any other racial or ethnic group. It’s just one aspect of what Asian American leaders call a surge in political engagement in recent years. Around 23 million people identify as Asian American in the United States, and many in this diverse community have banded together in the face of rising racism and attacks during the pandemic. 

Chinese American leaders, in particular, say they’ve seen a striking growth in political engagement. “An uptick would be an understatement,” says Haipei Shue, president of the United Chinese Americans, a nonprofit that was formed in 2016.

He attributes the change to a “triple whammy”: the Trump presidency and U.S.-Chinese economic and political tensions that made the Chinese community “very nervous and worried about its future”; the intensifying polarization of American politics; and the disproportionately high number of pandemic deaths in the Chinese American community.

“In the Chinese community, like it or not, everybody has become more politicized” in recent years, says Mr. Shue. “Not necessarily because they love it, but most likely because they cannot run away from it.”

‘I need to vote.’ Why more Asian Americans are staking a political claim.

Collapse
From Zoom
Screen shots taken of an online presentation on June 25, 2021, to Chinese American students by Mason Ji, a Harvard Law School graduate and former White House ambassador for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Mr. Ji was addressing about 150 students taking part in a civics leadership program organized by United Chinese Americans.

About 150 Chinese American high school and college students from across the United States are engaging online with a young presidential and congressional campaign worker, peppering him with questions.

“When you’re campaigning, how do you really mobilize Asian Americans?” asks Luis Xu, a high school student from Illinois, during a weeklong civics program designed to empower a new generation of leaders.

“I’m really impressed by your activism at such a young age. … How did you network so effectively in high school and college?” asks another student, Arthur Sun.

“Have you ever had any difficulties in your political career as a Chinese American? How did you overcome them?” inquires Lin Pei, a student at the University of Maryland. 

Asian Americans say their community is experiencing a broad political awakening, reflected in such enthusiastic exchanges between students and elected officials, activists, and community leaders attending the civics program organized by the Washington-based nonprofit United Chinese Americans. Though the 23 million people who identify as Asian American today are a vastly diverse group, they’ve united to a degree against a surge in racism and attacks during the pandemic.

“What you’re seeing right now at the national level … but also at the state and local levels, is this kind of reckoning” in response to heightened polarization during the Trump presidency and a wave of anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, says Vivian Louie, director of the Asian American Studies Center and the Asian American Studies program of Hunter College at the City University of New York.

“Folks who have never really been politically active … have responded by mobilizing, by seeking to build coalitions within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and across Americans of all different backgrounds.”

Voter turnout by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders surged by 10 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively, in the 2020 election compared with 2016, more than for any other racial or ethnic categories, according to census data analyzed by the demographic research group AAPI Data. Exit polls indicated that 63% of the Asian American electorate voted for Joe Biden, compared with 31% for President Donald Trump.  

Chinese American leaders, in particular, say the growth in political engagement has been striking within their community, which with 5.4 million people is the biggest segment of the Asian American population, according to U.S. census data.

“An uptick would be an understatement” in describing the newfound political activism, says Haipei Shue, president of United Chinese Americans. He attributes the change to a “triple whammy”: the Trump presidency “making the Chinese community very nervous and worried about its future,” with soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing; the intensifying polarization of U.S. politics; and the heavy blow of the pandemic to the Chinese American community specifically.

“In the Chinese community, like it or not, everybody has become more politicized” in recent years, says Mr. Shue. “Not necessarily because they love it, but most likely because they cannot run away from it.” 

“I need to vote”

To be sure, Asian American activists have a long history of fighting for their rights and have waged landmark court battles over issues such as citizenship, immigration, and education, Professor Louie notes. Yet she says many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders themselves are not aware of this history.

From Zoom
Alice Cai is one of 10 student leaders participating in a Summer University civics program put on by United Chinese Americans on June 25, 2021. Ms. Cai is a rising freshman at Harvard.

Among newer Chinese Americans, reluctance to take part in democratic politics has stemmed in part from their roots in China, Mr. Shue says. “We come from a society where … not only do you never know what democracy is, but you are much discouraged from any activism or advocacy,” he says, noting about two-thirds of Chinese Americans are first-generation immigrants.

Language barriers are another obstacle, with a third of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders having limited English, according to survey data. 

“They fear they cannot be an adequate voter,” says Hong Qi, who moved to the Seattle area from Beijing in 1988 and has since worked on programs to boost voting by Chinese Americans and other minority groups. “Even if the material is translated, they will say they don’t know the candidates, or don’t understand the resolutions.” Prior to the 2020 elections, Ms. Hong translated voting instructions for every state into Chinese and posted them online.

But for many, concern over the spike in physical and verbal attacks and other forms of discrimination against Asian Americans – along with a dangerously divisive political atmosphere – has spurred them into action. The group Stop AAPI Hate tracked more than 6,000 reported incidents of discrimination in the year to March 30, including more than 800 physical assaults.

“I never voted because I felt I needed to have a better understanding of the U.S. system” and faced a language barrier, says Cathy, who moved to the Seattle area from China 18 years ago and is now a U.S. citizen. But after her Chinese American husband was assaulted and his nose fractured in a June attack that she believes was racially motivated, she is taking action. She wrote to the Seattle City Council about the assault and is determined to vote in the next election. "I need to vote," she says.

“We used to be the silent people,” says Cathy, who asked that her last name be withheld for her protection. But now, she believes, “the Chinese community should take more participation in improving the society.”

Taking action

In addition to turning out the vote, more Asian Americans are running for office and working on political campaigns, and grassroots organizing, says Professor Louie. In New York, nearly one-fifth of the candidates running for city council in November are of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent.

“I am very conscious of the fact that there are not many Chinese Americans broadly in politics,” says one young Chinese American Senate staff member who has worked on political campaigns. “I frankly don’t see a lot of folks who look like me,” he says, requesting anonymity because his job does not authorize him to speak on the record.

Still, he feels compelled to pursue a career in politics, in part to represent Asian Americans.

“When you have the president of the United States throwing out racial slurs and targeting the community specifically … you realize you have no choice but to make your voice heard,” he says, referring to Mr. Trump. “That’s what we saw over this part year – we saw the tragic shooting in Atlanta, for instance – moments like that really shock your system and make you realize you have no choice but to be part of the process,” he says. The March shootings at Atlanta area spas killed eight people, including six Asian women. The shooter pled guilty this week to four counts of murder. 

Advocates stress that education is also vital to counter discrimination and violence against Asian Americans and ease their feeling of being unappreciated, or even invisible. In a recent victory, Illinois this month became the first state to require a unit on Asian American history to be added to public schools’ curriculum.

As Chinese Americans, “you must show you are part of the United States and have built the United States from the beginning,” says former senior U.S. diplomat Ted Gong. Mr. Gong is executive director of the 1882 Foundation, which promotes public awareness of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the United States.

“Don’t be silent,” Mr. Gong told the students attending last month’s online civic leadership program. “Blow the whistle, not just if you are in danger,” he says, referring to a Yellow Whistle campaign launched in April to counter racial violence against Asian Americans. “Let people know you are here.”

With moratorium lifting, can US avoid avalanche of evictions?

There are still kinks in the flow of funds aimed at averting evictions. Less noticed amid dire predictions: action around long-term alternatives that could offer real hope of progress for tenants and landlords alike.

Elise Amendola/AP/File
Isabel Miranda brushes the hair of her 4-year-old son, Julian, in their rental apartment in Haverhill, Massachusetts, March 10, 2021. A nationwide moratorium on evictions is set to expire July 31, but there is still lots of funding left to help renters like Ms. Miranda.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 6 Min. )

With the federal eviction moratorium expiring this weekend, tenants and housing advocates are braced. Just how large the wave of evictions may be remains to be seen, but there is hope it won’t swamp the economy.

On the one hand, the U.S. economy has been climbing steadily back out of its pandemic hole. And with so much federal aid earmarked for emergency rental assistance, the avalanche of evictions may be smaller than originally predicted. On the other hand, of the nearly $47 billion allocated since December, only a tiny percentage – about 6% – has been spent as of June, leaving renters – and landlords – in limbo. And 14% to 16% of renters say they still can’t pay their back rent.

On Friday, Congress was considering an 11th-hour reprieve, but the outcome was uncertain.

States, cities, and nonprofits have been racing to get as much rental assistance money out the door as possible before July 31. And with billions left unspent, there’s an opportunity to keep funding levels for emergency rental assistance at new highs for years to come. Some cities are using that as an opportunity to create models that treat evictions as a last resort, rather than business as usual.

With moratorium lifting, can US avoid avalanche of evictions?

Collapse

The cliff is here. Sort of.

Ten months and billions of dollars in federal aid later, the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to expire July 31.

It was first put in place after more than 20 million Americans suddenly lost their jobs during 2020 lockdowns.

On the one hand, the U.S. economy has been climbing steadily back out of that pandemic hole. And with so much federal aid earmarked for emergency rental assistance, the avalanche of evictions may be smaller than originally predicted. On the other hand, of the nearly $47 billion allocated since December, only a tiny percentage – about 6% – has been spent as of June, leaving renters – and landlords – in limbo.

“The CDC moratorium has helped a select few tenants,” says Rachel Garland, a lawyer in Philadelphia who helps tenants fight evictions. “[But] the whole idea was not to kick the can down the road, and then have a spike in evictions when the moratoriums ended. The idea was, put the moratoriums in place, but then put other measures in place, such as rental assistance, that would resolve these issues.”

In some ways though, kicking the can is exactly what happened. Housing advocates worry the result could be a flood of evictions after this weekend. Some 14% to 16% of renters say they are behind on rent. While that’s significantly better than in January, it still translates into millions of Americans at risk of losing their home at the same time.

On Friday, the House began work on a possible 11th-hour reprieve, but an extension’s future in the Senate was uncertain.

But there is hope: This month, states, cities, and nonprofits flush with federal cash have raced to get as much money out the door as possible before July 31. And there’s an opportunity to keep funding levels for emergency rental assistance at new highs for years to come. Some housing advocates are cautiously optimistic that long-term alternatives to eviction could be put in place that could offer a less-disruptive way forward for both tenants and landlords.

Just how large a wave of evictions will materialize after the moratorium lifts this weekend remains to be seen. The moratorium itself, first implemented in September 2020, has had holes and exceptions. While evictions slowed, they didn’t stop – so there may not be as much built-up pressure as feared.

The economy has strengthened significantly, though the recovery remains lopsided and different states offer different levels of eviction protection. Landlords say they are also flummoxed that generous pandemic unemployment benefits haven’t translated into rent checks. For their part, tenant advocates point to an economy that’s being threatened by the COVID-19 delta variant – renters in already precarious economic positions are now juggling other complications, such as school opening plans that are still in flux.

Between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, roughly $47 billion has been allotted from Congress in rental assistance funds since December to cover back rent, utilities, and even moving costs. But only $1.5 billion had been spent through the end of May. After a Supreme Court ruling last month that the moratorium couldn’t be extended unless Congress intervened, some progress was made: Another $1.5 billion was distributed in June. Still, a July Treasury statement noted, “​​While more households are getting help, in many states and localities, funds are still not flowing fast enough to renters and landlords.” 

That snail’s pace translates into tenants falling further behind on rent, and landlords continuing to face down mortgages, taxes, and other costs without money coming in.

“It was a little frustrating, knowing [the federal money] was out there, knowing that we had residents that needed it,” says Justin Seger, vice president of residential properties at Hills Properties, which owns several thousand units across the Midwest. “And those balances start to stack up, and that puts a huge burden on landlords” – especially smaller ones who might only own a property or two, he adds. While Mr. Seger has noticed things moving faster in the last month or so, overall he says he’s found charitable organizations much more responsive to tenants’ rental assistance needs.

The moratorium lapsing, however, gives tenants less time to get through the lengthy assistance process.

“The program is working in Kentucky, but it takes time,” says Brandon Holmes, director of housing and weatherization at Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, which refers both landlords and tenants to the state agency processing applications. “Everyone’s somewhat anxious right now. A lot of it has to do with this uncertainty of actually getting a payment, from a landlord perspective – and from the tenant side, the fear of being evicted.”

But the millions in aid, set to last far past July 31, “might be good to lay the groundwork for eviction prevention infrastructure going forward,” says Mark Lawson, president of the Community Action Agency.

During the pandemic, the Cincinnati nonprofit has helped get $10 million in rental assistance to those in need, versus $300,000 in a typical year. Also, instead of capping help at $2,500 per family, the CAA can now pay arrears back to March 2020.

“We can make a landlord whole – which is very different than before,” Mr. Lawson says. “Tenant assistance is landlord assistance.” 

“A prayer and a hope”

For a while, it seemed like Malea Berry was going to make it through the pandemic unscathed. The single mother had a good job working as a pharmacy technician. But after months of her 5-year-old son, Myaire, attending online kindergarten – with only his grandmother available to attempt to guide him through Zoom – she reached a breaking point. She quit her job in October.

Nick Roll/The Christian Science Monitor
Malea Berry, shown in Pleasant Ridge Park in Cincinnati, July 29, 2021, is a rare rental assistance success story. The help she got let her and her son leave their water-damaged apartment.

“I was exhausted. I was starting to feel depressed, extremely stressed out,” she says. “And I’m like, ‘I can’t allow that to happen, especially right now. It’s too critical. I cannot crash right now.’ So I had to change up everything in my life to be able to keep pushing forward.” 

Quitting her job to guide her son through school “obviously completely affected my income, which then caused a snowball effect,” she says. Because she wasn’t fired – and because of the delays she saw with others getting unemployment – she didn’t apply for unemployment benefits. 

Money was going fast. She was keeping up with rent, but fell behind on utilities. Her apartment had water damage, but her landlord was unresponsive. She needed to move, but didn’t have the means to do so.

“I didn’t have any cash,” Ms. Berry says. “I was on a prayer and a hope.” After filing paperwork with the CAA in December, money came through in February: First month’s rent and a security deposit on a new apartment, and six months of energy bills. Ms. Berry’s case is one of the success stories of the emergency rental assistance program.

Eviction as a last resort

Philadelphia might be an early example of what successful post-moratorium rental assistance could look like. The goal is to treat eviction as a last resort, not business as usual.

One of the problems with the moratorium and rental assistance was that tenants had to actively opt-in to use them. But there were many tenants – and landlords as well – who didn’t know that help was available, or didn’t know how to seek it. This led to evictions that could have been prevented. 

But in Philadelphia, a court order in place until August has created bumpers, requiring landlords and tenants to go into diversion and mediation programs – and then, if necessary, into applying for emergency rental relief – before eviction can be pursued.

By putting the other solutions first, and evictions last, it creates a situation where all available options are pursued, Ms. Garland says. “It solves the problem a lot faster than sitting around waiting for a court date that may or may not solve the problem.”

The case of Ms. Berry shows just how long and drawn out the pandemic’s economic effects can be. She’s since started her own business, with more flexible hours, but still doesn’t quite feel stable. “Honestly, I don’t feel that I’m on the other side,” she says. “I’ve still got plenty of stuff that needs to be paid. I have to catch up; I was just getting my credit together.

“People don’t realize how long it’s going to take for the average person to recover from the COVID situation.”

Why a yearlong wait is a boon for US water polo

The long wait for Tokyo “2020,” as organizers are still calling the Games, piled uncertainty and stress on many athletes. But for others, it opened the door to opportunity.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters
U.S. water polo team members join hands with head coach Adam Krikorian at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre at the Tokyo Olympics, July 26, 2021. The team beat China 12-7 Monday.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 4 Min. )

If the Tokyo Olympics had actually taken place in 2020, Kaleigh Gilchrist likely wouldn’t have been part of them.

Two years ago, Ms. Gilchrist was celebrating her water polo team’s victory at world championships in South Korea when the balcony she was standing on collapsed. Two people standing nearby died, and Ms. Gilchrist ended up in the hospital.

It was a long road to recovery. But when the pandemic postponed the Games, her story became a rallying point for the team. If they had to wait another year, at least Ms. Gilchrist would be there.

For many athletes, the postponed Games have taken away. But for others, like Ms. Gilchrist, the wait has been a gift. And for her team, that sense of serendipity has added a source of strength and perseverance at a sorely needed time.

Every Olympics is new, says captain Maggie Steffens, but the Tokyo Games have challenged athletes unlike any other. Ms. Gilchrist’s recovery came to symbolize the squad’s collective challenges, and gave it a collective reason to persevere.

“Kaleigh’s somebody that brings ... a lot of light to our team,” says Ms. Steffens, “and with that light she brings a lot of hope.”

Why a yearlong wait is a boon for US water polo

Collapse

Lurking near the back post during the July 24 U.S. women’s water polo opener, Kaleigh Gilchrist catches a cross-pool pass with her right arm, and in one motion heaves the ball against the water, skipping past the Japanese goalkeeper into the bottom left of the net.

Eighteen to 4, United States in front – Ms. Gilchrist swims across the pool. Minutes later she returns on the attack, earning a penalty shot that she rebounds in for a second goal.

By the final whistle, the U.S. had won 25-4 – setting Olympic records for the most points scored in both half a game and a full game, until Spain beat South Africa 29-4. The U.S. tally is now the second-most lopsided attack in Olympic women’s water polo history.

Had the Olympics taken place on time, Ms. Gilchrist likely wouldn’t have been a part of it.

Two years ago, she was celebrating her team’s recent victory at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, when the balcony she was standing on collapsed. Two people standing nearby died, and Ms. Gilchrist ended up in the hospital.

Mark Humphrey/AP
The United States' Kaleigh Gilchrist plays against Japan during a preliminary-round women's water polo match at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. Ms. Gilchrist's recovery from an injury two years ago has rallied the team.

Recovery was a long, arduous road. But when the pandemic postponed the Games, her story became a rallying point for the team. If they had to wait another year, at least Ms. Gilchrist would be there.

For many athletes, the postponed pandemic Games have taken away. But for others, like Ms. Gilchrist, the wait has been a gift. Even for a historically dominant U.S. team, that sense of serendipity has added a source of strength and perseverance.

“I was crying on the way over [to the venue], just feeling all the emotions and really reflecting on this journey,” says Ms. Gilchrist, of the bus ride before the July 24 game. “It’s extra special to be in Tokyo.”

Among team sports, water polo stands out for the especially close coordination it demands of its competitors. Neither speech nor players travel easily in a pool of splashing water.

When the U.S. women play, goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson narrates positions and the shot clock while the team attacks and defends in sync. On offense, the high-scoring team passes in elaborate shapes, like it’s teaching geometry. Wherever they swim, they swim together.

The sport also stands out for its rigor.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson of the United States in action at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre at the Tokyo Olympics, July 26, 2021. The U.S. women are favored to win, but face stiff competition.

Competing in water polo means sprint-swimming back and forth during eight-minute quarters. Play is aggressive, as the teams jostle for position and hurl the ball toward the goal. Somehow, treading water counts as a break.

After Ms. Gilchrist’s injury, returning to the peak fitness required by her sport – a journey she dubbed her “Mamba mission,” a nod to Kobe Bryant’s nickname and their friendship – took bouts of frustration and uncertainty.

“I wasn’t completely there [when I first returned to the pool],” she says. “There was lack of fitness. There was a little self-doubt. There’s stuff that I wasn’t working on that I knew I had to work on.”

So the team worked on it together.

“I was by Kaleigh’s side a lot of that time,” says teammate Maddie Musselman. “I had an injury a year before that. So the moment that she went through it, I was like, you’re not doing it alone.”

In helping Ms. Gilchrist return to the team, the group found inspiration at a sorely needed time.

Every Olympics is new, says captain Maggie Steffens, but the Tokyo Games have challenged athletes unlike any other. Like Ms. Gilchrist, her team members confronted uncertainty and doubt. Her recovery came to symbolize their collective challenges, and gave them a collective reason to persevere.

“Kaleigh’s somebody that brings ... a lot of light to our team,” says Ms. Steffens, “and with that light she brings a lot of hope.”

The U.S. women are heavily favored, but a gold medal isn’t inevitable. The team’s closer 12-7 win against China on Tuesday showed the competition’s strength, and Hungary defeated them 10-9 in another preliminary round Wednesday. Australia, the only other team to beat the U.S. since 2016, is also at the Games.

With each game, Ms. Gilchrist’s Olympic clock winds down. This will be her second and final Games, and she wants to enjoy them – and win. Her dad swam in Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics for Canada. A gold medal here would deepen that personal connection even more.

But a year of starting from athletic square one and gaining confidence has taught her that isn’t everything.

“I thought I had good perspective [before the incident] and I thought I had a good attitude,” says Ms. Gilchrist. “But it’s just gone a higher notch.”

When the game against Japan ended, she wasn’t thinking about her two goals or Olympic records. She was grateful to be there, and proud. She’ll remember something else about what was likely her seventh-last Olympic match.

“It was fun,” she says.

Film

In a return to Camelot, ‘The Green Knight’ considers the price of honor

What does it mean to live an honorable life? “The Green Knight,” a film based on a medieval Arthurian poem, examines the historical demands of chivalry and the timeless quest for dignity.

A24 press
Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s nephew, embarks on a daring quest in “The Green Knight.” The film is derived from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” a poem from the late 14th century.

In a return to Camelot, ‘The Green Knight’ considers the price of honor

Collapse

Kneeling in the fantastical Green Knight’s frondescent chapel, Sir Gawain is unflinching as he awaits word on whether he will have to pay the price of his long-awaited honor: his head.

“The Green Knight,” from studio A24, preserves the epic roots of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” a poem drafted in the late 14th century by an unknown author. The movie stars English actor Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield”), who continues to redefine the roles accessible to actors of color with this dive into Camelot.

In a world where men are made through their prolific stories, Gawain is still a boy. He is King Arthur’s nephew, and subject to the medieval code of chivalry, but still the sincere Gawain has no heroic stories to tell. Even with his family’s patience, Gawain’s shame makes him the inevitable victim of an ancient code of manhood: the pursuit of honor at any cost. 

The film follows a game initiated by the statuesque, woodland-humanoid Green Knight who barges into Camelot, daring a challenger to humor him in sport. The rules are simple: One man will have the opportunity to inflict any blow on the knight and receive his exquisite ax. In return, however, in one year’s time, he must voyage to the Green Knight’s chapel with the prized ax and suffer the same blow that was dealt. 

Desperate for honor, Gawain takes on the green giant’s challenge and doesn’t hesitate; he delivers a clean hit to the creature’s neck. In the midst of onlooker celebration, the Green Knight rises, decapitated. The contract is now initiated and if the knight is true to his word, Gawain must face his destiny in a year’s time. 

The film, which doesn’t shy away from its medieval source, fully showcases renditions of the original sexual and violent trials that Gawain faces on his yearlong quest. But they are handled artfully, propelling the story and driving Gawain’s development. Many scenes are not family fare, but the story is compelling for any lover of legendary tales.

While medieval knights might have correlated honor to conquering, slaying, and adherence to chivalric code, the Western world’s once-ironclad mores have morphed into new social pressures. What might one glean from this story about the meaning of honor in 2021, when men are no longer subjected to the weight of knighthood? What is the contemporary definition of honor?

Today, some might call Gawain’s insatiable desire to prove himself to his kingdom a kind of toxic masculinity. While many fall into the trap of that self-induced poison, for the modern person, honor cannot be what it meant to the knights who had kings and queens to deem them worthy. Honor must be about integrity and those critical moments without an audience. Gawain is honorable not because he accepted the Green Knight’s challenge and became a Camelotian celebrity, but because of who he already was.

One thing director and screenwriter David Lowery points to in Gawain’s quest is his unwavering dignity and kindness. Throughout his psychologically grueling trials on the way to the chapel, he gives to those in need, takes risks for the sake of others, and politely avoids conflict. When it comes time for him to keep his promise and fulfill his end of the bargain, where some men might have fled, Gawain does not. Lowery never needed to convince audiences that Gawain was worthy; Patel did all that himself, extracting the dignity that was within Gawain from the beginning. 

It wasn’t surrounded by the cheering Knights of the Round Table, or during his year of praise, that Sir Gawain found his honor. It was alone, kneeling with unflinching humility, between the silence of the chapel and the ax of the Green Knight, that he finally discovered the honor nestled within him all along.

“The Green Knight” opens in theaters on July 30. It is rated R for violence and some sexuality and nudity.

Other headline stories we’re watching

(Get live updates throughout the day.)

The Monitor's View

The stampede into national parks

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )

After being cooped up by COVID-19, and largely denied the ability to travel overseas, Americans have taken to their national parks this summer in huge numbers. But along with scenic beauty they’ve often confronted crowded trails, traffic jams, and parking nightmares.

Maine’s Acadia National Park, for example, hosted nearly 1.2 million visitors through June of this year, a 33% jump over the same period in 2019, just prior to the pandemic. In response, some of the most popular national parks have been forced to close their gates early in the day. The growth in visitor numbers poses “one of the greatest challenges [the National Park Service] has ever faced,” Kristen Brengel, senior vice president for government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told a U.S. Senate hearing.

To accommodate the crush, parks have been responding with innovative solutions. They are employing timed-entry reservation systems and shuttle services to cut the number of vehicles clogging their roads.

National park crowding may ease in the future as other travel options open up. But lessons learned now can help parks improve visitor experiences.

The stampede into national parks

Collapse
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/FILE
Visitors hike the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park, Utah.

'There is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires,” wrote that ultimate advocate for nature, Henry David Thoreau, in his famous 1862 essay, “Walking.”

After being cooped up by COVID-19, and largely denied the ability to travel overseas, Americans have taken to their national parks this summer in huge numbers to find some of that wilderness inspiration. But instead they’ve often confronted crowded trails, traffic jams, and parking nightmares. 

Maine’s Acadia National Park, for example, hosted nearly 1.2 million visitors through June of this year, a 33% jump over the same period in 2019, just prior to the pandemic. In response, some of the most popular national parks have been forced to close their gates early in the day.

Concerns that U.S. national parks are being “loved to death” have been raised for years. But 2021 seems to be emphatically underlining them.

“Watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain [in Acadia] is a wonderful experience,” said Sen. Angus King of Maine at a Senate subcommittee hearing on overcrowded parks in late July. “Staring at the taillights of the car in front of you as you are trying to get up the mountain and find a parking place? Not so much.”

The growth in visitor numbers poses “one of the greatest challenges [the National Park Service] has ever faced,” Kristen Brengel, senior vice president for government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told the hearing.

U.S. national parks – “America’s Best Idea,” as Ken Burns referred to them in his 2009 documentary series – are doing what they were intended to do: provide memorable encounters with the often spectacular beauty and wonder of the natural world.

Especially now, visitors can hardly be blamed for wanting to take a deep breath and soak it all in.

So to accommodate the crush, parks have been responding with innovative solutions. Visitors are being reminded that the worst crowding is happening at just a couple of dozen iconic places (think Yellowstone, Zion, the Grand Canyon, etc.) in a system of more than 400 parks. Visiting a lesser-known park may provide a little more elbow room.

Parks are employing timed-entry reservation systems and shuttle services to cut the number of vehicles clogging their roads. And nearby businesses, which depend on park tourism, are jumping in to share their local knowledge and help visitors plan a more pleasant stay.

National park crowding may ease in the future as other travel options open up. But lessons learned now can help parks improve visitor experiences. 

As Yogi Berra, famous for his twisted aphorisms, would have put it, the last thing that should be said of these treasures is “It’s too crowded. Nobody goes there anymore.”

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 most powerful starting point

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 2 Min. )

When things go awry, recognizing the power and presence of God, good, opens the door to solutions and healing.

The most powerful starting point

Collapse
Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

It’s so often true that one’s starting point can determine everything else. I’ve found that this applies to prayer, too.

Jesus, in explaining to his students how to pray, started the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Father,” as Him to whom we turn. Then, in the prayer, he further identifies “our Father” as all-powerful. God, good, is in total control of His spiritual creation.

Mary Baker Eddy, a devout follower of Jesus and the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all...” (p. 275). As infinite Spirit, God created us as forever spiritual, pure, and safe, not vulnerable to material circumstances. What a powerful starting point for prayer!

Many years ago, shortly after my father and I had become interested in Christian Science, he had a wonderful healing. He was on the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, mid-winter, doing experiments on super-cooled moisture flows. It was time for him to leave, but the weather was bad – two feet of fresh snow. On the way down (on foot), my father’s leg slipped into a deep hole, apparently dislocating his knee.

His first reaction was to panic because of the pain and the thought of not surviving the night where temperatures go way below zero. But then he thought of a different starting point: God – God’s allness, God’s governing presence, God’s protective love. He told me he stayed mentally with that starting point, holding on to a sense of God’s tender caring, knowing it was there to help and heal whatever needed to be healed.

Eventually, while moving his body to try to be more comfortable, he found the knee functioning normally and painlessly. He got up and strode naturally the rest of the way down the mountain.

Making God the starting point of our prayer prevents us from mentally wallowing around in the problem. Instead it starts us off in the right direction – sensing more fully the allness of God, good.

Adapted from the July 21, 2021, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.

Looking for more timely inspiration like this? Explore other recent content from the Monitor's daily Christian Science Perspective column.

Viewfinder

The track athletes have landed

Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Tori Franklin of the United States competes in the women's triple jump at Olympic Stadium during the Tokyo Olympics, July 30, 2021. Friday marked the first day of track and field events.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Thanks for being here. Come back next week. The most desegregated cities in the United States tend to be military towns. But are the effects of their demographics – identity, community – felt beyond the bases? We’ll explore.

Also, a weekend recommendation: Get thee to a speaker or some headphones and check out “Stronger,” our newest podcast, for some powerful stories of persistent women. If you like it, spread the word!

More issues

2021
July
30
Friday

Give us your feedback

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.