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A Nation Divided?

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
October 16, 2022 9:00 pm

A Nation Divided?

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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October 16, 2022 9:00 pm

Ted Koppel hosts our special broadcast exploring the ways in which America has drifted apart, and how we can still come together. Stories include: Why some Oregonians want to move the border to become part of Idaho; a visit to Teton County, Wyoming, home to the widest income divide in America; conversations with musician-activist John Legend, and TV producer Norman Lear; a look back on our country's violent political history; the polarization generated by talk radio, and the corrosive effects of social media; an examination of why blue collar jobs are stigmatized; and a workshop held by Braver Angels, a non-profit aimed at bring Red and Blue Americans together.

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Stream the Hispanic Heritage Collection on Paramount Plus. Good morning. I'm Ted Koppel and don't panic, Jane will be back next week. This is a special edition of Sunday Morning in which we ask, are we a nation divided? Is it perhaps time to scrap our national motto e pluribus unum? Out of many, one.

There's no denying the fact that in recent years we've drifted apart, retreated to our separate corners, hunkered down in our respective silos. And yet, Mr. Gallup's people, the folks who've been polling our opinions for almost as long as most of us can remember, Gallup recently asked US adults whether they approve of marriage between black people and white people. And 94% said yes they do. You know what that number was when Gallup first posed the question back in 1958?

4%. Almost a total reversal. So in the face of all our differences, some things seem to be moving in a more tolerant direction.

Even in the worst of times, what always saved us from slipping entirely off the edge has been the American sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves. And 50 years ago, this guy, Archie Bunker, walked the razor's edge into tens of millions of American homes. Producer Norman Lear was the man who created All in the Family and other hit shows like The Jeffersons and Maude. He recently turned 100 and he's still producing and causing controversy. You're going to piss a lot of people off, Norman.

You know that. Wouldn't it be interesting? I am determined to find out. Of all our differences, few have produced more friction over the years than those between black and white Americans.

The subject of my conversation with singer-songwriter John Legend. I feel like black people have been patriotic in this country. We've been forgiving in this country. We fought for the ideals that the nation said we were founded on. We've done that for centuries. And I think we've believed in America more than America believed in us or believed in itself.

And much of America is still struggling. Lee Cowan reports on some Oregon residents who simply don't like the progressive policies of their own state. Their solution?

Move a big part of Oregon into Idaho. Our system is set up on a majority rules. Right. I'm in agreement with that, but at a particular point when the majority becomes a super majority, then one side is negated. And that's how you feel.

We are negated here. From John Dickerson, we'll hear that a divided America may be as old as America itself. Ben Tracy takes us to Wyoming where the very rich are so rich that the not so rich can barely afford to live there. David Pogue finds out why some of us go off the rails when we go online. Kellefer Sanneh examines the never-ending disconnect between old and young. Martha Teichner goes in search of common ground, plus commentary from David Sedaris, humor from Jim Gaffigan, and more. This is a special edition of Sunday Morning, and we'll be back after this.

There's a move underway in Oregon that would, if successful, move the state line, making a large chunk of Oregon part of Idaho. And if you think that's far-fetched, Lee Cowan invites you to think again. This is 1863. Mike McCarter. He knows his American history.

Well guys, let's go ahead and get started here. Almost as well as he knows his Bible. Dear Father, we just thank you for this time. His family has lived and worshipped here in Oregon for four generations. The only time I lived out of the state was during the Vietnam War when I was in the military.

But his Oregon might not be the Oregon you're thinking of. The one with the misty, rugged coastline, Pinot Noir wineries, and its loyally blue politics. Nope, this is the red side of Oregon, the rural and more sparsely populated part.

Mike lives in the town of Lapine. It's almost like the Grand Canyon goes right along the Cascade Range. It's a big divide. It is a big divide. What that means politically, he says, is the blue part of western Oregon always outweighs the eastern parts red. And then talking to a legislator over in the Portland area, I said, the legislature doesn't listen to our people, our representatives over here. He said, whoa, whoa, whoa, stop Mike. We hear what they're saying.

We just outvote you. So McCarter decided to look for greener pastures, or in this case, at least one's a little more red. This would be Oregon, and that across the river would be Idaho. He's leading a movement called Move Oregon's Border, which seeks to push the blue bits into a smaller but still populous state of Oregon, and then taking all the rural red bits and making them part of a bigger Idaho. So how much land are we talking roughly? About 63 percent of Oregon's land. So a big chunk. Big chunk. When you have a government that won't listen to the opposition or take into account those of us that live out here, then we have no government representation. This town is about 200. That's Sandy Gilson.

She owns a real estate business in rural John Day, Oregon, which is closer to Boise than it is to Portland in virtually every way. Is it a political difference? Is it a cultural difference? It's all of the above. They won't hear our concerns. They won't, they don't understand our lifestyle. She's been going door to door in support of the Greater Idaho Movement, and she says she's found some pretty fertile ground. Of the 11 counties that have put it to a vote, nine have endorsed it. And it's on the ballot in two more counties this November. Some who voted against it worry that it could discourage political discourse. It might even set a dangerous precedent for other states. Others, though, say that moving a state's border seems almost logistically impossible. So really, what's the point?

Are you optimistic that you've got a chance? I look at it that the American Revolution was a big hurdle to make, and they did it. I don't think that we should act like state lines are written in stone.

We should look at them and say, does this actually make sense? Author Richard Kreitner, who wrote a book about secession and division, says it's hardly a new idea. Secession has always been there. Catholics lived in Maryland, debtors lived in Georgia, Puritans lived in New England. They were kind of separate to begin with, and that's why they wanted nothing to do with one another. So it's really woven into our DNA. Absolutely. There's nothing sacred about Oregon. There's nothing sacred about Delaware or my native New Jersey, in my opinion.

These are just kind of inherited forms. All right, who can skip the furthest rock? You might be asking right about now, instead of going through all the trouble to move the border, why not just move across it? When you feel like that, and you feel like you don't have a voice, you make a decision. A self-described libertarian, Derek Williams moved his family to Idaho from the suburbs of Portland. It was extremely difficult to leave family and friends. A lot of tears were shed. Here in the town of Eagle, Idaho, he says he found other political refugees, a conservative majority, and no discontent or disconnect anymore. You come here like, oh my gosh, I had no idea that it could be this way, right?

And you just you feel accepted and appreciated for who you are. We're all sending the same message to Oregon's leadership, that you've got a problem in eastern Oregon. Mike McCarter knows the concept of majority rule can certainly be messy. What he's worried about, though, is when it teeters on tyranny, he says. That's when something has to be done, and the best people to decide just how, he says, are the voters themselves. If we get done with this and it doesn't come about the way we want it, at least we did it the right way. So be proud of that. Over the course of this program, we'll be looking at a number of issues that separate us, age, wealth, and politics.

To begin, Kelepis Sanneh, and an age-old problem. In the 50s, Dick Tracy had a watch. You could talk.

You could make phone calls on. I've got one now. At a brew pub in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we sat with four people over 60 and four people under 40. We wondered what differences they see between the generations. My parents had an arranged marriage. I've married someone who is not Indian. I'm lucky enough to own a house with my husband. That's the American dream.

But is it realistic? Our first house was $33,000. Now the average car is $33,000. So like it adds just a level of anxiety and defeat to somebody already. Couple that with the fact that some people's jobs aren't the wages they should be, making to be able to afford that, you know, kind of living. The conversation moved from finances. We all live in our echo chambers. To technology. When you're on social media, you're following and liking the things that think the same way as you, and you become trapped in that. And inevitably, politics. Some of the main leadership that we have in Congress are over the age of 70. Are they really totally understanding of our younger generation? This idea that like, you know, I'm on social media, I do tick tock dances, I totally know what young people are doing. No, you don't.

You have zero idea what young people are up to. You want the best. I don't want the age. I don't want the color.

I want the best. We're not necessarily saying that the older generation in government needs to totally go away, but maybe a bigger balance, right? Representation.

Yeah, exactly. There was some finger pointing was you grow older, you keep experiencing things and you inherit them. And it's a monkey on your back and you can't get it off. I'm growing older. And I'm inheriting what you guys did to our climate and to our environment. And now I have to change my ways for the next generation to come.

Because if I don't, there won't be anything here. You feel like you have to clean up the mess that was left to you. They live their lives, they did what they wanted to do. And now I'm here, composting my banana peels. But they probably feel like they were cleaning up the mess that was left to them.

Oh, for sure. I wasn't smoking on planes. I wasn't smoking in movie theater. I was smoking on planes.

I smoked on a plane. The biggest disagreement was over work ethics. If you'd save and you sacrifice, it does get better. The problem is that we haven't taught our kids that. And we're into entitlements. And by making you entitled, you're not going to be entitled to entitlements. And by making you entitled, it ruins you because you don't know how to work. Are you saying young people today are spoiled?

Well, you said it. The average guy's on his phone about 300 times a day. I'm working for a living.

I can't be on the phone all day. I remember there used to be encyclopedia salesmen that used to come to your door. Now I have an encyclopedia in my pocket at all times. A leader. When you start thinking for yourself, you become a leader.

Eventually they found common ground. Every generation just acts different and like, it makes you feel old. Our parents use things like groovy. And I was like, that's a ridiculous word. You know what I mean? And then like our generation said things like lit and people younger than us are like, what are you talking about? Oh yeah. I literally had to get a lesson the other day.

They kept saying no cap. And I'm like, what does that mean? How do I use this in a sentence? Like you feel old. I'm 28. I feel that's one thing that never changes. We're all getting older. I needed, uh, Joe to do everything he did in his life before we got here. And I need all these tech talkers to do what they do. You're assuming that Joe's not on Tik TOK.

We don't know that Joe, the barber on Tik TOK, that would be pretty cool. I have no idea what it is. That's gotta be good news for you, right?

It means that this too shall pass, but it will also recycle. Sixties parents were freaking out because you had interracial couples. You had guys running around with tattoos on.

You're smoking what? And how dare you confront the U S government about a war drastically different, but these things they come back around. They just have different clothes on or the same clothes on. In 1858, Abe Lincoln running for the U S Senate gave a campaign speech in which he said a house divided against itself cannot stand for the record. He lost that election. As John Dickerson reminds us, we have been deeply divided before. These are objects from both the deep history of American democracy and recent events from elections, protests, what have you. And you start to see techniques and devices reappear over time.

These things kind of rhyme with each other and these objects almost talk to each other across different periods. At the Smithsonian Institution, historian John Grinspan is a curator in charge of that part of the nation's attic that holds the objects of American democracy and politics. I call this the fossil record that just as the Smithsonian is known for its dinosaurs, these are the fossils of democracy. Grinspan is also an author who was working on his latest book about the violence in American politics at the end of the 19th century.

The way you organize a campaign is you get torches, you wait till midnight, and you march through downtown. When his work started to feel increasingly like a study of our own time. When you were writing about these themes from the late 19th century, you're also seeing it out your window in American democracy at that present moment. Seeing these things from our past, these really ugly trends that I thought we'd put away, be kind of reverse engineered and come back, it's eerie.

It's too relevant all of a sudden. To Grinspan, torches carried five years ago by white supremacists recall torches carried by advocates of the opposite position. Anti-slavery marchers of the 1860s.

The white awakes. After the Civil War, blacks were attacked for exercising their newfound right to vote. Opponents of immigration questioned what it meant to be a real American.

The recession of 1873 was followed by a hotly contested presidential election. Whether it's 150 years ago or today, when political affiliations become so closely associated with people's identities, conflict is no longer about ideas, it's personal. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that growing shares in each party now describe those in the other party as more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent, just like in the 19th century.

Is that basically the most important distinction for us to pay attention to, which is not the strength of your beliefs, but the strength of your fear of the other side? When American politics is at its ugliest, there's a sense among perpetrators of violence that the other side should not be participating, has no right to be engaged. To bring us back from the brink today, Grinspan suggests we look at how 19th century leaders cooled the passions of their times. How did they do it in a system that was rewarding acrimony? One of the things that drives this is that there's always a sense a certain class of politicians should be removed from the ugliness of politics, that presidents in particular are supposed to be kind of like a friendly national grandfather. So there was a wall between the politics and the presidency, and that wall has been eroded. What's fascinating from a historian's perspective is to see how many things that seem set, that seemed like the norms of democracy, are just because people follow them until they don't. How do we survive this period where it seems only to be escalating towards something dangerous? That's a fundamental question. I mean, there's a big transition from a political system that's deeply public and fought out in the public square to one that's private, where you don't talk about politics at the dinner table, and the sense that restraint is the key value in democracy.

It sounds too easy. You say restraint and it works, but if you say something enough in the culture, that's how you make change. Here's a thought to ponder for those with kids in high school.

Send them off to college or have them learn a trade. The answer is not quite as clear cut as you may think. Have a seat. You and I are sitting on and next to the most used piece of equipment.

I think some of the biggest decisions was made on one of these. That's Julius Wright sitting on the other toilet seat. He's a master plumber and an instructor. Prepare for the worst, and if you walk out on the best, you're good. At the training facility for the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Union, Local 5 in Lanham, Maryland.

It's just you and a snake. Young men and women go through a five-year apprenticeship learning the trade before they can call themselves licensed plumbers. I was one of those kids that knew I wasn't going to college. It's crazy because there's a five-year apprenticeship in college, it's four years, so.

Yeah, I mean it's not easy. You come here, but here you don't have student loans that you have to pay back. You're getting paid. You're getting paid to learn a trade.

Learning here and assisting a licensed plumber on the job, an apprentice can make up to $77,000 a year. Even so, says Brandon Magroski, the work carries a certain stigma. Growing up, my parents would see something at that and say, oh, go to school so you don't end up like them. Well, great pay, great benefits. I'm not doing bad, but normal people still look down on us. Why do you say normal people? The regular everyday people, the people that work nine to five in an office, we get dirty, we get smelly, we get covered in all sorts of muck.

It's just what we do. The division is partly a function of people thinking that because the work is dirty, it must be stupid. If people never attempted skilled manual work, they may not understand just how intellectually rich and engaging it can be and demanding. To describe Matthew Crawford as a mechanic with a PhD in philosophy is a little glib, but it's also true. I was the director of a think tank and I quit that job to open a motorcycle repair shop.

Because? Well, the think tank work, essentially, we started with a set of conclusions, the ones that our donors wanted, and then worked backward to a set of premises that could get us to the conclusions. Whereas if you're trying to figure out why a bike doesn't start and run right, you can't weasel your way out of it not starting and running right.

And Crawford reminds us there are 43 million Americans carrying a student loan debt averaging somewhere north of $37,000. The trades, meanwhile, provide more than just a good living. What distinguishes the skilled trades, I think, is that you're always using your own judgment, the physical circumstances in which a plumber does work or an electrician, that you're never simply following a set of instructions.

You always have to get a handle on some novel situation and diagnose it. We do work with our hands a lot, but a lot of it's up here and people don't really appreciate that. People think it's simple to fix the toilet and they think it's simple to weld pipe.

That's Local 5 apprentice Jack Teese. Guy I work with says art without an audience. I like that, art without an audience.

I say that to the former all the time, it's artwork without an audience. What do you think is causing the divisions in this country today? Ignorance.

This is an opportunity to do- Toria, call him T, Smalls is business manager of Local 5. That stigma, that myth that people that are in trades did trades because they couldn't do anything else. Not understanding that the guy that engineered the highways is a trade guy. The guy that engineered the IT services that get you your internet is a trade-based guy.

In the old days, a union man was a Democrat. Always. Yeah.

Through and through. Yeah. Not anymore.

No, not anymore. Because? You put trust in politicians, they'll break your heart.

You know? At the union level, I think they always say to vote Democrat, but if you talk to people out in the field, most of them are very conservative in their values. When you come to work, as long as we're getting work done, you can believe whatever you want. A lot of the divisions in America today seem rooted in the perception that some white collar workers and many college graduates have about themselves relative to the tradespeople who keep their homes and their cars and their utilities functioning. That illusion contributes to the contempt that many people feel for the working class.

So to my mind, a lot of that division in the country is facilitated by a lack of acquaintance with the kind of work that others are doing for those of us who are free of it ourselves. Do you mind my asking what you'd take home in a year? Over 100 grand. Over $100,000. It's a modest answer.

Julius makes way over $100,000. You got a house? Yeah, I have two houses.

I got two houses. Why do you think people still have such a strange outlook toward the working man and woman? Man, if I could answer that. I feel my opinion is people need to have a certain status or feel they're in a certain class group over someone else. And you think going to college gives people that sense of I'm a little better than you are? Yes, because I'm educated. They don't think we're educated.

What the pandemic taught us was that we're essential when they were locked in the house and this doesn't work. Who do you call? The uneducated plumber, right? So now who's winning?

The college or the trade? This October, Paramount Plus is your destination for peak screaming. With maniacal movies like Orphan First Kill.

It's lovely to be back. Frightening family films like Monster High, the movie. Welcome to Monster High. Scary series like Evil, Ghosts, and Teen Wolf. There's something out there. Plus an entire collection of other devilish delights. Peak screaming on Paramount Plus.

Stream now. A popular college professor found dead in a hot tub, accident, or murder, suspected her boyfriend. Then a stunning act from their host, a sudden shotgun blast. There's something he's had. Follow and listen to the 48 Hours Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts. It's a special edition of Sunday Morning, and here again is Ted Koppel. A superstar with a social conscience, for real? Well, judge for yourself as we spend a few minutes with John Legend. John Legend most definitely qualifies as a superstar. Two Emmys, 12 Grammys, one Oscar, and a Tony.

The accomplishment is so rare, it merits a word of its own. Legend is an EGOT, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony. He's also a social activist, and sometimes he blends the two, as when he and the rapper Common recorded this song, Glory, which Legend and Common co-wrote for the film Selma. Academy Award, Best Original Song, 2015, and this was Legend accepting the Oscar.

We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. Mass incarceration, that was Legend's first target for social change. You spent a lot of time focusing on penal reform. In this country, prison reform.

Yes. Why? That's part of me not forgetting where I come from and remembering how the criminal punishment system has affected so many people in my family, people in my neighborhood. I know so many personal stories of people who have been affected by it, families who have been affected by it, and then as I grew older, it grew beyond what was personal to me and personal to the people around me. And I began to understand more holistically in the nation what we've done over the past few decades. We've become the most incarcerated country in the world, and it's been costly in so many ways. I've been spending the last decade or so fighting to change that.

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free. African Americans are incarcerated at a rate more than five times that of white Americans. And across all races, when it comes to prison population, we're number one. Why do you think we have so many people incarcerated in this country? As you pointed out, we have more prisoners in America than any other country in the world.

I think a lot of it starts with our original sin, slavery, I think has a lot to do with it. The 13th Amendment, of course, outlawed slavery, except for people who were in the penal system. I think you were referring to prison labor too, right?

Absolutely, because the 13th Amendment made it illegal to force people to do labor, except if they were convicted of a crime. I think you know there are a great many people who are worried about the fact that this country is moving and will have moved in the next 10, 15 years or so to a point where there are more people of color in this country than there are white people. You think they need to be worried? What I want them to realize is that equality doesn't have to take from anybody. Us all having equal rights, us having human dignity, having a community that's healthier and stronger for everyone doesn't need to hurt anybody. And if you see everything as a zero-sum game, yes, you might be worried that there are going to be more people of color than there are white people and that means if you're white you're going to start losing something. But that only means that if people of color decide that they're going to do to white people what white people have been doing to people of color for the past several centuries.

Not perhaps what a Hollywood or Madison Avenue PR person would have drafted for him, but legend doesn't mince words on the subject of racial equity in a TV interview or with his almost 14 million followers on Twitter. We can live in a society where we all respect each other's human dignity, build a community that's stronger for everybody, safer for everybody, healthier for everybody. We don't need to believe that just because there's more of one group or another that somebody else has to lose because of that.

That's a beautiful expression and I hope you're right. I don't know if it's going to win the day, but that's what we should believe. If I'd been born black in this country, I'm not sure if I could find that reservoir of compassion that you're talking about. Well, I feel like black people have been patriotic in this country. We've been forgiving in this country. We've fought for the ideals that the nation said we were founded on. We've done that for centuries and I think we've believed in America more than America believed in us or believed in itself.

But yeah, I think we have an interest in fighting for a stronger democracy, a more empathetic community. It'll make our lives better, but it'll make everyone's lives better too. Here's a lovely line about averages. Take a man and put one of his feet in a bucket of ice and the other in a bucket of boiling water and on average, he's comfortable. On average, Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a really comfortable place to live.

But as Ben Tracy found, it does help if you have a lot of money. Jackson, Wyoming is often called the last of the Old West. Its cowboy culture runs so deep, it even rides along on the morning cup of coffee. And while some of the best things in life here may be free, you pay a steep price to live in this valley known as Jackson Hole. I love this community and I love the place where I live, but there is always that question in the back of your mind of, are you going to be able to survive here?

Elizabeth Hutchings moved here from Massachusetts in 2018. For the first seven months, the only place she could afford to live was in her van. Between living in your van, your car and various apartments, how many places have you lived here in four years? Let's see, van. Eight or nine? Eight or nine. And in a lot of places, there's been that question of, oh, this is home.

But for how long? Teton County is now home to a divide bigger than those mountains for which it's named. It is the wealthiest and most unequal in America. The average income here is $312,000. The median home price in the county is now more than $3.6 million. That's left a food pantry overwhelmed by demand, staring at $6 million townhomes rising across the street.

The level of wealth you see and the level of disparity that you see, I mean, some people have more money you could spend in 10 lifetimes. There's a saying in town that you either have three homes or three jobs. Many workers have been forced to cheaper towns nearly 40 miles away over sometimes treacherous roads. Hutchings works at a local restaurant and shares this basement apartment with a roommate. It's the most stable housing she's ever had here.

If you're spending so much of your time driving or so much of your time working just trying to survive, I think everybody has that question of, is it worth it? This area here is actually one of the holdovers in town that I imagine in five years even will look very different. Yale School of the Environment professor Justin Farrell grew up in Wyoming and is author of the book, Billionaire Wilderness. He says the middle class here has been completely hollowed out. Inequality is an issue playing out across the country. Is it uniquely bad here? It is uniquely bad, actually.

It's nation-leading bad. If you're making $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, you're likely living in your car, or you're only living 45 minutes away. For most people, it's becoming unlivable. The reason, he says, is that the ultra wealthy find Teton County very livable. Their arrival here accelerated during COVID. The desire for multi-million dollar mountain escapes has created a new land rush. Americans have always looked west. It's always been the lodestar of American identity. And probably Jackson Hole with the cowboy image and the Tetons, it's, I think, what makes it so special for so many people. On top of that, it's functionally a tax haven. So Wyoming does not have a state income tax, it does not have a corporate tax, so it's a really great place to park your money legally. All that wealth is cleverly disguised behind a facade of pickup trucks, trucks, and trucks. Pickup trucks and jeans. It's almost as if the landmark watering hole, the million dollar cowboy bar, knew what was coming. This place is really unique because it allows people to engage in this personal transformation to become a normal person. They rely on the western stereotypes to do that. And so you have these millionaires, even billionaires, dressing in Wrangler jeans, dressing down, trying to avoid any sort of class indicators that might make them look wealthy. And I think it's really well-intentioned. Phil Hartl is a private wealth advisor who moved here from high tax California. Good girl.

He and his wife Monica relocated to Jackson in late 2020. It was really about living in a different kind of place and really being closer to nature. And so it's tremendous to be a part of that. I get a sense that you really do have a respect for the place. And I don't want this to sound rude, but I assume you're aware that some people here think you're part of the problem. Oh, of course. Absolutely.

How does that feel? It's my responsibility to show them that, you know, I understand that we came here more recently. We're COVID babies, right?

But at the same time, if you approach it with a regard and a respect and a listening, and at the end of the day, like anywhere they judge you as an individual, what kind of person you are. Hartl says he's planning to donate a third of his tax savings to local nonprofits and charities. Teton County is one of the most philanthropic communities in America. Am I part of the problem? Sure I am. You know, I'm one of the people that came in and was able to buy a house at a marked up price.

And I'm very grateful for that. But again, I also see that I have an obligation as a result. For Elizabeth Hutchings, she says she just wants to make sure people like her, the horsepower that keeps this cowboy town running, can also call it home. If we don't find a way to create a more equitable society and to support people with housing and human services, you won't have an economy. You won't have dozens of nice restaurants to eat at. Do you look down the road and do you see yourself here in 10 years?

I don't care if I'm here in 10 years, but I want other people to have a better quality of life in 10 years. Author David Sedaris has been thinking about what's in a name. I never liked the term coming out. Still, I did it.

That was back in the 1970s. Now I'm having to do it all over again. I'm 65 years old. I've been with the same guy for 31 years. And on this day, I am announcing to the world that I am straight. I haven't met anyone else, haven't fallen in love with a woman. I'm simply done fighting the term queer.

What bothers me is not that it used to be a slur. I just don't see why I have to be rebranded for the fourth time in my life. I started as a homosexual, became gay, then LGBT, and now queer. And for what? Why the makeovers?

And what will it be next? I read an interview with the woman who identifies as queer because she's tall. That's it.

She's never had a relationship with another woman, doesn't care to for all I know. So what does it mean that we're both suddenly queer? I'm not tall, just the opposite.

There are parking meters that stand higher than I do. I'm told that queer is about inclusion. It's an umbrella that lesbians and non-binary people and bisexuals and tall women can all stand under. But why not just say, I'm intersex, I'm trans, I'm a lesbian, etc. Why do we need an ever-changing umbrella?

Is it just to make the parades easier? It no longer matters what you are in practice, just how you identify. I'm going with heterosexual because, like the words Jewish or female, it rarely, if ever, changes.

I need a resting place, and this is as good a one as any. So from here on out, I'm as straight as I come, but with a boyfriend. What's the matter with this? I call this representative government. It's Salvatore, Feldman, O'Reilly, Nelson. It's an Italian, a Jew, an Irishman, and a regular American. If anyone has made America laugh over the years, it's Norman Lear.

He recently turned 100, and he still has miles to go and promises to keep. Welcome to I Love Liberty. This rootin' tootin' flag-waving celebration of America was produced in 1982, less than 10 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war that nearly tore this country apart. I love liberty.

It is as blissful a memory as I have. That's Norman Lear, arguably the most successful producer of situation comedies in television. Norman has always been committed to the promotion of free speech. Indeed, his political action group, People for the American Way, produced this special. Somehow, Norman even found a way to have the late John Wayne, who supported the war, and Jane Fonda, who very publicly opposed it, kinda, sorta make nice on nationwide TV.

I think that she's a little mixed up in her thinking, and I guess she feels the same about me. That's our right as Americans. I'm glad to live in a country where people are free to disagree.

Even if it's me, some of them disagree with. A little lukewarm, but as symbols of national reconciliation go, not bad. Could you run that same special today? Oh, I am determined to find out. Norman Lear turned a hundred a couple of months back, and when he talks about producing television specials now, he is not, I promise you, kidding. A half a dozen are in the works.

We will be making more, 10 episodes of one of the shows. That's great. I love it. I love it.

I love it more. In his heyday, let's say 40 or 50 years ago, situation comedies, the big ones, drew tens of millions of viewers. Norman produced a bunch of those. Here's one he's thinking of redoing. I'm pregnant.

Anything but an easy layup. Norman Lear is considering recasting and reproducing one of the most controversial sitcom episodes of all time. That episode of Maud was broadcast 50 years ago. A 47-year-old woman who fears that she and her husband may be too old to have another child. It's legal in New York now.

And she's considering an abortion. We finally have the right to decide what we can do with our own body. All right, then will you please get yours into the kitchen? You're going to piss a lot of people off, Norman. You know that.

Wouldn't it be interesting? Because I wouldn't change a word. The last moment of that show is something I remember as clearly as anything I ever had anything to do with. Just tell me, Walter, that I'm doing the right thing, not having the baby. And his response was, in the privacy of our lives, you're doing the right thing.

In the privacy of our own lives, you're doing the right thing. CBS got thousands of letters. What do you think will happen this time around?

They'd get tens of thousands. And then, of course, there was Archer. I know what Dr. Feinberg said. Feinstein. Feinstein, Feinberg. It all comes to the same thing.

And I know that tribe. What made Archie Bunker so relatable was the likelihood that somewhere, at work, at the hairdresser, around the Thanksgiving table. If you liberals go on, get in your way, we're all going to hear one big loud flush.

That's the sound of the USA going down to Charlie. Every family had or knew someone like an Archie who made us cringe. Who are you calling you people? You people are you people. Even as we stifled a laugh. You always manage to make us laugh, Norman, about the most dangerous things. Racism, hatred, bigotry. Can you make us laugh today? If I were doing it today.

Yes. I would have a 13-year-old daughter who represents everything I care about and is a pain in the ass talking about it in her brilliance and feelings about America. She would just at 13 know a lot about the foolishness of the human condition and recognize problems that her parents are living with that even they are not facing.

I have all the faith in the world in your creativity, but you're putting a lot on those slender shoulders that 13-year-olds got a lot to carry. She isn't going to get us out of this mess, but she's going to help. We are more sensitive today about not doing things that would offend gay people. We are more sensitive today about not doing things that offend women or others of minority groups. That has to be a good thing. You say we have to be more sensitive today.

You think we're not. I'm not sure I agree with that. Every office now has a department of someone who is there to make sure that others in the department don't go around offending one another. We didn't have that 50 years ago.

Is that a good thing? Oh my God, my sense is there's something wrong that we're living in a culture where that has to exist. That there is a role for a person to make sure that other people are being decent humans. It says something about the culture we live in.

I'm getting the impression that what you're saying is we shouldn't need a department to make us be nice to one another. Yes, yes, yes, yes. But your vehicle for getting us there has always been the ability to make us laugh at ourselves.

The foolishness of the human condition. You're still going to do that? I pray so. So tens of millions of Americans get their political marching orders on the radio. Jim Axelrod has been listening in. Trump won, OK? And Biden's illegitimate.

And you're just going to have to live with it, OK? Across America, the message is loud and clear. Teachers in Florida are facing the religious tyranny of Ron DeSantis. This Christian terrorist 35 years after the talk radio revolution on the air is still often an exercise in off the rails. And you know, that guy had like that that super white hair.

You look like a character in Ozark. The guy's turning into a dictator right in front of your eyes. Brian Rosenwald is an industry expert in 2022's America. What's the nature of talk radio? Is it any different than it's been the last two or three decades?

If anything, Jim, I think it's more extreme. Following the repeal of the fairness doctrine in 1987, broadcasters were no longer required to present both sides of controversial political issues. There's simply no way Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Which ushered in Rush Limbaugh's polarizing and immensely popular style that attracted 15 million listeners a week who felt dominant media outlets had a liberal bias. And I think over that long span, it has unquestionably divided Americans. It has unquestionably hardened our politics. If Democrats can't rob you, the next best thing is to convince you that you are being robbed. And how is that good for America?

It's not. It's bad for America. We're facing a cultural crisis in this country.

Michael Harrison is the publisher of Talkers magazine, the industry Bible. If we could have on the liberal side, what we have on the conservative side, the talk radio industry would be better. Free speech would be better served and the nation would be better served. It's not that liberals haven't mounted a counter-attack.

They just chose another battlefield. So why is there never a liberal Rush Limbaugh? Well, I think they've gone into other areas. I think Jon Stewart has been every bit of a trailblazer as Rush Limbaugh was. And he happened to colonize late night comedy. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, most of the late night comics lean left at this point. Which is why within three decades after Limbaugh weaponized talk radio for the right, liberals remained outmanned and outgunned. On the list of Talkers magazine top 10 most popular talk radio hosts, all 10 are conservative. While the vitriol flows in both directions these days on commercial radio, the one part of the dial that is liberal turf. This is all things considered from public radio attracts big numbers, though it's relatively restrained compared to the intense competition for listeners on commercial radio that's creating ever more extreme approaches to attracting listeners.

CRT bathrooms that anybody can use. If you're hoping for any change in this dynamic, don't talk radio is now a mature business with those running it less willing to gamble on something like nuance. I think right now it's have a take and don't suck. Because the only color that seems to matter more than red and blue in our divided America is green. What is the mission of talk radio?

Is it to generate light or heat? The mission of talk radio is to generate ratings and revenue. So what's the answer? How about putting old and young, rich and poor, conservatives and liberals in the same room, and just have them talk it out?

Which is to say, try something, anything. Here's Martha Tushner. Angry Trump supporters demanded entry to a ballot processing center in Detroit today. Michigan is a battleground state in every sense of the word. Here, purple doesn't mean moderate. It means the 50-50 red-blue split is a chasm. Traumatic concern for our country and our democracy. That concern is why these people gathered on a recent Saturday.

In Traverse City, Michigan, half of them red, the other half blue. Brought together by Braver Angels, a not-for-profit attempting to narrow the divide. And I'm here just to help people understand the point of view of those in the red column. I'm concerned that the polarization has become paralysis.

Started in 2016, Braver Angels now holds sessions nationwide. I'm going to start out with some expectations to abandon. It was shaped by Bill Doherty, who teaches relationships at the University of Minnesota. He's also a marriage counselor. Is it a proper analogy of reds and blues in America and couples on the brink of divorce? There is an analogy to couples on the brink.

A big difference is that divorce is not possible in America. In Traverse City, participants arrived uneasy at first, defensive. It was difficult to get in the car and drive there, but I knew I had to do it. To get over her fear of the other side.

After what happened in January 2021, when Kelly and her family were in the same place, in 2021, when Kelly McIntosh addressed a virtual county commission meeting, asking commissioners to denounce the Proud Boys after the violence of January 6th. This was the response. Then came the threatening phone calls.

Anybody who knows me knows that I need to be here. Task number one at a red-blue workshop? Communist, anti-Second Amendment, baby killers. It sounds counterintuitive. List what they call you. The stereotypes.

Reds and blues in separate rooms. The morals. The misogynists and the conspiracy theorists. Facilitators then ask each side if there's a kernel of truth in those stereotypes. Passion for pro-life cause sometimes seems to not hear women.

And so it goes for three hours. Peeling back the onion of opinion. Looking for common ground.

No trying to change anybody's mind. Part of it was kind of gut-wrenching to sit in those stereotypes and then to hear what the other side, how they felt like we saw them. Divided they were. But these people showed up because they wanted to know each other, not by label, but by name.

Brent Swenson and Kelly McIntosh. She's a neat lady. I like her. Did you think you would click with someone of the blue persuasion so readily? I would say that I went into it hopeful with that, but I didn't expect to find a friend.

I was shocked at the comfort, the camaraderie, because some of the things that we talked about were not real comfortable political things to talk about. Here's the but. While Braver Angels has held more than 2,000 workshops and is growing, so is the divide. So there's a big gap right here.

As for closing it, the brave proposition here is that at least trying is something. Three, two, one. Jim Gaffigan gets the last word. Almost.

I guess it would eventually happen. I have a stalker. It's not surprising given how attractive I am. But yes, Jim Gaffigan has a stalker. Well, stalkers.

Yeah, these sickos are probably watching right now, and frankly, it makes me nauseous. They're obsessed with me. They have a problem. I've been advised by my lawyer to not identify them by name, but I'll give you a hint.

They are the Democratic and Republican parties. Sure, it's nice to be wanted by the two national parties that have consistently colluded to block the participation of any third party, but the problem is they won't leave me alone. Somehow, they know where I live and have my email. I get daily emails with suggestive subject lines like, will you fight for America, Jim?

Or, Jim, don't let them take your freedom. Occasionally, they will leave glossy flyers in my mailbox bad-mouthing other stalkers. The snail mail I can throw out. The emails I can delete. But the real harassment is the almost daily text messages from bots pretending to be Republican or Democratic candidates. These highly personal computer-generated guilt trips are annoying and, frankly, inappropriate.

I'm married. In these text messages, they always ask me for a small donation. Just $25. Can I count on you to give $20? What, am I buying them lunch? How do they know I'm so cheap?

It's constant. The incessant begging for money makes me concerned. Those DC lobbyists are not paying our politicians enough. Yes, there are problems with our democracy.

But for God's sake, vote. As insurmountable as some of our differences seem, the country has seen worse. And so, quite clearly, have the millions of people from other parts of the world who continue to think of no greater fulfillment of their dreams than to emigrate to these United States. What we have never seen before is the corrosive impact of social media. The means by which anyone with access to an iPhone can undermine reality, replacing facts with falsehoods, truth with lies, and spreading them around the world at the speed of light.

If we can no longer agree on the definition of a fact, then our country really is in trouble. Thank you for listening. Please join Jane Pauley when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning.

Perfect measure of that they're going to be a demonstration of the deep concern, again, that I think crosses party line and geography about this kind of government intrusion. For more from this week's conversation, follow the Takeout with Major Garrett on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Mo Rocca, and it's been a while, but I've been busy digging up even more stories about the people and things of the past that are fascinating me now. What did your father think of the label of the whole idea of the Latin lover from the screen idols who redefined Hollywood's leading man? I think it was a love-hate relationship. My dad hated the word macho.

That's what I call the Latin lover type of a role, which is one dimensional. To the dog who introduced millions of kids to classic literature. I remember like on my 10th birthday, I think it was, we were going to go mini golfing and I insisted, but we had to stay home for wishbone first. Listen to Mobituaries, wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-03 17:16:12 / 2022-12-03 17:37:43 / 22

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