Oct. 22, 2020

Let's get it started with Baratunde

Let's get it started with Baratunde

There's nobody better to kick off our new season — and "Plan Be" — than the man who helped inspire it: Citizen Baratunde, Executive Producer and Host of the hit podcast How to Citizen with Baratunde.

Writer, activist and comedian Baratunde Thurston has been "citizening" since way back in high school (which we discuss). In addition to his podcast, check out his Ted Talk, and his New York Times bestselling book, How to Be Black. You can find all of that and more on his website: www.baratunde.com

There's nobody better to kick off our new season — and "Plan Be" — than the man who helped inspire it: Citizen Baratunde, Executive Producer and Host of the hit podcast How to Citizen with Baratunde.

Writer, activist and comedian Baratunde Thurston has been "citizening" since way back in high school (which we discuss). In addition to his podcast, check out his Ted Talk, and his New York Times bestselling book, How to Be Black. You can find all of that and more on his website: www.baratunde.com

>We've got a new website: www.anewnormalpodcast.com
>This is where we will post show notes, transcripts and more. It's also the place to subscribe, rate, review and share the show and to sign up for our email newsletter.
>If you've got a Be the Change story you'd like to share—or like for us to share—on the podcast, please get in touch with us via our contact form, which you can find

>Cindy mentioned an episode of NPR's Hidden Brain podcast called Moral Combat. Listen to it
>Here's links to some resources Cindy and I are using as we set up our Plan Be conversation project, as mentioned in the last part of this episode:
The Listen First Project
The National Conversation Project
>Another podcast we're enjoying that speaks to these themes and this time:
To See Each Other

Slide guitar:  Thomas Robertson
>Theme music: Fragilistic by Ketsa
licensed under CC BY NC ND 4.0



Cindy Sealls (00:13):

Wait, wait, what was that? What was that? Was that a gun? Oh my God. Wait. No, this is not the civil war cannot be the civil war. This can't be happening. Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming.

Kelley Lynch (00:41):

Cindy, Cindy, wake up. You're having a nightmare.

Cindy Sealls (00:46):

Kelley, what are you doing to my dreams? Get out of here and you don't have a mask on! You're going to give me COVID.

Kelley Lynch (01:02):

Hi, I'm Cindy and I'm Kelly. Welcome to season two of a new normal and a series that we're calling plan B like B E— which is our new project this season to be more of the change that we like to see in ourselves and in the world. I talked a lot more about that in the trailer.

Cindy Sealls (01:24):

Since we're new to this, be the change stuff, we figured we'd better get some advice from a professional "be the changer." Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy nominated writer, producer, comedian, podcaster, and activist. He's worked for the satirical digital publication The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, written a New York times bestseller titled How to Be Black and had over 4.5 million views for his Ted talk. His latest project is a podcast called How to Citizen with Baratunde. Baratunde, welcome to our podcast. You and I go pretty far back. You were a young 'un back then, but still very mature. I remember you were, you were just such a mature young person that you stood out. I was telling Kelley about that. I was like, yeah, man. He used to come down to the middle school office because he was a little journalist back then writing for the school newspaper.

Baratunde Thurston (02:26):

That's a respectable way of referring to a nosy child.

Cindy Sealls (02:33):

So what have you been doing since high school?

Baratunde Thurston (02:37):

Yeah. You know, you're a trip -- breathing, living, finding myself, messing up a lot, learning in the process. And in many ways,what I've been up to since high school is exactly what I was up to in high school. I'm writing, hallenging authority, eing nosy, peaking my mind, laying around on computers way too long. My adult life was prototyped in high school. Now I get to do it on a bigger stage and I have better control of my voice. So I think I'm better at wielding it and I've had more practice, but yeah, Sidwell was kind of a proving ground for the rest of this arena I would be living in.

Cindy Sealls (03:32):

Well, I'm so proud of you. I just, I mean, I was tickled when I started seeing your name around. I was like, wow, that guy, he used to come down here with his little notepad taking notes.

Baratunde Thurston (03:43):

I love that, so the thing about the notepad, cause we can, we can broaden this a little bit. So I did do the student newspaper, Horizon. When I first got a reporter's notebook, it wasn't from Sidwell. It was from my older sister, Belinda, who was an actual journalist and she just had extras of these notebooks. So when I started doing the Horizon, I had these real reporters notebooks, like they're long, spiral bound, top folding, extra long notebooks, and you just look serious. And I would use them for non-journalistic things. I remember rolling up into Earl Harrison's office, complaining about something going on with race on campus. And I'm like, could you say that again? And I'm just like writing it down, like not in my capacity as a journalist, but in my capacity as a little citizen. And it just gave me a sense ofauthority to have that notebook. I still have all of the notebooks from high school. And I've been wondering what to do with them before they disintegrate. Occasionally I'll pop one open and I'm like angry about some meeting we just had. So yeah, me and my notebook, that was quite a combination.

Cindy Sealls (05:02):

Yeah. And you were pretty famous on campus. I must say you were pretty popular.

Baratunde Thurston (05:07):

First of all, when your name is Baratunde that helps a lot when there's like a hundred kids per grade, not hard to stand out when you got a high top fade and, you know, racquetball goggles for glasses. I'm just saying I had a lot going for me. I'm being a little humble here. I also made it my mission to know everybody's name. I was basically campaigning, you know, I think is, I've kind of learned it. It's a bit of a survival technique. Like the same thing in me that makes me walk my new neighborhood every day, especially in the beginning to get to know people and wave. I think I first started doing that. I said, well, it was the first environment where I felt that natural, you know, I'm like I grew up in in black DC and Brown, DC Sidwell was part of white DC. And that was new to me. Andso I remember playing this game. It was like a challenge. Don't remember the kids' names anymore that I played it with, but they found it kind of remarkable slash funny that I could remember people's names so well, so they would test me. Ooh, who's that? And so we did like the whole upper school and I wasn't, I didn't hit everybody, but everybody they pointed to, I knew who it was.

Kelley Lynch (06:25):

You've got a Ted talk, you've got a best-selling book. So why this project? Why a podcast and why now? In the trailer you said that a lot of the seeds of what you're doing now were planted by your mom.

Baratunde Thurston (06:34):

Yeah, my mother really was a serious person and she had serious expectations. She never used baby talk as far as I can remember. She's like, you can speak this language so keep up. Andfor me and my older sister, Belinda, she wanted a lot for us. She, in most ways she did not apply specific pressure. She wasn't like you have to be a doctor or do you have to go to this school? Or do you have to study this subject or work in this field or for this company? She was like, you've gotta be good at something. She really did encourage us to stand up for ourselves and to challenge even authority. In fact, there is a middle school or upper school moment from Sidwell where a teacher grabbed me by the wrist in some way to indicate like, don't do this or don't do that.

Baratunde Thurston (07:28):

Or she had some disagreement with what I had done and I had not grabbed anybody mind you. So she escalated in, in my mother's view and she made it clear, like no one has the right to put their hands on you. No one. And this is not just a parent talking to a child. This is a person who is a survivor of sexual abuse as a child talking to her own child. No one has a right to put their hands on you. If they do that, they've just gifted you their hand. Like that's how she talked. My mother made it clear to that teacher. You don't ever touch my son again. And the fierceness, the presumption of my innocence and value was an early, early lesson. And so she demanded that of me. And then in one very hyper-specific case, she was like, also, I need you to figure out the system of government we're going to live under after democracy and capitalism fail.

Baratunde Thurston (08:22):

I was like, Oh, okay, just that? Cool. So I can do anything in this life. But also that specific thing is small tasks and it's not like we returned to it. She didn't like check up on me, but it's not something I could forget. So when it came to my interest in the idea of citizenship, I was sort of born into it. My mom was very active in protest and community work in the church, churches in our neighborhood. And she had her own spiritual journey that I witnessed that opened my mind even beyond the dogma of a particular book. And, uh, but this show comes from a seed planted long ago, but also a kind of an urgency right now. And I have been trying to make like right now is extended. It's not, you know, fall 2020 right now. It's sort of contemporary the past five, 10 years ish now.

Baratunde Thurston (09:21):

I've attempted to make a version of the show for a few years, all trying to get at the same moment, which is the news as I experience it does not do a quality service. It depresses it, enrages, it distracts. And in the simplest sense, it leaves me feeling worse at the end of a dose then at the beginning. It is whatever the opposite of medicine is. And I don't need some, you know, naive version of news where I only hear happy tales, but I think the stories that we are being fed and have been for so long,udo us an active disservice and leave us feeling less empowered, pointing out all the problems and nothing we can do about them. That's not a service,unot anymore, not in these times. So, that was the driving engine for the idea of this show. What if we shifted the focus away from articulating the problem, which so many people do so well in news and in comedy? Which is always as line, I've been straddling. And focused in on the people working on those problems and then give the audience something to do.

Baratunde Thurston (10:43):

And I knew I suspected, but I'd say stronger. I knew I wasn't the only one thinking this or the people working to make the show. It wasn't like a small group of five people have faith in the rest of us. It's like, nah, there's a lot more people who want to know what's happening on these challenges and what they can do to contribute. And the banner citizen emerged as the label for this show. And right now, right now, fall 2020 right now, I need something to hold on to. We are in a sort of denial of service attack on our sensibilities with the volume and velocity of nonsense that's being foisted on us by the current administration. And I say that actually not as a partisan statement though, I'm a very partisan person. You can objectively measure the amount of undermining of norms and newsmaking and rule breaking. And it moves too fast. I can't just react to that. So I wanted to find something deeper for me that kept me in this because otherwise it's like, why bother? And so for me to be able to talk to people who are not theorizing. These are not philosophers we are talking to on How to citizen with Baratunde. These are practitioners to talk to people who are making headway and finding ways to shape our world to do what the news implies. We can't, that's the story that I want to help tell that's why now.

Baratunde Thurston (12:35):

And then the other piece is you know, we're doing this whole thing in Zoom, like everything. Zoom is holding our democracy, our fraying, fragile democracy is being held together by the servers of Zoom. And I'm grateful to them and a little suspicious of why they were so prepared, but we've decided to make the show with people and to do it kind of like a live TV show taping, which was the original version of the show as a TV show. And so we do these live Zoom tapings with most of our guests and an audience, and they get to ask questions too. And to see them build community in the chat during the 90 minute session and to put people in breakout rooms and have them Citizen together. I mean, we, the pandemic has allowed us to model what we're talking about in a much more distributed way. And so we got people pop in from Madison and Austin and Maine and that would have been much more difficult if we did it under business as usual circumstances.

Cindy Sealls (13:45):

Wow. I, would've never thought of that. That the pandemic actually is helping people work in community together.

Baratunde Thurston (13:55):

When we started talking about making this podcast with iHeart who we're making the show with, I was like, I really want to create a situation where I can, I have I can get a good microphone. You don't have this audio recorder. I should, I should be able to record at least my, my voiceovers from home. But the plan was like, I'm going to go into the studio in Hollywood and they're going to book the guests and we're going to go through security and we're going to do all this... And then once, you know, the pandemic started to hit, I had already started building out the studio. And so I was actually more ready for this. And I knew what Zoom was because I interact with the corporate world, way more than anyone should. So it actually, it could have been a severe disadvantage, but it ended up working out.

Cindy Sealls (14:46):

My next question is about what's going on in our environment currently. This whole idea about division, you know, these, there are these two very different sides in our country right now. And we talk often about how in the world can we work together? How do citizens in a country work together? Because that's what our democracy is about, right? It's about us working together to make this a place where we all can live together, you know, not perfectly, but everybody has their rights. So how did you know in this situation that we're going through right now where, I mean, people are angry with the other side. I mean, you can't even talk to people. I mean, if you say Biden, I mean, you'll get slapped. If you say Trump you'll get slapped. How do we as citizens get past that?

Baratunde Thurston (15:50):

Yeah. thanks for the easy question. Love it. We've explored versions of this in the show. And so I want to give some credit to a few of our guests who have even better answers than I do. Valerie Kauer is a spiritual leader, a civil rights activist, a writer, and an author of a book called See No Stranger. AndI knew I wanted to kick our series off with Valerie. It was, it was an epiphany moment, which is not usually how ideas occur in me, but Valerie said in a very famous line of a poem that she delivered in December, 2016 referring to the election results that stunned so many. "What If this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our nation is not dying, but just being born again. And birth is messy and it's dark and it's scary, it's loud, but on the other end is new life."

Baratunde Thurston (16:57):

That's a paraphrasing, she did a better job, but I think you get the, just the spirit of it. And I was like, I want Valerie to be the spiritual invocation of the project of How to Citizen and her book is about revolutionary love and See No Stranger, the title of it comes down to this idea from her faith, but applies to the faith in democracy as well that a stranger is just a part of me I do not yet know. And that our mission is to do the revolutionary love thing to citizen through revolutionary love is to love ourselves, to love others and even to love our opponents, don't call them enemies. Enemies is a more permanent status. Opponents is dynamic. It can shift and change, and it doesn't mean ignoring the offenses or caving in on your values, but it means seeing the human in them and not the monster that they might appear to be. Valerie also said, there's no such thing as monsters in this world, there are just wounded people who are manifesting their insecurities in some way. And when they align themselves with depression, they chip away at their own humanity too, and their own ability to love. And so we don't want to do that. So I think it's important. That's not exactly actionable, but I think it's oriented to the project.

Baratunde Thurston (18:31):

I was not interested in making a show where like, I sit down with an avowed white supremacist, white nationalist, or Klansmen on a regular basis to kind of prove that we can all come together. That's not my purpose in this life. But I do think we need to all believe in a venue where we can contend over how our society works. And we've got this democracy thing, which means people power. And that brings me to like our second guest, this guy, Eric Liu, who really says, like, when we contend over power, that's called politics. That's the word we give it. And we have to be cool with the idea of power and wrestling with it and understanding it as part of our mission and our role as citizens. So what doesn't mean, to be a citizen doesn't require that we all agree with each other on every issue, but it does require that we agree to have faith enough in each other to argue and to wrestle over control and power in some acceptable ways.

Baratunde Thurston (19:41):

And so I'm about that. And I think our show is about that and so how do we do that in an era of like peak division and anger? We start. You know, it's taken us a while to build to this existing fever pitch of massive amounts of distrust. It's taken a heavy investment to try to de-legitimize some of our established venues for democracy, whether they be courts, whether they be the media, whether they be the right to assembly, that all are being challenged. But some of us have contributed more than others to the divide we're living in.

Baratunde Thurston (20:26):

So we get oriented to the idea of what this project is. We understand our power. We make space. And then what does it look like? So there's a third example. I'll offer up. We just taped this episode with a modern, small D democratic hero. She's an artist out of Chicago, Tonika Johnson. She's created something called The Folded Map Project. And she has taken on the challenge of the legacy of red lining and what it's done to divide the city of Chicago, but used its grid layout, the grid that maps the city itself, where there is a North version of an address and a South version of an address. And we all know South side of Chicago, black people, you think poverty, you think crime and all of these images that the media has painted. Also beauty. Also Michelle Obama's home. You know, it's like a lot of good stuff there, but the North side has a lot more resources than the South side.

Baratunde Thurston (21:24):

So she folded the map and started photographing corresponding homes on either side of that folded line. And then she went a step further and met the residents of each. And then she went a step further and had them meet each other and create a dialogue and then visit each other's neighborhoods, not as tourist or as charity acts, but to live. Gave them assignments. So now I'm spoiling my own episode. It's gonna be a dope one. But that's practicing citizenship. That is as Tonika puts it, Find Your Fold and explore the other side as a human, not as a set of talking points, you know? And I think the example you use, if you say the word Biden, okay. Yeah. That's in an election season during most divisive period that we've had since our civil war and a non hyperbolic statement. That's probably really true. The Biden's like,ua triggering term for some people in the country. Ubut there are other terms of engagement that we could use, and it's not going to get easier in the election season, but there will be a season after this and we need to find those venues again to argue and fight peacefully over power.

Baratunde Thurston (22:59):

Yeah. So I think, you know, I want to make this point about the folks planning to take up arms around this election. And, and when people say like we're more divided than any time since the civil war, it's like presidential historians saying that who actually understand what that means. It's not just left or right pundits. It's, I think, it's a fact. And we have a president who stokes that and unlike most other, maybe any other presidents encourages citizens to use violence. When it comes from the very top like that, that's a different sort of challenge. So if you're out here talking about taking up arms, cause you don't like the results, an election, that does not make you a Patriot. There's not a patriotic act in a democracy to resort to a gun because you don't like an election result. If you're a Patriot, if you believe in the American project, then you fight in the next election. That's literally how we set this up. And those founding fathers, who you say you adore, offered us that as the way we fight. So to pick up a gun reveals not your defense of the constitution, but your undermining of it. It's very, un-American. Let them defend how it's actually American to not believe in America, to not believe in American democracy.

Baratunde Thurston (24:42):

It just strikes me as a black person that we never get this. You know what I'm saying? Like, like we never get to do this. We never get to do this. One group of Americans gets to march with guns in the streets during a pandemic. And they block access to the state Capitol and spit in the faces of law enforcement, who they say they love During a respiratorily transmitted disease, spitting in the faces of law enforcement and the government responds with a bunch of nothing. And then another group of American, not just black people, the whole coalition who value black people though take to the streets with no guns and get met by the very men with guns whose behavior they're protesting. And there's no N95 masks for healthcare workers, but there's plenty of gas masks for riot police. And there's no face shields for frontline workers, but there's plenty of riot shields.

Baratunde Thurston (25:32):

So we demonstrate our priorities. And so I would love, you know, in a more challenging way in a less gentle way, but still with a loving spirit and say, did you take up arms for any of these black people who were gunned down in their homes, on our streets? Where were you? Why do you choose to act over here, but not over there? And ask what's different? Don't tell them that they're wrong. Ask them the question. Eric Liu in our show has some tips for engaging with people who we disagree with. Questions work better than white papers and fact piles and talking points. And one of the questions Eric suggests is to ask someone, what are you afraid is going to happen? What happens if your side loses? And force them to paint that picture and get real about personal fear? And then they're going to do this over. No, no, no, no, no. What are you afraid of? What's going to happen to you? Are you going to have less power in your job? Are you gonna make less money? Are you going to get deported? Are you going to lose your home? Like, what do you specifically think is bad that's coming to you? And then engage with that fear at that emotional level. And you can maybe start to counter the talking point of socialism or whatever the red herring is or "black lives matter is terrorist." Cause that's not good.

Kelley Lynch (26:57):

In your show you talk a lot about the word citizen as a verb. And I wondered if you had some, you know, maybe there's some practical steps that you could think of that we can take to channel this kind of messy, fear-filled chaotic thing that's going on into something that's more useful for us moving forward?

Baratunde Thurston (27:38):

On citizen as a verb, our show, we decided to like make it harder than it necessary. We could, like, I could have just sat down with some people, had some conversations, call it a day. But again, in part, thanks to my executive producer and life partner, Elizabeth, we have like a framework and beliefs and it's, it's like almost like a little constitution. But one of the things we had to get straight is like, what do we believe it means to citizen? And so we came up with these four pillars influenced heavily by our first two guests, Valerie Kaur and Eric Liu from citizen university is this, to citizen is to show up and participate. It's a very simple thing, but it's an under marketed act, you know? Cause a lot of the times we hear vote, contact your reps, maybe follow the news.

Baratunde Thurston (28:34):

It's either passive, right? Follow the news or it's delagatory, right. Delegate your power to somebody else to exercise it for you. Vote for this other person to wield your power on your behalf. And that's part of it. But it's so much more than that. With Valerie, it was really learning that the second pillar is about being in relationship; that we have to invest in relationships with each other. And that goes counter to a hyper capitalist and individualistic message as absurd as our armed services, which for a while, pedaled the idea of an army of one, which ain't an army, that's just a dude with a gun. Like that's not how this works. An army of one's not going to do very much to protect the collective. So we invest in relationships and we build in our relationship with each other and recognize that we are dependent on each other.

Baratunde Thurston (29:36):

That's really important. Third is from Eric Liu, we have to understand power. It's our job to understand power, not shy away from it, not be afraid of it, which is also kind of a male powers is dirty thing I don't want to, I don't want to claim it. No, no. Get to keep me away from it's like kryptonite. No, no, no, no. It's Popeye spinach. You know, we need that. And there are many different types as money. There's power in sharing ideas. There's, there's power in physical gathering. You know, there's a lot of different ways to wield it an power is always moving. As I said before. And the last is that we do all of this for the benefit of the many and not just the few. And again, this goes so much of what we've done in our country and the West largely over the past 40 50 years is we've undermined all of those pillars.

Baratunde Thurston (30:28):

We've said to the extent that you're active, just make it an economic activity. Buy stuff. To the extent that you relate to anyone it's yourself. It's the army of one. It's the brand, You. It's "you do you." It's all of this reinforcement that we're alone. That is not true. And so we have to practice all these things cause we're out of practice. So to citizen, practice showing up, talk to a neighbor, connect to a civic meeting, join a club. You know, we give assignments and every show Eric's just like, start a club. It doesn't have to be a civic club. It could be a bowling club or a VR bowling club or whatever, just start a club. Because you have to practice disagreeing with other people and negotiating rules and consequences for disappointment. And we don't have a lot of practice at that.

Baratunde Thurston (31:24):

That's a very practical thing — building these muscles that, it's not just that they've atrophied it's, that it has served a few of us to encourage the atrophy at the expense of the many of us. And that is a message that should resonate with a conservative and a liberal. There's different angles into this. And then we meet in the arena and we have tools and language to duke it out through all these different flavors of power and different institutions that we've built. So what I want people to do, what I think they could do. I think Eric's advice is great. I think start something—start anything.

Baratunde Thurston (32:30):

I think because we're in a pandemic, I will also echo another call to action from one of our shows, which is find an effort very local to you that is providing any kind of relief or support with this pandemic. What we lack in federal leadership around this thing we have in abundance on the ground. And you may already be a part of it. If not, I guarantee you, somebody is doing something within a half mile of you and we can use the Facebook and the Twitter and the Instagram and Next Door. Somebody is up to something, find them and ask, how can I help? Don't ask about party affiliation. Don't ask who you're voting for. This is not about that. Ask how can I help? And in the process of helping, maybe it's with World Central Kitchen doing some pop-up meal delivery, maybe you're distributing masks to people who work in jails and prisons.

Baratunde Thurston (33:30):

The good news, there is plenty of work to go around. So we don't need you to do everything. We need everybody to do something and find your thing. And to the extent that it aligns with something you're passionate about or competent at all the better. What are you good at? What are you interested in getting good at? And take some of that energy that's going into and dissecting and what if and the scenarios and the election. Cool. I understand the rabbit hole, addictive nature of a good YouTube recommended place, but that is all taking away from the community you could be helping to build.

Baratunde Thurston (34:19):

So take those minutes, take those hours and invest them in we, not just me. So that's it. I hope that some of that's helpful. And we've got a pile—that's the beauty of the construct of the show—If you go to howtocitizen.com and we have a library of specific actions that you can do and, and they are external focused. There are a lot of the types of things I just described. But because of Elizabeth's involvement, there's also a lot of internal focus things I wouldn't have seen. You know, we asked people in a recent episode, write down everything you've done since the beginning of this pandemic to help anyone other than yourself. It could have been, you donated online to the Red Cross. It could have been, you checked in with a neighbor to see if they needed some groceries, cause you were going and didn't want to add more people or spend the fuel money. Whatever your incentive was, you helped somebody else. And I look at that list and celebrate yourself and your participation in your contribution to this thing. You were citizening that's it. And then think about what else you could do.

Cindy Sealls (35:33):

I love that word. You were citizening. We can give trophies. You're the best citizen ever

Kelley Lynch (35:41):

That's a real trophy for participation, right?

Baratunde Thurston (35:43):

That's right. It's a literal participation trophy.

Cindy Sealls (35:46):

I love how you talk about that you don't have to agree that. I think that's the problem nowadays. If we find somebody doesn't agree with us it's as if we just shut them off. Yeah. Okay. Wow. I don't want to talk to that person. I'm not talking to them, but you're right. You know, just in any, any part of life you get together and you got to work stuff out and you know, even two people who live together in a marriage don't agree on everything. They kind of work it out. Tell me about it. Now there's gotta be some back and forth a bit there. Uand I think these days we find out a person is thought this they're done. We cancel them.

Baratunde Thurston (36:24):

It's harsh, it's harsh. And I think that if we try to own this term relationship and what you just described, Cindy, about being in a marriage, you know, if we applied rules to our marriage, the way we do to our politics, like not just our marriage with our families, every family structure would instantly disintegrate. Okay. So you don't agree with your mother. So you're never going to talk to her again. She's just wrong on everything now and nothing she's ever done counts for anything. And this moment, really, maybe you lose this round. Maybe you compromise. Maybe you agree to disagree and you move on and argue about something different or you come back to it. And again, I think there are levels to disagreement. I will never agree that it is acceptable to kidnap children in my name, through a federal government law enforcement apparatus, and then to intentionally destroy records so that you cannot reconnect these children with their families.

Baratunde Thurston (37:30):

I consider that a human rights violation, right? I'm not going to agree that no, it's actually a great thing. So, so then what do I do with that? I fight. I use my power. I vote. I lobby. I write letters. I rally. I spread ideas. I write speeches. I tweet, I argue, I question, I interrogate. I demand. I spend money to try to make my belief that this is wrong prevail so that it does not continue. And if you want to take the opposite view and invest all those resources in the opposite, you have that, right. You can lobby for mass child kidnapping and records of destruction. I think that's a weird battle to pick. I think it's a weird Hill to try to die on, but you know, that's you have that right? As long as we agree that the terms are okay, then the best side should win over time. And if not, that's part of it too, but this absolutest thing doesn't serve anyone. That's authoritarianism. It's not democracy anymore

Baratunde Thurston (38:57):

I'm exhausted from arguing over the basics. I don't want to argue over the existence of the postal service. So now, so now you're going to force me to argue that I, that I shouldn't trust the mail. That's a different, that's not an argument within a democracy. That's an argument against democracy. And that I won't, I will not say that's as legitimate. There are folks who are arguing for a different system in our society. One that is just one guy, gets what he wants. And that's literally what we established this nation to oppose. So no, no. We have to remember ourselves. We actually have to read those documents again. And so when it comes to that kind of disagreement, Cindy, I don't think it's the same. I look forward to a disagreement over tax policy. That'd be so much fun to argue about marginal tax rate again, you have no idea.

Baratunde Thurston (40:06):

I look forward to that as much as I look forward to being in a crowd again, maybe we could do at the same time, I can go to a rave slash bar slash nightclub slash political festival slash tax policy debate all at the same time, when we successfully defeat this virus.

Cindy Sealls (40:21):

I think that's what everybody's going to do. Like there'll be so pent up, do it all at the same time, everything will happen in waves. They have their papers, bring their drinks, bring your sports equipment.

Baratunde Thurston (40:35):

Also be karaoke.

Cindy Sealls (40:39):

It could be like the Sidwell Gogo. Did you ever have those? Oh, did they have I, I ran like one of those ones. Oh my God. That was the president of our black student union for a few years. And talk about sweaty oversee those citywide dances that took place at the Sidwell Friends school. Very odd scene. Very odd.

Baratunde Thurston (41:03):

I think I have two more thoughts. I, one leave you with one is about like I am learning a lot and I think I keep having to remind myself that I don't know everything and that I'm learning. And you know, this show is helping with the humility because we're bringing people in who are, who have done the things in their area. And I'm like, I never thought of that. And I'm seeing responses folks and, or even hearing their challenges. And so it's, it also humbles my stridency about how maybe easy this might be. It's not, and it's a hard and it's painful and it's hurtful. And that's a part of it too. This isn't just like a fun exercise. We do this and it hurts and it stings and we cry and we scream and that's a part of it.

Baratunde Thurston (41:59):

That's a part of any relationship we have to deem the relationship worth it. When we deem it worth it, then we tolerate those things and we can have a fight with our partner and go to bed with them and wake up the next morning and make a meal. And we can have a fight with our child and we still love them and we still support them. And we still want the best for them. We are in relationship with each other. That is it just, I, I didn't walk into the show knowing that it's not like, Oh, I will. For the past 42 years, I've been coming up with the theory. No I'm learning. And I'm just like learning with the listener and sharing that. So I really appreciate this opportunity, like a lot. And Cindy you brought me back with the Sidwell connection in a way that was far deeper than any of this, like typical, let's talk about your podcast conversation.

Baratunde Thurston (42:53):

The last piece I said there were two was teenagers kids. If you're looking for a reminder that this is worth it, that we have a chance that things could get better look to our young people, but not in the typical way. The typical way that we look at young people as like you're going to save us, right? That's what every commencement speech comes down to. Y'all gonna clean up my mess, right? Cause I contributed so much to this jacked up world and nearly destroyed our only livable planet, but I believe in you. That is that's the worst. I think I would, I really want somebody to have me do a commencement speech because it will be not that. That is, that is telling a child to clean up their room and your room. Bad.

Baratunde Thurston (43:45):

When I say look to the year young people, it's, it's not as an outsourcing opportunity. It is to remember what imagination looks like; to remember what challenging authority looks like, because they are less steeped in our nonsense. And they can say that doesn't make any sense. And they're probably right. And we wrestle with their ideas too. And they push us, let them push us and let's help them help us to be better. And I've seen things from these young folk and it's just the restored me. We had a group phone called Civics unplugged. They have a plan For 2030. I'm like, Oh, somebody does great. It's not coming from Ted Cruz. I knew that, but I, that's not enough. It's not enough to not have faith in some part of the system. We have to have sources of faith too. And I think that's source of faith is us.

Baratunde Thursto (44:58):

All right, that's it. I could preach for a thousand years. I will not. Thank you so much for having me.

Cindy Sealls (45:02):

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being here. And you know, I'm just so proud of what you've done and I mean, I must admit as a, as an African-American, it just makes me happy that you were able to just find your way in the world and do what you're doing, which is helping pull other people through, you know, which is what it's all about.

Kelley Lynch (45:36):

Hey Tanvir, great to see you. Hi, Tanvir it's been awhile. It has. So finally, we're back with this new season thing. I think we could talk about what we heard in the episode and what we plan to do about it. I mean, because this whole thing is about actually taking some action, not just talking. So what do you think

Obaidah Fattah Tanvir (46:06):

To take responsibility for our actions or to some extent our interactions.

Speaker 1 (46:12):

Exactly. So what are you going to do?

Obaidah Fattah Tanvir (46:15):

I started as a member of a photography society. And then after a couple of years, I left the society complaining that people are talking about everything else, then photography itself. So I got fade up and left and now I come to realize that was a mistake. You know, like it was among everybody else. It was also my duty to keep it on the right track. So I actually have gone back to the society and I'm actively participating in the meetings and in the discussions, it's not a huge thing, but it's a start, I guess it's like I said, just start something. We cannot control everything. I cannot change the country politics, or I cannot change the word politics, but at least within my sphere, if I act that can have ripple effect and that's what I'm counting on.

Kelley Lynch (47:19):

So Cindy, you want to talk about what we're going to do well, yeah, and I think a lot of what we're going to do ties right into what Tanvir is saying.

Cindy Sealls (47:30):

So what we're planning to do is engage in conversations with people who have very different views than we do. And we want it to be a civil conversation. We're not, we won't be trying to get them to come to our opinion. We just want to hear what they have to say and listen, and be really open to what their viewpoints are without trying to argue them down.

Kelley Lynch (47:58):

And we're going to start close to home. We're going to work with people who, who we know actually like us and care about us, but have very different viewpoints. And there's kind of a range of viewpoints in this small group that we've put together and we're going to meet every Saturday and we're going to talk for an hour or two and try and come to it with curiosity. You have your own Saturday club.

Obaidah Fattah Tanvir (48:27):

That was my idea. I have my Saturday club.

Kelley Lynch (48:30):

Exactly. You know, I think we've talked about it before. I don't think it's been on the podcast before, but are you going to introduce any of this at your own Saturday club? Or is that something that you already do? I already do that we already have a Saturday club and we've been sitting for more than a yeah. It's about one and a half year old club. It's basically a small tightly knit group with different diverse opinion. And we talk about our interests ranging from politics to boats, to cars, to anything and everything. And we have a different opinion that at the end, end of the discussion become out a more knowledgeable level, certain things. And the best part is like, it refreshes us for the whole week because there is no winner. There is no debate it's discussion.

Speaker 4 (49:30):

And the whole idea is to learn from each other. So we, we have completely opposite ideas about a lot of things. A lot of issues, like one of my really good friend, very good friend is Andy climate change. He doesn't believe in climate change. And I, with my experience in planet projects, I'm a strong believer of that. So we stand in the opposite boat, but still we never fight about it. We present our own findings and try to learn from each other.

Kelley Lynch (50:05):

You kind of set these ground rules at the beginning, or it evolved.

Obaidah Fattah Tanvir (50:10):

The only rule that we have is like at the end of the discussion, we will not have any hard feelings. And how do you ensure that that happens if you respect each other? It happens automatically. Everybody else in the room has their own way of seeing things and they have their knowledge pool as well. So you're there to share and learn.

Kelley Lynch (50:38):

What would you say have been the benefits of that for you? A it's refreshing, I'm talking to a group of people who share similar kind of views in opposite views maybe, but at the same plane intellectually, this is stimulating. And also it's informative as well. I learned a lot of things that new things that I did not know. And also there's topics that I had zero interest. I grew interest on that. So it's a learning experience as well as it gives you practical information that you did not know, certain things work that way, it opens up your mind and you start to see a different perspective. It's like, you know, the feeling that when in the same place, 10 photographers go, they had come out with 10 different photograph. You know, sometimes it's completely opposite than each other.

Obaidah Fattah Tanvir (51:40):

And that if you look at them side by side, you realize there are so many different perspective and so many different ways to see it.

Kelley Lynch (51:52):


Cindy Sealls (51:54):

I was thinking about, you know, why it's so hard to discuss some things, for instance I, unfortunately I tie everything to sports, but I was thinking about how, when people discuss sports, they're very knowledgeable about their particular sport that they're interested in, but there's always, and I'll say debates in sports about different individuals. About who's the best pitcher who was the best hockey player. And people will discuss this for hours and there might be yelling and hollering and screaming, but nobody leaves that discussion or debate hating that other person. You know, I think what the difference is in those kinds of arguments, debates discussions, and sort of the moral discussions. And I heard that on the hidden brain podcast episode called moral combat, where once a person feels it's a moral issue, it's almost kind of a life or death thing. And, and there's a bit more of, I do not even like you, if you don't agree with me on this issue. And so that's what we have to figure out how to navigate.

Kelley Lynch (53:12):

I think it's great. We're doing this all together because then we can kind of hold each other accountable and share our experiences. I mean, just hearing about more about your project makes me think that would be really awesome to have other people on who are doing little projects and talk to them about things that they do that help their community. I mean, like I can think of our guy who always goes around on trash day and he puts everybody's garbage cans back. And he's done it for years. There's another mother that we met who has a disabled child and she decided that she was going to run for the school board and she's never run for anything. So there's a whole bunch of people out there who are doing things. And I think it would be really cool to feature some of those stories and hear from them about what they're doing. Cause I think, you know, once you start talking about these things, you start to see, Oh, Hey, I could do that. That could be fun.

Kelly & Cindy (54:27):

You're not going to believe this last night in the middle of the night. Oh, we swear. I heard, I know what you're going to say. What did you hear gunshots? Well, I don't know what it was. I just heard this pop pop hop. Yeah. I looked and I got up, it was two 39. Right,

Cindy Sealls (54:46):

Right, right. Yeah. Cause I, I, I was in the middle of a dream and there was kind of not violence, but there was stuff going on in the dream where people were tussling. And then I heard that and I, and I was like, wait, what, what was that? And I saw, I jumped out of the bed and I see that the lights on, I run down. Cause I know Stephen's still in the basement playing video games. So I'm like, well, maybe that was, was that from that? So I'm like, Stephen, did you hear anything? He was like, no. And so I thought, since Stephen hadn't heard it, I thought it was part of the dream. And then I was thinking, Oh man, recording that thing. And now I'm all screwed up. Like I can't tell what's real and what's not,

Kelley Lynch (55:33):

But that's our lives now, anyway.

Kelley Lynch (55:43):

Hey, we're so glad you've listened this far. And I just wanted to tell you that we've now got a website, a new normalpodcast.com. That'll be our one-stop shop for everything to do with the podcast. That's where you can subscribe. You can contact us, you can read reviews, rate the show. You can learn more about us and subscribe to our newsletter. That's also where you'll find the transcripts and you'll find show notes with information about all of the things that we've mentioned in the podcast. Like the podcast Cindy was talking about today and some other information on starting a conversation group of your own from the national conversation project and some other resources that we're going to use as we start our project. And perhaps most of all, we would really love to hear from you. If you've got your own story about somebody that is doing something in your community, or maybe that somebody is you, our plan is to feature the stories of those people who are already being the change that they want to see in their own backyard. So if you're interested in sharing your story and being on the podcast, please be sure to get in touch. We'd love to hear from you. We'll see you next week. Bye.