Anti-police?! Glenn tells critics of 'The Root: Excessive Force' the truth about Thursday's special

On Thursday, Glenn will premiere the latest episode of 'The Root', entitled 'Excessive Force'. Many have seen the short previews and, for some reason, assume Glenn has gone anti-police. Anyone who has watched the show knows this could not be further from the truth. 'The Root' will delve into the militarization of the police, but it will not be anti-police by any means. On his TV show Wednesday, Glenn responded to critics and explained exactly what the core issues are that 'The Root' will address.

Below is a transcript of this segment:

Tomorrow night is the latest episode of The Root. It is called “Excessive Force,” and we’re going to talk tomorrow about this time period from the early 1900s really until today, and we’re going to show you excessive force with the police and why it is happening.

I want you to understand, the reason why I’m doing this show tomorrow is because of these people and the administration, what these people are doing to try to make the bottom rise up, make the police look totally incompetent so the top comes down so we beg the Justice Department and the FBI, “Somebody’s got to do something.” The top comes down, and we’re done. This is really important that you understand this history.

Now, we put a promo together, and some people are already very angry with me, calling me anti-police and just about every other name in the book. The title of the program is provocative, but excessive force is not meant in the way the typical liberal anti-cop person means. I am by no means anti-cop, never have been, never will be. This episode does not bash the actions of individual police officers in any way.

Tomorrow’s program is to challenge the direction the local police is heading. I want to show you this promo that already is causing so much controversy with our audience. Watch.

VIDEO

Glenn: Local police now have the capacity to turn cities both big and small into a war zone, patrolling streets in tanks and armored personnel carriers and geared up with the same fatigues and weapons you’d see on a soldier. Rare cases, such force is warranted, but it is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

You’re going to meet some of the guys that have been doing research on this program for the last couple of months, and I want to remind you that this program has been one of the only programs that has uncovered what the Chicago police are doing, which is a warehouse in the midst of Chicago, and they are using it as almost like a CIA or Guantánamo Bay interrogation room. It goes against everything in the Constitution.

We’re talking about a complete military takeover or military style takeover of our police department for no good reasons. If they’re outgunned, I want them to have the guns. I want them to have the things that they need. I’m a guy who’s on the border patrol, arm the border patrol, arm them. Let them use their guns. I get it.

Most rational people will not argue that the police have overused or have begun to overuse the militaristic option. I have a place that we stay in the summers, and it’s a town of maybe 5,000 people. It has an MRAP. Why does this little teeny town need an MRAP? Now, there are some indisputable facts. SWAT raids have now ballooned out of control. There are 80,000 SWAT raids, and here’s the problem, if you’re going to take down a violent gang, I want the SWAT there, but most of these 80,000 kicking down the doors and using flash bang grenades are conducted on not violent but nonviolent criminals, many of them misdemeanor criminals.

This is not the fault of the officer. I believe honestly it is the fault of the city pressuring people to use these things because they paid for them. I explicitly state in The Root tomorrow night, and I’ll say it right now, officers cannot be blamed for doing the job they’re asked to do as long as it is within the lines of the Constitution. If you’re going to break the Constitution, you’re just hey, I was doing what I was told, well, so were the people that were putting the bodies into the incinerator in Germany. That’s no excuse. But as long as you’re following Constitution and you’re doing the job you’re supposed to do and you’re fighting for your life, I’m with you.

I argue and state in The Root that because of these policies, I believe our officers are actually being put at a greater risk for injury and harm. As these things spiral out of control, they want the SWAT teams. They want the military on the ground. They want all of these things so the average person looks at them as a victim, and we’ve got a war going on.

I will tell you, we never needed it in the United States before. We needed it in the 1960s. It is not a mistake. It is by design that these things are happening again. So, we have to think strategically, and somebody with $300 worth of pot and no criminal history and the weapons, for them to have their door knocked down by a SWAT team in the middle of the night—let me ask you this. We have a story. I think it’s in The Root. It may have been on the editing room floor, so if you see it tomorrow, pretend you didn’t hear it before.

There’s a story of a guy, he was a mayor of a town. They were going in to get a typical raid on somebody who had like $300 of pot next door to the mayor’s house. Well, the SWAT team got the house wrong, and they actually broke down the door of the mayor’s house, flash bang grenades, put everybody down on the floor. The mayor himself said had I had a gun, I would have drawn that gun because I’m a law-abiding citizen. I would’ve drawn that gun, and I could have fired at one of those police officers because you think you’re being attacked.

If you have guns in your house and you’re a law-abiding citizen, to have somebody break into your house, your natural reaction is to draw and shoot. You’re being invaded. He said if I would’ve done that, I would’ve been dead. That’s the mayor of a town. This exact scenario is happening over and over and more and more frequently. Eighty thousand SWAT teams were unleashed in the last year. That is a whole new territory.

The policy is what we’re challenging, not the police officers. This is a program, not a condemnation of officers. I want to take some time and just respond to some of the letters, some of the comments that are up here on Facebook that are truly remarkable. I’m just going to answer a few of them that are the common complaints.

This one comes in from Daniel. “Should they be wearing ball caps and tennis shorts? You equip with the best available to protect yourself.” Daniel, please, don’t be insulting. Of course, officers should be appropriately protected.

I was just at a movie theater last Friday. I go into the movie theater, and here’s this woman cop. She’s standing by the popcorn counter. Now, she’s working at a movie counter in a suburb of Dallas, okay? I walk up to her, I thank her, and I put my hand on her back, as I do it every single cop I ever see. If I feel a vest, I say, “Thank you and thank you for being safe.”

She wasn’t wearing one. I tapped her on her back, and I said, “The world is changing rapidly. Please, don’t go out without a vest.” Of course, we address this. Of course we have them dress appropriately. But why the camouflage? Why the military look? Most of the 40,000 raids conducted are nonviolent drug offenders. Listen to that, 40,000, 80,000, I think in the last year, estimated 40,000 in the last few years, and most of them nonviolent drug offenders. Because of the increased frequency, there are increased mistakes, often with tragic consequences.

We on this program told you the story of the flash bang that went into a house, and there was a baby in the room. The baby suffered severe burns from it. This is going to happen. The more we do these things, the worse it’s going to be for the officer and the citizen. Some officers have been shot because the person being raided in the middle of the night has no idea what’s going on. They think they’re being robbed by a gang. They shoot.

The overuse of the military heavy weaponry is what I have a problem with. As I said, in my small town of 5,000 people, there may not even be 5,000 people in that town, they have an MRAP. Ask why do you have an MRAP? Well, sometimes we have to serve a warrant. Does the mob live here? Do you have biker gangs that live here? Did you have a big shootout with somebody? No, unnecessary.

Peter writes, “We dress so we come home!” I know that. “Believe it or not criminals have stronger weapons than police. Police equip to survive. Take your anti police views to CNN.” Okay, I’ve never had anti-police views, ever. When the subject of a raid is known to have heavy weaponry or suspected to, has a violent history, I am all for taking the SWAT team and go armed to the teeth. The problem is, Peter, the situation you describe is not what is actually happening the majority of the time.

We can talk about feelings. I’d much rather talk about facts. Most of the SWAT raids conducted now are for standard drug warrants involving misdemeanor-level criminals who have no violent history. All officers risk their lives every single day. Every day they suit up and put a badge on, they’re risking their life. I know that.

So, why is it then they don’t wear the military gear all the time? Wouldn’t that give them the best chance to survive? Of course it would. Why don’t we do it? Because we know being policed by a military force rather than a partner in our community is what creates distance between us. Do you think CAIR, International Answer, MoveOn, Color of Change, Code Pink, Open Society, you think it helps to have everybody suited up like a military and MRAPs running through our streets all the time? Do you think that’s helping their case or helping your case? I guarantee it’s helping them say the police are out of control, and they’re going to get you.

You have people in this country who have always respected the flag, always respected the law, have lived their life, their entire life, being the kind of people that always—I’m one of them—always goes up to the policemen, even in New York City, and shakes their hand and say, “Thank you. I know what you’re dealing with. Sometimes I probably don’t, but thank you for doing what you’re doing. I appreciate it, and so does my family.” I always do that.

Even I and people like me all across the country are starting to have doubts. Why? Because the government is arming the military. You have to look at optics as well. Paul writes, “Shame on you Glenn and during National Law Enforcement Memorial Week to boot. Here’s a Novel idea…walk a mile in their shoes. I challenge you sir…go spend some time and some of these crime ridden cities on the streets with the Officers.”

No, thank you. No, thank you. I don’t know what you go through, but I can guess. I’ve driven through many times going to work at a soup kitchen in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I know exactly what a hell hole that is. No, thank you. “I know without a shadow of a doubt you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding and a [sic] abiding respect for our brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement!” I already have that, Paul. I have the deepest respect, and I honor the men and women in law enforcement. I always have. I always give them the benefit of the doubt time and time again.

Have you heard me condemn the police officers in either Missouri at Ferguson or in Baltimore? You haven’t heard it here. You have heard me say get the bad ones out, but let’s let the system work. I know I have talked with countless officers. I very much understand and respect the men and women in blue. Blue lives matter, but that does not mean that I have to agree with the policies that they are being forced to abide by. I actually think those policies are very harmful to the officers you say I don’t respect.

Look, they are arming you to the teeth, and then have you noticed in Ferguson and in Baltimore, they had no-go zones. You’re armed to the teeth so you look provocative, and yet they’re holding you back. Why do you think they’re doing that? Why? They are causing the American people to lose trust in you. Nothing you’re doing is making the American people lose trust in you. This is orchestrated, and we must know what’s going on and what the end of the road is.

If we were just sitting here talking about violence and what we arm people with, you and I could have a very reasonable conversation, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We are talking tomorrow about who this guy is, who this guy is, the guy who put into motion the militarization of our police force. When you see him in the progressive era and what it has led to, what happened in the 1960s and 1970s and now this coordinated effort, with the president saying we need a well-armed police force, a well-armed civilian force, I guarantee you, it will not be the local police.

The president just said I’m taking some of this military equipment away. No, he’s not. No, he is not. What he really did was say I’m not going to sell you tanks. Well, I hope that the police aren’t saying that they need tanks now. We got that. And he said no grenade launchers. I don’t know a cop that says he needs a grenade launcher. So, he is creating the impression he says you’re out of control because remember, the police act stupidly, so he’s creating the impression that you’re out of control, that you have too much stuff, when in reality he’s not taking any of that stuff away.

His people are holding you back while they are calling for the Justice Department to take over local policing. Don’t you see the game that is being played, and the cops are being set up? By God, man, I’m your best friend because no one else will talk about this—strategy.

These policies of increased force and militarization present the police as occupying military, not a partner in the community. That is not the fault of the officer. Let me ask you something, is it a good thing for the police officer to get out and throw a football with a kid on the street? Absolutely. Why? Because it shows the cops to be just like you, part of the community. Hey, you can trust them. When they come rolling in an MRAP to serve a warrant on your neighbor, what the hell is that? That’s not part of the community. That’s an occupying force to many Americans, and unfortunately, our cops will suffer the consequences of these policies.

I invite you to watch the program tomorrow night and see if it changes your mind. It may not. It may not. I know that we have done months of homework on this particular program, months. I don’t expect to be popular with everybody. I know my views are controversial. I accept that. My job is to tell you the truth, whether you like it or not, the way I find it.

The problem is not the police officer. It is the policy of increased militarization. This is new. I don’t have a problem with our police officers. I have a problem with the Department of Homeland Security. And what else? What are they calling for? What is this top that will come down? I believe what our president, this administration, and many in Congress are lining up for is out of line with the vision of our framers, and I’m sorry, the Constitution is not just a cute rule of thumb. The Constitution is the law of the land. If you don’t like it, we should amend it. There are those who just want to overthrow it or dismiss it. I am neither of those two.

Taylor wrote and said, “If they have ak47 and I’m going into a house I at least want a [sic] m4 or something of equal stopping power. We are not fighting gangs with sling shots people.” I got it. I got it. If there’s a raid and we know they have AK-47s or we have reasonable belief that they do, by all means, lock and load, no problem, but you cannot apply that logic to the patrol of regular city streets because if you do, then my argument, just to be consistent, is we don’t know what the bad guys could have.

We’re dealing with ISIS coming across our border. They might have RPGs. We better have armored vehicles and MRAPs for all routine patrols just in case. You cannot go down that road. Jason, “Take the ‘military’ equipment away from the police and when the situation arises when that equipment is needed you’ll have to call out the actual military. Be careful what you wish for.” Don’t think that I haven’t thought that one through. I never said take the equipment away from the police. What I’m arguing is exactly what you say—when the equipment is needed, it should be the only time it’s used, not to serve warrants. This is not the reality now—80,000 SWAT events, 80,000 SWAT events.

When you see what a SWAT team was originally designed to be, it’ll make a lot of sense. It is being unnecessarily used. I invite you to go beyond judge a book by the cover. Don’t judge a program by a trailer. Watch the program for yourself. While I understand seeing the phrase “excessive force” in the headline can be misconstrued as typical anti-cop, Occupy Wall Street nonsense, I do not accept that from my thinking fans.

This is in no way with this program is about. I know many police officers who don’t agree with the overuse of military tactics. I know police officers, I know military men who are gravely concerned about the way we are using our police on the local level. They are concerned for your safety, your lives, and the future of our police departments.

There are times when force is justified, and I have no problem with those in those instances. When the case is borderline, I side with the judgment of the police. But let’s talk facts.

Ryan: Biden at the empty fairgrounds

Photo by Sean Ryan

Joe Biden leaned into the white barn. Up and to the left, a green sign that said "SWINE."

Just in case you had doubts, here's the "SWINE" sign.Photo by Sean Ryan

His warm-up music was playing, nice and loud. A country song about a Bruce Springsteen song. Which was followed by an actual Springsteen song. A newer one, with an electronic drumbeat.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher" erupted, and Biden sprinted to a makeshift podium in the empty field.

Higher and higher

Biden was somehow spry and stiff at the same time. And maybe he had had some work done. Plastic surgery.

Photo by Sean Ryan

His secret service were disguised as urban ranchers types as they monitored the scene. Not too far away, the highest double track railroad bridge in the world, Kate Shelley Bridge.

The media gawked at Biden through cameras, over laptops. From some nearby pasture, a donkey brayed, cows mooed.

The makeshift media area at the back of the field.Photo by Sean Ryan

Your love, lifting me higher… Than I've ever been

The music yanked to a close as Biden apologized for wearing sunglasses. Everyone was sweating. Glassy beads streaked down Biden's face. Yet there he was, in an elegant pale-blue button-up.

Photo by Sean Ryan

To his left, an elaborate "I AM 4 BIDEN" sign. To his right, a "Biden Works for America" billboard. He gripped the podium and faced the crowd in folding chairs and humid morning light.

Behind Biden, American-flag tassels, still crinkled from the bag. In front of him, 70-odd people surrounded by a chain-link fence, and on the other side, an empty road.

Photo by Sean Ryan

News broke that Jeffrey Epstein had hanged himself earlier that morning.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Since announcing his Presidential bid, Biden had turned into a meme, mocked for his old-school approach to connecting with people, which the new generation had branded unacceptable. As I argued in my first Biden story, I found his affection to be charming, rooted in kindness, and I never once saw him get handsy with someone who didn't feel absolutely honored that he'd narrowed his focus to them alone.

Once again, the outrage was the actual problem. And the hypocrisy was disgusting. Politicians are notorious for affairs and downright sexual depravity, so PDA was hardly a crime. John F. Kennedy once said, "If I don't have a lay for three days I get a headache." JFK alone puts Biden to shame. Both John Edwards and Arnold Schwarzenegger had their own second families as a result of affairs.

Beyond that, it had been a rocky start in Iowa for Biden. Lots of bad optics. Lots of awkward phrasing. Like the "poor kids are just as talented as white kids" remark he made the previous night at the plumbers' union in Des Moines.

Or a few hours before that, at the Iowa State Fair, when he got into a weird argument with Breitbart News editor Joel Pollak, who criticized one of Biden's story about the disastrous events in Charlottesville nearly two years before to the day, and accused Biden of mischaracterizing Trump's reaction to the Unite the Right rally.

Biden responded with indignation, using portions of his "contorted faces" stump speech word-for-word.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The issue of Trump and Charlottesville remains far more complicated, steeped in semantics and implication. Many on the left and in the press took umbrage with President Trump's speech. His use of equivalency. As Jake Shafer at Politico noted, the speech "sound[ed] like he [was] channeling Barack Obama, a realization that must have clawed at him." According to Bob Woodward's book Fear, Trump described the speech as "the biggest f***ing mistake I've made."

Didn't matter. The point was, Trump had to go. Most of the candidates took this approach, some more fecklessly than others.

Kamala Harris referred to Trump's twitter feed as ammunition for mass shooters. Biden also linked Trump directly to the tragedies. Don't get me wrong, Trump, as President, still regularly calls entire nations "loser" on Twitter. But, as recently as four days earlier, he said that, "in one voice, our nation must condemn bigotry, hatred and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated."

Biden agreed.

*

Different news outlets assign reporters and photographers to the presidential front-runners.

Kamala Harris was so confident in her campaign that she went ahead and bought the personalized KAMALA tour bus. There were over 20 other candidates left, some of whom could still go to a grocery store without being noticed, and Harris already had the KAMALA wagon. As well as a charter bus specifically for press covering her campaign.

Everywhere she went, a herd of media and staff followed along, surrounding her on all sides.

At that stage of the race, Biden and Harris and Sanders received the most media attention. Biden, by default. Harris, by maneuver. Sanders, by nonchalance. Warren floated around somewhere in the background with her wispy voice and her perennial look of innocence.

*

Journalists prowled, recording everything. The media were set up behind the audience. A bank of cameras from CNN, Fox News, ABC, Associated Press, you name it. Reporters, scrawling in slender notebooks, from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC. Most of them were young. Diverse group.

A local councilman had introduced Biden.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"Democrats are the party that cares about people," he said, "and nobody cares about people more than Joe Biden."

Biden loved that.

"Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take you on the road with me," Biden jested at the podium.

Then he let the air settle for a moment.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"You know what, I used to be, a county councilman," he said. "And the fact of the matter is that you affect the quality of life of the people in your city more than almost anyone else does. I ran for the United States Senate from County Council because it was too hard being a councilman."

Everyone laughed, warmly. Even Biden. Maybe even the Secret Service. But not the media. They had heard the line before, in all of its variants. Anyway, every single candidate uses that formula, "I tried your job and it was so much harder than this whole President thing."

And it was a ridiculous claim every time, brazen pandering. The day a county council job is more important than a seat in Congress is the day our country has collapsed.

*

Somehow, the Boone Co. Fairgrounds did not smell like cow dung and fertilizer. This place was quiet, and empty. While the Iowa State Fair flourished 90 miles away in Des Moines, this was just a vacant fairgrounds. People kept looking around, as if to say, "Where are the rides? the corn dogs? The gaudy Corvettes?"

Photo by Sean Ryan

Instead, it was lots of countryside noises. The birds and the wind and occasionally a faraway tractor or a pickup truck passing.

The audience stared at Biden with automatic deference, or at least the attentiveness of a friendly crowd. In the back row, a man in a black t-shirt with a quote from Martin Luther King: "The time is always right to do what is right." Beside him, a scrawny twenty-something in a t-shirt that said "I was country before country was cool," next to clipart of some skeletons or American flags or shotguns or something.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Here, like most of the Iowa campaign events I attended, there were a lot of people in message-laden outfits. Typically, this is considered low-brow, wearing t-shirts with slogans and whatnot. But these were political people, converging on a political event. And politics had become so personal to them that they were literally adorning their body with its better perspectives.

During the rallies, T-shirts turned ideological. Clothing became a platform. Slogans flew from everywhere. Deeper down, maybe these messages were an opportunity, social lottery tickets. Rooted in a desire to connect with others, anyone who might share your opinion.

Or maybe it was because they had come to watch someone important, and all they could do was listen, yet they had a lot to say, so they found other ways to signal who they were and what they believed, and, maybe, Biden would see it and be impressed and they'd be on the same level. It could happen. It would never happen.

*

Biden had sand in his voice.

When he spoke, it lacked the playful jaunt you heard during his tenure as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But it still had that soft acuity. Calming. Without much of an accent despite his having grown up in both Pennsylvania and Delaware.

"No matter how young or old you are, there's not a more important election to participate in," he said. "And we all know who this President is. And we all know — except him I suspect — that the words Presidents speak matter."

He let that phrase linger.

Photo by Sean Ryan

"They can move markets. They can send brave women and men to war. They can bring peace. They can be a voice of calm in moments of national turmoil. They can console. And they can comfort, in moments of tragedy. They can inspire us to literally go to the Moon. Or they can appeal to our better angels in times of difficulty."

A measured pause.

"Or — Or, they can unleash the deepest, darkest forces in this nation," he said. "And that's what Donald Trump has chosen to do."

Photo by Sean Ryan

He kept using the word "seriously" after undisputedly serious statements. "Seriously, I mean it," even though everyone already knew that he meant it. Or "seriously, folks, this President is a menace." It was a better way of saying, "Please clap." Only, when Biden did it, it was followed by a natural, perfectly timed clack of applause.

*

Every speech Biden gave in Iowa opened with a description of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. He described the contorted faces of neo-Nazis, veins bulging from their heads. "Literally," he shouted.

How they emerged from fields like zombies in Nazi regalia, gripping signs with antisemetic slogans, chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" and "Blood and soil."

He said that, in response, Trump referred to the Neo-Nazis and KKK as "very fine people."

Biden told it darkly, like he loved the narrative language. The descriptiveness. Who wouldn't?

Then, he used it as a premise, as unequivocal proof that President Trump was a racist who "gave licence and safe harbor to hate and white supremacy."

In all that sunlight at the Boone Co. Fairgrounds, Biden cut through his stump speech much better than he had the night before at the plumber's union.

*

Occasionally, a train heaved past the field, rumbling the ground. Other times, it would just park on the tracks, blocking so many roads. This seemed to happen a lot in Iowa. And people had to navigate elsewhere to get where they wanted.

"We are, today, in a battle for the soul of this nation," he said. "And that's the primary reason I'm running for President of the United States."

Photo by Sean Ryan

I don't even have to tell you about the applause because this is the sort of statement that people always clap after.

He said it as if the Presidency represents a kind of fatherhood. At other speeches, he talked about his late son, Beau — as you can imagine, he didn't mention his other son, Hunter, all that often — but at Boone Co. Fairgrounds it was only fatherhood in the symbolic, anecdotal, sense.

His speech was loaded with snapshots of his own father, who seemed to represent faith in the middle class, or even America itself. His dad was a furnace cleaner in Pennsylvania. His dad lost his job, and it felt like he'd been emasculated. His dad said things like, "Joey, a job is more than a paycheck."

Photo by Sean Ryan

Biden was building the crescendo of his speech. He could no doubt see the landing perfectly, just a few more maneuvers.

"Seriously, when we passed the Affordable Care Act," he said, with a hint of the jocular, "I told the President it was a big deal, or something to that effect."

A wave of laughter spread through the crowd. He'd landed the joke, a reference to his "this is a big fucking deal" gaffe.

He told the joke often, with unpredictable success, depending on his delivery.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The subtle allusion to the f-word landed much better than it did the night before. The way he said it, it was less of an in-joke. This approach to profanity marks a distinction between Biden and, say, New Jersey Senator and Democratic candidate Cory Booker, who, during the second debate, used the word "shithole" on live TV, smirking.

Instead, Biden hints. Implies.

As Vice President, he said the f-word near a hot mic, as the nation watched live. It was supposed to be a private moment between him and President Obama. Everybody heard it, and was it really all that bad anyway? Wasn't it kind of charming? His excitement, his conviviality. Another of Joe's gaffes, to some. Middle Class Joe fumbling again.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Just as much, there's a mystique to Biden's clumsiness. Like how he hastened the legalization of gay marriage in America because he said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

And he didn't do it strategically. It just sort of popped out.

"Now, I know my opponents attack me for, uh, being a little naive," he said, with his low soft gravelly voice. "I find it interesting: I'm the old guy but I'm naive."

People chuckled.

He nodded, as in, "Seriously, though."

*

"We have to reach out," he said. "You know the fact of the matter is, the only way we're gonna get anything done, get this country working together, is if we're able to bring it back together."

Such a nice utopian vision. Which he used as the basis for another attack on Trump.

"We choose truth over lies," he said. "This guy's a pathological — he doesn't tell the truth!"

Measured pause.

"I'll be a President for all Americans," he said. "Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Because that's who we are."

Yes, he was maneuvering the speech toward that perfect landing. He could nail it. He was nailing it.

"Everyone knows who Donald Trump is," he said. "We need to let him who we are." Silence, no reaction. Then a bit softer, moving closer to the mic, "We gotta let him know who we are." In other words, Please clap.

Applause. Lots of applause. Bright as confetti.

"We the people," Biden said, focused on his finale. "That's who we are. We've never fully lived up to that." Then he glided into a recitation of the Preamble of the Constitution, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union. We hold these truths self evident, that all men and women are created equal." He paused. "America is an idea. An idea."

And in the silence between Biden's closing lines, a red GMC rumbled by and the driver leaned out and shouted, "Biden sucks!"

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

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– Visit and volunteer with seniors
– Clean up a part of your neighborhood
– Give someone a genuine compliment

4. On November 16th, get out in your communities to partake in your act of good within your neighborhood. Make sure you track your tie on the VOMO app to show you've participated in the campaign.

If you decide to join Mercur One in being a neighbor this weekend, please share your participation with us on social media! Use the hashtags #MercuryOne and #BeANeighbor so we can see the ways you make your community a batter place.

Thank you for your ongoing support that makes Mercury One's education and humanitarian efforts possible. We are proud to work alongside each and every one of you.

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Celebrities aren’t our culture warriors

Screenshot/YouTube

Because this is the state of our politics nowadays, the past few days have seen the Washington Nationals World Series victory overshadowed by the team's visit to the White House. When catcher Kurt Suzuki donned a MAGA hat and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman praised Trump, Woke Twitter erupted and another outrage cycle began—and has yet to dissipate fully.

At this point, anger with celebrities for their politics has become a normal function of our culture. And frankly, it's exhausting. Yet, when entertainment becomes a substitute battleground for politics, it's also inevitable. We not only welcome, but expect our celebrities to actively advance our political agendas. But for the sake of American discourse, we must re-learn the value of separating entertainment from our politics.

The root of this conflation problem originates from a psychological phenomenon called "the halo effect." We seem to presume good characteristics from a person simply because we appreciate another characteristic about them. For example, person A is talented at X, so that person must also be talented at Y. With celebrities, we incorrectly assume they have expertise in whatever they do, which is why we care deeply about their political and cultural viewpoints. And their silence is perceived as complicity, as we saw with the bizarre campaign to get Taylor Swift to denounce President Trump.

With celebrities, we incorrectly assume they have expertise in whatever they do, which is why we care deeply about their political and cultural viewpoints.

Under this paradigm, it's only natural that we end up having female soccer star Meghan Rapinoe questioned not solely on her athletic success, but also her thoughts on the president and the state of the 2020 election. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that she become a politician one day.

But whenever celebrities espouse political views that run afoul of our expectations, it engenders a startling, gag-like reaction because we assume, often erroneously, that they were enlightened and adherent to our political vision. This leads certain conservative figures to behave rather hypocritically, such as when they demean Lebron James, telling him to "shut up and dribble" while extolling Kanye West because he supports the president.

But of course, expertise is not transferable. A great baseball player can have a tough time understanding Alexander Hamilton's writing. A renowned popstar can make for a lousy thinker. There is not one good reason why MSNBC, a purportedly serious network, needs to interview actor Robert De Niro about impeachment or director Rob Reiner about the findings of the Mueller Report. Neither of these figures have any especially unique insight or political experience.

Of course, Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Zimmerman have been venerated by Trump's base and targeted by the Resistance. Surely, many more figures will follow their lead and occupy the news cycle for all of the wrong reasons.

The only remedy for all of this, then, is to fortify the separation between entertainment and politics.

The only remedy for all of this, then, is to fortify the separation between entertainment and politics. That requires celebrities to push back against calls to disavow certain figures on the basis of politics. Things looked hopeful when Ellen DeGeneres recently stood up for her friendship with George W. Bush, despite profound political differences.

But more importantly, it requires the American people to detach themselves from the political hysteria that has infected every aspect of our daily lives. The reality is that some celebrities are smart—but many aren't. We shouldn't presume political prowess because they're talented in other arenas. And we shouldn't crave their opinions or denounce them when they disagree with ours. In other words, we need to recognize that they are regular people, and we should approach their viewpoints no differently than we would anyone else's.

Ethan Lamb (@realethanlamb) is a Young Voices contributor and a law student at Georgetown University.

Kevin Ryan: America, country versus city

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Imagine a prairie, red in bloodshot light, swollen with corn.

You're in a rocking chair, on a porch, looking out at fields of grain, surrounded by friends and family. Now imagine an urban sprawl, a landscape of fog and metal and sidewalk and car horns. From the patio of your high-rise apartment, you look out at the city, as a dinner party churns.

One thing I hear repeatedly from people in rural areas is, "I cannot believe the amount of hatred Trump faces. It's unprecedented."
If you measure public opinion via mainstream media — excluding Fox News, which is definitely part of the so-called mainstream media — you'd understandably assume that most Americans hate Trump's guts.

Yet nearly 63 million people voted for him in 2016. Still fewer than Hillary Clinton, although Trump nabbed the electoral vote by a far larger margin.

When I talk to people in cities, they often have a gauzy idea about Trump supporters. To them, Trump supporters are faraway anomalies. The obverse is true in smaller towns, especially in the countryside — and not just the South or in Middle America, you'll find tons of Trump flags along the backroads of Oregon and California, same for the East coast.

Earlier this summer, I was at a gun range in Clear Lake, Texas and a half-dozen people were wearing MAGA hats, including one of the Ranger Officers. Drive an hour north on the Gulf Freeway, into the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, and you'll find a much different dynamic.

And Clear Lake is by no means a small town, not compared to all those towns throughout Texas with 200 people and a gas station.

Because the divide is multifold. And impressively, nearly all of the separate attributes at play are polarized.

Probably because liberals and conservatives literally don't even live in the same places. Rarely cross paths.

There are two America's, same as ever. The countryside and the city. I've lived in both. And as I travel around America for this series, I see the delicate kingdoms of each.

So as I travel around from state to state, through all the different towns and cities, I feel the presence of Walt Whitman's great poem "America."

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time

*

In 2016, a paltry 12 percent of Trump voters lived in urban areas, compared to Clinton's 32 percent. The numbers were basically flipped, with 35 percent of Trump voters in rural areas, compared to 19 percent of Clinton voters in rural areas.
This divide was even more dramatic along partisan lines.

As noted by Pew Research Center,

Virtually all validated voters with consistently liberal values voted for Clinton over Trump (95% to 2%), while nearly all those with consistently conservative values went for Trump (98% to less than 1% for Clinton).

So it makes sense that neither side would understand the other. Especially when you toss in a dose of American combativeness.

*


In the words of Aristotle, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Which is not to say that Americans aren't of an educated mind, although it is something we have historically been sensitive about, particularly in relation to art and literature.

Rather, my point is that there are gradations of ignorance.

A continuum.

Some forms of ignorance are more forgivable than others. And a certain type of ignorance is not forgivable at all.

*

Our hindrance, as Americans, is that we are — well, we are stubborn people. I've lived outside America, and traveled extensively. My father is Irish, and I have dual citizenship.

I will say that every country has problems. Unique problems.

As Americans, we tend to lean on convenience, even if we don't see it as a luxury. Which, let's be real, it totally is.

We take for granted that, when you're in public and you need to use a toilet, there's one nearby. And it's free. And clean.
Or showers. How often are we forced to take cold showers?

I know I'm doing a lot of generalizing here, but I've thought about it a lot, and it's all based on my desire to see Americans get along better. To rouse the humanity in all of us.

We Americans will always thrive with a pioneer spirit. A wildness. Rebels.

And Americans are undoubtedly some of the kindest, most generous people on earth.

*

But we also tend to focus exclusively on ourselves, our country, our city, our town, our yard, our skyline. Which happens everywhere, yes, but not like here. More often, we can't even imagine the other worlds within our own country.

*

Here's an exercise, if you're a born-and-bred American.

Name a dozen living world leaders. Now a dozen more.

Describe the Croatian flag, or the flag of any African country. Can you tell the difference between the Salvadorian flag and the flag of Argentina?

Sing a few national Anthems.

Revolutions or uprisings are currently taking place in the following countries or regions: Chile, Iran, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Hong Kong, Libya, Niger, Lebanon, Iraq, France, Puerto Rico, Haiti, you get the idea.

Because people in other countries know far more about America than we know about them. Which, at times, can be heart-breaking:

Protesters singing the American national anthem youtu.be

Don't get me wrong, I probably got the same score on that little quiz as you did.

Probably lower, actually, as the folks who contact me about my stories have the most astute and insightful observations.

*

Want to know the one thing we can all agree on as Americans? Cutting in line is unforgivable. Any sort of line. We learn this from a young age. Internalize it, collectively. If you ask us, we say that line-cutters deserve the great heat of an eternal hell!

*

Real talk here. We're spoiled, and occasionally we act like it. Although, most of the time — say, while traveling abroad — we're so kind that we come off as naïve, which is charming when you think of it.

And most of all, we are big, in mind and heart and spirit. In the words of the great American poet Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.

You'd never know it, but Americans comprise a mere 4 percent of the world's population.

And, look, I'm not here to trash America. I love our country.

And I find much of the criticisms of our country to be rooted in cowardice, even when they are legitimate.

More than a few times, in Spain or Germany, I listened to locals excoriate the States. While drinking a Coca-Cola, and wearing Levi's Jeans, and nodding their head to Bruce Springsteen, as the Simpsons plays on the TV and a Cormac McCarthy novel rests on their bookshelf.

Most people I've met abroad like America. And they love Americans.

They admire our weird, endless spirit.

Poet Theodore Roethke wrote, "What's freedom for?"

In readings of the poem, he lets the question hang in the air for a moment, then answers it with a bellow.

"To know eternity."

*

Not only are we heartedly multicultural, our diversity is natural.

With regard to race and ethnicity, the U.S. usually occupies the middle of the chart.

But what's unique about the U.S. is that an American can be any race, ethnicity, sex, gender, age, color.
And this is our golden age.

You'd never know it, but Americans comprise a mere 4 percent of the world's population. Because, most of all, we are big, in mind and heart and spirit. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.

*

Ask liberals to describe conservatives, and vice versa, and you'll find that both sides tend to depict the other in a ghoulishly inaccurate and unflattering way. Conservatives often see liberals as elitist, intolerant, self-important, and out-of-touch.

Whereas liberals see conservatives as dumb, intolerant, backwards, and out-of-touch.

Either way, it's a pretty bad way to start a conversation.

*

We know the statistics by now. White voters accounted for 88 percent of the Trump vote. And far fewer Trump supporters were non-college whites.

More white women voted for Trump than for Clinton.

Of all the groups, Black women accounted for the fewest Trump votes, so few that its nearly statistically insignificant. In total, Trump got 6 percent of the Black vote.

A few things have changed since then. Specifically, Candace Owens and Kanye West.

I'll profile Owens in a later installment, for the last six months or so, I've been reporting on it. The vociferous, charming, and unbelievable 30-year-old woman at the helm of a strange new countercultural movement re-shaping America. She wears her MAGA hat when she travels, and she travels most days of the year.

She has led #Blexit, a movement geared at empowering the black community to vote Republican.

Kanye West, who was emboldened by Owen's unflinching style and bold words, regularly defends his support of Trump.

Those two events alone are bound to increase the number of Black Americans who vote for Trump in 2020.

I'll be at Kanye's performance in Houston on Sunday, at Joel Osteen's mega-church. And, about the time this story publishes, I'll be en route to Bossier City, Louisiana for my third Trump rally in as many weeks. And everywhere I travel for this series, I see the recurring qualities unique to our country.

Those two events alone are bound to increase the number of Black Americans who vote for Trump in 2020.

We Americans are generally honest people. We are straightforward yet empathetic. Just contrast general American English with general British English. We are cowboys and roughshod poets, they are royalty and cautious essayists.

In the introduction to this series, I described today's America, our America, as "a country that is — everywhere, secretly — hurting."

My aim, along the way, has been to scour for remedies. To posit whatever positivity I can. Like prayer in public, to tens of thousands of people every week.

As I see it, we will fix America by living out our most American ideals. By speaking from our spirit, no gimmickry or slogans or con men in the way.

We need truth. Its function is to guide us to redemption.

*

The most insidious criticism of America comes from inside. It is much different than protest. Because America is a free country. We can express our beliefs and opinions how we like. That includes kneeling athletes and flag-defiling musicians. Dissent is allowed and patriotism is by no means required.

What I'm talking about is subtler. It can arise from any point on the political spectrum. Left, right, center. Even be apolitical. It embodies the unforgivable ignorance I mentioned above. People who spit at the world around them, lacking self-awareness, unaware of the privilege that comes with living in America. They've never left, never even tried. Yet they remain certain, until their opinions mutate into hatred, and only want to destroy. They deny humanity, they choose nihilism.

It's easy to be cynical about something you don't understand. Humanity is the realization that all of this has meaning. That every moment of life is charged with an existential purpose. That death is a life with no meaning.

This video makes the rounds every once in a while. It's meant to denounce the spirit of our country, to drain it of meaning, but just comes off as snotty and high-minded, which, to be fair, are trademarks of a quality Aaron Sorkin monologue.

All my life, my father, an immigrant, has told me that America is the greatest country in the world. Just look at the Democratic Presidential candidates. Andrew Yang's parents emigrated from Taiwan, he flourished, now he's running for President. Bernie Sanders, son of a man who fled Poland as a teenage high school drop-out with a poor grasp of English, is now also running for President. Or Pete Buttigieg, whose father emigrated from Malta in 1979. Kamala Harris' mother emigrated from India, her father from Jamaica.

In other words, seven immigrants, all from different continents, traveled to America with hope and their eyes, and now their children have a realistic chance of being the President of the country. From the bottom to the top, in one generation.That would be like if your parents emigrated to America from another country, worked hard, then you went on to become a realistic candidate for the most important job in the entire world. Now do that three more times.

Because there is nothing to compare it to.

It becomes all the more impressive the farther you zoom out.

Imagine taking a time machine back to Ancient Egypt and trying to make your way up the ladder so that your son could become Pharaoh. You'd zap into the sand and straight into slavery. Immediately. And your kids? Assuming you even had time for love, on account of all the pyramid building, slaves, also.

And even if you were somehow able to maneuver to the top, you could still die at any moment of some horrific, now-curable disease.

Or be poisoned by Cleopatra.

Or be "suicided" by Romans, never to be found.

Or just vanish, despite your being the Pharaoh.

Or be decapitated by your own father.

Or drown in the Nile.

Or lose your firstborn in a Biblical plague.

All of which were fates that Pharaohs actually suffered. And even the lucky Pharaohs, they didn't have air conditioning or cars or pizza delivery.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com