Transcript: An American Life | Jan 19, 2017

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped red and pink tie.

A caption on screen reads "An American life. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says STATISTICS,
DATES, AND ICONIC IMAGES
TELL ONE STORY
ABOUT A COUNTRY,
BUT TO CATCH THE
SUBTLETIES AND THE SPIRIT
OF A COUNTRY INDIVIDUAL
EXPERIENCE CAN CAPTURE
WHAT THE BIG
PICTURE OFTEN MISSES.
AMERICAN WRITER
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ
FIRST ENCOUNTERED
AMERICA AS A LITTLE BOY,
SPEAKING ONLY SPANISH IN
HIS NATIVE CALIFORNIA.
TODAY, HE IS ONE OF
AMERICA'S FINEST ESSAYISTS.
HIS MOST RECENT
COLLECTION OF ESSAYS IS:
AND HE JOINS US NOW ON
WHAT HIS EXPERIENCE
CAN TELL US ABOUT THE
U.S. STATE OF MIND.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a yellow-tinted black and white picture of women and children on a stage inside a temple.
Richard sits in the studio. He's in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing a tan coat and a pink shirt.

Steve continues GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Richard says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Steve says IN THE
PROVINCE OF ONTARIO.
YOUR LIFE, IF WE CAN
USE THE LINGO OF TODAY,
WENT A LITTLE BIT VIRAL,
WHEN YOU PUBLISHED
IN THE EARLY '80s YOUR
BOOK
HUNGER OF MEMORY.
AND IN IT, YOU REVEALED
THAT YOU TURNED DOWN YALE,
WHICH IS NOT A THING
MOST PEOPLE WOULD DO.

The caption changes to "Richard Rodriguez. Essayist."
Then, it changes again to "The grand refusal."

Richard says YALE WAS
ROMANCING ME,
AS A NUMBER OF
OTHER SCHOOLS WERE,
BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT
I WAS A MEXICAN.
THEY THOUGHT I
WAS A MINORITY.
THEY THOUGHT I WAS
DISADVANTAGED.
AND THEY WANTED
SOMEBODY LIKE THAT
TO TEACH ENGLISH
RENAISSANCE LITERATURE.
AND IN THE ABSURDITY
OF IT ALL,
I HAD LONG CEASED TO BE,
IN MY MIND, A MINORITY
IN THE CULTURAL SENSE.
ALREADY AS A TEENAGER
I THOUGHT OF MYSELF
AS AN AMERICAN NO LONGER
SEPARATED BY LANGUAGE.

Steve says DESPITE THE
FACT YOU SPOKE
NO ENGLISH 'TIL AGE 6.

Richard says THE HUGE
CHANGE IN MY LIFE
WAS THAT I WAS
INFLUENCED BY IRELAND.
I WAS EDUCATED BY
IRISH CATHOLIC NUNS,
WHO DID NOT FOOL
AROUND.
THE IRISH CAN CONVINCE YOU,
MAYBE, ON MARCH 17TH,
THAT THEY'RE ALL SENTIMENTAL
AND SWEET WITH DANNY BOY,
BUT THESE ARE
TOUGH CREATURES.
AND THOSE IRISH WOMEN WHO
HAD COME ACROSS THE OCEAN,
HAD TRAVELLED ACROSS
THE COUNTRY TO SHOVE
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
DOWN MY THROAT,
WHICH THEY DID; IT TOOK
ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF.
AND ONE DAY I
RAISED MY HAND
AND I HAD THE CONVICTION
THAT ENGLISH,
THIS LANGUAGE THAT I'M
USING, IS MY LANGUAGE.
AND FROM THAT CHANGE
ALREADY BEGAN
THIS EDUCATION OF
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ
TO NO LONGER FEELING
HIMSELF SEPARATE.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LIFE
IS THAT I WAS VERY LUCKY,
BUT I ENTERED A
REALM OF IRONY
WHERE I WAS REWARDED BY
THE TIME I WAS IN COLLEGE
WITH BEING A MINORITY.
AND BY THAT PEOPLE MEANT THAT
I WAS A NUMERICAL MINORITY.
THE HIGHER UP I WENT,
PRECISELY BECAUSE I WAS NOT
A CULTURAL MINORITY.
IN OTHER WORDS, AS I ASCENDED
THE EDUCATIONAL LADDER,
I FOUND MYSELF IN A MORE
AND MORE RAREFIED WORLD,
SO THAT I WAS NUMERICALLY
MINORITY PRECISELY BECAUSE
I WAS NOT SEPARATE
FROM THAT WORLD.
I WAS NOT A
CULTURAL MINORITY.

Steve says AND WE SHOULD
REMIND EVERYBODY.
FOUR UNIVERSITIES
YOU WENT TO?
YOU WERE A
FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR.
EVENTUALLY ENDED
UP IN ENGLAND.
YOU'VE GONE ALL
OVER THE WORLD.

Richard says I WAS
OVEREDUCATED.

[chuckling]

Steve says YOU WERE
OVEREDUCATED, OKAY.

The caption changes to "Richard Rodriguez. Author, 'Darling.'"

Richard says LIKE BARAK OBAMA'S
DAUGHTER I SHOULD HAVE
TAKEN A YEAR OFF SOMEWHERE
AND DONE SOMETHING ELSE.
I SHOULD HAVE SKINNED
A FEW WILD ANIMALS.
DONE SOMETHING.
NO, I WAS A SCHOLARSHIP
BOY IN THE ENGLISH SENSE.
AND WHEN THE OFFER
CAME TO ME AS IT DID
AT THE END OF
MY EDUCATION
TO BE A MINORITY AT
A PLACE LIKE YALE,
I COULDN'T PLAY
THE GAME ANYMORE...
I DIDN'T WANT
THAT GAME.
AND I WROTE MY FIRST BOOK
LARGELY AS A PROTEST
AGAINST THE LIBERAL
IDEOLOGY THAT HAD CREATED
THE NOTION THAT I
WAS A MINORITY.
VERY GOOD REASONS.
THERE ARE MINORITIES
IN THIS COUNTRY.
A NUMBER OF THEM ARE WHITE,
WORKING CLASS PEOPLE
WHO DON'T EVEN
COUNT ANYMORE
IN THE DESCRIPTION
OF MINORITIES.
AND IF YOU THINK THE
GRIEVANCE AGAINST AMERICA,
AGAINST THE LIBERAL AGENDA IS
NOT RED HOT, THINK AGAIN.
I WAS OF THE APPROPRIATE
COLOUR, OF THIS VISAGE
THAT PEOPLE THOUGHT
OF AS HISPANIC.
ALTHOUGH, THIS IS
AN INDIAN FACE.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT CANADA
WOULD MAKE OF THIS.
BUT WHENEVER I COME TO
CANADA, I ALWAYS GET ASSIGNED
AT THE AIRPORT TO THIS,
LET'S TAKE A SECOND LOOK
AT THIS YOUNG MAN.
AND I WOULD ALWAYS
END UP IN THIS ROOM
WITH GRANDFATHERS
FROM YEMEN.
BECAUSE THIS FACE IS
ALSO CONSIDERED
DANGEROUS IN
THE WORLD.
I COULD BE ARAB.
I COULD BE - WHO KNOWS
WHAT HE IS - PERSIAN.
SO, IN AMERICA IN THE
1970s, I WAS A MINORITY.
AND PEOPLE READ IT
AS AN HISPANIC FACE.

Steve says WELL, YOU'RE
NOW IN A COUNTRY
THAT'S OFFICIALLY
BILINGUAL.
AND GIVEN YOUR BACKGROUND,
PEOPLE MIGHT SUSPECT THAT
YOU WOULD BE OPEN TO AMERICA
EMBRACING BILINGUALISM,
BUT YOU'RE NOT THERE...

Steve continues HOW COME?

Richard says I'M NOT THERE.
I SEE THE PEDAGOGY THAT'S
GOVERNING THE EDUCATION
OF POOR CHILDREN TO BE
LARGELY MIDDLE CLASS.
I THINK THE PROBLEM OR THE
NECESSITY FOR EDUCATING
POOR CHILDREN IS TO TEACH
CHILDREN HOW TO SPEAK
PUBLIC LANGUAGE - FORGET
ENGLISH OR FRENCH OR SPANISH.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
PUBLIC AND
PRIVATE LANGUAGE.
MANY CHILDREN CANNOT UNDERSTAND
THAT THEY HAVE THE NECESSITY
AND A RIGHT TO USE
LANGUAGE PUBLICLY.
BY WHICH I MEAN, TO
TALK TO A STRANGER,
TO PITCH YOUR VOICE WHEN
YOU'RE IN FIFTH GRADE
HIGH ENOUGH SO ALL THE BOYS
AND GIRLS CAN UNDERSTAND YOU.
YOU UNDERSTAND,
PUBLIC LANGUAGE?
A LOT OF KIDS IN AMERICA
HAVE NO NOTION
THAT THEY'RE RELATED TO
A PUBLIC SOCIETY.

Steve says MEANING WHAT?
THEY ONLY SPEAK
THEIR PARTICULAR JARGON?

Richard says THEY DO OR THEY
BELONG TO GANGS WHERE,
YOU KNOW, MY TRIBE
UNDERSTANDS WHAT I'M SAYING.
OR WE MAKE UP OUR
OWN LANGUAGE.
OR WE LIVE IN A KIND OF
A GIBBERISH OF A THIRD
LANGUAGE, AND SO FORTH, THAT'S
NEITHER HOME OR PUBLIC,
BUT A KIND OF STASIS
BETWEEN BOTH PLACES.
I REALLY STILL FEEL
THE NECESSITY FOR
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ MOVING
IN THE SPANISH SENSE
WHERE THERE ARE TWO PRONOUNS
THAT GOVERN LANGUAGE.
THE TU, THE INTIMATE
YOU, THE WHISPERED YOU.
AND USTED, THE PUBLIC
YOU, THE YOU
THAT GOES ON TELEVISION
IN MEXICO CITY.
THAT USTED IS FORMED
IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS
OF WORKING CLASS CHILDREN
IN THE CLASSROOM.
IT IS NOT FORMED
IN THEIR HOMES.

Steve says WE HAVE THE
SAME THING HERE.
WE HAVE TU AND VOUS.

Richard says THAT'S RIGHT.
BUT I THINK THERE IS THIS
SENSE THAT IT'S BETTER
FOR YOU TO SPEAK
TWO LANGUAGES,
THREE LANGUAGES,
FOUR LANGUAGES.
YOU'RE BETTER
OFF FOR IT.
WELL, ALL I'M TELLING
YOU CANADIANS,
IF YOU THINK
YOU'RE BILINGUAL,
IS HOW HARD IT IS FOR MANY
WORKING CLASS CHILDREN
TO SPEAK ONE LANGUAGE
IN TWO WAYS.

Steve says SO BEFORE WE
WORRY ABOUT A SECOND,
THIRD AND FOURTH
LANGUAGE, LET'S GET
PUBLIC LANGUAGE FIRST.

Richard says THAT'S RIGHT.
YOU WANNA GO TO APPALACHIA
AND HEAR THE WAY POOR
WHITES SPEAK ENGLISH AND
THE DIFFICULTY OF THEM
UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY
CAN SPEAK TELEVISION
LANGUAGE LIKE YOU DO.
THAT VOICE THAT YOU HAVE
IS NOT THEIR VOICE.
IT DOESN'T ANNOUNCE THEM.
AND THAT DIFFICULTY STILL
AMONG LIBERALS OF THE
MIDDLE CLASS IN AMERICA,
THEIR DISTINCTION
FROM THE WORKING CLASS
IS STILL SO DEEP.
THAT THEY'RE PROPOSING
USING THE LANGUAGE
OF THE STREET IN
THE CLASSROOM.
FOR EXAMPLE, EBONICS, THIS
LANGUAGE OF BLACK AMERICA
ON THE STREET, USING THAT
AS A CLASSROOM LANGUAGE.
OR AS IN THE ADVERTISEMENT
OF THE BILINGUAL EDUCATION
WHEN I WAS YOUNGER,
BRINGING THE FAMILY
LANGUAGE INTO
THE CLASSROOM.
WHEN I HEARD THAT, I
REALIZED THEY DON'T
KNOW WHAT THEY'RE
TALKING ABOUT.
FAMILY LANGUAGE IS,
BY DEFINITION,
NOT PUBLIC LANGUAGE.

Steve says SO WHEN YOU HEAR
PEOPLE SAY THE WORD AKS
WHEN THEY MEAN TO SAY - OR
IN PUBLIC LANGUAGE SHOULD
BE SAYING ASK, DOES
THAT OFFEND YOUR EAR?

Richard says IT
ALERTS MY EAR.
I'M ALERT TO ACCENTS.
BOTH OF MY PARENTS ARE
DEEPLY EMBARRASSED
BY THEIR ACCENT.

Steve says SPANISH SPEAKING.

Richard says SPANISH SPEAKING.
AND MY MOTHER WAS
DEEPLY AMBITIOUS,
FIERCELY AMBITIOUS AND SHE
GOT A JOB EVEN AS A TYPIST
WHEN THEY WERE HIRING HER
BECAUSE SHE WAS SPANISH
SPEAKING WORKING
FOR GOVERNOR BROWN,
THE FIRST GOVERNOR BROWN
WHO WAS THE GOVERNOR
OF CALIFORNIA.

Steve says THE CURRENT
GOVERNOR'S FATHER.

Richard says THAT'S RIGHT.
THE GREAT PAT BROWN AND
THE BUILDER OF FREEWAYS
AND MADE THE WATER RUN UP
THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN
INTO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
WELL, SHE GOT A JOB
WORKING AS A TYPIST
BUT SHE DIDN'T KNOW
THE LANGUAGE.
SHE KNEW SPANISH.
AND SHE HEARD ON THE
TAPE ONE DAY REFERENCE
TO URBAN GUERILLAS.
AND SHE DIDN'T KNOW
THE WORD GUERILLAS.
AND SHE SPELLED
URBAN GORILLA.
AND SHE WAS FIRED
IMMEDIATELY.
SO WHAT SHE WOULD
SAY IF SHE WERE HERE
IS THAT IT'S
VERY TOUGH.
IT'S VERY TOUGH TO FIND
ONE'S WAY IN A SOCIETY
WHERE EVERYONE IS
SPEAKING WITH CERTAIN
UNDERSTANDINGS, AND
THEY'RE NOT MINE.
AND I CAN MIMIC
THEM UNTIL I TRIP.
AND THAT DAY
I TRIPPED.

Steve says I WANT TO RAISE
WITH YOU SOMETHING
THAT HAS BECOME A BIT OF
A THING IN THIS -
WELL, MORE THAN A
BIT OF A THING...
A LOT OF A THING
IN THE U.S.
PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
AND YOU'VE HAD TO DEAL
WITH IT IN YOUR CAREER
AS WELL, AND THAT IS THIS
NOTION OF POLITICAL
CORRECTNESS, WHICH YOU
WOULD SEE A GREAT DEAL
AT UNIVERSITIES
THESE DAYS.

Richard says IT'S DREADFUL.

Steve says WHAT'S GOING ON?
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

The caption changes to "What are universities for?"

Richard says I'M GOING
TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD.
I REALLY SEE IT AS WHAT'S
HAPPENED IN THE AMERICAN
ACADEMY RIGHT NOW IS IT'S
BECOME PREDOMINANTLY
A WOMAN'S SCHOOL.
AND NOT SO MUCH IN
THE HARD SCIENCES,
BUT IN MEDICINE IT'S
BECOME MORE AND MORE -
YOU SEE MORE WOMEN STUDENTS
THAN MALE STUDENTS,
BUT NOT IN ENGINEERING.
BUT NONETHELESS,
AS THE CULTURE
HAS BECOME FEMINIZED
IN HIGHER EDUCATION,
IT HAS BECOME CONCERNED
WITH THINGS THAT I NEVER
HEARD FROM MY IRISH
NUNS IN SACRAMENTO.

Steve says LIKE WHAT?

Richard says SAFE SPACES.
STUDENTS HAVE TO
HAVE A SAFE SPACE,
OR WE CAN'T
USE THAT WORD.

Steve says TRIGGER WORDS.

Richard says TRIGGER WORDS.
WE DON'T WANT TO RAISE
THAT SUBJECT BECAUSE
IT MIGHT HURT
SOMEBODY'S FEELINGS.
YOU KNOW WHEN I THINK OF
THE WOMEN WHO EDUCATED ME...
WHEN I WAS IN ENGLAND,
THERE WAS A WOMAN
NAMED FRANCES YATES
WHO WAS A GREAT,
GREAT HISTORIAN OF
THE MIDDLE AGES BECOMING
THE RENAISSANCE THAT
A TOUGH OLD WOMAN
LIKE THAT WOULD BE
CONCERNED WITH SAFE SPACES,
IS JUST IMPOSSIBLE.

Steve says DO YOU LOOK BACK AT
YOUR EDUCATION AND THINK,
MAYBE IF THEY DIDN'T RAP
ME OVER THE KNUCKLES
EVERY TIME I SAID
SOMETHING WRONG,
IT MIGHT HAVE
BEEN BETTER?

Richard says CAN I JUST SAY,
I WAS AT THIS LUTHERAN
COLLEGE IN MINNESOTA
THE OTHER DAY AND
THIS TEACHER CAME
UP AFTERWARDS.
SHE HAD WANTED TO TALK
ABOUT MULTICULTURALISM
AND HER STUDENTS.
THIS IS THE WAY SHE DESCRIBED
THEM, "MY STUDENTS."
WERE LARGELY I THINK
MEXICAN AMERICAN.
AND IN THE
MORNING, OF COURSE,
I COULDN'T HAVE BECAUSE
I ALWAYS LAUNCH
INTO THIS TEASING
ATTACK ON CANADA.
I SAID YOU KNOW THAT
MULTICULTURALISM
IS A CANADIAN INVENTION AND
IT HAS SEEPED ACROSS
THE BORDER INTO OUR
CONSCIOUSNESS AND NOW
HAS INFECTED US ALL SO
THAT WE ALL DRINK
ALL OF THIS
CANADIAN WATER.
BUT THERE'S A LITTLE
VIRUS IN THERE CALLED
MULTICULTURALISM.
I SAID, IF YOU REALLY WANT
TO BE TRUE TO YOUR CULTURE
AS A MEXICAN, YOU BELONG
TO THE CULTURE
OF THE MESTIZAJE, THIS
MIXTURE OF RACES.
THE CONFUSION IS SO DEEP,
YOU WOULDN'T EVEN KNOW
HOW TO TAKE THE
DIFFERENT STRAINS OUT
WITHOUT A DNA CHECK.
BUT SHE WAS SO OFFENDED
BY THAT THAT SHE CAME UP,
AND THE VERY MEETING
THAT SHE HAD ORGANIZED
SHE CANCELLED.
AND I WAS SITTING IN THE
ROOM WAITING
FOR THE STUDENTS TO COME AND
SHE KNOCKED ON THE DOOR
AND SHE SAID, "I'M NOT
BRING MY STUDENTS IN..."
AND SHE STARTED WEEPING.
AND I THOUGHT, I'D
NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE.
THE COLLEGE CAMPUS IS
GOVERNED BY TEARS.

Steve says SHE WAS AFRAID
OF WHAT YOU MIGHT
INCULCATE ON HER KIDS.

Richard says OR THAT I WOULD
HURT THEIR FEELINGS
BY TELLING THEM
THEY'RE TOO CANADIAN.
WOULD THAT SHOCK
THEM FOREVER?
WOULD THEY GO INTO A
KIND OF PARALYSIS
AND BE UNABLE TO
EAT SALMON AGAIN?

Steve says THIS IS A PERMANENT
FEATURE OF OUR
UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES IT
SEEMS NOWADAYS.

Richard says I WAS IN SCHOOL
IN CALIFORNIA AND
THIS WOMAN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN
WOMAN RAISED HER HAND.
AND SHE SAID, YOU KEEP
REFERRING TO THE NEGRO
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
OF THE 1950s.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.,
MALCOLM X,
AND YOU KEEP USING
THE WORD NEGRO.
THAT WORD IS VERY
OFFENSIVE TO ME.
AND I SAID WHY?
AND SHE SAID, BUT
THAT'S NOT MY WORD.
I'M BLACK.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE WORD
NEGRO MEANS IN SPANISH?
NEGRO IS BLACK.
SHE SAID, I
DON'T CARE.
I DON'T WANT YOU
USING THE WORD.
I SAID, WELL, WHAT DO YOU
WANT TO DO WITH THESE
DOCUMENTS FROM THE NEGRO
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
YOU WANT TO GO THROUGH
AND EDIT THEM OUT?
YOU WANT TO TAKE EVERY
"NEGRO" OUT AND PUT
IN "BLACK" BECAUSE
YOU DON'T LIKE IT?
AND SHE - AND
SHE SAID -
SHE LOOKED AWAY.

Steve says END OF
DISCUSSION.

Richard says END
OF DISCUSSION.
I'M CLEARLY
A BAD BOY.
THERE'S A LOT OF SCHOOLS
THAT WON'T INVITE ME.
IT'S OKAY.
I'M AN OLD MAN.
WHEN YOU GET TO MY AGE...

Steve says YOU'RE NOT THAT...YOU'RE 72, RIGHT?

Richard says 72.
AND WHEN YOU GET TO 72
YOU SORT OF DON'T GIVE
A DAMN ANYMORE.

Steve says I'VE GOT
NEWS FOR YOU,
THAT'S NOT THAT
OLD ANYMORE.

Richard says WELL, YOU'RE
GONNA TELL ME THAT I CAN
STILL GO TO YOGA
CLASS; IS THAT WHAT
YOU'RE GOING
TO TELL ME?

Steve says DON'T KNOW
ABOUT YOGA CLASSES,
BUT YOU MAY HAVE ANOTHER
25 GOOD YEARS IN YOU.

Richard says YOU BECOME
AN OLD TIMER
IN CALIFORNIA
VERY FAST.
I SUSPECT IT'S
TRUE IN TORONTO.
YOU GO DOWN THAT BLOCK
AND THE BUILDING THAT'S
THERE TODAY WASN'T
THERE YESTERDAY.
EVERYTHING
CHANGES SO FAST.
SO, I'VE BECOME A TIRESOME
OLD MAN IN CALIFORNIA.
BECAUSE I REMEMBER WHEN
THAT HILLSIDE USED TO BE
GREEN AND NOW IT'S FILLED
WITH THESE CHEAP HOUSES.

Steve says I GET YA.
I GET YA.
AND DO YOU THINK -
AGAIN, I DON'T PUT WORDS
IN YOUR MOUTH.
BUT I THINK WHAT I
HEARD YOU SAY IS,
BECAUSE OF THE INCREASING
PERCENTAGE OF FEMALE
STUDENTS ON
UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES,
WE ARE A LOT MORE
POLITICALLY CORRECT TODAY
THAN WE ONCE WERE.

Richard says I THINK
THERE'S A FEMINIZATION
OF EDUCATION, YES.

Steve says WELL, THAT'S
A TREND THAT'S
GOING TO CONTINUE
THEN, RIGHT?

Richard says YES.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
ON CAMPUS IS
HERE TO STAY?

Richard says I WAS AN
UNDERGRADUATE AT STANFORD
WHICH IS NOW THIS RED-HOT
INCUBATOR OF SILICON VALLEY.
AND MAYOR BLOOMBERG IN
NEW YORK WAS TRYING TO
SEDUCE THE PRESIDENT
OF STANFORD,
WHO WAS EASILY SEDUCIBLE,
TO COME TO NEW YORK AND
BUILD A SECOND CAMPUS IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE
EAST RIVER WHICH WAS
ONLY SCIENCES,
THE HARD SCIENCES.
SO THERE THEY WOULD BE
LIKE THESE CREATURES
IN THE JONATHAN SWIFT PARODY
WHERE THE SCIENTISTS
WOULD BE IN THE MIDDLE OF
THE RIVER AND AT THE OLD
STANFORD, ALL THESE WOMEN
COULD BE ARGUING ABOUT
WHETHER WE SHOULD USE
THE WORD BLACK OR NEGRO.
AND THAT FAILURE OF THE
LIBERAL ARTS RIGHT NOW,
THE CLIMATE OF THE LIBERAL
ARTS HAS COME FROM
ITS SOFTENING.
THAT THERE IS NOT ENOUGH
TOUGHNESS IN THE WORLD.
I TELL THE STORY AT
COLLEGE CAMPUSES
BECAUSE IT WAS TRUE.
MY UNCLE WAS
FROM INDIA.
MY INDIAN UNCLE MARRIED
MY MEXICAN AUNT,
BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT
EROTICISM IS, OKAY?
AND HE WAS VERY DARK...
HE WAS EVEN BLACK.
HE HAD EUROPEAN FEATURES.
A EUROPEAN CUT
TO HIS FEATURES.
HE DIDN'T LOOK
NEGRO, BUT HE WAS OF
VERY DARK COMPLEXION.
WELL, I REMEMBER DOWN
WALKING DOWN THE STREET
WITH HIM IN
SACRAMENTO AS A BOY,
AND A KID WITH A RED-ACNED
FACE ROLLING DOWN
HIS WINDOW YELLING NIGGER AT
US, YELLING NIGGER AT HIM.
AND I TOLD THAT
STORY AT A SCHOOL.
WHEN THE WORD NIGGER
IS INADMISSIBLE.
BUT I COULDN'T NOT TELL
THAT STORY THAT WAY.
IF I SAID A BOY ROLLED
DOWN HIS WINDOW WITH
BAD ACNE AND SAID THE
"N" WORD AT US.
THAT'S THE KIND OF
RIDICULOUSNESS
WE'RE MOVED TO.
WHERE WE EVEN EDIT THE
WORD OF THE RACIST.
SO IT DOESN'T GET - IT'S
TOO HARD FOR US, YOU KNOW.
SO LET'S NOT GO THERE.
LET'S BE MORE TENDER.
LET'S SAY "N."
WORD, OKAY.
IT DOESN'T WORK
FOR ME.
BUT I'M 72.

[chuckling]

The caption changes to "Lost in translation."

Steve says I WANT
TO GO BACK.
YOUR EDUCATION.
YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR
EDUCATION IN AN INTERVIEW.
WE'RE GOING BACK
NOW 22 YEARS.
THIS IS YOU WRITING
IN
REASON ONLINE.
HERE'S WHAT YOU SAID...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "A proper education." The quote reads "We used a lot OF SKILLS THAT CAME OUT OF A MEDIEVAL FAITH. THE STRESS THAT THE NUNS PLACED ON MEMORIZING. The notion that education was not so much little Junior coming up with a new idea, but little Junior having to memorize what was already known. Education was not about learning something new. It was about learning something old...
At the same time, that taught us some basic things. We knew certain dates of American history. I knew certain poems by Longfellow. I knew how to multiply. I had a sense of the communal within that tradition. I could not only name popes, but I could also name presidents. I memorized the 48 state capitals. We were in the 13th century, but the 13th-century skills prepared us in some remarkable way to belong... What the classroom should insist on is that the student belongs to a culture, a community, a tradition, a memory, and that in fact he's related to all kinds of people that he'll never know. That's the point of education."
Quoted from Richard Rodriguez, ReasonOnline. August-September, 1994.

Steve continues OKAY, I WANT TO PICK UP
ON A BUNCH OF THINGS.

Richard says THAT'S
PRETTY GOOD.
HE'S PRETTY SMART.

Steve says HE'S PRETTY
SMART THAT GUY.
HE'S PRETTY SMART BUT HE'S
ONLY GOT 48 STATES HERE...

Steve continues WHAT'S GOING ON THERE?

Richard says HE FORGOT.
WHEN I WAS A KID, HAWAII
AND ALASKA WERE NOT STATES.

Steve says THEY WERE
NOT THERE YET.

The caption changes to "Longing to belong."

Richard says BUT IT WAS TRUE
THAT FOR RELIGION CLASS
I WAS A CATHOLIC, A DEEP,
MEDIEVAL CATHOLIC.
AND I KNEW LATIN AND I
WAS AN ALTAR BOY AT MANY,
MANY FUNERALS AND
MANY, MANY WEDDINGS
AND I KNOW STILL
AD DEUM QUI LAETIFICAT
JUVENTUTEM MEAM:
I WILL GO TO THE
ALTAR OF GOD,
THE GOD WHO GIVES
JOY TO MY YOUTH.
I WENT TO FUNERALS AND
WATCHED THE WIDOW WEEP
AS THE CASKET WENT
INTO THE GROUND.
AND THEN I WENT BACK TO
THE ARITHMETIC CLASS
AT SCHOOL.
I LIVED IN THESE TWO
DIFFERENT WORLDS.
I LIVED IN THE AMERICA
THAT WAS PROMISING ME THE I...
THAT I WOULD
BECOME AN I PERSON.
THE GREAT GLAMOUR
OF AMERICA OF I AM.
I CAN BE
ANYTHING I WANT.
JUST BECAUSE MY FATHER
MADE FALSE TEETH DOESN'T
MEAN I HAVE TO
MAKE FALSE TEETH.
I EXIST.
AND IN THE CLASSROOM
WITH THOSE NUNS WHO
WERE THEMSELVES CREATURES OF
THE WE, WHO WERE COMMUNAL,
WHO WERE AN ORDER, WHO
WERE SISTERS OF MERCY,
THEY BELONGED TO A
SOCIETY A COMMUNITY.
SO ALREADY THE
DIALECTIC IN MY LIFE,
WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN
SUCCESSFULLY APPRAISED
WAS BETWEEN A RELIGIOUS
TRADITION THAT PRIZED
A COMMUNITY AND A
POLITICAL TRADITION
WHICH PRIZED MY
INDIVIDUALITY.
THE IRONY OF
THAT, OF COURSE,
IS THERE IS A
WE IN AMERICA.
THE WE OF THE I THAT
IT PASSES DOWN FROM
GENERATION TO GENERATION,
BUT IT IS SO RADICAL,
THIS I, THAT WE ALWAYS THINK
THAT WE DISCOVERED IT.
LIKE THE KIDS WHO THINK
THEY DISCOVERED SEX.
THAT GRAMPS HAD
NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
BECAUSE WE REALLY DO
HAVE A SYSTEM
THAT WE'VE STUMBLED
UPON EVERYTHING.
WE'VE STUMBLED
UPON EVIL.
WE'VE LOST - THAT
PHRASE IN AMERICA -
AMERICA LOST
ITS INNOCENCE.
WE'VE BEEN LOSING
OUR INNOCENCE -
IT'S LIKE THE WHOREHOUSE.
SHE LOSES HER INNOCENCE
EVERY TUESDAY NIGHT.
THIS CULTURE HAS NEVER
PREPARED US FOR A SENSE
OF THE COMMUNAL
PARADOX OF THE I.
RIGHT NOW AMERICANS ARE
VERY LONELY PEOPLE AND
PARTLY BECAUSE THE ONLY
COMMUNITY WE HAVE
IS THE FAKE COMMUNITY
OF THE CAFETERIA.
WHERE THESE GROUPS
WILL SIT TOGETHER.
THERE WILL BE A TABLE
OVER THERE FOR LATINOS,
OVER THERE FOR CHINESE,
OVER THERE FOR NERDS,
OVER THERE FOR GIRLS WHO
HAVE GREEN AND BLUE HAIR.
WE DON'T KNOW
EXACTLY WHO THEY ARE.
OVER THERE FOR GOTHS
AND THEY ALL SORT
OF LIVE WITHIN THESE
WE COMMUNITIES.
OVER HERE FOR JOCKS.
AT THE RISK OF
SERIOUS HEAD TRAUMA,
BOYS CONTINUE PLAYING
FOOTBALL IN AMERICA
BECAUSE IT'S ONE
OF THE FEW PLACES
WHERE THEY CAN
FIND THE WE.
IN A MIDDLE OF A CULTURE
THAT THEY ARE TOLD WHEN
THEY GO BACK TO THE
CLASSROOM, EXHAUSTED,
TOO EXHAUSTED TO READ
THEIR SCHOOLBOOKS,
THAT THEY BETTER
GET AT IT,
BECAUSE THIS WHOLE
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
IS BASED ON THE I.
THE I BECOMING
AN ENGINEER,
THE I BECOMING A LAWYER,
THE I BECOMING A DENTIST.
BUT THEIR ENERGIES
HAVE BEEN SO DEPLETED
BY THE AFTERNOON
PRACTISE OF BECOMING WE,
THAT THEY DON'T KNOW
HOW TO BALANCE THE TWO.
AND FOR MY OWN ANXIETY AS
A CATHOLIC IN THOSE YEARS,
I REMAIN A CATHOLIC BUT
I'VE NEVER COMPLETELY,
ADEQUATELY DIVIDED
THOSE IDENTITIES.
I'VE NOTICED THAT GOVERNOR
PENCE WHO'S BEEN RUNNING
AS THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL
NOMINEE WITH DONALD TRUMP,
DOES DISTINGUISH - HE'S AN
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN -
BETWEEN BEING AN AMERICAN
AND BEING A CHRISTIAN.
AND I MAKE THAT
DISTINCTION, TOO,
I MUST SAY.
THAT ON AN ISSUE LIKE
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION,
FOR EXAMPLE.
AS AN AMERICAN I THINK
WE HAVE TO BE MUCH MORE
CAREFUL ABOUT WHO COMES
INTO THE COUNTRY.
AS A CHRISTIAN, I
THINK THE IMPERATIVE
TO TREAT THE STRANGER
WELL IS CLEAR.
IT'S LIKE HAVING TWO
SEASONS IN MY LIFE.
I AM BOTH JANUARY AND I'M
ALSO APRIL AND I HAVE TO
MEDIATE BETWEEN THOSE TWO
IDENTITIES ALL THE TIME.

Steve says HMM, FASCINATING.
HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU'VE
DESCRIBED IN THERE IS
THE FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN
EDUCATION TODAY?

Richard says I DON'T
THINK WE ADEQUATELY
GIVE STUDENTS A SENSE
OF THEIR COMMUNITY.
IN MY NEIGHBOURHOOD
NOW IN SAN FRANCISCO,
VERY UPSCALE NEIGHBOURHOOD
OF VERY YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
IN SILICON VALLEY WHO
HAVE LOTS OF MONEY.
AND THESE CARS THAT GO 500
MILES AN HOUR BUT CAN'T BE
DRIVEN AT THAT SPEED
BECAUSE THERE'S
A STOPLIGHT AT
EVERY INTERSECTION.
THERE WILL BE ON A DAY
LIKE MARTIN LUTHER KING'S
BIRTHDAY, THERE WILL BE
MEXICANS HAMMERING, PAINTING.
AND I ALWAYS
ASK THESE GUYS,
WHY AREN'T YOU TAKING
THE DAY OFF TODAY?
IT'S A HOLIDAY.
AND THEY WILL HAVE
HEARD OF IT BUT IT HAS
NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM.
YOU UNDERSTAND?
WELL, IT DOES HAVE
SOMETHING TO DO WITH THEM.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.,
IS PART OF MY FORMATION
JUST AS THOMAS JEFFERSON
THE SLAVE OWNER WHO
IS ALSO ONE OF THE FRAMERS
OF THE DECLARATION
OF INDEPENDENCE HAS
SOMETHING TO DO WITH ME.
THAT WE DON'T TEACH
CHILDREN TO SUCCESSFULLY
UNDERSTAND THE AMBIGUITY
OF THE AMERICAN IDENTITY.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP ON
THAT AS IT RELATES TO YOU.
GIVEN THAT YOU SPOKE ONLY
SPANISH THE FIRST FIVE,
SIX YEARS OF YOUR LIFE,
AND THEN ONLY ENGLISH
AFTER THAT, HOW MUCH OF
YOUR MEXICAN HERITAGE
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE
TURNED YOUR BACK ON
AT THIS STAGE
OF YOUR LIFE?

Richard says OH, PROBABLY
A LARGE PART OF IT.
I'VE WORKED WITH THE
BBC ALONG THE BORDER
AND I'VE TALKED TO MEXICAN
KIDS COMING ACROSS
AND ALMOST ALL OF THEM
SPEAK THE LANGUAGE
OF NOSOTROS,
OF THE WE.
WHY ARE YOU COMING?
WELL, MY MOTHER IS SICK
AND SHE NEEDS THE MONEY.
WHY ARE YOU COMING?
BECAUSE MY KIDS
DON'T HAVE ANY FOOD.
WHY ARE YOU COMING?
BECAUSE MY UNCLE
NEEDS SOMEBODY
TO WORK WITH HIM
IN RENO, NEVADA.
IT'S ALWAYS THIS
LANGUAGE OF THE WE.
AND THEY'RE COMING
INTO A CULTURE
THAT IS RIGOROUSLY
A CULTURE OF I.
AND WILL USE THEM AS
THAT UNTIL IT DOESN'T WANT
THEM ANYMORE AND IT WILL
TURN THEM BACK INTO WE.

Steve says SE HABLA ESPAÑOL?

Richard says MAS O MENOS.

Steve says HOW'S YOUR SPANISH
TODAY COMPARED TO THE WAY
IT WAS ONCE UPON A TIME?

Richard says BETTER
THAN YOURS.

Steve says NO KIDDING!
WELL, I DON'T SPEAK
ANY, SO THERE YOU GO.

[laughing]

Richard says I'M SAFE.

[laughing]

Steve says YOU GOT
THAT RIGHT.

Richard says I CAN DO - THERE
ARE MEXICAN WORKERS
IN MY BUILDING
ALL THE TIME.
AND THEY'RE SO
BRILLIANT AT FIXING
THE WAY MY
FATHER WAS.
AND I CAN MANAGE
ESPAÑOLA INICIO,
THIS HOME SPANISH.
BUT YOU KNOW, I'VE GIVEN
LECTURES IN SPAIN
AND MEXICO, ACADEMIC
LECTURES AND IT'S DIFFICULT.
I HAVE TO HAVE IT
REALLY REHEARSED.
I WAS HAVING DINNER ONE
NIGHT IN MEXICO CITY
WITH THESE VERY
WEALTHY MEXICANS.
AND I WAS TALKING TO ONE
OF THE MEN WHO OWNS
THE HUGE TELEVISION
ENTERPRISE CALLED TELEVISA.
THE MEXICAN UPPER CLASS
ARE OBSESSED WITH FRANCE.
AND HE WAS TELLING ME
ABOUT THE HOTELS IN NICE.
HE STAYS IN THE NEGRESCO
ALL THE TIME WITH HIS WIFE.
THEY WERE MARRIED THERE.
AND HE WAS GOING ON AND
ON THE WAY THEY ALL DO.
AND THE WIVES ALL
HAD ORANGE HAIR.

Steve says LIKE TRUMP.

Richard says AND HE SAID IN
THE MIDDLE OF THIS
LONG DISCUSSION.
HE SAID, AND
WHO ARE YOU?
HE SAID.
AND I SAID, WELL,
I'M A WRITER.
I CAME FROM THE UNITED
STATES TO GIVE A TALK
IN MEXICAN.
ENTIENDO, HE SAID.
AND THEN HE SAID SOMETHING
TO ME THAT NO ONE
IN THE UNITED STATES
HAS EVER SAID.
HE SAID, IN MEXICO WE
DON'T HAVE WRITERS
THAT LOOK LIKE YOU.
AND HE MEANT THAT IN
MEXICO - LOOK AT IT -
LOOK AT MEXICO TELEVISION,
THE SOAP OPERAS,
THE TELENOVELAS.
THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
THE HEROES IN MEXICO,
THE GREAT WRITERS IN
MEXICO LOOK EUROPEAN.
THE GOVERNMENT PEOPLE
ALL LOOK EUROPEAN.
THE BEAUTY QUEENS
ALL LOOK EUROPEAN.
THEY DON'T LOOK
INDIAN THE WAY I DO.

Steve says YOU'RE TOO DARK
SKINNED TO BE A MEXICAN HERO?

Richard says AND THESE
FEATURES ARE PRE COLUMBIAN
AND THE FINGERS
ARE PRE COLUMBIAN
AND MY LITTLE FEET
ARE PRE COLUMBIAN.
THEY'RE RUNNING UP
AND DOWN THE PYRAMID.
THAT'S WHAT HE MEANT.
I MAY GO TO THE NEGRESCO,
BUT I SHOULD IMPERSONATE
THE ARAB WHEN I'M
AT THE NEGRESCO.

Steve says APPARENTLY THERE'S
A MEXICAN SAYING WHICH
SAYS, POOR MEXICO.
SO CLOSE TO THE UNITED
STATES AND SO FAR FROM GOD.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Richard says IT WAS SAID BY A
VERY CORRUPT POLITICIAN
WHO SOLD A LOT OF THE
INTERESTS OF MEXICO
TO THE UNITED STATES.
BUT, NONETHELESS, MEXICO
HAS A SELF-PITYING MODE.
MEXICO HAS BEEN COMPLICIT
IN HER DEBAUCHERY.
ALL ALONG THE BORDER
FOR GENERATIONS MEXICO
IS A VERY CYNICAL
CULTURE.
AND MEXICO WAS BORDERED
TO THIS VERY HYPOCRITICAL
CULTURE OF THE
UNITED STATES.
SO WHATEVER WAS ILLEGAL
IN THE UNITED STATES,
SAY GAMBLING, SAY
WHOREHOUSES,
SAY ABORTION, SAY
DRUGS, SAY BOXING.
WHATEVER WAS ILLEGAL
IN THE UNITED STATES,
MEXICO OFFERED
IT IN TIJUANA.
YOU COME, COME
OVER ON SATURDAYS.
I WAS DOING A DOCUMENTARY
ONCE FOR THE BBC
IN TIJUANA, MEXICO,
ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.
AND I WAS ASKING ALL THESE
AMERICAN TEENAGE KIDS,
WHY DO THEY
COME TO MEXICO?
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING
IN SAN DIEGO NOW.
YOU CAN HAVE
YOUR ABORTIONS,
CHANGE YOUR SEX,
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.
THE GIRL SAID ON
TELEVISION SAID,
IT'S COOL TO GET DRUNK
IN MEXICO, SHE SAID.

Steve says THAT'S A THING.

Richard says YEAH.
PRESUMABLY IT'S COOL TO
BARF IN MEXICO, YOU KNOW.
BUT IN THE MORNING,
BOTH SIDES SEPARATE.
MEXICO POCKETS THE
DOLLARS IN HER BLOUSE
AND THE AMERICAN PRETENDS
HE WAS NEVER THERE
EVEN THOUGH HE HAS
THE GENITAL DISEASE
TO PROVE THAT
HE WAS THERE.
THIS CORRESPONDENCE
BETWEEN A CULTURE THAT
IS DEEPLY CYNICAL AND A
CULTURE THAT IS DEEPLY
HYPOCRITICAL HAS GONE ON
FOR MANY GENERATIONS.

Steve says I LOVE LUCY,
THE TV SHOW, RICKY,
THE HISPANIC AND
LUCY THE AMERICAN.

Richard says CBS DIDN'T
WANT RICKY RICARDO.
THEY WANTED SOMEBODY
ELSE, BUT LUCY INSISTED.
SHE WANTED HER
REAL HUSBAND,
EVEN THOUGH HE
HAD AN ACCENT.
EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD WALK
AROUND THE LIVING ROOM
OF THEIR HOUSE IN
HIS SMOKING JACKET.
NO AMERICAN HUSBAND
EVER DID THAT.
SHE WAS DE LOCA; SHE
WAS THE CRAZY ONE.
AND HE WOULD
ALWAYS HAVE TO - "AIY!"
AND THEN THEY GIVE BIRTH
TO THE FIRST HISPANIC.
WE ALL WAITED FOR
LITTLE RICKY TO BE BORN
AND THERE WAS
THAT DRAMA.
AMERICANS WHEN THEY DIDN'T
KNOW LATIN AMERICA VERY WELL,
WHEN IT SEEMED FARTHER
AWAY FROM THEM THAN NOW,
IN YOUR FACE, ROMANTICIZED
LATIN AMERICA.
THERE WERE MOVIE
STARS FROM MEXICO.

Steve says BAND LEADERS.

Richard says BAND LEADERS.
BUT WHEN IT GOT CLOSE,
THEN WE TURNED
INTO CRIMINALS.
BUT AMERICANS WERE IN
LOVE WITH THE LATIN LOVER
FOR A LONG TIME.
AND EVEN THE LATIN
LOVER WHO WAS AN ARAB,
RUDOLPH VALENTINO,
WHO, IN FACT,
PORTRAYED THE ARAB, WAS
FRENCH AND SPANISH.

Steve says THE SHEIK WAS
FRENCH AND SPANISH?

Richard says FRENCH
AND ITALIAN.
AND WE NAMED OUR THEATRES
IN AMERICA THE ALHAMBRA,
THIS EVOCATION OF
THIS ROMANCE
WITH THE ARAB
FRONTIER IN SPAIN.
NO ONE WOULD
DO THAT TODAY,
THE NOTION OF THE
HISPANIC AS BEING
A ROMANTIC FIGURE.
MAYBE IN ACTUALITY
THAT'D BE THE CASE.
IN EVERYDAY CONVERSATION
YOU MEET PEOPLE NOW.
OH, HI, I'M CINDY.
CINDY GONZALES,
SHE WILL SAY,
WITH THIS
BLONDE HAIR.
AND THE INTERMARRIAGE
NOW IS SO COMPLICATED.
IN MY OWN FAMILY
MY SISTER,
WHO'S VERY DARK-SKINNED
MARRIED A GERMAN-AMERICAN.
AND HER GRANDCHILDREN
LOOK LIKE LITTLE SWEDES.
THESE LITTLE KIDS FROM
STOCKHOLM ARE RUNNING
AROUND AT THANKSGIVING.
I DON'T THINK WE KNOW
WHAT AMERICA IS GOING
TO LOOK LIKE IN ANOTHER
TWO OR THREE GENERATIONS.

Steve says WELL, LET ME
TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE.
EIGHT YEARS AGO IN
NEWSWEEK
YOU WROTE
THE FOLLOWING...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "How many shades?" The quote reads "For centuries, Latin America has acknowledged brown. The majority population of Mexico has been, since the 18th century, mestizo or mixed. In Brazilian Portuguese, there is a long list of words to describe brown. In America we've had only two: white and black."
Quoted from Richard Rodriguez, Newsweek. March 24, 2008.

Richard says THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says GIVEN THE
HISTORY OF AMERICA,
THE HISTORY OF
APPALLING SLAVERY.
IS IT UNDERSTANDABLE
THAT THEY HAVE SUCH
A MONOCHROMATIC WAY OF
LOOKING AT THINGS?

Richard says WELL, IS IT
UNDERSTANDABLE THAT
WE DON'T EVEN WANT TO
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THOMAS
JEFFERSON GAVE BIRTH
TO BROWN CHILDREN?

Steve says WELL, SALLY DID.
HE DIDN'T.

Richard says SALLY,
THAT'S RIGHT.
THAT SALLY HEMINGS
DOWNSTAIRS WAS HAVING
THESE CHILDREN THAT DIDN'T
LOOK EXACTLY WHITE OR BLACK.
IS IT RIGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE
THE FACT THAT THERE
ARE OTHER RACES
IN AMERICA?
THAT THERE ARE
CHINESE, FOR EXAMPLE,
IN SAN FRANCISCO.
THAT THERE ARE ARABS
IN SAN FRANCISCO.
THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO
DON'T SEE THEMSELVES
IN THE WHITE-AND-BLACK
DIALECTIC.
THAT PROBLEM IN AMERICA,
WHICH WAS EXACERBATED
BY THE JIM CROW LAWS,
WHERE IF YOU HAD ONE DROP
OF BLACK, ONE DROP OF
AFRICAN, YOU WERE BLACK.
IF YOUR HAIR - YOUR HAIR
COULD HAVE BEEN OKAY.
BUT IF WE DETECTED THAT
THERE WAS BLACK IN YOU,
NO MATTER HOW MINIMAL THAT
MEASURE, YOU WERE BLACK.
WELL, THE AFRICAN
AMERICANS HAVE TURNED
THAT AGAINST WHITE AMERICA
NOW WITH A PRESIDENT
WHO HIMSELF IS
MULATTO IN SPANISH.
BUT IN AMERICA HE BECOMES
OUR FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT,
BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONLY
WAY WE KNOW HOW TO READ IT.
WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ
ANYTHING MORE COMPLEX.
OUR HISTORY IS NOT
COMPLEX; YOU UNDERSTAND.
I DID NOT KNOW THAT SLAVES
SOMETIMES MARRIED
THEIR SLAVE OWNERS; I DID NOT
KNOW THAT FROM ANYTHING
I READ IN THE CLASSROOM.
I READ THAT MANY YEARS
LATER BECAUSE AMERICA'S
HISTORY IS MUCH MORE
COMPLICATED THAN ANYTHING
WE GAVE OURSELVES
CREDIT FOR.

Steve says HAVE YOU SEEN
BIRTH OF A NATION YET?

Richard says DID THAT HAPPEN?

Steve says IT CERTAINLY
TELLS A DIFFERENT STORY
ABOUT SLAVERY, A NEW
STORY ABOUT SLAVERY,
THAT WILL BE A REVELATION
TO MANY PEOPLE, I THINK.
AROUND THE YEAR 2045,
WHITES ARE GOING TO BE
THE MINORITY IN THE
UNITED STATES.

Richard says YOU CAN'T
USE THOSE TERMS.

Steve says OKAY, HOW
SHOULD I BE PUTTING IT?

Richard says BECAUSE
WHITES DON'T EXIST.
WHITES ARE A
FANTASY, OKAY?
WHEN THE IRISH
STARTED COMING,
THE FIRST MAJOR IMMIGRANT
GROUP OF THE 19TH CENTURY.
THEY WANT TO BE WHITE TOO,
BUT ANGLO-SAXON AMERICA
DOESN'T WANT IRISH.
THEY'RE CONSIDERED
LOWER THAN BLACK.
AND THE STRUGGLE OF THE
IRISH TO BECOME WHITE -
NOEL IGNATIEV HAS
WRITTEN A WONDERFUL BOOK
ABOUT HOW THE IRISH
BECAME WHITE IN AMERICA.
YOU KNOW HOW THEY BECAME
WHITE IN AMERICA?
BY CONVINCING AMERICA
THEY WERE NOT BLACK.
BY IN SOME SENSE
DENIGRATING BLACK AMERICANS
AND PUSHING
AGAINST THEM.
A NUMBER OF OTHER
IMMIGRANT GROUPS
DID THE SAME THING.
WE ARE NOT BLACK; NO
SOMOS NEGROS, OKAY?
WE ARE A DIFFERENT
KIND OF PEOPLE.
WELL, THAT JOURNEY TO
BECOME WHITE IN AMERICA
IS A REAL JOURNEY TO SEEK
MY FREEDOM IN AMERICA
WITH WHITENESS.

Steve says IT DOESN'T STILL
EXIST, THOUGHT, RIGHT?

Richard says IT VERY
MUCH EXISTS.
IN
THE NEW YORK TIMES
EVERY WEEK IT SEEMS
THERE'S THIS POLL ABOUT
RACE RELATIONS
IN BLACK-AND-WHITE
AMERICA.

Steve says I KNOW, BUT
THE MILLENNIALS,
THE YOUNGER GENERATION,
THE YOUNG PEOPLE COMING UP,
THEY DON'T
CARE ABOUT THIS.

Richard says I GIVE LECTURES
ON BEING BROWN,
BY WHICH I MEAN MIXED, AND
KIDS WILL COME UP TO ME
AFTERWARDS AND THE GIRL
WILL SAY - AND THIS
IS A PREFACE TO HER
QUESTION: "I'M WHITE...
I'M NOTHING."

Steve says WHITE IS NOTHING.

Richard says OR HE'LL
SAY, "I'M WHITE...
I HAVE NO CULTURE."
THAT THE PRICE OF
BEING WHITE IN AMERICA
IS THAT YOU
OBLITERATE MEMORY,
THAT YOU NO LONGER HAVE
A SWEDISH GRANDMOTHER,
THAT YOUR MOTHER NO LONGER
HAS DIED OF CANCER,
THAT YOU HAVE
NO HISTORY,
THAT YOUR FATHER
IS NOT OUT OF WORK.
THAT ALL THE THINGS THAT
MIGHT COLOURIZE YOUR LIFE:
GRIEF, JOY, A TRADITION
OF HARD LABOUR.
EVERYTHING THAT MIGHT
COLOURIZE YOUR MEMORY
IS OBLITERATED IN THIS
BLEACH OF WHITENESS.
AND WE SAY TO THE
APPALACHIAN WHITE,
YOU'RE NOT A
MINORITY BECAUSE,
WELL, YOU'RE WHITE.
AND THERE'S THIS
TERM IN THE SOUTH,
A PARTICULARLY VICIOUS
TERM OF THE MIDDLE CLASS
AGAINST POOR WHITES WHICH
DESCRIBE THEM AS TRASH,
WHITE TRASH.
THAT'S PRETTY STRONG.
THAT'S PRETTY STRONG.
AND THAT BOOK THAT
EVERYBODY WAS SUPPOSED
TO READ IN GRAMMAR
SCHOOL, WHICH I HATED,
THIS BOOK
TO KILL
A MOCKINGBIRD,
IN WHICH THE LAWYER IN
THIS SOUTHERN TOWN,
THE GENTEEL LAWYER, IS
ALREADY THE PROTECTOR
OF THE BLACK AGAINST
THE VICIOUS RACIST
WHO IS THIS
LOWER-CLASS WHITE.
THIS SCENARIO THAT RACISM
IN THE SOUTH HAD NOTHING
TO DO WITH THE GENTEEL
COUNTRY-CLUB PEOPLE.
IT WAS ALL A CREATION
OF A LOWER CLASS.
IT'S COMPLETE FANTASY.
BUT WE HAVE MISTREATED
THE WHITE POPULATION
IN AMERICA TO
THE EXTENT THAT
WE HAVE OBLITERATED
THEIR PAST.
IN THAT SENSE, CANADIAN
MULTICULTURALISM,
WHICH TEACHES KIDS TO
UNDERSTAND THEIR HISTORY
AS SOMETHING MORE
THAN SIMPLY RACE,
BUT TO UNDERSTAND CULTURE
AS VARIED AND COMPLICATED.
TO GIVE A MORMON KID THAT,
TO GIVE A SON OF DIVORCED
PARENTS THAT, THAT
YOU HAVE HAD A LIFE,
THAT THERE IS
SOMETHING IN YOU,
THAT YOU'RE NOT SIMPLY
WHITE IS AN IMPORTANT THING.

Steve says IN OUR REMAINING
MOMENTS HERE,
LET ME PUT THE FOCUS
BACK ON YOU FOR A BIT.
BECAUSE YOU ARE AN
OPENLY GAY MAN WHO LIVES
IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.

Richard says I'M
NOT A GAY MAN.
I'M A MOROSE MAN.

The caption changes to "A non-gay homosexual."

Steve says LOOK AT MY
QUESTION HERE, NUMBER 15:
SOME YEARS YOU CALLED
YOURSELF, QUOTE,
A MOROSE HOMOSEXUAL.

Richard says WELL, CHARLIE
ROSE SAID DO YOU THINK
YOURSELF AS A
GAY WRITER?
NO, I THINK OF MYSELF
AS A MOROSE WRITER.

Steve says MOROSE.
WHY MOROSE?
YOU SEEM LIKE A
PERFECTLY HAPPY PERSON.

Richard says WHEN I WAS
CLOSER IN AGE TO YOU,
PROBABLY YOUNGER, I WENT
THROUGH THE AIDS CRISIS
AND I HELPED...
OH, I'M NOT GOING TO
GET INTO THIS TOO MUCH.
BUT I HELPED
ABOUT 40 MEN DIE.
AND I KNEW HOW
TO DO THAT.
I KNEW HOW TO CHANGE
DIAPERS AND BEDPANS.
AND I KNEW WHEN YOU WERE
GOING TO DIE TONIGHT,
ENOUGH TO CALL
YOUR MOTHER,
IF YOUR MOTHER
EVEN CARED.
AND I SHOVELLED THE
MORPHINE DOWN YOUR THROAT.
NOBODY TOLD US
HOW TO DO THAT...
YOU LEARNED
HOW TO DO THAT.
THE DOCTOR SAID, YOU
NEED THIS AND PUT IT
IN THE REFRIGERATOR UNTIL IT
REALLY BECOMES NECESSARY.
I THINK SOMETHING DIED
IN ME FROM THOSE YEARS,
THAT THERE IS STILL -
IT COMES WELLING UP.
A SADNESS SO DEEP.
I DID A PIECE IN
THE
NEW YORK TIMES
CALLED
"NAKEDNESS IN A DIGITAL
AGE" IN WHICH I TALKED
ABOUT BEING IN A CAR WITH
FIVE GAY MEN IN THE '70s.
WE WERE DRIVING DOWN THE
PENINSULA OF SAN FRANCISCO
TO A PREP SCHOOL; WE WERE
GOING TO BE JUDGES
OF AN ESSAY CONTEST.
AND WE WERE LIKE CLOWNS IN
A CIRCUS IN THIS LITTLE CAR,
ALL LIKE THIS
IN THE BACK SEAT.
AND I REMEMBER SOMEBODY
WAS PUTTING A HAND ACROSS
TO REACH FOR
SOMETHING.
I FORGET WHAT.
AND I REMEMBER THE
TOUCH OF HIS SLEEVE,
WHICH WAS CASHMERE.
THE WINDOWS
WERE STEAMED UP.
SO MUCH LIFE
IN THAT CAR.
WITHIN FIVE YEARS,
EVERYBODY IN THAT CAR
WAS DEAD.

Steve says EXCEPT YOU.

Richard says EXCEPT ME.
AND YOU RATHER FEEL
LIKE A SOLDIER
WHO HAS COME
BACK FROM WAR.
THE STREET IS CROWDED, THE
RESTAURANTS ARE NOISY.
NOBODY READS NEWSPAPERS
ANYMORE IN THE WORLD,
BUT THEY SURE GO TO
RESTAURANTS AND
THEY SCREAM AT
EACH OTHER.
BUT SOMETHING DIED IN
ME; DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
IN SOME REAL
SENSE, I'M NOT GAY.
I'M QUEER IN THE
SENSE THAT I HAD
A WONDERFUL CHILDHOOD.
I WAS SO FREE BECAUSE
I WASN'T HETEROSEXUAL.
I COULD DO ANYTHING.
I KNEW I WASN'T GOING TO
GO TO THE JUNIOR PROM
AND I KNEW THAT MALCOLM X
WAS COMING TO SACRAMENTO,
SO I WENT TO GO
SEE MALCOLM X.
I HAD THAT FREEDOM.
I WENT TO BOXING
MATCHES ALONE.
I WENT TO THE OPERA WHEN
IT CAME TO SACRAMENTO
FROM SAN FRANCISCO.
I REMEMBER THERE WAS ONE
NIGHT IN SACRAMENTO.
THERE WAS A
FEATHERWEIGHT BOXER
BY THE NAME OF
BOBBY CHACON.
HE'S BEEN ON MY MIND
BECAUSE HE DIED RECENTLY.
HE'S A VERY SLIGHT
MEXICAN GUY.
TOUGH, TOUGH GUY.
AND HIS WIFE HAD COMMITTED
SUICIDE IN DESPAIR
BECAUSE HE WOULDN'T
GIVE UP THE RING.
THE NEXT NIGHT HE WENT
TO FIGHT AND THAT'S
WHEN I SAW HIM FIGHT.
AND THE AUDITORIUM WAS
FILLED WITH THESE MEXICAN
LABOURERS FROM THE
FIELDS, THE BRACEROS.
MEN WHO WORK WITH
THEIR ARMS, BRAZOS.
AND EVERYBODY WAS STANDING
FOR THE 12 ROUNDS.
MAN, THEY WERE ENGAGED
IN A KIND OF STRUGGLE
THAT WAS SO ELEMENTAL
AND PRIMAL.
AND AT THE END HE
WAS THE VICTOR.
YOU SHOULD HAVE
SEEN HIS FACE.
AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF AS
I WALKED HOME THAT NIGHT,
AND THERE WOULD BE NO
ONE AT SCHOOL
I WOULD DESCRIBE THIS TO,
OR EVEN MY EROTIC INTEREST
IN THIS BOXER.
NO ONE.
THEY HAD BEEN TO THE
JUNIOR PROM OR THEY HAD
BEEN TO A DANCE,
THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT
A BASKETBALL GAME.
I HAD SEEN A PRIMAL
BOXING MATCH THAT NIGHT,
SO IT NEVER SEEMED LIKE
AN OPPRESSION TO ME.
IT SEEMED LIKE
A FREEDOM.
TO GO TO A
BROADWAY MUSICAL,
EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A THIRD
RUN BROADWAY MUSICAL
AT AN AUDITORIUM, THERE
WAS NEVER ANY RISK
THAT I WOULD SEE A CLASSMATE
BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T GO
TO THOSE THINGS.
I WENT TO SEE
THE
KING AND I, YOU KNOW.
AND THERE WAS ALL THAT
MISCEGENATION ON THE STAGE...
IT WAS WONDERFUL.
ELICIT LOVE, THAT
WAS MY GREAT THEME.
AND WHEN I STARTED SEEING
MY UNCLE'S NEPHEW
ONE CHRISTMAS BROUGHT
HOME A WOMAN,
A BLONDE WOMAN - HE WAS
INDIAN - SHE WAS BLONDE.
AND I WAS
RIVETTED BY THAT.
THE BLONDE WOMAN
AND THE INDIAN.
BECAUSE WHEREVER LOVE WAS
UNEXPECTED OR ILLICIT
OR STRANGE AS
I WAS STRANGE,
I WAS GALVANIZED
BY THAT.
I WAS JUST ENCHANTED.
SO I REMEMBER GOING HOME
AFTER CHRISTMAS AND ASKING
MY MOTHER, I WAS BREATHING
AGAINST THE WINDOW
AND MAKING THESE LITTLE
DIAGRAMS ON THE WINDOW
ASKING HER WHO THE
BLONDE LADY WAS.
AND SHE WAS TIRED FROM
TOO MUCH CHRISTMAS,
TOO MUCH THIS,
TOO MUCH THAT.
WHAT ARE YOU ASKING?
EVERYBODY ELSE WAS SEMI
ASLEEP IN THE BACK OF THE CAR.
WHY IS SHE HERE?
WHY DOES SHE COME
TO OUR CHRISTMAS?
AND MY MOTHER GAVE ME
SOME EASY ANSWER LIKE SHE
MET HIM - KAMANI
WAS HIS NAME.
SHE MET KAMANI AT SCHOOL
AND THEY BECAME A COUPLE,
THAT'S WHY SHE
WAS THERE.
LOVE HAD BROUGHT
HER THERE.
I REALIZED ONE DAY - YOU
WERE MY BEST FRIEND
IN GRAMMAR SCHOOL - THAT
I WAS IN LOVE WITH YOU.
HAD A BEAUTIFUL FACE AND
ONE DAY I THREW A ROCK
AT THAT FACE TO
MAKE YOU GO AWAY.
AND THAT NIGHT OUR MOTHER'S
TALKED ON THE PHONE,
AND THERE WAS THIS
LAUGHTER AND I KNEW
THAT THE MOTHERS HAD DECIDED
THAT BOYS WILL BE BOYS.
BOYS WILL FIGHT WITH
BOYS AND IT WAS OKAY.
BUT IF THEY HAD ONLY KNOWN
THAT THE REASON I THREW
THE ROCK AT BOBBY WAS BECAUSE
I WAS IN LOVE WITH HIM,
BANG, WOULD THE
CEILING COME DOWN.

Steve says DIFFERENT STORY.

Richard says I KNEW THERE
WAS THAT PROHIBITION,
BUT I ALSO KNEW
THAT THIS THING,
THAT LOVE HAD NOTHING
TO DO WITH RELIGION.
IT HAD EVERYTHING TO DO
WITH THE BLONDE LADY
OF MY UNCLE'S NEPHEW.

Steve says YOU'LL FORGIVE THIS
SUPERFICIAL ANALYSIS.
TO HEAR YOU TALK
THIS WAY, SO ENGAGED,
SO ENLIVENED ABOUT
THESE ISSUES, TO ME,
IN SPITE OF WHAT YOU WENT
THROUGH 25 YEARS AGO
AND THE AIDS CRISIS,
YOU'RE NOT MOROSE,
YOU ARE ENGAGED,
YOU ARE INVOLVED,
YOU ARE STILL
SO ALIVE.
THERE DOESN'T LOOK TO BE
ANYTHING MOROSE ABOUT YOU.

Richard says NO, I
KNOW, BUT I MEAN,
ONE TAKES CERTAIN
CONSOLATIONS.
THERE'S IMPERSONATIONS
THAT YOU MAKE.
I'M MORE CHEERFUL IN
PUBLIC THAN I AM PROBABLY.
I'M VERY DEPRESSED AT
THE STATE OF WRITING
IN THE WORLD
RIGHT NOW.
I HAVE MAYBE A BOOK THAT
I PUBLISHED - THE ESSAYS ARE GETTING MORE DIFFICULT
AND MORE COMPLICATED.
I DID A THING AT AN
ANGLICAN CHURCH THE OTHER DAY.
THE AUDIENCE WAS QUITE
RIVETTED BY WHAT
I WAS TALKING ABOUT.
THERE WAS A LITTLE LADY IN
THE BACK SELLING BOOKS.
ANGLICAN CHURCH.
AS SWEET AS YOU
CAN IMAGINE.
AND I WAS WATCHING
OVER YOUR SHOULDER.
THE KIDS CAME UP
AFTERWARDS TO TALK TO ME.
NOTHING WAS
BEING SOLD.
NOTHING WAS
BEING BOUGHT.
I USED TO RUN A BOOKSTORE
IN SAN FRANCISCO
THAT WENT BUST.
AND IT DIDN'T GO BUST
BECAUSE OF AMAZON
OR BECAUSE THE
SUPERSTORES CAME IN.
IT WENT BUST BECAUSE
A CERTAIN OLD LADY
STOPPED COMING.
SHE DIED AND WE HAD BEEN A
CARRIAGE TRADE BOOKSTORE
DOWNTOWN, TILLMAN
PLACE BOOKS,
AND WE HAD ALL THESE
SOCIETY WOMEN
WHO DID NOT GO TO
COLLEGE, THAT GENERATION.
THEY'D GONE TO PARIS.
OR THEY IN VARIOUS
WAYS THEY FINISHED
THEIR EDUCATION.
AND THEY CAME INTO THE
STORE AND THEY'D READ
ANYTHING WE TOLD THEM TO
READ: BOOKS ON JAPANESE
HORTICULTURE, BRITISH
MYSTERY NOVELS, ANYTHING.
BECAUSE THAT WAS THE
SORT OF THE SUBSTANCE
OF THEIR DINNER
PARTY CONVERSATIONS.
AND THEN SHE DIED.
AND WE MIGHT SEE HER
DAUGHTER MAYBE ONCE
OR TWICE, THE
GRANDDAUGHTER NEVER AGAIN.
THE LOSS OF THAT LITERARY
TRADITION IN MY LIFE
HAS REALLY
WEIGHED ON ME.
AND I'M VERY SAD ABOUT
IT THAT SO MUCH IS LOST.
AND THAT THE PLEASURE
THAT I GET FROM READING
AND WRITING I CAN'T
SHARE ANYMORE.

Steve says I DON'T
WANT TO LEAVE THIS
ON SUCH A SOUR NOTE.

Richard says WHY NOT?
WE LEAVE OUR LIVES
ON A SOUR NOTE.

Steve says YEAH, BUT WE
CANADIANS ARE OPTIMISTS.
BUT I STILL WANT TO ASK
YOU ABOUT SOMETHING
THAT'S STILL SOMEHOW
TROUBLING AS WELL,
BEYOND WHAT YOU'VE
ALREADY SHARED WITH US.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR
RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITIES
AFTER 9-11?

Richard says I NEEDED
TO MEET THE ARAB.
I NEEDED TO MEET
THE STRANGER.
I DIDN'T KNOW
ABOUT ISLAM.
I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT
MUSLIMS EXCEPT
THE STEREOTYPES
IN OLD MOVIES.
AND I'VE ALWAYS
APPROACHED THE THING
THAT I WAS MOST
AFRAID OF.
AND SO, I ARRANGED TO
GO MEET THE STRANGER.

Steve says WHO?

The caption changes to "Religious awakening after 9-11."

Richard says I WENT FIRST
TO ISRAEL, THEN EGYPT,
THEN SAUDI ARABIA.
I REMEMBER ONCE IN CAIRO
THIS IS A TRUE STORY...
I TELL IT IN MY LAST BOOK,
WHICH NO ONE WILL READ.

Steve says SAY THE TITLE.

Richard says NO, I'M NOT
GOING TO SAY THE TITLE.

Steve says SAY THE TITLE!

Richard says NO ONE
WILL READ IT.

Steve says SOMEBODY MIGHT GO TO A
BOOKSTORE AND PICK IT UP.
SOMEBODY MIGHT
GO TO A LIBRARY.

Richard says IT'S A BOOK
CALLED
DARLING.
THE FIRST CHAPTER
IS CALLED "OJALA."
BECAUSE IN CAIRO, I SAID
TO MY EGYPTIAN FRIEND,
THERE'S A LOT OF SPANISH
AND ARABIC, ISN'T THERE?
HE SAID, NO, THERE'S A LOT
OF ARABIC AND SPANISH.
THERE ARE SOMETHING
LIKE 3 TO 4,000
ARABIC WORDS
IN SPANISH.
AND THEN I REMEMBERED MY
MOTHER IN SACRAMENTO,
CALIFORNIA, BIDDING ME
GOODBYE AS I WENT OFF
TO SCHOOL, OJALA,
SHE SAID.
OJALA IT'S NOT GOING TO
RAIN TODAY AND THE JACKET
YOU'RE WEARING IS GOING
TO BE - LET'S HOPE THAT.
IT'S A VARIANT
OF INSHALLAH.
BUT I DID NOT HEAR
OJALA - I DID NOT HEAR
THAT SHE WAS ANNOUNCING
THE NAME OF GOD.
IT WAS OJALA; IT WAS
MY MOTHER SPEAKING.
AND WHAT I
REALIZED THAT DAY,
RATHER LIKE THERE'S
ADVERTISEMENTS FOR DNA
RETRIEVAL IS THAT I HAD
GONE TO SEE THE STRANGER
AND I THAT I WAS
POSSIBLY THAT STRANGER.
AND THAT THE
ARAB WAS IN ME.
AND THAT THROUGH SPAIN I
BELONGED TO THE MIDDLE EAST.
NOW, I'M VERY CAREFUL IN
THE MIDDLE EAST AS A GAY MAN,
EVEN IN A CITY
LIKE JERUSALEM,
EVEN IN A FIVE-STAR HOTEL,
EVEN ONE THAT IS BEING
PAID FOR BY THE NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.
AND WHEN WE CHECKED IN TO
THE AMERICAN COLONY HOTEL,
I HAD SPECIFIED, BECAUSE
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
IS VERY GENEROUS
TO ITS WRITERS,
THAT I WANTED ONE OF THE
SUITES - THERE'S A CASTLE
OWNED BY AN OTTOMAN PRINCE
WHO KEPT VARIOUS
OF HIS WIVES ALONGSIDE - SO
WIFE NUMBER ONE WAS THERE...
WIFE NUMBER TWO WAS
THERE AND SO FORTH.
AND THE MANAGER SAW THE
TWO OF US ARRIVING
AND THERE WAS
A PROBLEM.
I SAID, WHAT'S
THE PROBLEM?
HE SAID, THERE'S ONLY
ONE BED IN THE SUITE.
AND I SAID, THAT'S
NOT A PROBLEM.
JIM HAS COLD FEET, BUT HE
STAYS OVER ON HIS SIDE.

Steve says JIM IS
YOUR PARTNER?

Richard says YES.
AND IT WAS A PROBLEM.
AND HE SAID, WHY DON'T
YOU GO HAVE BREAKFAST
ON THE PATIO AND WE'LL
SEE WHAT WE CAN DO.
SO, WE WERE HAVING
BREAKFAST ON THE PATIO
AND I SAW THESE PALESTINIANS
STRUGGLING WITH THIS
MATTRESS COMING UP
AND DOWN THE STAIRS
AND THEY HAD SET
UP A DAYBED.
AND I REALIZED THAT IT WAS
NOT FOR ME, NOT FOR US,
IT WAS FOR THEM...
YOU UNDERSTAND?
SO, WE WENT INTO THE
BEDROOM AND THERE WAS
THIS OLD PALESTINIAN MAN
MAKING THINGS NICE.
AND I THANKED HIM AND
HE TURNED AROUND
AND HE WINKED AT ME.
AND I REALIZED IT'S A MUCH
MORE COMPLICATED WORLD
THAN ANY BAROQUE LINE
THAT I COULD IMAGINE.

Steve says ISN'T THAT
INTERESTING.
THAT WINK SPOKE
VOLUMES, DIDN'T IT?

Richard says YEAH, YEAH.

Steve says AND ARE YOU OKAY
BEING THE OTHER,
THAT REALIZATION THAT
YOU'RE THE OTHER, AS WELL?
ARE YOU OKAY
WITH THAT?

Richard says I'M
OKAY WITH THAT.
IT MAKES ME WONDER ABOUT
WHEN PEOPLE ARE AFRAID
OF THE MIGRANTS COMING
ACROSS FROM THE SOUTH
INTO THE UNITED STATES.
I DON'T THINK THEY REALIZE
HOW MUCH OF THE OTHER
THOSE MIGRANTS ARE.
I THINK THEY'RE BRINGING
RELIGION BACK INTO AMERICA
AND WITHOUT IT, WE WOULD
BE, IN THE UNITED STATES,
SEEING THE DECLINE OF
SPIRITUALITY IN AMERICA,
BY WHICH I MEAN
THE CHURCHES.
THE EVANGELICALS, THE MORMONS,
WHO ARE NOW IN THE RURAL
POPULATION SPANISH
SPEAKING, THE CATHOLICS
WHO ARE IN DECLINE NUMERICALLY
WERE IT NOT FOR IMMIGRANTS
FROM LATIN AMERICA, WE ARE
BRINGING BACK RELIGION
AT THE SAME TIME - BEING
DESCRIBED AS THE OTHER -
BUT WE ARE REINTRODUCING
AMERICA TO ITS OWN THEMES.
WE ARE SINGING THE
PROTESTANT HYMNS
THAT AMERICA
HAS LOST.
WHEN I GO TO EUROPE
NOW, I SEE COUNTRIES
THAT ARE DEPLETED
RELIGIOUSLY.
THE CHURCHES OF
EUROPE ARE EMPTY.
AND THEY'VE BEEN TURNED
INTO TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
WHERE EVERYBODY IS
STANDING IN NOTRE DAME
WITH THEIR
SELFIES, YOU KNOW.
I THINK EUROPE WILL
BECOME A MUSLIM CONTINENT
WITHIN PROBABLY TWO OR
THREE GENERATIONS BECAUSE
THERE'S ONLY AN
EMPTINESS THERE.
THERE IS NO SPIRITUAL
CORE TO OWNING A VOLVO.
WHEREAS IN AMERICA THERE
IS STILL THE POSSIBILITY
WITH THIS ANIMATION THAT
IS COMING WITH IMMIGRANTS
FOR THE SOUL TO
BE RECOVERED.
BUT IT'S NOT CLEAR TO
ME THAT WE WILL HAVE
THIS RUSH THAT'S COMING
OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST
WHICH IS WHERE THESE
RELIGIONS ORIGINATED -
THE DESERT GOD, THE
ABRAHAMIC GOD - COMING OUT
OF THE DESERT, COMING
NOW INTO EUROPE,
COMING INTO THE UNITED
STATES AND CANADA
BRINGING FAITH IS
TERRIFYING TO US BECAUSE
WE NO LONGER SPEAK THAT
LANGUAGE, BUT IT IS HERE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve says WELL, IF YOU WON'T
BE YOUR OWN PUBLICIST,
I WILL.
IF YOU LIKE THIS
CONVERSATION AND
YOU WANT TO HEAR MORE
FROM THIS FELLA,
HIS LATEST IS CALLED
DARLING: A SPIRITUAL
AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
AND I CAN'T TELL YOU
HOW MUCH I'VE ENJOYED
HAVING YOU IN
THIS STUDIO.
IT'S SO GREAT TO MEET
YOU AND THANK YOU
FOR SO MUCH OF
YOUR TIME.

Richard says YOU'RE
TERRIFIC.
THANK YOU.

Watch: An American Life