EPISODE 9: ALLEY PART 2
Transcribed by Dylan Riley and David Sokol
SAMIA VO: This is Make America Relate Again. I’m Samia Mounts.
Remember when I first introduced you to the warm, funny, no-bullshit Alley Mulrain in Episode 5, and I apologized for going off on a bunch of rants and promised to bring you more Alley next time? Well, this week is Alley week! I’m going to be chatting with her on the phone and getting a full update on how she thinks the Trump administration is doing so far, and I’ll be releasing that phone call as a mini-episode later this week.
In this episode, however, I’m going to share Part 2 of my original conversation with Alley, in which I continued to—you guessed it—go off on long rants about all sorts of issues. If you haven’t listened to Episode 5 yet, I recommend going back and listening to that first, so that you can hear the sequence of the conversation in its entirety.
A little context here. The evening that we talked, I was having a rough time emotionally. I’d interviewed Yolanda Aponte that morning—that’s the Episode 2 guest—and I left her house feeling shaken and sad. I drove back into the city for an audition—you performers out there know that’s not exactly a stress-free activity. And the night before, I’d left my credit card at a bar, so I went to retrieve it. I left my car outside with the hazards on. I ran inside to grab my card, and ran back out—to find that my car had run into a row of plastic construction barriers because I’d LEFT IT IN DRIVE. Construction workers were standing around it looking shocked and alarmed. One of them had seen me run inside a moment before and yelled, “You could’ve hurt somebody!” Thank the universe it didn’t hurt anybody or cause any damage, but it could have. It could’ve been tragic. I was horrified and furious with myself, and unspeakably embarrassed. My nerves, at that point, were totally frayed. I drove up to Westchester to meet with Alley, and by the time I got there, I was determined to just put on a brave face and do my best.
The extraordinary thing that I realized while listening back to our conversation was that Alley could totally sense where I was at, and she knew that listening was the best thing she could do for me. She was generous and receptive in just the way I needed at that moment. She was being a good friend. And that’s why, at the end of the conversation, you’ll hear me thanking her with all the intensity I could muster. Sometimes, I try to do too much. That night, I needed a friend more than a podcast guest, and Alley is my friend.
I’m telling you all this so you know how fantastic she really is. And if you’re a liberal who has ever declared in your social media posts that all Trump voters can go ahead and de-friend you right now, or if you’ve seen similar posts from others—I know I have—let this be the example that proves how wrong that kind of thinking is. We are not defined by our political beliefs. Voting for Donald Trump doesn’t automatically mean you’re a bad person, or a racist, or a bigot. Often, it just means that you’re getting a different set of information, and it’s important to appreciate how powerful our bubbles can be in filtering what we hear about.
We lose out when we alienate people who disagree with us. We lose the opportunity to learn from the opinions and ideas of others, to grow, to have an influence, to have a friend who may not agree with us, but who will support us all the same. If the personal is political, then what do we gain by limiting our personal relationships to only the people who think just like we do? Nothing. Living in a bubble is a comfortable way of clipping our own wings.
The normal disclaimers here—we recorded this conversation in the basement of Alley’s boyfriend’s music school, where he teaches, and sometimes you’ll hear water rushing through pipes in the background. Also, we’re not experts, we get shit wrong, and a lot has happened since we recorded this on February 15, 2017. For detailed fact checks and updates on developing situations, please check out the Show Notes on the Episode 9 page at makeamericarelatepodcast.com.
I’m going to roll you into the conversation just before the point we cut off in Episode 5. Here we go.
A: I—[sigh] I do believe Trump, I think he wants—I don’t think he wants to—I mean, he—of course he wants money, but I don’t think it’s all about him and money. I definitely believe he wants to make positive changes for the country. I think he cares about people. I do. And again, I’ll be the first one to eat my words, as they say …
A: If the things he says he’s going to do, don’t happen or go incompletely in the other direction and that starts happening, you’re going to see a very pissed off Alley.
A: And a very—we’re gonna have this conversation again, and it’s going to be like, “Oh my god, what was I thinking?” But so…
S: I won’t be mad at you, I won’t hold it against you.
A: No, I know. Like I said, sometimes it’s like, hard for me, because I pull—like I’m sometimes in the middle a lot. Like especially these things that you’re bringing up that have opened up my—facts that I did not know. And I’m sitting back going, “Wow, ok, I didn’t know that.” Maybe I’m, you know…
S: I’ve been offering everybody I’ve been interviewing to initiate an information exchange.
S: So, you know, we can keep in touch, we can keep discussing issues, and send each other relevant articles or videos.
S: The stuff that we think represents, you know, like shows why we feel the way we do, like, “Oh but look at this evidence.” And we can do that and have this dialogue, which again, is the point of this podcast, is to open a dialogue that’s friendly and respectful between people who disagree on the political issues. So—
A: Yes. Can I ask you a personal question? Was your dad, being in the service, was he a Republican?
S: No, no.
S: My dad was always a Democrat. My dad grew up in a broken home. His dad and mom were married—
S: —divorced, then got married again. And then dad just peaced and like, left and he ended up having to take care of his mom, like working full time and going to college, and then law school and like, living at home the whole time to take care of this mother.
A: Oh wow. What is his ethnic background?
S: He’s white. He’s an Anglo-Saxon mixture.
A: Oh! Okay.
S: Everything white is in him.
A: Because you’re something else, right? Aren’t you?
S: My mother is Jordanian.
A: That’s what you told me, okay. I was trying to remember that.
S: Yeah. So he, you know, he went to law school, he became a young lawyer in Florida, he actually penned, I think it’s still the current death penalty legislation in Florida, my dad wrote it. And he’s against capital punishment. But that was one of the first things he did as a young lawyer. And then he joined the Air Force as a JAG lawyer. He was always a Democrat. He has been a wonderful resource in recent times, and he and I have connected a lot over the political situation. My dad and I haven’t always been able to connect over personal things. But this political environment has allowed us to have these lively conversations where it’s like we’re so on the same side.
S: And he is a legal mind. And incredibly smart and incredibly well informed.
A: Wow. Right?
S: And the way he can—I mean, he broke down the Hillary Clinton email thing to me in the best way I’ve ever heard and really helped me to understand what that was all about. And he like, saw all sides of it and said, “She definitely did wrong, but not as wrong as they made it out to be.” So yeah, my mother and my father both have been Democrats their whole life.
A: See, because my family is kind of split. ‘Cause I have two sisters. So my younger sister is way way way way way way right. Interesting, she’s a financial analyst and a mom and she’s out in California, but she’s in Southern California.
S: She surrounded by the enemy!
A: She lives in Laguna in the—behind the orange curtain, that’s what they call it. But she’s very very very right.
A: And she’s uber smart because she did the whole Wall Street thing so she knows—she’s coming at it from the financial, but she’s—my other sister, Andrea, who lives in Seattle, is way left.
S: Mmm, well, she’s right where she belongs.
A: And my—yeah—and my mom and dad are split, too. My mom’s a Democrat, but I was just curious, ‘cause like usually when I hear military service, I always assume—isn’t that interesting?
S: The community I grew up in was very conservative.
S: I grew up mostly on an army post in Seoul, Korea. That was a predominantly Christian, conservative community. My family didn’t really fit in.
S: And I certainly didn’t fit in. It got me used to being sort of an outspoken person who could stand by my opinions even when everyone around me disagreed.
A: Yeah, yeah.
S: [funny voice] So I think that was character-building.
S: But yeah, it’s funny you ask that because that’s been a question that’s come at me in these interviews a few times. Like, “Do you think your views were molded by…”
S: I definitely live in a liberal bubble now.
A: You do.
S: And part of the reason I want to have these conversations outside of my bubble is to put an end to this needless name calling. This hostility.
A: I agree, it’s ridiculous.
S: It is not a way forward. It is literally counterproductive to everyone’s agenda.
A: I agree.
A: And that really makes me sad.
A: Like I said before, like, these people on Facebook that don’t even know me cursing at, you know, like, hateful words. Hateful words and thoughts and opinions, and you’re right, that is very sad. It breaks my heart that the country is so divided, and I hope that we can all…I don’t know, I would love to see a unification going on. That would be a beautiful thing.
S: I think—
A: The last time I felt unified was 9/11. I really felt like the country came together as a one. And it was a beautiful thing. It was the most awful tragedy, but everybody after that came together, and that’s the one time in my life where I really felt unified. Liberal, Democrat, it didn’t matter. Really I got the sense of that unity, and it was a beautiful thing, and then it just sort of kind of fell away.
S: I think that we can—
A: Do you agree with that?
S: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. I definitely agree with that. I think that by having these kinds of conversations, by pushing ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone—
S: —we are contributing to a future in which there’s less of that divide and more talking across the aisle and working together. Republicans and Democrats in Washington are both at fault. They are doing too much of just, like, toeing the party line and not actually talking and working together for the greater good of the American people, and if they’re not going to do it on their own, we as the people have to make them. We get to set the example, this is our country and they work for us.
S: So hell yeah to us with this conversation! [laughs]
A: Yeah! No, absolutely! We forget about that, that’s easy to forget about. We always think of them as being in charge, but no.
S: They represent us, it’s a democracy.
A: Could we talk about climate change real quick?
S: Oh! Yeah!
A: We mentioned that before.
S: I would love to talk about climate change.
A: I definitely think the cli—I mean, I think we're definitely, as human beings, and our energies and what we’re doing is absolutely contributing to the climate change. But I also believe that this is an earth that’s—I always say you can’t mess with Mother Nature. My feeling is that, at the end of the day, the earth takes care of itself.
S: By wiping out the species that’s destroying it?
A: Meaning us?
A: Maybe it will!
A: Maybe it will!
S: She certainly—she’s creepin’ right now, she’s creepin’, she’s like, “Water levels? I don’t know, guys! Los Angeles? Love ya, bye!”
A: Love ya! I definitely think there’s things we could be doing, absolutely. I mean, I recycle, I mean, I try to do what I can that way. I’m not obsessive about it, but I don’t think we as humans should take full responsibility for it. I think it’s a little bit of it doing it’s own thing. Like when the Ice Age happened, it was sort of like a—I think this is like, the modern day ice age. And yes, the pollution and the littering and the stuff in the water and the leaks and—oh, it breaks my heart with the rainforests. All of that stuff breaks my heart, because I’m a big lover of animals and nature and all that. But I think—I also think it’s bigger than us. If that makes sense.
S: Well, the rainforests are disappearing because of what we are doing directly.
A: I know. Absolutely right. I agree with that.
S: And what’s so frustrating about that, and actually all environmental concerns get wrapped up in this statement I’m about to make, is that we have the technology to not hurt the environment and still do all the things we want to do. We have renewable energy sources, we have the ability to get all of our power that we need from those sustainable, renewable, clean energy sources. We have the technology. It’s just that the big oil companies don’t want to lose their monopoly on the power. I’ve always thought it was so shortsighted of the oil companies not to just put everything they had into investing in clean energy and then have the monopoly on that.
A: Mmm. Yeah, I’ve thought of that too.
S: I mean, that’s the way forward.
S: It makes no sense for us to continue using fossil fuels when we know what damage it does to the environment, so that makes no sense. We don’t need trees for paper. Hemp is a great source of paper and you can grow a whole new crop every three months.
S: It makes no sense.
A: Oh yeah.
S: We don’t fuckin’ need trees. We don’t need to cut down the rainforest! You know, we’ve got so much technology these days to do things better, and unfortunately, there’s big business that depends on doing things the old way, the wrong way, the way that abuses the planet and causes climate change and destroys the rainforest, and they just don’t want to let go of their power.
A: I agree with you on the fact that if they took that and, like you said, did it the earth-friendly way and still be billionaires, why can’t we do that?
S: God, it would be so smart.
A: Why can’t we do that?
S: Why can’t we do that? I don’t know either.
A: I agree with—
S: It sounds like we’re on—we’re in accord on this.
A: Same page on this, yeah, definitely. Definitely.
S: Donald Trump has been know to say that climate change is a hoax.
A: I heard that, too, and that pisses me off.
S: Hoax propagated by China.
A: Why China?
S: He blames China for things.
A: Oh yeah, he does.
A: Yeah, he wants—yeah… Well I agree with him, also, too, on like sort of, maybe the, with—okay. The outsourcing thing kind of bothers me a lot. That bothers me.
S: I mean, that is a—that’s a complicated-ass issue.
A: It’s a complicated-ass issue. It is!
S: Donald Trump’s business is guilty of outsourcing.
A: I know, I know.
S: Business do it because it saves them money. Because people in developing countries will work for pennies and American workers won’t.
A: I know. I know. And that actually breaks my heart that they work for pennies, but that’s relative, too, because their relative dollar is different than ours.
S: It’s also, you know, in a lot of these developing countries, okay to send your 8-year-old to the factory to work, so—
S: I mean, these are huge problems that you can’t address with one solution. It’s gotta be a multi-faceted look at that situation.
S: American jobs. Aah—
A: I know, I know.
S: This is the one area of things where I really have trouble relating, because I’ve never had—I’ve had a few real jobs, but I’ve never lasted long in them, because I’m not good at keeping a regular job. I’ve done temp work.
A: And you’re mostly a performer, so—
A: Yeah, yeah.
S: I’ve done temp work and I’ve done service—
S: —like, I’ve been a waitress and I’ve been a…what else have I done? Basically, those two things. Temp work and waitressing.
S: But I got out of those kinds of jobs the second I could by working in entertainment, you know? I do a lot of voice overs and I do musical theater. And I do free-lance writing, and I do some scotch tastings because I like scotch.
A: I used to do scotch tastings! Who do you work for?
S: Macallan, Highland Park, Glenmorangie, and Ardbeg.
A: Yeah! I used to do that, too.
S: Shout out to my brands!
A: Shout it out! It was US Concepts at the time, they hired me. That was a long time ago.
S: Oh cool!
A: Out of Manhattan, I love scotch tastings.
S: Yeah, I work for a couple of different staffing agencies.
A: Yeah, good!
S: But so I freelance.
A: Yeah, you freelance, so it’s hard for you to put your—I get that.
S: Yeah. And I’ve always been… I’m lucky, I’m fortunate, I’m privileged: good solid background with a supportive family.
S: You know, set me up to be emotionally stable. I’m resourceful, I’m intelligent, I am talented. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. These are things that I have that I know a lot of people don’t have and I’m fuckin’ lucky. I was given these things. So the jobs thing has always been, like, hard for me to relate to, ‘cause i’m like “Well, like, if you lose your job, like, go find another job. Like, you can figure it out.” And I know that’s naive, and I don’t think that that is—that’s not my official position. [laughs]
S: That’s just always my initial reaction, because I’m like, “What? You’re a human, you’ve got a body, you can do things, like, you can make it work, like, you’ll find a way! There’s a way!”
S: I have this very optimistic attitude. I don’t think the coalminers are going to find a way.
A: Got you! I—
S: But I also don’t think Donald Trump is going to be able to bring back jobs in coal. I don’t know what to tell factory workers who see their jobs getting outsourced to other countries.
S: I don’t know what to tell them. Learn a new skill, I guess? But like, how are you supposed to learn a new skill if you’ve got no money because you lost your fuckin’ job, and you like, you’re poor, and like, to learn a new skill, you have to move, which also costs money, and like, all the skills you’re supposed to learn are with computers, and like, that’s not what you do. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in that situation.
A: Yes, I know. It’s difficult. It’s kind of tricky—yeah, it is kind of tricky there. I also think—I think under the Obama administration, I kind of feel like—I kind of felt like America started becoming like a doormat. Like I just kind of—I kind of think sometimes that I’m sick of America trying to take care of everyone else. And I think we have to start taking care of ourselves first. And then we can be stronger to help other countries. I almost kind feel like we’re taken advantage of a lot.
S: Mmm. That’s been a common sentiment that I’ve heard a lot.
A: That disturbs me. Greatly. I don’t like it. I’m sick of being the good guy. I’m—a doormat-y kind of feeling, and I…
S: I’m not trying to malign anyone’s, you know, intentions or character, but I never understood the America first thing.
S: I don’t identify with nationalistic or populist philosophies. I am very much a person who sees the human race as in it together.
S: That it’s our responsibility as human beings to take care of each other. Our country has it really good. We have it really good. We are very prosperous. We are very lucky to live in this country.
A: Yeah, I agree with that.
S: And I feel it’s a moral responsibility to reach a hand out to help countries that aren’t doing as well. I do. I see no difference between helping out, for example—
A: Who helps us?
S: Well, we don’t need that much help. Like, we’re doing real well. Yeah, we’re dealing with terrorism and ISIS and Al Qaeda and all that, but so is the rest of the Western world. It’s not just us they’re attacking, and they execute way more terrorist attacks in the Middle East than they do in the Western world, and they execute way more terrorist attacks in Europe than they do the United States, so actually, we’re doing really well. I hear an argument a lot about like, “Why are we helping these refugees when we’re not helping our own veterans?”
A: Yes, I hear that too.
S: I think that’s a crazy argument. Because why can’t we help the refugees and the veterans? That’s what we’ve been doing. We help the veterans and we help the refugees, and that’s the way it should be, I think. I think we should help the homeless people here in America and help the starving people in Africa as much as we can. And it’s not up to our government to do it all. We’ve got tons of non-profits—
S: —tons of charitable organizations working for these amazing causes every day, and our government lends some aid and some funding to some of them, which is great, and I think we should keep doing that. We can. We are doing really, really great. We have programs to help all the people that need help. I just don’t understand why there’s this idea that we’re not taking care of our own people, that taking care of people from other parts of the world is somehow at the expense of our own people. I don’t see it that way. I see us all in it together. I see little African babies as just as precious as little American babies. Like, why can’t we help them, too? It’s heartbreaking to me that people think that we can’t.
A: I’m not—I guess I’m not saying I don’t—not interested in help—to the—
S: I don’t think that you’re not interested in helping.
A: Yeah. I don’t know. Am I being clear with that?
S: You’re echoing the sentiments of a lot of people. A lot of people feel the way—feel that way, that we…
A: Should start at home, if you will.
S: Yeah. exactly.
S: And I guess I’m just saying that we do. We do help our own people. And another irony of the Republican agenda is that they want to eliminate social programs. The programs that help our own people.
A: Which ones? I gotta look that up.
S: They want to privatize Medicaid and Medicare. After Trump promised he wouldn’t go after those two programs, those wildly popular programs that benefit a lot of people that really need it. Trump—
A: Yeah, I’m on Medicaid, so…
S: That’s what he campaigned on, that he wouldn’t touch those programs.
S: And yet, Paul Ryan has been very vocal the GOP agenda is to privatize Medicaid and Medicare, which will fuck over a lot of people. Repealing the Affordable Care Act with no replacement will cause chaos and cause 20 million people to lose their health insurance suddenly.
A: Well, that’s an issue that’s been on my mind, too.
S: They need a replacement!
A: You got—and you can’t—yeah, you can’t just go, “Okay, goodbye, you have nothing.” You have to have something in place.
S: And the defunding Planned Parenthood. They want to, like, just strip welfare programs even though our welfare money is spent on some ludicrous-ass shit. [laughs] You know we have a welfare program in the state of Michigan that gives money to middle to upper middle class college students to help them go to college?
A: No…see that—really?
S: Even though their families have enough money to do it.
A: See, that kind of shit really pisses me off.
S: Welfare money is being used in the state of Oklahoma to provide relationship counseling classes to middle class couples. Yeah.
A: That’s very backward.
S: It is. So the GOP agenda wants to strip social programs. They don’t want us to have access to universal healthcare, they don’t want people to be able to be on welfare, they want healthcare to be privatized. And then the people who support the Republican party and the people who voted for Donald Trump don’t feel that way at all, and there’s this huge disconnect between the voters and the actual establishment that it’s Washington making all the rules. If we want to take care of Americans first, social programs are where it’s at. That’s the only way that we can do that. Is through social programs. That’s not big government, that’s the government helping people. Taking care of America.
A: Well, that’s kind of what I want them to do. I think that’s why they’re there.
S: Right! Exactly!
A: But it’s interesting that…yeah. That angle, the way you put it, people don’t think of it that way. Like, that blows my mind what you said about the welfare and the rich college…that’s wild, I never heard that before. That—like, misuse of funds. How is that even happening?
S: Yeah, that’s a good question. If you want to look that up—
A: I do.
S: There’s a podcast called Reveal. It’s an investigative journalism podcast.
S: And it’s really entertaining, because they use sort of like a storytelling aesthetic—
S: —to tell the stories that they’re reporting. But there is an episode on welfare.
S: So just search “reveal podcast welfare,” you’ll find it. And they go into the wasteful government spending and the welfare programs. It’s great. And those two examples are both from that podcast. I’d like to open it up. Do you have any questions for me?
A: Hmmm. Yeah!
A: If Donald Trump wasn’t…if there was a different man or woman running, you still would have voted for Hillary?
A: Period? You were very much behind her?
A: So it wasn’t…okay. So it was more of a party…okay, I guess I’m asking, so it’s more of a—her in combination of the liberal ideals? As opposed to—
S: I’m registered as an independent.
S: I did not cast my vote for Hillary Clinton as a vote against Donald Trump.
S: Although, I would have if I hadn’t liked her as a candidate. But I did like her as a candidate.
A: You did.
S: I fuckin’ LOVED her. I LOVE Hillary Clinton. I love her. I love her. I relate with her struggle. I have seen her go through some bullshit. All of these men trying to take her down, trying to make her look bad. The family values, people on the conservative side being so anti-divorce, but then Hillary Clinton’s husband cheats on her and she doesn’t divorce him, and they’re like, “[big gasp] She should have divorced him.” It’s like, wait a second, you guys were just like, “Focus on the family.” I don’t get it. What? I’ve just seen everybody try to take her down, and her staunchly moving forward, trying her best to enact good policy that was going to help more people. That has been the hallmark of her entire career. If you look at her track record, she certainly made some mistakes. She’s flip-flopped on some very important issues. Gay marriage being one of them.
S: And I’m aware of all of that. I don’t think she’s a perfect person, but I think that she was the best candidate running in this election for that job and I believe that our country would have been much better with a Hillary Clinton presidency than it will be with a Donald Trump presidency. I love her. I love what she stands for. I love the way she talks, I like her pantsuits.
S: When she appeared on—she did a few appearances on some of my favorite television shows, and it was when she did a cameo on Broad City, which is one of my favorite sitcoms. It’s about two female best friends and it’s so funny. She did a cameo on that, and that was the moment I realized how much I love Hillary Clinton, because I’m just—she’s not in her element on a television set, and you can tell. But she’s just like, smiling ear to ear and you can tell she’s just really excited to be there but like, she’s kind of uncomfortable, too, and I just loved her. I was like, yes, this is going to be my President, woman in the White House, break the glass ceiling, we’re stronger together, I’m with her, deal me in! Like, 100% Hillary Clinton supporter.
S: I like her more than Bernie Sanders.
A: I actually didn’t dislike Bernie. I would have selected him over Hillary.
S: Most Trump voters agree with you.
A: Isn’t that—I know! I know about that. Isn’t that interesting?
S: But I wonder—
A: I wonder why?
S: But I wonder how much underlying sexism plays into that. I really do.
A: Yeah. Yeah.
S: And I know that’s like, a harsh thing to say and I’m not, you know, I’m not pointing a finger. But like, we all have unconscious biases.
S: And I wonder about that because Bernie Sanders is a curmudgeonly old guy. [laughs]
A: I know.
S: Like, he always looks angry—
A: I know, he’s got an interesting—
S: —he always sounds grumpy.
A: Yeah, I know!
S: I love his ideas, I stand behind his ideas, I love him in the Senate, I think he’s doing amazing work. He’s an incredible politician. He really is passionate about making a better world. I believe in that, I believe in him. But like…
A: The Larry David…
S: Like, he’s just like, just grumpy and curmudgeonly. I—I’m not—I love Bernie Sanders. I’m not slandering his name. I love him, but I—if I could have voted in the Democratic primary, which I couldn’t because I missed the deadline to register as a Democrat, I would have still voted for Hillary Clinton.
A: Oh, cool, okay.
A: Hmmm. See I feel like I should’ve done a little bit more reading before I met with you, so I could have talked—spoken more eloquently on these certain issues.
S: But it’s not about that, and that’s going to be in the intro to the podcast. It’s not about that, i’m going to be really clear, like, “If you’re looking for an analysis of the issues, this is not your podcast. This is your podcast to hear two people who disagree politically talking to each other in a way that’s not hostile.”
S: If you want fact checking, check out the show notes. If you find anything I got wrong, let me know, I will fix it.
A: Yeah, right.
S: Because I’m going to get things wrong, ‘cause I’m not an expert. The people I’m talking to aren’t experts, it’s not about that. It’s about setting a precedent. It’s about saying you can go out of your comfort zone, you can talk to somebody who thinks differently than you do, and you can do it in a way that’s respectful, that’s humorous, that’s bonding.
S: The last two interviews I had, even the woman this morning. We hugged at the end. The one before that…
A: And that’s kind of your whole point.
S: Yeah! A 30-year-old in New Jersey who was very—had lots of details and information at her fingertips. I mean, that was a challenging conversation. She opened up about being raped when she was a teenager. When we were discussing Donald Trump’s past with that.
S: It got deep. And afterwards she texted me that she loved me and she loved what I was doing and she felt safe with me, and that’s what this whole thing should be about is us talking to each other. So that’s the point of the podcast. It’s not about hearing both sides. You can listen to CNN if you want to hear pundits, talking heads, debating the issues. That’s not what this is. So don’t worry about that.
A: Are you hopeful in some part of your being that Trump will do something that you would agree with as the right thing to do? Or you just have already written him off? When you think about this stuff, do you say, “You know, I really hope I’m wrong, maybe he will do this A, B, or C.” Or, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I woke up one day and he said he was going to do something and I agree with it and he did it!” Or are you just like, “I don’t believe it, this is going to be a wasted four years. I want to move to Hawaii and fish on a beach [laughs] with my cats and like not—and ignore it”? I mean—
S: I search for the good. I do hope for good decisions, but it’s like when you have that disaster of a relative who never gets their shit together, and after years and years you start to just kind of expect, like, the same. I do have my opinion pretty well formed of Donald Trump, and I expect that he’s going to continue acting the way he has been acting. I’m not actively rooting for him to fail, but I see him failing already. His White House is in chaos. There are still all these positions that aren’t filled, the National Security Council is empty right now.
A: Well according—what I heard, I heard this news thing that it took Obama like, eight months to fill most of his positions.
S: There are hundreds of positions, but we’re talking about top level positions that really need people in them.
A: Is there like, something written in stone that says you have to have these filled by a certain time?
S: No, but most administrations get the work done well in advance, and you know, care. His administration just hasn’t. There’s all these ambassadorships to other countries, they’re just empty right now. So it’s been chaotic, even just in the first few weeks of the administration. I expect more of the same. Do I hope for better? God damn, yeah, I do! I really, really hope for better. But I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.
S: I’m not one for pessimism, so that’s not a—that’s not an indication of my general outlook on most things. If I had to make a prediction, and I will say this on tape.
A: Oh cool, I’d love to hear your prediction.
S: I don’t think Trump’s presidency is going to last very long. I think we’re going to end up with a President Pence, and I think that President Pence is going to be so extremely far right and so out of touch with what most of America wants that he’s going to get voted out in the next election.
A: I actually think he’s much more presidential, though, than Trump. I’ve said that to people.
S: With his support for gay conversation therapy and his absolutely hardline approach to abortion policy?
A: I didn’t hear about the gay conversion, what the hell is that?
S: Oh that’s been one of his biggest things. I mean, he can’t—
A: That it’s like a sickness and you have to…
S: Oh yeah! Yeah. No, look into Mike Pence’s history on LGBTQ issues.
A: I will. See, I’m not that knowledgable on all that, because I’m so open with all of that. I think it’s great, get married. Like, to me, that’s like—that should have been happening since I was born.
A: Hello! Who cares who you’re in love with?
S: But Mike Pence does not believe that. Mike Pence, I’ve heard his name for years because I listen to Dan Savage’s podcast.
S: Which if you’ve never listened to, it’s entertaining as fuck. It’s a love and sex relationship advice podcast.
S: But Dan Savage is a really smart guy and he comments on the political climate, and he has successfully launched some really great PR campaigns against politicians who have supported anti-gay and anti-woman legislation. So for example, Rick Santorum. Another politician who has like, fiercely fought his whole career to not let gay people have the same rights as straight people. Dan Savage launched a campaign, asked his listeners to redefine the word Santorum, to submit their own definitions of what that word could now be used as, as a slang term. Took all of these submissions and decided—graphic language coming, ladies and gentlemen—he decided on one reader-submitted definition. Santorum will now be used to refer [laughs]—
A: Oh no. Oh no!
S: —to the frothy mixture of cum and fecal matter that can sometimes result from anal sex. And all of Dan Savage’s listeners started using that word Santorum to describe that particular substance as a way to send a message to Rick Santorum, to be like, “Fuck you, you’re going to fuck with our rights, we’re going to fuck with your image.” So it’s funny, you know, and it’s gross, and it’s shocking, but it worked. It made Rick Santorum a laughingstock.
S: So I heard about Mike Pence on Dan Savage’s show a few years ago, because Mike Pence is one of those politicians who thinks gay people need therapy to find out that they’re really straight, because being gay is a mental illness and we really shouldn’t allow gay people to get married because that threatens the institution of marriage and stuff. It’s just—he’s a scarier prospect to me than Donald Trump in a lot of ways because he really believes this shit. I don’t think Donald Trump gives a shit if gay people get married.
A: I agree with that, yeah.
S: But Mike Pence does. So yeah, that’s what I—that’s my prediction.
A: That’s what you think—really?
S: I think Trump will be impeached, I think he’s gonna be out, I think we’re gonna have President Pence. President Pence is gonna be out of touch with the will of the American people, and he’ll be voted out in 2020—
S: —and we’re gonna have a Democratic president. That’s my prediction. What’s yours?
A: Ohhh! You’re scaring me! [laughs]
S: We could bet an ice cream cone on this shit! [laughs]
A: What’s my prediction? My prediction is that Trump is gonna do half of—Trump is gonna be okay. He’s probably not gonna do everything he says he gonna do, but I think he’s going to come through with a lot of things. And I think he’s—I think he’s gonna get a lot of heat for the all talk, no action, but I think the stuff that he does do he’s gonna do with a lot of…I’m at a loss for words here. Like I said, I’m at a point, too, right now where I want to give it—I’m waiting, I wanna see—in my mind, for some reason, I just put six months in my head, I don’t know why, not two or three—
S: You’re giving it six months.
A: I’m giving it six months and I’m hopeful and I’m optimistic about him.
A: And then I’ll—we’ll talk again in six months.
S: I love it. I love it.
A: That’s my honest thing.
S: Alley, you’re a wonderful woman. This has been such a fun conversation!
A: I know! You are, too! I wish you lived closer!
S: Awww. Is there anything else that you wanted to cover that we haven’t gotten to yet? I feel very good about this conversation.
A: I feel good. Yeah.
A: Yeah, and just the safety thing we touched on very, very beginning about the…I kind of was glad. I wanna go back to this, because I want to say to your listeners that it was very—I was kind of very much behind the sort of closing the borders just to sort of fix stuff out, and then like—like, I think sometimes we need to be a little more careful about that.
S: And my response—
A: And it’s scary. And I know you told me about the—I know.
S: Yeah, my response to that is look into what the current vetting policies are.
A: I’m going to do that.
S: Because we have one of the most brutal, extreme vetting processes in the entire world as is right now. And that’s exactly—
A: How is terrorism happening then with that?
S: Terrorists are—
A: They’re everywhere.
S: —are resourceful.
A: I know they are.
S: I mean, we’ve avoided a major terror attack from foreigners in this country since 9/11. Most of the terror attacks since then have been executed by U.S. citizens, so…I mean, ISIS is smart. Like, look into ISIS’s recruiting strategies, ‘cause they—what they do now, the new thing that they’re doing, which is really, really terrifying, is they are going on the internet, they are finding lonely, angry, sad teenagers.
S: And they’re appealing to them.
S: And they’re psychologically manipulating them, and they’re cultivating and grooming them, and then eventually, after building this strong relationship and this trust, they get them to do these violent things. And these are people who are kids, these are children, citizens of the countries they live in executing the terror attacks. Not particularly well, because they’re teenagers, but that’s ISIS’s new front. The Pulse nightclub shooting. That was not ISIS sending out an operative. That was a lonely, mentally ill asshole who wanted to kill a bunch of people, because he hated himself so much, and found this organization that provides support for people like that. We’re fighting a psychologically manipulative terror organization that knows how to find the people they can manipulate into killing people. That’s what we’re fighting. I’m really upset that this has become a war on Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims condemn the actions of ISIS, have nothing to do with that. They hate it. And now in their daily lives they face massive discrimination.
A: Yes, they do.
S: And hate crimes. It’s not a tenable situation. This group doesn’t represent Islam.
A: I understand that.
S: And this group is really good at getting US citizens to go out and kill other US citizens by targeting the ones that are the most vulnerable.
A: That are vulnerable? Yeah.
S: So that’s what we’re dealing with here.
S: And yeah, that’s a very scary prospect but we’re not going to stop them by telling all refugees and immigrants that they can’t come into the country, because those people aren’t actually the problem. In those seven countries that we banned in that temporary travel ban—
A: Mmm. Yeah. That was a mess, too, with the picking of—
S: None of those seven countries have attacked us in any terrorist attack since and including 9/11.
S: Nobody from any of those seven countries have been involved in the terrorist attacks. Why?
A: I heard that. Right, right, right.
S: So it’s like, I have heard some arguments that the best way to attack ISIS is to attack their funding. The fact of the matter—
A: Yes, I’ve heard that too.
S: Yeah. The fact of the matter is, we need to get just as good at the propaganda game as they are, and we need to find these kids and these people that they’re targeting and give them resources. Give them less reason to turn to this like, crazy, awful, violent organization for their support. They’re only turning there for support because they don’t have support from anywhere else. It’s a social issue.
S: And it’s a global social issue. It’s not just our country.
A: I know.
S: And it’s not an immigration issue. And it’s not a refugee issue. And that’s where—that’s where the divide between opinions on the conservative and liberal side comes in. The liberal side is seeing it for what it actually is and the conservative side is fear-mongering and scapegoating. It’s a much more complicated issue than, “We shouldn’t allow Muslims into the country. “
A: I agree with that.
S: And it’s never good to hold an entire group of people accountable for the actions of a violent few. [deep breath] which, you know, Muslim ban…“How can we make the Muslim ban legal, Rudy Giuliani? Tell me how to do it, so I can make it legal. How can I do a Muslim ban and make it legal? Of course I’ll prioritize the entry of Christians into this country. Christians will get priority over Muslims, but it’s not a Muslim ban. Oh no no no no no. It’s not a Muslim ban.” Come on. It’s just the same exact tactics that all autocratic regimes use to inspire fear in people so that they can control them by scapegoating one group. That’s what Russia’s doing to the LGBTQ community right now. It’s what Nazi Germany did to the Jews and the Gypsies and the LGBTQ community, as well. Poor gay people. They get the short end of every stick.
A: Yeah, it kind of sucks for them, doesn’t it?
S: Well, it’s better now than it’s ever been.
A: Yeah, it’s better now. That—very true, very true. But I just never thought that—I mean, I always—love who you wanna love. Marry who you wanna marry, it’s really…
S: I was reading a really great—I’m reading this book, it’s right here, I’m reading Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit.
A: Oh, I’ve never heard of that book.
S: And she argues—it’s a collection of essays, she’s great.
S: She argues in one essay that the reason the Republican party is so against marriage equality is not because it’s about gay people shouldn’t get married but that marriage equality and gay people being able to get married sort of destroys the gender norms and gender roles traditionally associated with marriage. And in marriage, traditionally, the woman’s identity is absorbed into the man’s, and she becomes his property. And she doesn’t own anything. That’s been marriage for most of civilized history. She argues that they’re against marriage equality because suddenly, not only is it gay people like—like, equality as in straight people and gay people can both get married, but equality as in the man and the woman can be the same, because when a man and a man get married and a woman and a woman get married, suddenly that power dynamic is no longer there.
A: Interesting. Wow.
S: She thinks that it’s just as much about that as it is about not wanting gay people to get married, and I think she’s fuckin’ right.
A: That’s a very interesting take.
S: It is. I love—this is a good book.
A: Wow. I should write her down, too.
S: Men Explain Things To Me. It’s also a really funny thing to go to a bar and sit and read by yourself.
A: [squeals] Really?
S: And just make sure people can see the cover. [laughing]
A: Facing towards them!
S: “I dare you to approach me, sir. I dare you. Come up to me. Yeah, tell me how great this book is. Why don’t you?”
S: Alright, we’re at two hours. This is a long as I can let any of these go.
A: You’re probably pooped, because this is your second one. This takes a lot of energy.
S: But this one was a breath of fresh air.
A: Oh, really?
S: Absolutely. Thank you.
A: I’m glad. I’m glad.
S: Thank you. I want to acknowledge you for being such a loving, openminded, openhearted person who’s able to listen to me go on these rants [laughs] and not get super mad at me. And obviously you’re hearing what I’m saying, and I want you to know that I’m also hearing what you’re saying, and I’m not discounting your opinions or your right to your opinion or your feelings at all. I respect you. I’m so glad that we have this friendship and that we’ve had this conversation.
A: Me too. Me too.
S: So thank you Alley.
A: Thank you.
S: Oh, we’re gonna hug it out!
SAMIA VO: It takes a lot of patience and guts to do what Alley did for me in that conversation. I didn’t fully realize at the time exactly how much I’d dominated—I knew I talked a lot, but it wasn’t until I started putting these episodes together that I saw how little I let Alley speak. And the fact that she was patient and cool and gutsy enough to listen speaks volumes about her character. How many liberals do you know who are willing to listen to a conservative speak at length about their opinions on politics? I don’t think I know any, except now, perhaps, myself, because of this podcast.
And that was my original reason for making it. It wasn’t like this noble thing to try to convince everyone to be as open to other people’s ideas as I am. Not at all. I was the most angry, resentful, sore loser you can imagine after the election. I was one of those liberals posting things on Facebook about how if you voted for Trump, you could stop being my friend. I was as guilty as anyone of the political bigotry I’ve spent this entire year trying to fight. I haven’t been fighting it because I’m a saint. I’m doing this because I felt all that anger poisoning me.
We’re coming close to the end of the season. I’d love to keep making the podcast with no break, but it’s a lot of work and I have limited time and resources. That being said, now is the time to let me know what you’d like to hear in Season 2. Would you like another season focused on politics? Or are there perhaps other issues that divide Americans that you’d like to hear explored? If this podcast is helping you deal, let me know that, too, and tell me what aspects of it were most helpful to you. You can send all of your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the Contact form on the website at makeamericarelatepodcast.com.
On that very same website, you can also find a transcript of this episode, as well as detailed fact-checking Show Notes. Just head to the Episode 9 page at makeamericarelatepodcast.com.
Next week, I’ll be bringing you a brand new interview, recorded on August 6, 2017, with the beautiful Niky Shea, a 25-year-old burlesque dancer who works in a casino in Atlantic City. I met Niky several years ago, when I was hanging in AC at the club she dances at. She’s incredible. You’ve never seen a sexier pin-up girl with better moves, and since I like to be friends with all the cool, talented women, I introduced myself and we connected on social media. That was it for a couple of years, but then she messaged me enthusiastically when I posted that I was looking for lady Trump voters earlier this year. Niky is a sweet soul who’s been through a lot in her life. She’s also a straight talker who recognized the flaws in her choice for president. A lot of what she had to say surprised the hell out of me—like when she acknowledged that Trump is maybe the worst public speaker ever and that he could never be a Hitler-esque dictator because, in her words, “Hitler was a genius and Trump is an idiot.” We ended up talking for over three hours with no breaks. It was an epic conversation. That means the finale of this show is going to be a two-parter, so you will get an extra week of this podcast! Part 1 of my conversation with Niky will go up next week, on August 15th, and Part 2 will round out Season 1 on August 22nd.
If you love the show, please take a moment to leave a 5-star review on iTunes or Apple Podcasts. Not only does that help get the show out to new listeners, it also will help me to get some funding for this biznatch when I start making Season 2. Your reviews are everything, so please, please, please go leave one if you haven’t already. I will be forever grateful to you.
Warm fuzzy thank-yous to Dylan Riley and David Sokol for transcribing this episode, Andrew Guastella for enhancing the interview audio, Christopher Gilroy for editing and mixing it down, and Douglass Recording in Brooklyn for letting me use their beautiful studio to record my intro and outro segments and phone call updates. A special shout-out to Myles Rodenhouse, owner of Douglass Recording, for running the best new studio in Brooklyn and being a stand-up guy.
I’m Samia Mounts, and this has been Make America Relate Again.