MARA EPISODE 3: KIM & NICK
Samia: You’re listening to Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I’m Samia Mounts.
Being over here in Seoul, Korea, has its perks, but I completely missed the 4th of July. I didn’t even realize what day it was until I heard fireworks coming from the US military base near where I live. I apologize for not wishing you all a happy 4th last week, but I hope you got some good barbecue in you and got your eyes dazzled by pretty lights in the sky. And for you liberal listeners, if you’re kind of feeling down on celebrating a country that you feel is making bad decisions at the moment…I get it. I’ve been feeling the same way.
On this season of the show, I’m aiming to bring you a lot of diversity in the kinds of guests I book, and the kinds of relationships that exist between them. So far, we’ve heard me having a conversation with a dude I met in a bar - an acquaintance relationship - and two gentlemen who have a really close friendship. This week, thanks to Better Angels, I’m bringing you experts, babies.
Kim Iverson enjoyed a long career as a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, and now is a co-founder of the liberal news media organization, The Left. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared more than one piece of content from her, so it was really exciting for me to have her on the show. She’s whip-smart and gorgeous and I want to move to LA and be her best friend.
Nick Hankoff is the Chairman of the Los Angeles County Republican Liberty Caucus. He’s a staunch libertarian with a deep respect for the power of capitalism to solve many of our problems - if only the pesky government would stop getting in the way with all its regulations and bureaucratic bullshit.
These two do know each other in real life, but only in the capacity of being tapped to debate each other on politics in public forums. I asked them both what they would most like to change about the other person’s mind, and then, to take that one thing and try to understand it better instead of changing it - to have a real conversation instead of debating or trying to win an argument.
Let’s check out what they had to say.
Kim: Well, I'm Kim Iverson. I have been a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for many, many years. Too many to disclose, because then my age would be out there. Now I am the co-founder of a company called The Left. We are a digital media news organization focused on delivering a newsletter and a podcast.
Nick: Totally neutral.
Kim: Completely neutral. Yes. Called The Left, believe it or not. So, yeah. No, we are very, obviously, liberal. T hat's where I'm coming from, a very liberal background.
Nick: I'm Nick Hankoff. I'm the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, and also the LA County Chapter. I've been a libertarian, an active libertarian in politics for quite a while now. I guess that puts me on the right. So I'm registered Republican, but I really feel like I'm the most extreme right you could get as far as the question of what size government we should have. Because I'm very tempted to say no government at all.
Kim: Wow. No government.
Nick: Yeah. No government.
Kim: Does that make you like a Tea Partier kind of?
Nick: I mean, I think the Tea Party... It's hard to categorize them accurately. But I think almost 99% of the Tea Party would probably want, like, kind of a big government-
Nick: In many ways.
Nick: But, what we wanted to talk about, and you and I might agree on the Tea Party in certain ways. Or, we might agree on the drug war or whatever. But Samia had asked us what would you like to change the mind... Or, I guess, how am I phrasing this correctly. How would-
Kim: If you could change my mind, right.
Nick: On one specific key thing. Like, one thing I could change your mind about is what she had asked. You answered first, and you had really the same answer I had.
Kim: Yeah. We both kind of had the same answer, which really, though it's fundamental, I think, for what we're standing for politically. I believe in a big, large social... A social safety net. Larger government. I believe government has a moral obligation to help enrich and better our lives. It turns out you answered pretty much the same, except the opposite.
Nick: Yeah. I said, you know, I'd like to change Kim's mind about the economy. That economics works in an efficient way through the free market, open voluntary transactions. Basically capitalism-
Nick: And maybe we have different definitions-
Kim: Extreme capitalism.
Nick: For that.
Kim: Is that what you’re talking about?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, it's called anarcho-capitalism online.
Kim: Like, so it's anarchy?
Nick: Yeah. It's like-
Kim: So, do you consider yourself an anarchist?
Nick: I think the definition fits. I think so.
Nick: Yeah. But you want to make a positive case for the welfare state, or maybe you want to ask a question about the-
Kim: Well, if you want to call it the “welfare state.” I feel like that-
Nick: I mean, you said a very big government.
Kim: Yeah. But the rhetoric around “welfare state-“
Nick: We have to understand each other, what we mean.
Kim: Well, what I'd want to ask you, so you're saying anarchy. Let's start from that point. What does that mean, anarchy?
Nick: So, most people, when they hear the word anarchy, or anarchism, there's a lot of history of socialist flavors of it and more left-leaning anarchy. I mean, we see the black blocs, we see masked people throwing bombs. And that's not what I mean when I talk about anarchy or anarchism. I mean, the strict definition of no rulers. It doesn't mean no rules. It actually means no rulers. What that means is a true respect for law. A true respect for rules that come about organically, that come about through mutual beneficiary relationships between individuals that are free to make those relationships and exchanges on the open market. So, yeah, I think when you start to institute the government into things, maybe you can't go too wrong with a simple US Constitution. Kind of very limited government, but it always grows, and it always grows into a big behemoth. You know, the US government's the biggest government the world has ever seen.
Kim: Well, that's because we're a large country.
Nick: That's part of the reason why I have a problem with big government is because there's not enough people to really micromanage all of our 300 million plus lives.
Kim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nick: So I think that it's nice to have a constitutional limited government. In that framework, there is no room for a welfare state. So that might be a plus and an improvement. But in the end, it's tough to argue for limited government because it always grows, so-
Kim: Right. Like how would you stop that growth?
Kim: I mean, it seems like we started from a place of anarchy in the beginning. And I am in some ways a libertarian. People always tell me I have libertarian tendencies. And I do, I think maybe it's because I'm from Idaho. I think socially I'm very libertarian. I'm not one that wants to control the social issues as much. I just feel like government should stay out of everybody's lives when it comes to various human rights. Like, just everybody kind of get out of the way. But economically, I believe that this is the purpose of government, is to get together and to make sure that we're living in a fair and equitable society. Because resources are limited, they're finite, they're not infinite, and if we were living in an infinite resource world, then fine, I could understand capitalism. I don't know if I could understand anarchy so much. But I definitely could understand capitalism, because then everybody would be having - would start from, ideally, the same sort of space and would have the opportunity to gain the same resources as anyone else around them when they're unlimited. But the fact of the matter is there is no such thing as an unlimited resource, except for maybe sunlight might be unlimited. So I think what's interesting about libertarian principles and capitalism is, like, you couldn't just become that society now, with where we're at. Because the infrastructure that's here was already built on the backs of all of us collectively. So you're already benefiting from the fact that we operate as a community. So it's almost like not wanting to pay it back. All of the benefit of being a community.
Nick: Are you talking about the $21 trillion dollars that my newborn son has just inherited? I mean, are you talking about the infinite wars, are you talking about... You know what I mean?
Kim: I'm talking about the roads that we drive on, and the streetlights, and the firefighters, and the police officers, and all of the benefits of a community that are clearly not an anarchy society. Because we've been able to come together and make decisions together and rule together. I would say, like, if you're going to create a truly libertarian society you'd have to start from scratch. But that's already been done, humans did that in the primitive time. It's kind of like when people want to go and eat paleo now, I don't understand it. I'm like, "Seriously? You want to eat paleo. You want to eat like a caveman. By the way, cavemen lived until they were like 25 years old and you want to go back and eat like that guy?” It doesn't make sense to me. So, libertarianism to me is similar to that. It's like, that's how the cavemen lived. They lived in a libertarian society where there were no rules. There were no ruler. And then eventually human nature takes over and people get greedy.
Nick: Well, you talk about the society that we live in - you know, the infrastructure has been put into place and we're here living on the shoulders of giants, or on the backs of whoever-
Kim: Well, just collective community.
Nick: But would you say that when you talk about government being people working together-
Nick: Do you want to get into the details about that a little bit? Because from my perspective, working together, that's what I was talking about. You know, in an anarchical society, the less government you have, the more there is cooperation and volunteerism. Whereas under government there's more mandates, more regulations, more rules. And you know, as I said, rules are good, rules are all fine and good, but it's about who is making the rules and for what purposes. So, when you say that the government is us working together, how do you square that up with just the institution and not all of us are in the government. It's only select individuals in the government. So what do you mean when you say that it's all of us working together?
Kim: Because we're not living in a monarchy here, right, we live in a sort of democracy. We collectively create the government. So I don't think it's an institution. I think it's an evolving ever-changing... There's problems for sure with it that I think need to be changed in order to make sure that it's not... You know, that corruption doesn't invade our government, which I think it has already in some degree. But fundamentally, the idea is that we would elect people from community, and these people then go and represent us. And in our current government, they can't rep us... Well, the president at least and some others can't rep us for life, although seems like Congress and the Senate, they can. So, that's where that decision making comes from. Who would make decisions in your community? Your perfect society?
Nick: Yeah. Well, I think we actually experience a lot of anarchy day-to-day and we sort of take it for granted, just going to the grocery store, or going to our friend's house for dinner. All of the customary things that we take for granted that we just see as normal, but in fact are really also built upon years, decades, centuries, millennia of people participating in society and growing cultures together. I think that's the product of real togetherness of people voluntarily making transactions. Today we have the internet and it's almost no rules. Like, obviously there is more problems coming up with the internet now as it gets more centralized. But that seems to be self-correcting. I think everyone's pretty optimistic, knowing the age that we live in. But in terms of who makes the rules, it would be nice, I agree with you, an improvement if it were locally driven. In New Hampshire, for instance, you will know your state legislator lives right around the corner from you. And New Hampshire has like... It's a small state but a huge legislature. And their legislators work part-time and they can walk down the street and see them at the grocery store. So that's a better set up than, say, we have in California or even nationwide. In Washington, DC, we have a President and a Supreme Court, so that's 10 people. Then in the whole Congress we have 535 people. So I see a big problem when you have just 545 people, more or less, obviously we have huge bureaucracies, but the decision-makers in such small concentrated area, the most powerful, richest area in the country locked into this political power center in DC that oversees over 300 million Americans. And quite frankly, millions of people around the world that are under US military intervention.
Kim: But not really, though, because even though there's 545 people in DC making laws, we still have local government. We have a governor and we have state assemblies and state Senate. Then we even go down into the county seats. And then you've got city counsel, right? So, government... It's not just 500-something people making decisions for everything, because we do have individual states running themselves as well.
Nick: I think the best part recently about the division between the federal and the state has been the state pushing back on things like marijuana laws, or even immigration, or guns in some counties. You know, they are working towards a position of not enforcing federal gun control. So I think that pushback is very healthy and that's designed in the constitutional framework. So, if we get back to the specific topic of welfare, now that we've discussed the structure of government. Do you think that in your ideal welfare society that-
Kim: It's not a welfare society.
Nick: Okay, well I'm misstating it. But just to put the question out there, in your society where government welfare exists, would it be your preference that it be delivered and held accountable at the local level, or a more national central level?
Kim: I think both. I think the way it's set up is fine, actually. We've got local government and then we also have state level government. And then we've got federal government. Sometimes it can work in a way where it's a bit slow because of bureaucracy or whatever, but yeah. I would like to know in your society - so no one would ever be given anything. You know it's interesting because when you're talking and you're saying that, "Well, everybody would make these decisions. We have anarchy in our lives every day and it would be nice if everybody kind of made these decisions together." It's almost like, ironically, like you're talking almost in a way theoretically of communism. Which works really well on paper, but in practice has not been able to work very well.
Nick: Well, the Soviet Union wasn't a voluntary society, so-
Nick: If you want to imagine a voluntary society as communistic, if that's the fruit of voluntary decisions, then that's-
Kim: Well, it's more-
Nick: Fair game.
Kim: The reason why communism fails - because it's on paper it seems to be nice - the reason it fails is because of greed. Human nature takes over and people are just not all humanitarians, or wanting to give and contribute and all of these wonderful and amazing things. People are greedy, and evil, and there's a lot of crap out there. So, in your society, it only works like communism only works when everybody's good.
Nick: Well, I think actually it's interesting because the utopian vision has to be outlined by the government. That's why you have these great campaign promises all the time of, "We'll cure cancer in four years." Or whatever their promising next.
Kim: Right, right.
Nick: So, the utopian vision isn't what I'm offering. I don't think it would be a perfect society. I think it's fun to talk about ideals.
Nick: And we always try to reach ideals, but we fall short of ideals. That's why they're ideals. But, in a voluntary society, it doesn't mean that it's dog-eat-dog. It doesn't mean that people are out there poisoning their food products to kill their customers.
Kim: Well, right.
Nick: And somehow magically steal their money away for profit. Like, it just... that's not the reality of it. Like, you see-
Kim: But that is the reality of it, right?
Nick: No, I mean you see in LA, there's street vendors that just were legalized recently. So they weren't even regulated.
Kim: Sure, but we see large corporations-
Nick: Yet they were very popular.
Kim: Well, but we see the poisoning of water and of products all the time. Tobacco industry-
Nick: Are you talking about Flint, Michigan?
Kim: Well, I'm talking about tobacco, or I'm talking about just like the things like aspartame in our sodas, right, where they know that - these companies discovered that these are harmful for us, but they do it anyway because these corporations are set up to make money. They're not set up to be beneficial to society. And so, in your perfect utopia, it would be great if everybody were like you. But the problem is not everybody thinks like you. They're not cut like you, right, so there are the people out there who will poison your food.
Nick: Oh yeah, we agree.
Nick: We agree that there are evil people out there. That's why I think it's so risky and you run into so many unintended consequences when you want to put the terms of welfare into one basket. It's sort of a putting all your eggs in one basket idea versus an array of choices. So, did you know that before the US welfare state was established during FDR and really ballooned under President Johnson, that before then, poverty levels were already going down. Poverty rates were going down and there were institutions, socially, that were set up beyond the family, beyond the church, beyond even social clubs and ethnic clubs, and whatever sort of clubs that people belonged to. This was the welfare system. It was well regulated-
Kim: You're talking about charity, right.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. And charity still has a great role to play. But, you can tell, you can tell that it's been diminished because of the way people look at the homeless. Because of the way people look at their own obligations, they sort of shrug them off because, you know, “My taxes went up this year and I'm supporting them through the government anyway.” So, it allows this unintended consequence where people don't take it seriously, their own responsibility to care for their fellow man.
Kim: But they're paying the taxes that pay for their fellow man. So in Sweden - this is actually an interesting point that you make about charity - because the people that live in Sweden, Americans who come back from Sweden, they make the point that what's interesting there is because their taxes are high and they're taking care of everybody that there is this missing charity element. You know, there isn't this, "Okay, your neighbor got sick with cancer, now let's all fundraise money to help them out." Or, "This person is in need so let's go to the soup kitchen and dish out food." But, to leave people to the whims of charity... This is the reason I want government, otherwise why do I have government? I have a government that I'm willing to pay my dollars to because I have an expectation that that government is me and you. That is what government is to me. It's not some big bad mean wolf out there. It's me and you and all of our neighbors and everybody else collectively joining our resources together, and where I want that money spent is on ensuring that my neighbor who needs cancer treatment, for example, is able to get cancer treatment and doesn't need to knock on my door asking for money. Or your door or anyone else's and be stuck in a stressful situation of having to beg and ask for charity. So, I just feel like in the society you would want to create it would create, we're all beggars begging for charity. It's just what kind of charity do you need on any ... At certain points in your life, which we all would need some at some point.
Nick: Well, I don't think that the history reflects that. That everyone just walked around begging each other. I mean, I mean I don't know I think it's pretty relevant just to point to, like, the Red Cross or whatever sort of organizations that go way back. What do you think about the stress levels of taxation, or the stress levels of a government agent knocking on your door rather than someone asking? You know, I mean, if a government agent asked you to give money for the poor and you say no you'd go to jail. But, if someone else knocks, you know, you have a choice what to support. You might find that one charity spends your money wisely, whereas another charity might waste your money on jets and going to lavish conferences or whatever it might be.
Nick: So, those choices help mediate the problems. So I don't deny that there would be problems. Like, the world is full of problems and humans are the best problem solvers. So, that's why I want to offer that up. I think that if you make things voluntary. Like you know the - you lived in Texas for a while.
Nick: So, you know the rule where anything that can be fried is best fried?
Kim: I've never heard that rule, but I-
Nick: Okay. Well it's like-
Kim: Sounds like a good rule.
Nick: I don't know, I figured... I mean, there's like a lot of sayings in Texas, I guess. But anyway, yeah. “Any food that can be fried is best fried.” I would just say that any social interaction that can be made voluntary is best voluntary. If you have involuntary transactions then you end up with these unintended consequences and I think the great society, or the welfare state that we have is interesting to look at. Because it doesn't help drive the poverty rate down, but rather keeps it at a steady level. Whereas before it had been going down. You know, I just think that we owe it to ourselves in this great innovative time to find new solutions, offer new opportunities for organizations to help. And I think if people had more money to deal with as they saw fit, you know, how you spend your money more wisely than someone else would, it would be better. We'd be closer, you know, we might have fewer divisions. But now we're-
Samia: I want to jump in here real quick, you guys.
Samia: Just to focus the conversation a little bit into stuff I think that matters to a lot of Americans. In our current society we've got whole groups of people who aren't really the major concern of the majority, and are at a major economic and social disadvantage. And I'm talking about poor communities, minority communities, immigrant communities.
Samia: People who are struggling because of generations of economic and social disadvantage. People of color, especially. How do we even the playing field if everything is voluntary when we know that there's groups of people that there might not be a special interest group out there fighting for them. They do need to be taken care of and they've already got such a disadvantage starting out. I mean-
Kim: Well, I think that's one point that I wanted to make after you mentioned, Nick, that the poverty rates were going down and that welfare has... I think it's interesting that you point at welfare as the problem and not capitalism as the problem. Because to me, the correlation between more people or a steady rate of people in poverty has nothing to do with the welfare system. It has everything to do with capitalism and greed, and the finite resources being eaten up by the big dogs at the top who can come and grab all those finite resources, leaving everyone else with nothing. If there's 100 people and 100 jelly beans to distribute, what's happened over time and I think, since FDR especially, since we've had economic booms and through the 80s and there's just all of these booms that have happened. I think a lot of that, the welfare, the giving people of welfare is not the actual root cause of welfare and poverty remaining stable, or the same, or even if it were increasing. But instead, it's the ravages of capitalism on people and their inability to compete. That's what I would say has been keeping our poverty levels from truly diminishing. Or even disappearing, it'd be nice if they could disappear.
Nick: But it doesn't answer the question because we had capitalism before the 1960s. So if poverty was going down until the 1960s, and then it just sort of mellowed out and we've really not had any real improvements-
Kim: Sure we have with the technical age. I mean-
Nick: Yeah, but, I mean the poverty rate.
Kim: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Nick: The poverty rate really staying the same. Where it's going down, going down and then it just sort of steadies out since the 60s. Since Medicare, Medicaid and more expansions of welfare. I think that after 50 years, would you like to see what might happen given maybe a 25-year break? Would you allow after 50 years, 25 years of just a chance and see what happens. I mean-
Kim: I feel like-
Nick: Because I've never seen anywhere in history where someone old or poor was left out to die in the gutter. Like, I just don't-
Kim: Of course that happens all the time.
Kim: And it happened before FDR, which is why that had to be changed.
Nick: Did it?
Kim: Yes. People were freezing to death literally in their homes. Or starving to death. I mean, that was real. When you don't feed people they starve. We see this in other countries. I mean, China had like 100 million people starve during their famine.
Nick: Okay. You can't blame capitalism for that.
Kim: No, you can't blame cap ... Well, you keep ... You know, and communism's definitely not perfect either. I don't think there's really necessarily one perfect system out there. But I would like to see where in the world does pure capitalism work? One thing I know about Western civilization of the Western European countries is that they all were capitalistic at some point. And they're further along in their development than we are as nations. They've been around a lot longer than we have. So they've hit these turning points in history around the time that we're at right now, interestingly, in our history. They hit those turning points for themselves, and this is when, like in France, when you have the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the proletariat grew, the poor people. And the bourgeoisie, you know, the aristocrats, whatever, they were gaining all the wealth and all the power. Eventually, the people at the bottom were finally saying, "Enough is enough. We're not going to be living off of scraps anymore. Off of your scraps." So, there's been a turning point in nearly every Western civilization. I think, actually, every single one. I can't think of one off the top of my head-
Nick: Yeah. I think those are valid arguments.
Kim: But where does capitalism work?
Nick: It's just... Well, it just depends on the definition. So, I don't really think you could mark very much capitalism in the histories that you're referring to.
Kim: Sure, I mean they were allowed for the rich to get rich, and the poor to stay poor.
Nick: Well you have to... That's your definition of capitalism, the rich being richer than the poor-
Kim: Well, it's just dog-eat-dog.
Nick: Right. But capitalism properly defined is the private ownership of the means of production. And you're talking about mercantilistic societies which are basically proto-fascist societies where the government gave special monopolies to small groups on who could do what business. So, you know, in terms of markets opening, in terms of free market capitalism that came just a shy bit later. So, I think that we would both agree that we don't want to empower certain cartels-
Greg: And I'm going to jump in right there before I lose my thought on that. He said he is willing to do whatever it takes even to separate families or whatever, so now, what he's done, and I don't believe he intended to do it this way, but I think he has a plan, two or three, five days from here, a week from here. But I'll throw in there, even if it costs a little child to be molested while she's in a cage with a man that she doesn't even know, but the man claims it to be his daughter. That's why you have to have vetting, that's why you have cops, that's why you have investigations. That's why whenever we'd stop a person or find an adult, a man that's 18, 19, 20 years old and he's got a girl in the car with him and she looks to be under the age and she has no identification, that's why we investigate, that's why the first thing we do is separate them. If there's more than two people, we separate them all. We get four stories instead of two stories, we find out, "Are you supposed to be here?" I remember one specific case, had two guys, two girls both of them were under age. They had beer, they were drinking, they weren't hurting anybody, but they might have been hurting themselves. We got them separated, the guys stories didn't match. We were able to get hold of the parents. The girls were both, I think around 15 years old. Both guys were around 19, 18 to 20 years old. That's a situation right there, if they just took their word for it and don't investigate, then who knows what would have happened to these little girls? The mom and dad eventually came down, picked up the two girls and the two guys went to jail. That's why I see this the way I see it. If you want things, if you want to keep your kids, if they are your kids, what do you got to hide? Come in the right way, just like Kouhyar did, come here the right way. Come here the legal way, don't be looking for a crack in the fence somewhere. Don't be looking for a way to sneak in, don't pick up this innocent little child, don't buy a kid over in Mexico or El Salvador or wherever they come from. You've got to vet, you have to investigate. You have to make sure you're doing the right thing. It is just as bad to leave a small child, I keep saying girl, it's just as bad to leave a small child in a cage or a room or place with a perpetrator or a rapist or anything like that as it is to separate them.
Samia: I want to say real quick Greg, and I'm sure Kouhyar you might have been thinking this too, but I think it's worth saying. We've never prosecuted illegal border crossers as criminals the way the administration now is, and you're drawing a lot of parallels between criminals like rapists, with undocumented immigrants, which is, I think, an unfair comparison.
Kouhyar: Yeah. I totally agree. I used to live in a country that have seen the wrath of war and being in a desperate situation. And I understand when people migrate or attempt to migrate to another country as a refugee, time is not on their disposal. They have to pack up and leave and sometimes enter another country illegally because they are desperate. There are two ways of looking at any human interaction. We could look at humans as black and white, they either do the absolute right thing or they do the absolute wrong thing, or we could look at the gray areas. Unfortunately, in this situation, the humanity of the situation's being ignored, those gray areas are being ignored. These people do not have time to apply for an immigrant visa to come to this country legally. I wanted to come to the United States ever since I was 13 years old, and guess when I came, I was 21 years old when I came. Coming to America legally takes time, and I'm all for that, I'm all for legal immigration, but I think we need to separate when people try to flee a dangerous situation and come to this country as refugees, then people that have their time on their hands and they can apply for immigrant visa and wait for several years, sometimes tens of years to come here. That's the important distinction that needs to be made.
Greg: Okay. And I'm going to answer you directly with that. First of all, the previous administration and/or previous administrations, we had the catch-and-release program. And I don't have it in front of me so I'm not dare going to try to explain it in depth, but there’s a situation where you just catch the people and they were separated, and then they let ‘em go, so they get on through. And then secondly, the thing about... And in Jordan right now, and this is a side thing, but in Jordan right now, I know that they have a fence at a part of their border, where they actually keep the people on the other side. Now, they're supposed to be in danger also from the people that are attacking them, but Jordan, they use cranes, I believe, check me if I'm wrong because Kouhyar is gonna know this better than me. They use cranes to lift supplies and food and everything over that fence. They still can't come into their territory, but they do do that. Now, first of all, I don't see enemies or whatever it is, these people with guns are the dangers. I don't see them right on their tail, it's not like they're chasing them right up to the border and killing them, okay? So they're safe there, it would seem. But I'll tell you when they really are safe. Once they get through, once they get captured, now you're safe. Guess what? The enemy, you can't use that anymore. There is no enemy on your tail anymore. They're on the other side of the border. The only way they're going to get here is violently through the way you just came in secretively, so they are safe. You are safe. Let's stop. Let's look it over. Let's make sure, and guess what? If you're telling the truth and everything is right, they're put back together. So it's just a temporary thing. These people that I arrested and had to put their kid in children services and all that stuff, eventually, most of them were put back with their parents, but the parent had to go get their head right. They had to go get fixed. They had to go serve time or the other parent took ‘em, after she could prove she was capable of keeping them safe. she, but he and she, had to prove that they were capable of take caring of them. And in America here, you go into a house, people, usually, there's no disputing that's your kid, so you don't have that aspect of it. But you do have, the first thing you have to do is protect the child. And the reason I get on Donald Trump so much on this is, I think he caved and we don't know now who those kids are with. We don't know if that's their father, we don't know if that's their mother. That's the scary part. The number one thing, and I'm sure Donald Trump intends to protect the children, he loves children, and he wants to take care of them and protect them. So I think once they're across the border, you can't use the fleeing from danger thing anymore, because you're in America now, and we will, we do, and always have taken care of every people here and abroad. We're the number one country in this world, since we've been a country, that takes care of other people better than sometimes they take care of themselves, so I'm pretty passionate about that.
Samia: But why are we treating immigrant asylum seekers the same way we would treat a violent criminal?
Greg: Because that's just their word. All you have is their word. You have a guy that runs up and tells you, "Somebody’s chasing me. Somebody's chasing me," and all that type of stuff. There's been cases where there's been a bank robber inside a place and they came out and act like they was part of the hostage and got away. So if somebody comes up to you, just - it's all about vetting. It's all about making sure that this is an accurate and true thing, and it just takes a little bit of time in comparison to a lifetime. It just takes a matter of maybe a day, hours or weeks. But whatever it takes, you're safe. If your story pans out, you're gonna be okay. And what the parents ought to do in these situations, I know the little girl crying and all that kind of stuff, hold them up, give them a big hug, give them that reassuring thing, like you do when you have to take your kid to the babysitter for the first time, or school for the first time. Give them a big hug and a kiss and tell them everything is going to be okay. It's up to them to reassure the child, "You're in good hands now. Daddy, Mommy will see you on the other side. We'll see you in a little bit. Everything is going to be okay." I just don't feel comfortable leaving these kids with somebody, asylum or illegally or anything. If they're coming in for asylum, I think they still have to be vetted. You still have to check the validity of their story. I know there's differences and all that, but I believe that the government's intentions are good.
Samia: But do they need to be separated from their kids while you're vetting them?
Greg: You know, for the pure reason that you don't know who you're vetting until they've been vetted. That's where it's different than Americans. You know that, I mean, nine times out of ten, you go on a house where there's a disturbance, you know that's their kids. He says it's their kids, she says it’s their kids, their neighbors says it’s their kid. They say, "Yeah, that's my mommy, that's my daddy." I don't know. There's signs of evidence. You have to collect evidence, you have to understand and see. "No, this is the neighbor's kid." You'll figure it out, but it takes time. But until then, if there's some harm, domestic violence or something, or this kid doesn't really belong to that man or woman, yeah. I say keep them apart until you know because, in the meantime, who says that person doesn't take the child as a hostage or something? I mean you just have to be careful. You can't assume anything, I think. I just don't believe you should assume that everything is as they say it is and check it out and confirm and double confirm and make certain. Because that child's life is worth it.
Kouhyar: As Greg was responding, I figured I give you the best example of how the Better Angels discussion would come and solve this runaway train of a discussion.
Kouhyar: In any political discussion, and this was a clear example of that, both sides stick to their talking points and they just go at it and the goal is to defeat the other person. I could sit here and respond to every sentence that Greg had with my examples and my counterarguments, but at this point I'm not gonna do that. What I'm gonna do instead is: Greg, I listened to what you said. What I learned from all your argument is that it is important for you, for people that come to this country to be vetted because you do not want the criminals to come to this country. I respect that. I do know that you do not have personal grudges against helpless people that want to come to this country and seek refuge. So what I learned from Greg is that the fact that he wants a vetting system in place in our immigration system is important to him and is important to me. It's important to every American. We do not want criminals to come to this country. And by criminal, I think Greg and I can agree that we mean law breakers, murderers, drug dealers. And not a criminal by the definition of the immigration court. So the common ground here is we both want a compassionate system for our immigration system. But then at the same time we want some sort of vetting, and it is up to politicians to work together to come up with that system. Because I'm not going to say that this is a Republican problem or it's a Democrat problem. Both sides have been culprit in letting the immigration get out of hand and get to the point that it is. And it is up to both sides to get their head together and come up with a comprehensive solution. Because if we just believe that one side has the answer and one side holds the truth, we will never get anywhere.
Greg: I wanna say this. There's a cartoon I used to watch. It's a sheepdog and the sheep, okay? Or the shepherd and the wolf, that's what it was. And they'd clock in. So the shepherd then had to protect the sheep and the wolf's job was to get the sheep. So they battled all through that cartoon, they battled each other all the time, and they beat the crap out of each other in there. But then at the end of the day, they both clocked out and they went off and probably had dinner together like Kouhyar and I. We're gonna get out of here in a few minutes, we're gonna share a pizza together. And I'm gonna have pork on my side and he's not on his side or something like that. I don't know. That's one of my crazy Christian moments. But I'll say this. Kouhyar's exactly right, what he just said, and I'll guarantee you if we had Better Angels, if we could pick a Better Angels panel of a 100 people or 50 or 25, we'd fix this way sooner than what our politicians are working on it. And let's leave the President out of it and let's just talk about our Senators and Congressman and I'm guaranteeing you if we could do this, we would figure this out. Us Better Angels. And he's shaking his head yes. I know he agrees. There are so many things. We've figured out the gun control thing. We've - everything that's put before us, we come up to a nearly 80% agreement on things. Some things maybe even 100%. But hardly anything can we not at least reach 75, 80% agreement.
Kouhyar: Yeah, because the idea is we both have a lot in common. Both sides have so much in common, and unfortunately, that aspect of it is not being shown in today's society. The media and the politicians are excited to point out our differences. But the fact of the matter is, Americans, red and blue, agree on awful lot of issues and because of this bloodsport and this nature of today's politic, we don't get to build on our mutual agreements. And the very first thing that Greg and I always do is to, you know, after venting and you know, get all our rhetorics out, then try to listen to each other and say that, "Okay. Where can we agree? Where is our starting point where we can have a consensus and let's build on that."
Greg: That's right. That's right.
Samia: Beautiful. I have one final question for both of you before we wrap up this conversation. I want to know, let's start with Greg, what is the number one thing in your mind that you've learned from Kouhyar that's made you a better person and a better American?
Greg: I have learned from Kouhyar, the one thing is, and it's in the Bible, love everyone. Love everyone. I go back to it. It's in John, Chapter 13, I think. But I go there. It's in there a lot of times. It says to love everyone in there all the time, as you love yourself, as God loves us. And I've went back several times and I say this. I keep going back and I keep looking. Has God put the word “but, or “except,” or an asterisk in there anywhere yet, and so far today, He has not. It still says love everyone as you love yourself and as God loves us. And Kouhyar will agree with that, I'm sure, but that has helped me the most. He has helped me to understand I've got to love everyone, and that be Muslims. That would be across racial divides. That'd be across the LGBT. I can agree to love the person. I don't have to love what they do. I don't have to love their thoughts. But I have to love the person and I have to shine my light for the Lord. And they have to be able to see that. And I don't take that credit. I give that credit, I give that glory to God. That's God in me and it's not me, it's Him. That's what I've learned from Kouhyar. Learn to love people. I would have never done this with a Muslim. I did a lot of business with gas stations in this state all over the place and they were all kind of Middle Eastern people running them and that. and I had a respect for them because they had the gas and I needed it. And we talked and we were cordial. But now I'm not afraid to engage in conversation with any of them. I've learned just to love people and make an approach. Truth and love and just love. That's it.
Samia: That's beautiful. Kouhyar?
Kouhyar: What I learned from Greg is that he cares about his family. He cares about his community. And he cares about this country. He may have a different approach in solving some of our problems which may differ with me, but the shared humanity and the commonality that we have is paramount. And you know, just like what Greg said, I would have never associated with someone who is a pure conservative or extremely religious before my Better Angels experience, but now engaging in these conversations with Greg, I can see that he comes from a place of genuine interest to learn from the other side, and he's not afraid of agreeing when he is in agreement. And that's what I like about him and that's what I admire about him. That he's not all about taking all the credit and not conceding anything. He will concede if he realizes that he has somewhere where he could be persuaded. And I love him for that and I'm a better person because I know that by keep associating with my type and people of my own ideology, I'm not going to be able to understand the other side. And by not understanding the other side, you tend to hold resentment and animosity towards them. You do not hate what you know.
Greg: That's true.
Samia: Thank you so much you guys. I have really enjoyed hearing all of your answers to things and I'm sure the listeners have as well. Thanks for being on the show.
Greg: Thank you.
Kouhyar: Thank you, Samia.
Samia: After listening in on Greg and Kouhyar’s conversation, one moment really stuck out at me. When the subject of immigrant families being separated at the Mexican border came up, Greg said a lot about how he feels on the subject, and Kouhyar, very much unlike what my instincts were screaming, declined to get into a debate about it right then and there. Instead, he said something that he knew would strengthen their bond rather than degrade it. I’m sure they’ll talk more about the issue on their own time, and that the conversation will be productive and illuminating for both of them.
Now, I want to ask something of you, listeners. I know most of you are listening because you really do have an interest in understanding the other side of the political aisle. I realize that sometimes the guests on this show say things that make you cringe, things that aren’t politically correct, things that may come off as racist, or sexist, or just plain ignorant, things that seem impractical or overly sensitive. I am asking you to give my guests - and hopefully, anyone who disagrees with you in your own life - the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, people just need to be exposed to other perspectives in order for their own to shift, and the greatest gift anyone can give someone who disagrees with them is a listening ear…followed by an earnest explanation of why you feel the way you do that isn’t dripping with snark or judgement. One of the biggest problems I see with progressive messaging is the level of condescension and snark directed at anyone who doesn’t already agree, and that’s not effective messaging. We have to do better at communicating with each other, so let’s start here. I’m asking you to give the same compassion you hold for strangers in need to the people on this show that you disagree with. Hear the humanity in their voices. Listen for the personal anecdotes that reveal their inner motivations. We are all, after all, human beings worthy of respect and love.
To find out more about Better Angels, check out their website at www.better-angels.org. For a donation of ten dollars, you can become a Better Angel yourself, and if you’d like to be more involved, you can sign up to organize a Better Angels workshop in your city or town. I highly recommend this. Depolarizing America is going to take a lot of patience and hard work, but the result could be amazing. We can turn this toxic atmosphere around, and together, we can find out who we are as a nation.
Make sure to check back next week, when I’ll be bringing you one of the co-founders of liberal news media organization, The Left, and the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Southern California, talking about social safety nets, capitalism, and which system serves the greater good.
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Many thanks to Josh Elstro for recording this episode on location in Ohio, Chris Gilroy for mixing and editing it, and of course, to my wonderful guests for agreeing to be on the show.
This is Make America Relate Again. See you next week.