SP2EP6 - CINDY & DIANA - THE SISTER SHOW
Samia: This is Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I'm Samia Mounts.
I'm so excited to share this week's conversation with you. It might be my favorite I've ever recorded for the show. So we're going to jump right into it. Cindy and Diana Kyser are sisters, and the very first pair of family members to ever appear on the show. Cindy found the podcast, thanks to a Better Angels' email, and reached out to me to ask if she and Diana could appear on the show. Since the 2016 election, she's developed a strong desire to understand her liberal sister and to repair their relationship, which took a real hit as a result of the intense political polarization in our country. A year ago, the sisters got into a screaming match over politics in front of their entire family. So how did they come to sit down for a compassionate, respectful conversation about politics only a year later?
I'll let them explain for themselves.
Samia: Cindy and Diana, welcome to Make America Relate Again.
Diana: Thank you.
Cindy: Glad to be here.
Samia: I'm so happy to have you both. Before we get rolling, why don't you both introduce yourselves, so the listeners can hear your voices and know who's talking and what you guys both sound like. Diana, let's start with you.
Diana: Sure. Thanks. My name is Diana Kyser and I live in Summit, New Jersey. I grew up in part in Southern California and then when I was 11, we moved to Alabama, to Huntsville, Alabama. I went to junior high, high school and college there. Then the second I graduated, I got on the plane and went back to California for three years, where I lived and worked with my sister, Cindy. Then in 1988, 30 years ago, I came to New York and then New Jersey. I have three boys, two of whom are LGBT. I am a COO for a software company. I have masters in business and a doctorate in business. I recently joined the Unitarian church because it really reflects my values. I consider myself left of a liberal. I think probably Ronald Reagan was the only person I voted for when I was 18, under the influence of my parents and I voted a Democrat and I'm a registered Democrat.
Samia: All right. Cindy?
Cindy: I'm Cindy Kyser. I am Diana's older and perhaps not wiser sister. I live in Austin, Arkansas, which is a rural suburb outside of Little Rock. As Diana mentioned, we grew up in California. After college, I spent 10 years living in Southern California at the beach. Then I had a child and I was by myself. So I decided to move to Alabama to be a little closer to family because being a single mom and commuting and all that stuff was really difficult. So I was in Alabama for about six years and then I moved to Atlanta. So I was in Atlanta for 10 years and then the last 12 have been in Arkansas. So most of my adult life I was at least in a suburban area close to a major metropolitan area. Let's see. I'm married. We have a blended family with four children, two of each. I attend the Methodist church, so I grew Presbyterian and basically Protestant. In terms of a job, I worked in Corporate America up until a couple of years ago. I worked for a company doing everything from software development to project management and then I was told my services were no longer needed. So I joined the ranks of the unemployed in 2016 and I'm now doing contract project management. I voted Democrat most of my years, but I would say I was a very moderate Democrat. So I became a Republican out of the 2016 election cycle. In truth, I tend to vote by candidate, not by party. Like with Obama and Bill Clinton, I felt very comfortable during the election with that person, so I voted Democrat. So it's been an interesting transition. I think the reason I reached out, I had become involved with Better Angels because polarization is something that has me spiritually concerned. It goes more than just something I worry about and we ran into your podcast. So for my sister, we had had an episode. I knew that we were on different sides of the political spectrum, but we had an episode a year or so ago at a family gathering that became a screaming match. I think it was incredibly painful for everybody involved. I came away from it. It was really a watershed moment because I came away realizing it wasn't that we had different opinions. It was that we had different facts. We were getting our information from different places and our entire view of the world was different. So I couldn't just say she's a liberal that doesn't get it because she had facts that I wasn't considering and I think vice-versa. So I came home and I started trying to get my news from different places, starting to ask more questions and then she recommended that I join Better Angels and I did. So the goal here is really to have a conversation with her to try to bridge that. I want a genuine relationship with my family, especially my sister, where we can talk about any issue, that we don't have to skate around controversial [inaudible 00:05:35]
Samia: I love that. You're the first pair of family members of any kind that have ever been on the show. Trying to get siblings or family members to have these conversations on mic has been incredibly difficult. So I applaud both of you for being here. Let's get started. Cindy, you had some things that you mentioned were particularly the big issues for you that you wanted to understand better about Diana. So let's talking about some of those.
Cindy: What I began recognizing during the time coming up to the 2016 election and this is an opinion, this is strictly a perception on my part, if you are a woman and you weren't for Hilary Clinton, that the left saw you as really almost an evil person. When I would talk to my sister, I felt like there was this level of not just disagreement, but a level of categorizing me as a lesser human being or an uneducated person. I found that very painful. I'm trying to understand because I don't believe she really thinks I'm a terrible person, but the political brought out that. So I like to understand why what I see as a stereotype, a Republican is so distasteful is maybe the word for liberals. Why did that have to translate down into what I felt like was judgment of me as a human being?
Diana: Well, I don't think it's judgment as you as a human being. I think it's more and I definitely try to explain this when we had our conversation, I've been in the New York area for 30 years and I've worked in New York City for 23. Donald Trump has been a very visible personality, playboy, thief, liar, cheater and I think New York State was 85% Hilary. It is much more about Donald Trump and the fact that he's, in my opinion, a despicable human being than it was about Hilary. So Hilary Clinton wasn't, in my opinion, a great candidate. She had a lot of baggage. I do think that there was a lot of sexism that happened in that election and if she had been a White male, she would have won handily. For me, it was much more about how could anyone cast a vote for such a despicable cheater, liar, narcissist, et cetera. Because I think that as liberals, I'll speak for myself, I feel that Republicans threw away all their values. So we have lots of good Christian values that they just threw away to vote for this man who has absolutely no moral compass and no moral fiber. So it didn't make sense to me that anyone could do that.
Cindy: That's fair. That's fair. What was interesting is I saw a document and I'm thinking, I can't remember which station did it, but it was showing the parallel rise of Donald Trump and then Hilary Clinton, their roots up and it was not complementary to either candidate. So it wasn't biased, but I did find myself thinking that there was a lot about Donald Trump's history that I would not have known. So I watched that and I truly had a moment where I thought, "This is why Diana had such a visceral reaction to the man because his history is ugly," but I had not heard all that. I will say that for me and part of it may be rooted in Arkansas that I felt like Hilary Clinton had a lot of baggage and that was as visceral to me. I mean, Trump was a bad actor, but he was a neutral in my mind, if that makes any sense. I didn't go to the polls and think, "This is the best president I've ever voted for." I went to the polls and I thought, "Well, maybe it's not bad to disrupt Washington," and on a visceral level, I couldn't vote for Hilary Clinton. So I was between a rock and a hard place. I'm not so much being apologetic, it's just that was the rationale. It wasn't that I was in the corner saying, "Yes, this is going to make America great." It was a terrible election across the board I felt like.
Diana: I guess the whole "Make America great again," really rubs me the wrong way because I feel it's, "Take America back to a time when White males rule the world and Donald Trump's whole Western values and tough on crime and all of those policies are damaging to black and Brown people." So I felt that his whole candidacy was somewhat veiled, not completely veiled, but was misogynistic and definitely White supremacist or White privileged, et cetera and taking America back to a time that really wasn't good for the majority of Americans.
Cindy: I mean, I understand given Trump's womanizing and the locker room discussion and that kind of thing, but why do you feel that he's so misogynist? I mean, he's put women in places of power?
Diana: He runs the Miss America pageant, which is objectifying women in and of itself. He has repeatedly cheated on his wives and paid off porn stars. I don't think any of those he would disagree with. While he put his daughter in power, he also called her a piece of ass. I'm not sure that he's not putting people, women in power just to be able to look at them.
Diana: Even the choice of people he's married, they're beautiful, not that there's anything against beautiful women, but they're not corporate heads or necessarily known for their intelligence. They're known for their beauty, their bodies.
Cindy: Okay. I'm absorbing.
Samia: Is this all stuff that was not part of your everyday understanding?
Cindy: I'm almost desensitized at this point that there've been so many labels thrown around. To a certain extent, I feel like anytime there's a hard conversation, it feels like we throw misogynist, racist, Islamophobic. We have all these labels that we throw at each other. So I've gotten desensitized to whether there's really a sense of it or if it's just another ugly name to call someone because we object with something. I'm not saying that Diana's doing that at all, but I'm saying personally, I've almost become desensitized to some of the labeling.
Diana: I can see that and that I dislike Donald Trump so much that it might be difficult for me to say anything he has done. If there's a great thing that he did, I'm not sure what it is, but if there was something really good that he did, I'm not sure I would be able to see through his personality and who he is as a person to see the goodness in it. I recognize that that's a shortcoming, but I'm open to listening. I think that when people talk about draining the swamp and mixing up Washington, I think that there might be some good to that. I get it why people said, "Look, we don't want a classic politician. We want somebody who's going to go in there and turn all the tables and such." In my opinion, he's brought in the core of people who are self-interested billionaires, not looking out for the little guy. His disruption has been, for example, all of the politicking with North Korea and with Russia, we have career diplomats who understand cultures. When I was at a company, I went to Japan for a trip. They gave us two days of Japanese culture training just to go, so that we wouldn't offend people and we would know how to interact with people in that culture. I don't think that Donald Trump understands the nuances of the cultural issues and certainly doesn't understand what Russia has done in terms of Crimea or Georgia or Syria. He doesn't understand the history of things, so he goes in there like a bowl in a China shop, in my opinion. Sure, there's some good that might come out of it. It's great if we have a better relationship with Russia, but to say that it was our fault, in part, it's like, "No. They are an aggressive country that's really, their mission is to take over the world, right? So I just don't think he understands the nuances and that disruption in Washington, to me, isn't a good thing.
Cindy: There's a lot of what you said that I agree with. What bothered me so much and I think this is what pushed me over the edge towards the Republican side was we had the election that was contentious. I was actually shocked that Trump won. I mean, I remember coming in at night assuming that Hilary had won. Turning on the TV and being in a state of shock. There was this backlash. It seems like for the first time in my lifetime, we had an election and the people spoke and it wasn't a landslide on either side. The losing side became so almost to the point of, "I'm not going to accept the results. You guys made such a mistake." It seemed like the left just went off the rails and opposition and it became about opposing the results of that election, which really on a core level says to the other side of the country, "We don't even want to be in democracy with you because you've made such a bad choice."
Cindy: So there's been this division and part of this why I'm becoming a little immune to the label is that sometimes it feels like the leading Democrats are just acting in opposition and then the Republicans are defending, so neither party. It's like everyone's lost side of the problems we need to solve in this country. It seems like the Republicans in terms of congress seem more reasonable than some of the Democrats, in my mind. I see people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Maxine Waters and I cringe because it's so larger than life and Trump is guilty of the same kind of thing. It's millions of Americans. It's the individ era. It's these big words that cause fear on both sides. I just want us to get back to civil conversation and being able to problem solve together.
Diana: I don't think the left... I mean, I thought the women's march, I went to the women's march in Washington and it was one of the most incredible, empowering, hopeful things I've ever been involved in. To think that that many women and supporters of women got together and said, "Hey, this guy is not the kind of person that we want representing us as our president. He doesn't represent our values and we want to show worldwide that we are in opposition or we take issue with the fact that the country elected him." It was a tough lost because the popular vote was so much bigger and really, Donald Trump won in the states where he won by the margin of people who voted for third party candidates. So I guess as an American, I felt that it was really a shame that those people held their nose to both candidates and voted for someone else and really threw away their vote. So that was a shame. It was the second time that the Democrats have lost an election by a very small margin through the electoral college as supposed to the popular vote. It's a continuing issue for Democrats.
Cindy: Do you feel like the electoral college favors Republicans because part of me feels like everyone's okay with the electoral college when their own side wins. It seems like one of the Republican elections were like that.
Diana: Yeah, I don't think any Republican has ever won the popular vote and lost the electoral college. I do not think so. The other thing that liberals are up in arms over or whatever is that Donald Trump ran a very tightly held, very small family business. In a family business where you are the head honcho patriarch, you don't have to influence people, you don't have to know how to lead and manage people because you're the boss and you're the family member and nobody's going to fire you or say anything about how you do business.
Diana: So I think going into Washington, he acts as though he can make people perform for him in the same way that his family did in his family business. So the liberal side is afraid of the threat to the democracy and I think that's another, I'm sure, what you're saying label, but getting really, really conservative judges all over the country doing a lot of rollback of really important protections for the environment and for humans, children, et cetera, in the EPA setting us back with Jeff Sessions in the war on crime and mass incarceration.
Diana: There's the values that liberals hold dear. We see them disappearing record speed because while Donald Trump is going off the rails doing something crazy, Jeff Sessions and the EPA are off record speech changing laws and changing the makeup of the country and no one's even watching because Donald Trump is showboating. I think that's where the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are coming off, "Guys, this is really, really bad and we need to do something about it." Another liberal concern is restricting on voting rights. So the Republicans have traditionally done gerrymandering that favors Republican districts and the concern is that with tightening on voting rights, as well as gerrymandering, more and more and more White voters are able to vote and fewer and fewer and fewer black and Brown voters are able to vote. Therefore, the Republicans have an advantaged in the electoral college. That's the liberal viewpoint and I think that it's played out even up to the Supreme Court, that it's played out a lot in our local courts as well.
Cindy: Can I ask you a question on that? I mean, I understand the gerrymandering term, but what's going on with voting rights that it's making it harder for people of color to vote?
Diana: In many states, they're required to have IDs and not everybody has a car and can get a driver's license. They're required to pay for the ability to get a voting card. Maybe it's you have to have a utility bill and a house bill or things that some people can't afford to have. So it favors people who... You whip out your driver's license. It's not a problem at all. For homeless, you're not going to have a driver's license or an electricity bill.
Cindy: I understand what you're saying and you should be able to get an ID that doesn't cost you. At the same time, I don't think it's unreasonable to require people to prove their identity to vote. I don't think that's unreasonable. You have to prove your identity to get Social Security. So that doesn't seem like an unreasonable request to me.
Diana: No, I don't think it's the unreasonable part of it. It's the disadvantage part of it. If you can take something that's more easily accessible like we have our birth certificates. We were born in a hospital. Our family took care of us. I have the birth certificate from 53 or 54 years ago. If you've had a disadvantaged life, you're not going to have that access to that birth certificate. So I don't have the answer. I, for sure, don't have the answer, but there is a way to prove identities that is perhaps less advantaging White people and disadvantaging people of color.
Cindy: Okay. I would think that the new federal guidelines on the enhanced license is making it even worse.
Diana: Well, New Jersey had something-
Cindy: Because in Arkansas, I had to provide five forms of ID to get the one that will let me fly in 2020.
Diana: Yeah. New Jersey has a campaign. It's called Let's Drive New Jersey. We're trying to get those five forms of ID be much softer forms, so that you don't have to have citizenship in order to get an ID because so many of the people who get pulled over and then put into detention, immigrants, the only crime they've committed is that they're driving without a license. So if we can get folks to be able to more easily get those IDs, it's called real IDs, the federal ID, then we feel that there will be fewer people getting arrested and put into tension just because they're driving without a license.
Cindy: I'd like to add a quick thought, which is something Diana and I discussed earlier. At the point we were in LA, our lives were much the same. Then when I moved to Alabama and she moved to New Jersey, since then, our exposure to the world has been very different. The New York-New Jersey area is much more culturally diverse. It's a higher population area. It's urban. I have been in really neighborhoods that are a single culture. That's part of being in the south. So I've been in more of a lack of diversity, really, since I left California. One of the things that I'm becoming more aware of is if I don't live in a diverse area, I need to seek out friendships that bring in diversity points because yeah, a lot of issues you're describing, we don't see in Arkansas.
Diana: Right. Yeah. New Jersey has the third largest population of immigrants of all the states. I think California is number one. New York is number two. New Jersey is number three. That's why I find it so ironic that the liberal states are the ones pushing for immigrant rights and I mean, there's certainly people who are conservative in New York, California and New Jersey, but I think that we're much more accepting, welcoming of Muslims and all the people that we see everyday on the subway and we work with people of diversity. So I find it ironic that the real world places where there probably aren't many immigrants, that's where there's so much fear and concern because if you are to get to know people and speak to real Muslims, you would find that they're very peace-loving and they obey the laws of where they live and the whole religion of the people I know is very much about peace and the dignity of human beings.
Cindy: I think I've posted something objectionable on Facebook that talked about working hard and reaping the rewards of my hard work because Diana and I both have worked hard. First, education and moving ahead in the jobs. My sister, anonymously, sent me a book called Waking Up White. I was horrible offended. It was a very passive-aggressive move on her part. After a months of the book sitting there, I picked it up and started reading it. It was very eye-opening. I can't say that I embrace everything the woman said, but it changed my perspective.
Samia: How did it changed your perspective?
Cindy: I have a few black friends who have confirmed that their experience in America is not the same as mine. So I grew up in a family, we weren't a wealthy family, but we had parents who believed in education. They told us everything was possible. We had a lot of exposure to culture and to history and to protestant work ethic, "If you work hard, you'll be rewarded," and you are responsible for your destiny. So these are part of who I am. I take that for granted. So there's a part of me prior to thinking about this that would say, "Well, if you're not working, it's because you're not trying." It never occurred to me that White privilege didn't mean that somebody gave me a free pass. It meant that there were a whole bunch of hoops I hadn't had to jump through, that I had a straight path and it was easier for me to get to where I wanted to be because nobody was throwing roadblocks along the way. That was confirmed by my black friends that it's a different view of America. So what I discovered is there's an implied bias that I would never have identified if I hadn't read the book. So I was very grateful to her. So my question for Diana is I know that you're working in terms of racial justice, but I don't know what that means. So what do you do with the information? Do you feel like you owe an apology or is it ...? How do you work past White privilege other than acknowledging it?
Diana: First off, to add to your story, Cindy, all four of our grandparents had college degrees. Cindy is seven years older than I am and I'm 54, so I'll just say that.
Cindy: Thanks, Diana.
Diana: It's shocking that all four of our grandparents had college degrees. Our father had a PhD and our mother had a bachelor's. So I think that our privilege has been amazing because of the focus on education and then just starting out with my grandfather gave my mother money that she passed to us. My father, when he died, we got a little nest egg. Both Cindy and I bought houses in 1986 in the California market. I was 23 and we made huge profits in holding those houses for a year. Maybe you didn't, but I did.
Cindy: I moved a year too early, but that's okay.
Diana: Oh, okay, because I made a huge profit. So starting out at 22 and being able to have that nest egg and then roll that into another house and another house and another house, that's how wealth is gained, right? So I feel that I've had a lot of black friends and I really woke up recently as well. I mean, I woke up during the election, I think, and I had never realized because I probably have had, I don't know, 40 people of color working directly for me at various times in my career. I'm still very close to them. One thing I noticed is that many of them have not gone on to be CEOs, but the White kids who worked for me 30 years ago have. So one day, I had lunch with one of my friends and I'm like, "Why haven't you guys gone on to be CEOs?" He said, "Look, we're just trying to survive in the culture. Corporate America is set up for... You go to golf tournaments and the social circles are very much a White construct of exclusive clubs and mentoring and having access to things that a black kid from Brooklyn isn't going to have." So when they speak up, they're “rowdy.” They're considered rowdy or disruptive or whatever. I have a black VP of HR and we don't have that many African-Americans in our company. So I said, "Sally, we have to work on this issue." She's like, "If I work on the issue, I'm going to be looked at as the token black woman hiring all kinds of black people." So as White people, we have to be that advocate. I have to go and say, "Our culture does not reflect the diversity of our city, state, world and we'll be so much richer and better off if we can hire people of different ethnic backgrounds. Our products will be better. Our services will be better. Everything will be better because there's diversity and it's not that homogeneous opinion that tends to get very narrowed. It expands when people have different backgrounds and perspectives.I think that's really as White people what we're trying to do in my church is wake up people and we're reading a book that's called something like Everyday Racial Conversations By White People or something. It's like, "What can we as White people, not pulling on the black people to say, 'How can we help you?' but 'How can we work with you to achieve your goals, number one and number two, how can we wake up White people and have people realize that it's not equality, it's equity?'" So if I started out with a nest egg and at 22 was buying a house, somebody whose parents came over on the boat from, well, if somebody whose parents were brought over on the boat, the slave ship and oppressed and all of that, all those horrible trauma events in their family, they're starting from such a different level. So people get upset about affirmative action, but they're starting from such a different level that their SAT scores might not be as good as ours. Their parents weren't college educated. So of course, my mother who was an English teacher taught us great English and our father was a rocket scientist. He helped us with Math. So the immigrant kid is not going to have that kind of advantage. So how can we help them get to a level playing field? That's going to take years. I definitely don't have the answers.
Cindy: So you're just quietly trying to create some equity in those environments that you influence. Is that-
Diana: I think right now, we're just trying to educate and help people understand to wake up.
Cindy: Well, what was interesting is I remember when I was working in Atlanta and they were having... The company I worked for had an all-White male board for decades and they were trying really hard to make that diverse and they were having programs for LGBTs and they were targeting blacks to promote. At the time, I felt that was very unfair. This has been 10 or 15 years ago. Now, that company has a board that includes LGBTs and blacks and they have a Hispanic CEO. I no longer have that resentment because I think the company is a much better company even though they laid me off because I was old, but I think they're a better company for having that diversity, but it was really painful when it started because it felt like I was being discriminated against. After reading that book and started to think about some of the advantages that we just had because of who we were, the whole affirmative action started making a lot more sense to me that it wasn't favoritism, it was trying to create a somewhat equal playing field. I had never been in a discriminated class until job searching at 60. So I didn't know what that felt like. It doesn't feel good. My husband went through the same thing when his company closed and he was 59 that I think it was character building for both of us because we suddenly ended up in a group that there was hiring issues with. Yet, they were so subtle. They weren't something you could take to court. It was very subtle discrimination. It didn't feel good to be on that side. So I think it's given me a little bit of empathy. In the end, I appreciated you sending me the book, though at the time, it-
Diana: One of the things that I've only recently really been made aware of is I have friends who have black sons and what they have to teach their sons is so different from what I have to teach my sons. The whole notion of the policeman is your friend and I've told my kids like, "If you get in trouble, go to the police station." My black friends with black sons, they have to talk about, "If you get pulled over by the police, put your hands up. Make sure that you don't say anything wrong. Make sure that you don't reach for anything." It's a whole set of issues that none of us have to... As a White person, you just don't have to think about.
Samia: This might help Cindy with understanding why so many liberals got so upset after the election and started calling all Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters all kinds of names because we see this as life and death, life and death for a lot of people, for people's children who don't deserve it. The policies that this administration is putting forth seem to be encouraging the further oppression of minority groups. I mean, imagine if you had to teach your kid that the police are just as likely to kill you as to help you, which is the case for every black parent in America, especially black parents with black sons. So if it seemed like liberals were going off the rails and getting really over the top, it was because the stakes are life and death for so many people.
Cindy: Well, what's interesting about that is I was at the Better Angels conference in June and I met a wonderful black woman from Minnesota. She was describing how she had to teach her sons to put their hands up. It brought me to tears because I had always thought that that was an overreaction because there's still a part of me that says, "People can't be that hateful." Yet, I've had a number of black friends tell me otherwise, so I have to believe them. To me, it's unfathomable. I've heard it too many times. I did. I sat at the table and I was in tears. I couldn't believe that this is a woman with children, who's educated. She's active in her community. This was an amazing lady. She's having to teach her sons to be careful with the police.
Diana: That is what the whole kneeling versus standing American anthem. It's become such a polarized thing, but that is what the protest is all about. The kneeling at the American anthem is to highlight the violence against young black men. Colin Kaepernick is bringing that to light and saying, "We need to understand that the same men that were making billions and billions and billions of dollars for the NFL, those are the same men that are getting incarcerated at much higher rates than White men and young black men are getting killed at far higher rates by police than young White men." So I think the conservative media portrays it as lack of patriotism, but really, it's just a way to bring light to a very life or death situation.
Cindy: As a conservative, I view the refusal to stand for the National Anthem is just being deeply... It was a deep criticism of the United States. So I guess where my Republican roots come in is that I still believe that this country is a great thing. I know we have problems, but we have a system that allows us to fix problems. So it was such an act of disrespect from my point of view that I never really listen to the why.
Cindy: If that makes sense.
Cindy: I think what I'm learning over the last few months is to ask why instead of just jumping to conclusion because I admit I said, "If you're patriotic, you'd stand for the flag. You don't sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance," and that's just years of... because I do believe in this country and I am patriotic, even though I acknowledge we are not a perfect country. I think we need to be Americans first and I know that's easier when you're on the White side of things, maybe, or when you're in the majority, it may be easier to say, "America first." I don't know.
Diana: In the Catholic church, kneeling is very respectful. They're not sitting down. They're kneeling, which is a sign of a lot of respect. There's a lot of evidence that the country was built on the backs of slave labor and recognizing that the constitution was recognized black people as three-fifths of a person. Yes, the country is great, but it was founded and created for White males and it's time to evolve. We've evolved to some degree, but it's time to continue to evolve.So I was one who said, "We have a black president. We've come so far. This is so great." Then the backlash from Trump and the conservatives, I wasn't looking at politics. I wasn't listening to politics when Obama was president because I was like, "He's got my back. I don't have to worry about it."Then to understand what horrific things were done against Obama and hanging effigies and just all of the negativity around Obama, I personally thought he was a great president and thought everyone loved him like I did. So that was a real wake up call for me that we haven't evolved that far, that yeah, it's great that he was elected, but there's so much more to do in the country.
Cindy: Part of me says, "Is it any different with some of the really ugly comedy against Trump? Is that any different than the ugly comedy against Obama?" I actually voted for Obama. I thought it was amazing that we had a black president. I agreed with you that I thought it was a huge step forward and it was a message that anyone could be president. Getting back to the constitution, I recognized that the constitution was written by a bunch of White guys. I recognized that when they wrote the Bill of Rights, it didn't apply to women, it didn't apply to blacks. I don't think that invalidates the ideas and I truly believe that this country is a country founded on ideas and that we have evolved in terms of civil rights legislation and including women and that kind of thing that because we're a government founded on ideals rather than arbitrary authoritarian decisions, that I don't want to throw at a structure. So I think for conservatives, a lot of times we feel like liberals are wanting to just throw the constitution out the door. To me, the constitution is so important. Like I said, I think it's because I consider America unique and that it was a group of people who thought about forming a country instead of something that evolved from a monarchy or a theocracy or whatever. It was a group of people that sat down and although they may have been flawed, they still came up with some pretty remarkable ideas once it was applied to everybody. Is that a true perception that liberals want to throw the constitution out?
Diana: No, I don't think so at all. I think that right now, for me, the importance of the checks and balances on the balance of power is super important because I do believe that if Trump had his way, he would be an autocrat. He would stay in power for as long as he wants and have his cronies taking away the rights of a bunch of us, not just black and Brown people, but women and all kinds of people.
Cindy: So where do you see that he's threatening LGBT rights?
Diana: Well, the transgender-
Cindy: No, no, don't laugh.
Diana: He tweeted that transgender people will no longer be allowed in the military. Do you remember that?
Cindy: Yeah. I guess my interpretation was that part of that was based on medical costs. I didn't see that as a statement of... and maybe if I looked at it differently, I might see it differently, but I thought about, "Well, is the government responsible for the medical cost, the ongoing pharmaceuticals that are required?" So it didn't seem like a slam against gay rights overall. Maybe that's a lack of sensitivity on my part.
Diana: I think there were some research that showed that the military pays for millions of dollars worth of Viagra and tens of thousands of dollars for testosterone. I can see where they don't want to pay for reassignment surgery or something, but the willingness to pay for medical cost versus the allowing them into the military, to me, that was the upfront. Then there have been a number of cases where the rights to discriminate against... Theoretically, you shouldn't be able to fire somebody because they're gay or lesbian or LGBT. Those rights are being... Even the cake, wedding cake, so if I don't like you because you're wearing a blue shirt, am I able to say, "I don't want to serve you," and then where does that go? Does it go all the way to, "Well, you're a Muslim. I don't want to serve you," or "You're a Republican. I don't want to serve you"?
Cindy: [inaudible 00:44:10]
Diana: Right, right, right. So I would agree that liberals have stooped absolutely as low as conservatives did around Obama. Personally, I think that Trump is a pretty easy target, so it's humorous. I posted something once on my Facebook page that had... It was some SNL skit or something, where it had an Obama actor, someone who look like him, an impersonator, saying the things that Trump says. It was hilarious because Obama is so articulate. Hearing the things that Trump says out of Obama mouth, it was just hilarious. It was actually transcripts of things that Trump has said.
Cindy: I read Trevor Noah's book. What is it called? Born A Crime. I started watching the Daily Show and that has become my favorite show because I think part of the healing is being able to laugh at his skits and laugh at the way he does the news. What I love about him is he doesn't... It's not a spirit of meanness. It really takes what's hysterical about the day and points out the humor and you're right, Trump is an easy target. So my conservative friends think I'm a poly because I love the Daily Show, but-
Samia: Let's bring this around to stuff that's happening now. We're a year and a half into the Trump presidency and a lot has happened. A lot has happened recently. We've got the Supreme Court. It's looking like it's going to be leaning heavily to the right for our generation, which I don't think reflects what the country wants. We've got the separation of children from their parents at the southern border of the US. People coming in from Central and South America and being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the first time for illegal border crossing in the history of our country and having their children being taken away. Of course, that's been reversed.
Samia: We've also got the Russian investigation. We've got Trump siding with Putin at a press conference in Helsinki just days ago and selling out the whole American intelligence community. So there's so much that's going on. Do you guys disagree on some of these current issues?
Cindy: I think I'd like to get some insight on immigration, especially with the Southern border because I'm not a wall person and I'm not a take people away from their children person, but I do believe that we need secure borders. So my sense is that the opposite of that position is open borders. So I'd love to hear from Diana her take on what we do if she's favor of controlling some of the immigration and how we manage that.
Diana: My perception of conservatives, they vilify the immigrant, right? Immigrants are going to come in and rape your children and crime is going to go up and neighborhoods are going to go down. I think immigrants, in general, have incarceration rates of a fifth of what native born Americans do. Most of the research, these first generation immigrants. First of all, there are living conditions that are so horrible that they're willing to risk death along the way to get to the US because they believe that the US is going to be better. If they're seeking asylum or coming for jobs, we've got unemployment rates that are really, really low. I have a friend who works in food service and her open job percentage is 25% of the jobs in food service in this big hospital system. They're open. If we could get immigrants to do those jobs, it would help the hospital, it would help the economy, it would help the immigrants. I do think that allowing people in who are persecuted, that's what our country was founded on. We were religiously persecuted and people came here. I just think that we've lost that sense that they're humans. I've been listening to Fox News for the last couple of days. Every time they refer to an immigrant, they call them illegals. In my circles, we call them undocumented people because they're people. They have lives. No one wants to leave their home and suffer through great trials and tribulations to come to a country that doesn't want them, unless it's really bad. I guess, for me, it's much more around the worth and dignity of the human being than the fact they're "illegally" crossing the border. I know that Obama deported more people than any other president before him. Those were mostly deportations related to people that had been convicted of crimes. My group does detention center visits and so they get very intimately involved with people who are in detention centers. Some of these people, they haven't committed crime except perhaps driving without a license or being in the wrong place at the wrong time and they have US-born children, US-born spouses and they're being ripped away from their families and sent back to Guatemala. I just think that it's against our country's values to treat people that way.
Cindy: If you believe in a path to citizenship for people that are here, is there a point where you ask people to come through legal channels? I think I am certainly not advocating that we turn people away, but I guess I'm asking that we bring people in through legal channels.
Diana: I'm not sure that they're not trying to get through legal channels, but obviously, I listen to different news than you do. My understanding is that those legal channels have become so narrow and women fleeing domestic violence can't claim asylum anymore. Even the H1B visas have been reduced. It's difficult to get here anymore.
Cindy: Well, I know that because of a friend that came over some time after the Vietnam war, but not quite that far back. He came over as one of the "boat people". It took years to come through Hong Kong in refugee camps. He got citizenship here. He's the classic example of the success story. He came here, he got USA to start a business and get in through the rough spot. Now, he has four children. They're college educated and he's brought the rest of his family over time and set each of them up in business. So it's hard to tell people who have gone through the system legally that if you just cross the border, then you're okay.
Diana: It's not just illegal crossings that I and the Trump administration are targeting.
Cindy: Can you elaborate a little bit on that because I actually ran into that when I was trying to fact check myself? It's my reminder, originally, that we were only separating families when there was an illegal crossing and if you came from a way point and what I'm really viewing is that's not true. The zero tolerance for any crossing has made the number of people that were separating out of control.
Diana: I read something recently that 50% of all children born in the US are non-White. So the immigration discussion to me feels like it's another way to protect White establishment, White male privilege. It's a protection of the privilege as supposed to a welcoming of people who are fleeing horrific conditions in other countries.
Cindy: I struggle between that core belief and rule of law versus a heart that says, "We have to help people. We can't turn people away after they've come through terrible circumstances." That's the moral dilemma because my heart and my belief system go one way, which is in favor of taking care of people and then the other side of me says, "But there's laws and laws have to be followed or you don't have an ordered society." That's where I sit on that issue.
Samia: I feel so strongly that with the immigration issue, especially, there is a middle ground that could be found where the two parties willing to sit down and really work it out together instead of competing to be the winners because everybody agrees that people should have human dignity and we are a country founded on immigrants and there should be easier legal immigration avenues, but it seems that because Republicans have this base that tends to be pretty anti-immigration and they want to keep their votes, instead of advocating for these middle ground solutions, we're just getting a lot of, "No, let's prosecute them and let's make it harder to be legal. America first."
Cindy: Absolutely. I almost thing part of the reason he went down this path is to create such a public outcry that congress would take action. I think he was really poking the hornet's nest with a stick hoping that something would happen. I feel like congress needs to sit down and put aside the differences and come over the reasonable system that includes not a wall, but controlling the border to some extent and then looking at paths to citizenship and looking at permanent residency and becoming a welcoming country. I always think liberals are so unwilling to sit down with Republicans because they're so unhappy with Trump that they're not going to be willing to come up with any solutions. I mean, I know it's a complicated issue, but it just seems like they could make some big differences easily just by sitting down and talking.
Diana: One of the problems is that there's so much money to be made in the detention center, not only private detention centers, but also counties get money from the federal government to house immigrants in their jails. So there's this huge amount of millions and millions, probably billions of dollars that both private companies and locales are making from getting all these people into detention centers. The humane thing might be to put bracelets on their feet and let them live their lives and let them contribute to the economies of the various locales, but because there's this profit mindset, I don't know if people are willing to sit down and talk about it because it's money in their pockets.
Samia: I was going to say what you're saying, Cindy, about there being a perception amongst Republicans that liberals aren't willing to sit down and talk, liberals have the same perception of conservatives, the same exact perception. That tells me that if everybody were willing to put down those stereotypes and just come to the table, maybe we could make some progress.
Cindy: Do something, yeah.
Samia: I wanted to hit a couple of more issues before we wrap this up. Both of you wanted to talk about Islam and immigration from majority Muslim countries and the perception of Islam in the world.
Cindy: The first thing I want to stress is that I am not anti-Muslim, I am not afraid of Muslims. So where I struggle with Islam is that it is a religion, as well as political ideology. It's hard to research a whole lot unless you're fluent in Arabic and you understand the culture. So it appears that the legal system and the religion are really wound up together if you look at Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia, some of them in Africa. In those countries, you have very strict rules that are tied into Islam sharia that relate to the roles of women, the nonacceptance of LGBTs and then some of the issues with freedom of speech versus blasphemy, freedom of thought versus apostate. In some of those countries, the penalty for blasphemy and being an apostate is actually death. I went through some pew studies. I didn't just listen to Fox News. We're a country that values the separation of church and state. That's really critical and it was a fundamental reason. The fundamental reason for that separation was what the columnist went through with England. Then we also have these rights and we have protective classes and we want people to be treated equally. So I feel like considering that there's this piece of Islam, which we don't see in American Muslims, but there's this piece or a part of the belief system that's very much in conflict with our concept of rights. I feel like the left ignores it. When you ask the question if people are coming from a country where the government and religion are intertwined and they come to a country like the US, how is that cultural shift happen? Because our freedom of religion is qualified to freedom to practice religion as long as it doesn't violate our other laws. I feel like the left doesn't address that. If you start asking questions, you're immediately labeled as an Islamophobe. So I just wanted to get your take on that. Like I said, this is not about terrorism. This is not about as a faith. This is really about that legal side of the ideology and how that translates.
Diana: It's interesting because that was one of our contentions a year and a half ago was the screaming match. The screaming match was around that. Sharia law, it never gets brought up in any of the conversations I've ever had with liberals or at my church. We've had an Imam come and preach several times. I don't have any close friends who are Muslim, but it's not something that ever gets discussed. In the last week or so, I've been asking my friends, "Hey, what do you know about Sharia law? I'm so interested to know where you get your information that in the Northeast, at least." Well, at least in the liberal circles, it's not even a thing. People don't even know what it is. So I don't think it's ignoring it. My perception is perhaps you get it at church or is it Fox News or where is that coming from?
Cindy: I started reading and when I started reading, originally, there's two camps that seemed to be "authorities" and there's the camp that says, "Islam is peaceful," and then there's the camp that I think includes a lot of fear mongering. If you go out, the Pew Center has done a number of studies and interviews with both American Muslims and in Muslim majority countries. Sharia is very real. It's a body of instructions for worship. I'm not an expert, please. My impression is that Islam uses the Quran and the Hadith and the Sira and the Hadith and the Sira are where some of that Sharia law comes from as far as Mohammad being an example of holy living. So those codes exist. If you go and you look at some of the pew studies and when they've gone to Muslim majority countries and interviewed, it's a very real phenomena. It's part of the legal side. I know my church is very quiet on Islam because they're fighting for inner faith. They want to have relationships with countries and all people, so the church doesn't delve into that.
Diana: All I can say is that the people who have immigrated here, the ones that I've met have rejected that part of Islam and they live in the laws of the United States. They're more of the camp of the worth and dignity of humanity and letting people live. It's like you said, "Have you read the Quran or maybe Dave did?" I said, "Have you read the Bible?" I don't think any religious text is... If you are to read any religious text, you could find horrific things that people do in the text that people don't do today. So I don't have really information on Sharia law, but I do know that the people I know, anyway, in the communities that I know of don't practice it at all.
Samia: I can shed a little bit of light. Sharia law is a list of guidelines for how to live a holy life according to Islam. It is just as easily reinterpreted as everything in the bible. So most Muslims take the parts of Sharia law that make sense and the parts that are obviously misogynistic, they reinterpret to make sense in the modern day. I actually had a conversation about this. One of my closest friends is a Palestinian Muslim woman and this came up in my very first conversation for this podcast, season one, episode one. My guest was very concerned about Sharia law and people living here and observing Sharia law, not the laws of the United States, but that's not really how it works. The vast majority of modern day Muslims don't interpret it literally, which is what the countries that you're talking about are doing. Iran has a very harsh Draconian literal interpretation of Sharia law. It doesn't need to be interpreted that way. So last thing I wanted to discuss and I know Cindy, you haven't been following this that much, but Diana you have, so maybe you can fill her in is what's going on with the Russian investigation with the indictments that the Justice Department just put out followed immediately by Trump in Helsinki selling out the intelligence community to say that, "He doesn't know what it would be Russia trying to mess with our election." A lot of liberals are really concerned about this. Diana, you responded with an enthusiastic yes when I asked if you guys had been following it. Cindy, you haven't been following it in the last few days.
Cindy: Yeah, just the last few days.
Samia: Diana, fill her in a little bit. I want to hear what you think, Cindy, about all of this.
Diana: Lately, it seems that there has been so much Republican blowback from the meeting in Helsinki and the fact that Trump went by himself with no other... Really, very little preparation, if any, that I started listening to Fox News because I'm like, "How is Fox News spinning this?" because there seems to be a lot of backlash that Trump went and believed Putin over the intelligence committee. I listened to Fox News on that Monday or Tuesday and I heard Anthony Scaramucci saying, "He's got to walk this back. He's got to say that he didn't really mean to say that because the Republicans are turning on him. This could be a turning point." Not two hours after that, Trump came out and said he didn't say "would", he said "wouldn't", whatever. I just wonder how intelligent he thinks that we all are because it sounded a little bit ridiculous. The core issue is that the intelligence community has stated that there was interference and I think that Trump is nervous and feels insecure about his victory and so he doesn't want anything to color the victory that he won and have him to be considered an illegitimate president. So in doing that, he's putting his own personal ideals above what we need for the country. I think Mueller gave those 12 indictments of Russian citizens at the time he did, so that Trump would have something to talk about with Putin. We've actually gone so far as to find facts and indict these people. We've found that they interfered with our elections. So that was a give me to Trump, something that he could talk in those meetings. Instead, he completely ignored those and then actually said, "Well, I believe him." I mean, he said it before that he believes Putin over his intelligence community. Until his base started rattling the cage, I don't think he would have walked that back. Again, that's where I don't believe he understands why we are fearful of Russia. I think he admires Putin and he likes the oligarchies and the oligarchs and he wants to do a lot of business in Russia. So he doesn't see why there's any problem siding with Putin. What are your impressions of the Russian investigation and Trump's relationship with Putin versus the UK or the NATO meetings in Brussels?
Cindy: I have mixed feelings. I guess I should start off with I feel like first of all, the Russians tampering our elections is very serious. My understanding is that they tampered at a propaganda level rather than actually colluding with Trump. I feel like the last year and a half has been we can't get back to running the country because we have this open investigation and we need to get to the end of it really so our financing go on with governing the country. So I don't think there's any doubt that Russia put a full propaganda campaign together. I don't know how I feel about that in terms of Trump's victory. I think we should be condemning Russia. I don't think we should be going and shaking hands behind closed doors. I don't particularly care for his international style. I don't think you come out of Korea and say, "I've solved the problem." Even as someone who tries to give him a break, that just horrified me. You don't come out and congratulate yourself for a single meeting with this country that I consider to be a pretty serious threat to our security. On the NATO thing, I agree with him in terms of countries should be paying their fair share, but his approach is always appalling. So I said I wake up in the morning and I see Twitter and I think, "Oh, my goodness!" That's just who he is. I just wish he would put Twitter aside and try to develop a little more political decorum.
Samia: Do you think he has the capability to do that?
Cindy: I don't think so. I think he's a performer. It's an extension of his brand. Sometimes it works and we can get things done and other times, it's someone embarrassing.
Samia: Would you vote for him again in 2020?
Cindy: It's going to depend on who he's running against. So I will not give you a yes. I don't feel that way at all, but it's going to depend on who he's running against. What I'm hoping is that both parties can come up with a definition of who they are because at this point, to me, it's puzzling what the values are of each party. I don't know what the Democratic party represents at this point.
Samia: Diana, what does the Democratic party represent to you at this point?
Diana: Well, to me, it values human dignity, certainly, healthcare for all. It's the hearts and flowers. We need to all get along and take care of our people and give opportunities to those who don't have opportunities and spend a little bit more domestically than we are on our defense. I think that's... When I was watching Fox News, I was really struck by the focus on the American flag, veterans, patriotism. It's country over everything. That was my perception, country over everything. In NPR, a story about an illegal alien on Fox News, on NPR, they would be talking about the woman who's married to an immigrant, whose kids have diabetes and the father is going to get deported and the kid will die because it doesn't have access to healthcare or something like that. I mean, the Democratic side from my perspective is always around helping people and spending money domestically where we need it rather than worrying about the other and being fearful of the other.
Cindy: I do believe that we need to have a military and to be able to defend ourselves because I think there are countries out there that are of concern, but there's nothing that you mentioned that isn't a core value to me. As a Republican, I feel like there's a sense of the other thing I'm really concerned about is the deficit. It always feels like nobody's saying, "Well, if we create these programs with the healthcare and education, I agree we need those programs to be available to people and we need to fund them, but the money has to come from somewhere." So the Republican side says, "Well, the liberals are just going to put more money. They're not worried about that part." If we could come up with a balanced way to reduce deficit and take care of people, that would make a lot of sense to me.
Diana: I couldn't agree with you more. I love balanced budgets, but twice now in my adult time, Republican has cut taxes. To me, that flies in the face of those deficit needs because if you're cutting taxes and reducing taxes on the higher income earners, then you're just putting less money in the kidney.
Cindy: I agree. The tax cuts are always of concern.
Samia: You guys, this has been a really wonderful conversation. I am really impressed with both of your willingness to listen to each other. Do you think you're going to have any screaming matches the near future over politics?
Cindy: I don't think so. I think we're both committed. I shouldn't speak for Diana, but I'm certainly committed to taking a breath and asking why before launching. I've also learned that I think we all have to be very careful of where we get our news because if you're only getting it from one place, then there are facts that the other is operating with that you simply don't know. I think that goes both ways.
Diana: I had a lot of fun and I agree, Cindy. I listen to MSNBC and then NPR. I mean, really, NPR is my primary news source. Just in flipping that switch to listen to Fox News, it's really interesting that their take on things is so different that I live in a little bubble. I like my bubble, but I do recognize that if we're going to solve issues going forward throughout the generations, we have to all ask why before we assume.
Samia: Cindy and Diana, thank you so much for being on Make America Relate Again.
Diana: Thank you, Samia.
Cindy: Thanks to you. It's been wonderful.
Samia: I hear a lot of frustration from my liberal listeners that conservatives just don't want to come to the table to talk and understand where we're coming from. Conservatives say the same thing about liberals. This conversation between Cindy and Diana gave me a lot of hope that we've been greatly underestimating the capacity of all of us to grow together. The book that Diana sent Cindy, the one that changed her perspective on race in America is called Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbie Irving. You can find the link to purchase, as well as the transcript of this episode at makeamericarelatepodcast.com.
To find out more about Better Angels, check out better-angels.org. If you're getting something helpful out of this show, please take a moment to leave us a five-star review on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use and please, please, please keep sharing on social media. All social media shares that take Make America Relate Again on Facebook or Relate Podcast on Twitter will get a shout out on the show. Wooh! All you got to do is tell your friends why they should tune in and I will personally thank you on the show.
Special thanks to BCB Studios in Arkansas for recording Cindy, Douglass Records in Brooklyn for recording Diana, L-Gate Studio in Seoul for recording my intro and outro segments, Dani Valdezan for creating the theme music, and Christopher Gilroy for mixing and editing this episode.
This is Make America Relate Again. See you next week.