With a pandemic and a revolution happening at the same time, we get to choose what kind of society we want to rebuild and who we want to be together.
I'm Baratunde Thurston, author, activist and comedian, and I've got a new podcast, How to Citizen with Baratunde in our democratic experiment is at a tipping point, but which way we tip is up to us. I Heart Radio is number one for podcast, but don't take our word for it. Find how to citizen with Fahrettin Day on the radio app or wherever you get your podcast paper.
Ghosts is a true crime podcast that investigates the search for the person responsible for the abductions of four missing girls in neighboring New England towns for more than 50 years. Each case as remain unsolved. Jesus, Mary and Josephine. I hope that's brave for many of you know what I think it is. Paper Ghosts premieres September 9th. Listen on the IHA radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.
This is how it is in with Barrett today, a show where we reimagined the word citizen, reclaim it from those who weaponized it and remind us all of our collective power. We have a definition of this civic power which is broad and goes far beyond the purely political. This show is not how a bill becomes a law. This show is about power and who has the power to determine the quality of our lives. We believe the correct answer is all of us.
Welcome to our very first episode, Prayed Revolutionary Love is How to Citizen. I'm Baratunde.
I've been working on this show for years, I've been dreaming of seeing or hearing something like it for most of my adult life, and at this present time it feels urgent. We are in an intense moment of history, of pandemic, a revolution of way too many streaming services. Am I right? Our democracy is at a tipping point, but which way it tips, that's up to us. We're making this show to help tip it in the direction of more justice and more power for more people.
And yeah, I said this is episode zero. See, what had happened was our plan for Episode one involved two guests.
But then we heard that first guest in that conversation or should I say our zeroth guest. We heard her words and we knew we needed to give them an entire episode so they could breathe, so you could breathe with them, because she so eloquently expressed the spiritual core of what we're all about. We have long felt that the concept of how to citizen is really about our relationship with each other, but also our relationship with ourselves. And in order to truly be in community with each other, to show up for one another, we have to show up for ourselves.
And that may involve examining who we are, examining our relationship with ourselves first. This episode's guest is the perfect person to help us in that project because she has a definition of citizenship that includes more than external actions in the world. Out there, she conceives of a role with internal changes we must make to our minds and to our hearts. I think of this episode as the spiritual invocation of the project we're about to embark on. So check out my conversation with Valerie, stay until the end, because we're going to give you some things you can do.
And welcome to the show, Citizen. I'm holding the book of my very first guest, Valerie Kowa, right here, see No Stranger, a memoir and manifesto of revolutionary love.
And when I look at the back cover, it's got a long list. Valerie, you got a long list of dope, comma, separated value to represent some of your contributions to this world. Civil rights activist, lawyer, filmmaker, innovator, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project. But I'm going to give a long winded intro. And I bear some patients with me, Valerie, because I think I need to do this. I think our listeners need to hear this, and I want you to hear it.
In November of twenty sixteen, I woke up after that election, having watched that election with a group of about 10 people, only two of whom had all four parents born in the United States of America. We were a witnessing of immigrants to our minds in this tragic moment in U.S. history. Roughly a month after that, I'm hanging out on Facebook where only bad things happen as far as I was concerned at that time, like that's where bad news comes to hunt you down.
That's where Russians interfere with the election. And I saw you I saw you say these words that spoke so true that said, what if this darkness that we're feeling that we're in is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb. And this isn't the death of our country. This is the birth. And that really moved me.
And it still moves me to even say it, to be able to say it to you. And then a few months later, I met you and I screamed from across a crowded room like some film scene.
That's the woman who moved me with such poetry because it has felt like such a dark time. That day felt dark. But we've been in years of what has seemed to be like darkness. So I say that as I set up one. Thank you very much for that moment and for being a light in darkness to help draw so many of us out of that. To welcome to had it is it's good to have you. That is a welcome, sir.
Thank you, brother.
You're very welcome. Thank you. And I say you can say that's why you're here.
Please say that question. Is this the darkness of the tomb or is this the darkness of the womb? It is the question I have been asking myself every day. And I think it's both. I think it's both when, you know, almost one hundred and fifty thousand people have been killed by this virus, the scale and scope of which was preventable if we had real leadership, disproportionately people of color, when we see George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Richard Brooks, all those that we have lost, that we will never be able to get back, it feels as though death has one.
And there's also a bit of dying of the notion of the nation that we thought we were, and yet we're also seeing millions of people flood city streets in their grief, in their rage, rising up, breathing together, reimagining together in a revolutionary moment for black lives and racial justice that, frankly, I never thought I would see in my lifetime. And when we see a wall of white people in front of black people kneeling in the street in front of an army of police officers, these are images we didn't see in nineteen sixty eight or nineteen ninety two.
And so I keep thinking, am I seeing glimpses, are we seeing glimpses of the America that is longing to be so. Yeah. Breathe and push. Breathe.
Breathe and push. You have acknowledged, Bill, on borrowed from a number of traditions in your work, Valerie, you are a lawyer. You have a degree in law, you have a degree in divinity. You have a degree of bachelor's arts from a lot of institutions. You are very credentialed. The thing that I'm actually most curious about, it came very early in your book, No Stranger. You know, I grew up on 40 acres in Clovis, California.
And I want to know, did you have a mule as well, like did you have 40 acres and a mule? Because I'm just I'm still looking for that. And I was lucky to have a mule.
We didn't even have a cow. My dad got the cow, but he's got aubury.
Yeah, my my family has lived and farmed in California for more than a century. And so I grew up with such a deep connection to this land, to this soil. And I was raised with my grandparents. So I still grew up with the stories and the scriptures in the songs of my sick faith. And so that was my orientation to the world and it wasn't severed, of course, until I experienced my first racial slur, like so many of us young kids of color.
And I feel like my whole life has been a journey of returning to feeling at home, in my body, at home, in the world, the project that we are embarking on, not just as a podcast, but as a society.
It feels like we have. This moment, we're at this tipping point and which way we tip is not a foregone conclusion, it's not guaranteed to be great, but it's also not guaranteed to be devastating. So toome or woom feels like it's up to us. Yes, you just said in my body and I think there is a lot of this work which feels very external. It's about giving money to organizations. It is about getting to know our neighbors as real people and supporting folks on the ground, doing work and really engaging with our democracy, with our bodies out there.
But what do you think? You might have some thoughts on the internal work. What is the the body of each of us? How do we get in touch with what is the role of that? I think in this act of citizenship, of power to the people.
Yes. Nocco, Betty Najiba, Gamla Nakul, Betty, Najiba Garner. I see no enemy. I see no stranger. These were the words of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sick Faith, and really he was just lifting up a call to love that has been on the lips of indigenous leaders and spiritual teachers and social reformers for so many centuries. And this is not about a belief that we hold in our head. I mean, anti-racism is in the air and so many good people are holding it as an idea in their minds, like trying to be anti-racist, trying to be and actually it doesn't work to be truly anti-racist is to orient to the world in a new way.
And so I'm inviting people into thinking about what it means to see stranger George Floyd, brother Rihanna, Taylor, sister, their children, our children. When we see no strangers who are brave enough to see a stranger, then it must mean being brave enough to let their grief into our own hearts and to fight for them when they are in harm's way. So revolutionary love is when we are brave enough to see no strangers, not out there and not in here.
And for so many people of color, we live in a culture that wants to make a strange to ourselves and wants to sever us from our own inner knowing. And so the book's stranger is about what it means to practice love to labor and love for others, even for our opponents and for ourselves. It's a way of moving through the world that is both personal and political. And it's how we lost. I really rather you talked about leaving the country, not by choice.
I actually left the country by choice over the election. Right. I was so breathless. People were saying, well, how do we breed? How do we push? And I said, I, I don't know. I know one year, but I don't know out here.
And so I was given a gift that very few women who are mothers and activists are ever given. It was given time off and a room of my own. And I went to a rainforest in Central America with my family. And I took my first deep breath. And I had taken in so many years, really since 9/11, since I've become an activist and I poured through the stories of my life and the stories of social movements in the past and through our wisdom traditions.
And I began to see patterns which I came to call practices of revolutionary love. And so I wrote this book for my own survival so that I could come back to the country. And last, I believe when we labor in love, it's how we lost. And I want to last I want to grow old. I want to grow old with you.
Paper Ghosts is a true crime podcast that investigates the search for the person responsible for the abductions of four missing girls in neighboring New England towns for more than 50 years. Each case has remain unsolved. Every day is like being lost in limbo. I pray every day that we find Lisa so we can go on. It wasn't until this past year that things took an unexpected turn. Breakthrough answers to decades old questions and witnesses finally ready to talk.
I don't think time I can describe what he's wearing. It's only a mile away. Jesus, Mary and Josephine. I hope that sort of brave for many of you know what I think it is. Paper Ghosts premiers September 9th, listen on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. What if we reimagine the word citizen not as a weapon to divide us, but as a verb, inviting us all to wield our collective power pretty dull Ponte in this time of pandemic and revolution, you may find yourself frustrated at high levels of corruption and inequality, at our inability to get basic things done at the persistence of systemic racism.
You are not alone. I'm Baratunde Thurston. I've produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House and screamed way too much at my screen.
Now I've made a show for us. In it we highlight people mobilizing their communities, having an impact on some of the biggest challenges we face. We offer you ways to get involved and we remind you that we, the people, have the collective power to change how our society works and for whom. Listen to how a citizen with Baratunde on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcast.
You mentioned September 11, 2001, as a moment of the birth of your own activism. What does that event and the consequences of it, what does that mean for you? Oh, it was a new era for us, for all of us, but especially for those of us who are Muslim or sick in the wake of the horror of those attacks. We know that hate violence erupted across city streets and the first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11 was focusing.
So a man I knew, a sick, turbaned father who I called uncle. So this was before social media. This was before we had any channels, any ways to tell our own stories. Just ahead, email. Right. We barely had email. There were just listservs where people are saying, my father has been shot, my brother has been beaten, help someone save us. And I was a 20 year old college kid. I had an old camera.
I got in my car. I drove across the country and began capturing these stories of my community. And that was the beginning of my life as an activist. And, you know, back then, by Rotundo, we we thought that we even called it the backlash. Know, we thought it was going to be this narrow, finite era in history that we would look back on. And the backlash never ended. We're almost 20 years later. And second, Muslim Americans are five times more likely to be targets of hate than we were before 9/11.
And with every film, with every lawsuit, with every campaign, I thought we were making the nation safer for the next generation. And then this president takes power. Hate crimes skyrocket once again, rivaling what we saw after 9/11. And now I'm a new mother. I thought, oh, my God, my son is being raised in a country more dangerous for him than it was for me or even for my grandfather who arrived one hundred years ago.
How am I going to last? So the labor for justice and black people know this. I came to this late, right? You know, they that the labor for justice is long and hard and it may go on after we leave this earth. And so how do we last? How do we labor in love? So the labor itself becomes an end in itself, that the labor becomes joyful. I believe that laboring for justice with with joy is the meaning of life.
You you use the phrase in the book that I have tried to use to describe this show that I've seen others doing similar work do, which is living in community. We're inside of an experiment. We're in a petri dish. We call this a democratic experiment. But I don't think we often return to the meaning of that. Like we're trying something that's called an experiment is we're trying to live together to labor and love together, in your words. What are some places, some examples where you've been a part of community efforts to labor and love together?
Oh, I'm taken back to. The aftermath of the massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012. White supremacists walks into a gurdwara, opens fire, it's the largest attack on sticks in our history on the soil, and it rarely gets the kind of media attention that other mass shootings get. And long after the news media left, we stayed, we stayed to watch the community grieve together and breathe together and hold each other in their rage and and invite their neighbors to grieve with them.
That memorial I remember just looking into the open caskets of people who look like my own aunts and uncles, and I just lost it and. I looked behind me and there were thousands of people pouring through those doors, three thousand people came to grieve with us. And what I've discovered is that grieving is front line social justice work while people grieve together, then organize together.
And so, so many of those people who grieved with us were the people who stood by our side as we spent a year demanding that the government start tracking hate crimes against our community. And we won. We changed federal hate crimes policy. We won. So I think about all the grieving that's happening now in the streets since George Floyds murder and how in our grief and our bravery in our grief, we are building relationships and birthing revolutions that will actually and are actually dismantling and reimagining institutions of power in this country.
Thank you for that, because, again, I'm learning with you as I listen, I'm also my listener, and I think the idea that action in a democracy, you know, civic engagement, these words which are so unemotional in most cases, they feel like they require kind of explicit. Policy or political intent or execution, and what you just described is a very human. Act of empathy to grieve with the community even, and maybe especially if you're not a member of that community, to show up for someone else in numbers as a prelude to what starts to look like the word, organize it.
But it sounds like it's a helpful, if not necessary precondition.
And that's a work that we are doing about reclaiming love as a force for justice, that grieving together is revolutionary love and holding each other in our rage is revolutionary love. And listening to each other is revolutionary love and reimagining the country together as revolutionary as well as the big acts of policy demand that you are naming that all of that is part of an ecosystem, of a healthy movement, a vibrant movement that's grounded in the ethic of love.
Yeah. I want to get your thoughts on. Power, you dropped that word a while back, it often feels like something we are subject to the powers that be concentrations of power acting upon the rest of us, and we are just sort of passengers in the power mobile maybe being run over by that power mobile. How do you envision conceive of power, especially with respect to the work that you're up to and the movements you've been a part of? Well, there's different forms of power, right, the kinds of power you are naming is political power.
Power of the state, power to divide, to oppress, to crush. But when I think about my black sisters and brothers, siblings in my life who inspire me most, they are powerful in their resilience. They are powerful in their wisdom. They are powerful in their ability to love beyond limit. And so I think it's helpful then to think about how we. As a generation are called to live into an untap that kind of power to reimagine the country and we're seeing it.
Do you remember Bhatinda after this president took power? It was all about resistance. Yeah, the hashtag resistance.
You'd like t shirts like we were the resistance. And I was proud of us. I thought it was bold and necessary for our survival, but I was so deeply worried because we were always going to be trapped in an us and them and an adversarial relationship that put them in power. Yeah. And kept us power less if we were just resisting. And what I'm so inspired by now is that we are moving from resistance to reimagining, reimagining every institution on the face of this country, not just policing and public safety and criminal justice, but our economies are in the small institutions in our lives, our our families, our workplaces, our industries, our houses of worship.
I think about how all of the great social reformers in history and I'm going to read just a piece of this book to you, they they did more than just resist a few bad actors. They held up a vision of the world as it ought to be. Non-exchange it, Muhammad let it, Jesus taught it, Buddha envisioned it, King dreamt it, Dorothy Day labored for it. Mandela lived it. Gandhi died for it gracefully. Boggs fought for it for seven decades.
They called for us not just to unseat bad actors, but to reimagine the institutions of power that order the world. Any social harm can be traced, institutions that produce it, authorised it or otherwise profit from it. To undo the injustice, we have to imagine new institutions and step in to leave them that act of reimagining institutions.
Sounds big. When I hear names like Gandhi and Grace Lee, Bugs and King, I'm like, those are big people. They're big names. They lead folks. They walked into the firing line sometimes almost literally. What is the person who is unknown to most of us? To do in the act of reimagining what is the role of the UN celebrity of the citizen in this reimagining that is so important? Isn't that what you're doing with this podcast? Isn't this a container for all of us to hear voices and stories about how to reimagine the country, reimagine the world and our tiny piece of it?
All of us have a sphere of influence, a community within reach that we can labor inside and help transition. I'm going to read one more piece of this because I feel like it's something that I had to remind myself of when I feel so overwhelmed and I feel like I am not enough to remember the stars of my childhood in the country, I could look up and see the stars. I had forgotten the stars. After so many years of activism, I'd forgotten to look up the stars, burning so strong and long that their light reaches us long after they have died.
Isn't that what our lives and our activism should look like? Not the supernova. A single outburst under pressure. We must be the long burning star, right and study contained and sustained for our energy to reach the next generation long after we die, and to be part of a constellation. Let us see ourselves as part of a larger picture. Even if we are like the second star on Orion's belt or the seventh of the Seven Sisters. For there is no greater gift than to be part of a movement larger than ourselves.
That means that we only need to be responsible for our own small patch of sky, our specific area of influence. We need only to shine our particular point of light, long and steady, to become part of stories sewn into the. That's beautiful. Can you just read the whole whole book to us? Oh, we can do it in chapters.
We can do it in installments or whatever works out for you that the vision of each of us as a star.
First of all, that's OK because we're all stars and the constellation that the night sky is not about one star. All right. It's about the collection of stars which paint this beautiful picture. And we're in the sort of cosmic concert together. So I like that. Being a source of light isn't just something we look to the sun for. The sun is merely a star. So for anyone who feels like I'm not Gandhi like that, you don't have to set that bar.
You're a star to the word citizen is something that I. Wasn't certain I wanted to put in the title of this show because of its. Negative meaning because there are people who have that legal status and people who don't, and I didn't want to send that signal to draw that line in the sand. Well, this is only for people with a Social Security number for the right paperwork. And I had to step back from that and say, no, this is we're going to reclaim.
We're going to reimagine. Right. That was that was the point. Yes. What do you make of the word citizen in the context of the work in your life, in the context of your family's century long history in this country? Or maybe that legal status wasn't always available and we have the current battles over who deserves to be seen as a person with citizen kind of hanging in the balance.
Oh, that word citizen. I have struggled over the words precisely because it was something that was denied to my family for so long. And now that we have it, I always thought, in the words of Hunter rent that the citizenship was that thin membrane to protect us from state violence. And now even that is not enough, especially if you are sick or Muslim in this country thinking about all that we have suffered in the form of national security policies since 9/11, and that is alongside our Latin brothers and sisters and siblings or other indigenous folks.
I mean that the word citizen is not the kind of protective label that we thought it was that I thought it was. And so I like what you're doing, brother, I like what you're doing, you're reclaiming it and you're reimagining it, you're infusing it with new meaning so that it's no longer about illegal status, but about a set of responsibilities and a set of callings for how to show up in the world with bravery, with integrity and with dignity.
And for you to say no, all of us, all of us can become all of us, our citizens. And into citizen is a verb. It's an action that we take. I in my offering is like I believe that we citizen through revolutionary love. I believe that showing up with revolutionary love is how it's a citizen.
Welcome to the Criminally, a podcast. I'm Holly Fry. And I'm Maria Tomoaki. And together we're exploring the intersection of history, a true crime. Our first season of the show is all about lady poisoners. Sometimes women take power for themselves and sometimes they do it through murder. But how many were just misunderstood? Join us on criminality as we untangle their stories on the radio app Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Powerful and ancient, they exist right alongside us in their own dimensions, their own tribes and their own kingdoms. Some say they are the eternal mortal enemy of mankind. Others say they're so similar to us that we can befriend them like us. They're born and they die.
They fall in love and have children they hate and they destroy. But in truth, they are nothing like us.
Invisible, but as real as a smokeless flame that they're created out of, they are the hidden gem brought to you by I heart radio and Aramaic is grim and mild and written and narrated by me, Rabia Chaudry. The new podcast, The Hidden Gem journeys into a world that few may be aware of, but has existed since the dawn of time. The hidden gem, once worshiped and always feared, joined me to find out why. Then all the episodes of The Hidden Gin on Apple podcast, the I Heart radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts.
There's a part of your work and a part of this whole project, this experiment of living in community with others, that is very challenging when the others with whom we live. Our challenge to us, when we do not see eye to eye, when they are fighting tooth and nail to maybe deny and us some dignity, some resource, some livelihood, and we are living in a time right now of great division. In our experiment, it's always been divided.
The United States of America, never fully united, but now feels pressing. And there's things that you call for in your work that have to do with. Listening to engaging with, acknowledging those who we might think of as enemies, I think you call them opponents, I'd love to hear about that. The community is not all like minded.
And so the role of and the way to engage with those who are differently minded while not giving up the integrity of our own right to be, feels like a very important and potentially difficult path to walk. What are your thoughts?
Oh, it's so difficult. It's the hardest part. If I'm seeing no stranger, how do I look into the faces of people who disgust me, who I want to hate and see them as a part of me? I do not yet know. I mean, what does it mean to love them? The audacity to ask that and. When I think about what you're doing with the word citizen, you have to be citizens and you have to citizen in community, right?
So, too, I believe that we as citizens all have different roles in the labor for justice at different times. So if you are someone right now who has a knee on your neck, like so many black people and brown people do right now, it is not necessarily your role to look up at your oppressor and wonder about him or listen to him or even try to love him. Your job is to stay alive. Your job is to take the next breath.
Your job is to survive. That is your revolutionary act. But if you are someone by virtue of your white skin or whatever privilege you wield, who is safe enough and brave enough to sit with those kinds of opponents. Then perhaps it is your role to tend to their wounds, because what we know to be true is that no matter who is elected on Election Day in November, all those disaffected white folks out there, they're still going to be around the next day.
So what do we do with them? And this book is filled with stories of times. And I have sat with white supremacists. I have sat with prison guards and soldiers. I've sat with former abusers. And every time I want to leave, I stay. Right. It's a discipline to stay and keep listening. And beneath their slogans and soundbites, I start to hear their story. And then I start to see their pain. I start to see their wound.
I have learned that there are no such thing as monsters in this world. There are only human beings who are wounded, who do what they do out of their own sense of insecurity or anxiety or greed or blindness. And their participation in oppression comes at a cost. It cuts them off from their own capacity to love. So the thing about this, Baratunde, revolutionary love is to labor for others, our opponents and ourselves. It is not just moral.
It is strategic. It is pragmatic because once I gain information, there we go.
She's a spy. I knew there was a hook.
I'm like, wait for it. Wait for it. Here it comes. Yes. Tell me about the strategy of this strategy is like I need to know what you're listening to.
What radio programs I was putting the guns in your hands. What institutions are radicalizing you or authorizing you to hurt us? And then I can be so much more smart about our strategies for campaigning for change. I mean, our goal then is not just to unseat a few bad apples, a few bad police officers, or even to unseat this president. I mean, we need to do that. But I'm more interested in changing the conditions that put him into office in the first place.
I'm more interested in dismantling and or reimagining the institutions of power that harm all of us. I mean, our suffering is not equal, but those who hold the keys to ourselves, who are trained, who are trading their eyes to see us as animals, that, too, takes a cost. Yeah. And so what does it mean to hold up a vision that liberates all of us that that is our revolutionary intervention?
I thank you for that. The strategy got me and I think that there was purpose to it. It isn't just self. Flagellation. No, look how much I can suffer. Look how noble I am to walk into the lion's den.
There's lions and, you know, so it's like understanding to I'm going to run this lion metaphor too far, understanding what the lions eat, understanding why they look at you the way they do what their needs are.
And I think, you know, the way you just described some of these individuals that you've interacted with. With their wounds, you're in a relationship with them, and I think that in a collective sense, we're in a relationship with our nation and our nation has wounds. Right. And it has traumas in its pasts and it has pain.
And for us to not merely condemn but seek to wonder about and understand this place that we have a right to, that if we're here, we have a right to it.
Papers or not, we've contributed something. That we can apply some of those same metaphors and same lessons to that collective relationship as well as our individual ones in our lives.
Yes, that's it. And I always say that we need all three kinds of practices of love for love, to be revolutionaries, for so loving just our opponents. That is self-loathing loving just ourselves. That is escapism. Yeah. And loving just others. That's ineffective. And to many of our movements have been there, and I'm really proud of the deep bonds of solidarity that we are seeing and how people are loving each other and our movements for justice.
But how many young activists are dying early or taking their lives or getting sick or opting out? We're not building enough spaces to help each other, love ourselves, to love our own flesh and blood so that we will last. And then how many of us are tempted to mirror the kind of vitriol that we are fighting? We cannot become what we are fighting against. So this ethic of love to hold each other in community and to start to practice and cultivate love for ourselves, even for our opponents and others, that, I think, is how we can sustain each other in a way that we can last with integrity, with our souls intact.
Well, I mean, I definitely want my soul to be intact. And even though that was on the line. Thank you.
You just raised the bar, our ourselves opponents and others, three oaths.
I like that. You've got to design this whole thing. There's a piece of. Go ahead.
Sorry, I add I mean, this is this is why I draw heavily from black thinkers in this book, heavily from Bell Hooks and Audrey Ward and Toni Morrison. I shall permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him, said Booker T. Washington. Toni Morrison. Hey, does that burns off everything but itself? So whatever your grievance is, your face looks just like your enemies.
I choose to love my opponents. I choose to see their humanity in order to preserve my own. Laboring to love my opponents is also how I love myself. This is not the stuff of saintliness. This is our birthright.
If we if we do this work. Of love, radical, revolutionary, and we do it in community. What do we risk if we don't focus on the self, on the work that we have to do and say, what do you think happens if we have this sort of imbalanced approach?
I think by your own definition of the whole approach, we lose everything, don't we? I don't know. But when this president took power and I was putting my son to sleep at night. There was a voice in my head that was like, I can't I can't live in this world, I'm not strong enough. I had I had pushed for so long and so hard and ground my own bones to the ground and thought that serving meant I had to suffer and keep myself suffering, that I had forgotten that my own life, that my own body was beloved and worth fighting for.
And it took this year in the rain forest for me to really begin to understand that we can't. Last, if were not loving ourselves, and I don't call it self-love, when you are barely hanging on by a thread, it's not your job then to love. You need to you need community to help you. We don't give birth alone. We don't go to battle alone like in any long labor, including the labor of keeping ourselves healthy and alive and well.
We need each other. We depend on each other. So cultivating communities of care where we are taking seriously are our own precious lives. I worry sometimes about this incredible, energetic, new rising generation. I see myself in them. I remember what it was like to get arrested for the first time and, you know, to speak truth to power, holding a megaphone in the streets. And and I also just want to tell them, Obree, breathe, my love is going to be one long labor.
Are you sleeping enough? You drink enough water. You breathing. Who is going to have your back and how will you remember to love yourself well enough. So in twenty years you can last so you don't have that voice in your head like I had in mind.
I could spend five hours with you. I will not. But I think I have two more thoughts. Questions. So much of what the focus of our civic energy right now in the US is is about this president. As it was eight years ago with the last presidential transition, we just get rid of this president, we will solve things or we hate so much because there is so much to hate about the actions and the cruelty done in our name through this administration.
Do you have any concern that we have in focusing on this president actually giving this person too much power?
Oh, of course. I even thought that this president was an aberration, that if we just could remove him, it would all be OK again. But we know that normal was never OK for black and brown and indigenous people. And it took me going to the rainforest and really seeing my country from the outside of it for me to really reckon with. Genocide and slavery, I mean, that farmland that I grew up on, that was my own that I belong to.
There is blood in that land. Just a few decades ago, the largest, most documented genocide of native peoples took place in California, and a few decades later, my grandfather arrived as if those people were never there and we were complicit. Right. And so if we take indigenous people's memories as a true starting point of the history of the Americas, then this presidency is not an aberration. It is a continuation of what helped found this country of the white supremacist violence that has built this country through slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, mass incarceration now and so.
So once we understand that, once we see this president as simply a symptom, I mean, the ugliest form of that symptom, so vivid, so in front of our faces every day. But if we just remove him, all of the institutions that were founded on those beliefs, all of the cultural norms that that move through him and his body and brother like those don't go away. And all of his supporters don't either. So what we're talking about is a much longer transition.
And this is the timeline. I know we're looking to November and it does matter. I mean, I really do want to unseat this president because then we give ourselves a chance to labor for our nation instead of just being in crisis response mode. And that's what too many of us did right under Obama.
Like it's done. We went home and it's like, no, no. Actually, the window opens. The labor begins, begins. Because this moment that we are in, we are in a much larger transition moment. Within twenty five years, the number of people of color will exceed the number of white people for the first time since colonisation. So, yes, we are at a crossroads. Will we continue to descend into a kind of civil war, a power struggle with people who want to return America to a past for certain class of white people, hold power?
Or will we begin to birth a nation that has never been on the face of this planet, a nation made up of other nations, a nation that is truly multiracial, multifaith, multicultural, where we see no stranger? Those are the stakes. And with climate change, you know, time is running out.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, what we do with our generation does not just between now and November, but past November. Oh, it matters. It matters not only for the future of our country, how we citizen matters for the future of the Earth and for the future of humanity.
I literally couldn't have said it better myself. Now, normally, when you got a show called Had a Citizen with Baratunde and your guest says something that powerful, you cut the interview, it's over.
That's a wrap, but. I couldn't let it go at that, Valerie said one more thing that I think you need to hear. So check out what she did and learned about herself on election night. Twenty sixteen. On election night, I keep going back there because we're about to experience another election night, right as the results came in, I remember, you know, her seizing my my body and my hand on my mouth. And my son, who was almost two at the time, tugged my sleeve and said dance time on me.
And I looked at my husband saying, not tonight. I mean, how the last thing and my husband looked at me and he just shrugs and he says, your rules. You said every night looks I like to lay the rules. OK, so we turn down the music. And in the beginning. Oh, my God, Britney, I was so miserable. I just laying back and forth. I just felt like I was a zombie, so dead.
And my son. Baby, you're a firework. And he leaps into my arms and suddenly he's like, throw me up on me.
Boom, boom, boom.
We've invited him up and he's squealing and he's laughing. And suddenly I'm laughing and he's dancing and I'm dancing. And Baratunde, that we were dancing on election night.
I mean, I just anyone who may have, like, seen into your home from a distance, I can imagine what they're thinking, which is like those are not the people I would have thought celebrating tonight.
But hey, is America's.
That's right. And afterwards, I felt this energy rising up in my body. Which I can only describe as a joy and I thought, oh, in the Sikh faith, it's culture, Nicola, ever rising spirits, even in the darkness, joyfulness, even in the labor. And I thought, oh, joy is our greatest act of moral resistance. Joy returns us to everything that is good and beautiful and worth fighting for. Joy will give us energy in this long labor for justice.
So how are you protecting your joy every day?
You know, so you feel that to write that mind expansion, that heart expansion, that doneness of Valerica, who I knew was powerful, that's why I booked her.
But, you know, she blew me out the water and I'm still hearing her words. I'm hearing her say there are no such things as monsters in this world, only human beings who've been wounded. I'm hearing her say, love ourselves, others and our opponents, I'm hearing her say how we citizen matters for the future of the Earth and the future of humanity. I mean, no pressure. New show. Wow. We make this show for you not just to listen to, not just to watch, and we have video as well, we make this show to give us all the way to practice how to citizen to turn outrage and our energy into actions that, when taken together on the topics we explore in this series, will have an impact on our communities.
Like I said at the beginning of this show, how the citizen at its core is about relationships with ourselves and with others. So when each episode we're going to share things you can do internally and externally to strengthen your citizen practice. When I call it a citizen practice, it reminds me of my older sister Belinda and her yoga studio and her yoga practice. So this is for you. This but this episode. Here's what you can do. We've adapted something straight out of Valerie's book, See No Stranger.
It's a writing exercise.
And we want you to spend 15 minutes on it to reflect internally on these five prompts. Now, this reflection is about the journey, not the destination. This is not about having the right answers or the shortest one word answers that are going to assure you a great, great.
We're not grading. Spend some time. Breathe into this and push out the answers that feel most true for you. Laying this kind of foundation is going to be important later as we start taking actions focused a bit more on external relationships with others. So the five props, number one. What is your superpower in our fight to make society better for us all? Is it your voice is European? Is it a bank account? Number two, what protects you and who has your back when things get tough?
Number three, who is your beloved community, your revolutionary packett, the group of people you connect most with, the group that will show up when things get tough? Number four, what object or activity will ground and center you and remind you of who you are? Where do you find joy and what are you going to do every day to protect that joy? We would love to hear, see or just read your reflections to any or all of these questions.
Email us old school action at How to Citizen Dotcom, help us out by mentioning Episode zero or Prelude in the subject line. We are so grateful to Valerie Kowa for helping us give birth to this show.
Please check out her Revolutionary Love Project Dotcom, or dive into her book and curriculum at Zino Stranger Dotcom and follow her on Twitter at Valrico, vla, risc, K.A., you are. And if you like what you experienced here, please share this show. Leever Review Five Stars is my humble suggestion and sign up for my newsletter at Baratunde Dotcom, where I will announce the upcoming live tapings and more from audience members like you. You can even send me a text to 202 eight nine four eight eight four four.
Let me know you found me. I just put in the word citizen so I know where you came from and I'll send you updates that way as well. How does it fit in with Baratunde? Day is a production of I Heart Radio Podcast Executive produced by Nick Stumpf, Miles Gray, Elizabeth Stewart and Baratunde Thurston. Produced by Joel Smith. Edited by Justin Smith.
Powered by Hugh. Paper Ghosts is a true crime podcast that investigates the search for the person responsible for the abductions of four missing girls in neighboring New England towns for more than 50 years. Each case has remain unsolved. Every day is like being lost in limbo. I pray every day that we find Lisa so we can go on. It wasn't until this past year that things took an unexpected turn. Breakthrough answers to decades old questions and witnesses finally ready to talk.
I don't think I can describe what he's wearing. It's only a mile away. Jesus, Mary and Josephine. I hope that's sort of grave for many of you know what I think it is? Paper Ghosts premiers September 9th, listen on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. High people to get here, maybe you know me as mayor, Pete, we know that this is the first year of the twenty 20s has been one of chaos and anguish.
But I believe now is the beginning of America's deciding decade, a time that will present leaders and all Americans with decisions that will shape life in this country for the rest of this century. In my new podcast, I'll be talking to people from every field whose ideas and actions will shape the era that is about to begin. I look at everything through a racial list.
Is this going to perpetuate systemic racism or is it going to help dismantle while the rest of the country and the elected officials have to start doing that? They have to know what systemic racism is.
When people protest in a culture that means they still love it enough, but they still believe change is what I have hope that we are actually going to figure out how to allow people to be free.
Halvard Free Thinkers.
The Deciding Decade premieres September 9th. Listen on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.