“It is impossible to be raised by a good father and support abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, LGBT folks who are clearly mentally ill… even it's a lie that racism exists." I just finished my first hardcore conservative news radio interview – and those were words the host spoke to me in the context of our hourlong one-on-one conversation. I believe that I was raised by an exceptional father AND mother, yet I support those very human rights – to which the host and author took clear issue. He identifies as a Christian American man, NOT African-American, and had me on to discuss the President and rise of white supremacy, though the conversation ranged far more broadly. "Donald Trump is a real man,” he informed me, while proudly showing the Trump emblem on his t-shirt in studio. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by much of anything anymore, but I found myself flabbergasted by the alternative facts he spewed with confidence and pride. I refuted each lie and spoke to the issues with passion, data, and clarity – ranging from education to criminal justice reform, gender to immigration, environment to refugees and beyond.
I am appalled, offended and saddened by many of his comments and points of view, a reflection of those held by large swathes of the American population, including his active listener base, and will never in any way condone such language or online/offline action. But I will tell you this: I learned more in one hour of talking with him and the nationwide callers during the final segment (I only wish there were time for many more!) than I have in a long while. This sort of dialogue with individuals who hold dramatically differing opinions, yet are willing to come to the table to discuss politics, social issues, race, economics, gender, crime, immigration, you name it is critical and all-too-rare in the divided, broken, vitriolic society and systems today.
While I do not believe that all of my points resonated, we did get somewhere on the topic of refugees – and for that, I am proud to be of service. One caller asked that if I loved these people (using slurs and repeating reprehensible language) so much, why did I not welcome them in my home? I spoke from personal experience, saying that I was actively trying to get a few of the brilliant, special, driven, educated, peaceful souls I met into the United States, where I do plan to humbly be their host – and that while in Europe working with refugees throughout Greece, I had in fact welcomed and hosted many in my car, in my cabin, in my hotel. Both he and the host were shocked by my answer, saying it was the first they’d heard of anyone doing such a thing. Clearly, they are not listening, as I am but one of countless people who have done, championed and sacrificed so much more. Another caller said we should not deal with refugees in the US, rather only in their home nations – to which I replied that we do, in fact, need to take decisive action to address the root causes of refugee crises and migration patterns. The man thanked me for that view, which I noted was not toeing a party line or blindly regurgitating Liberal or Progressive talking points.
And in the end, the host asked if I would come back on his radio show to share more stories and perspectives. Does that mean something resonated!? I can only hope – and that we continue to speak truth to power wherever, whenever and however possible.
We need bold, independent thinkers to rise up, speak out and come together to discover, develop and deploy common sense solutions for the common good in every sector – which will make an already great American even greater, protecting and defending human rights and sustainable environments, while supporting and enhancing our communities, our country and our world.
(Written quickly post-radio show, now off to work on a refugee project!)