Because of the length of this episode, the essay and transcript are in separate posts. There is no charge for the transcript posts, please don't worry about the numerous notificatons. DRIP has a limit to how many characters can appear in each post, and the length of this podcast meant we needed to break it up into three parts! I hope you enjoy this episode. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorites.
Debbie: Anand, in your next book, "The True American ‑‑ Murder and Mercy in Texas," you focused on a brutal story in America that also involved immigrants. After September 11th, 2001, a man in Dallas, Texas, walked into a mini‑mart, asked the clerk where he was from and shot him in the face with a shotgun. In the man's mind, this was retribution for the terrorist attack. The victim was a former Air Force officer from Bangladesh, a man named Raisuddin Bhuiyan. He was one of three people shot that day by Mark Stroman and the only one to survive. He would go on to forgive his attacker, and also champion for him to be spared the death penalty. You initially came across this story as a tiny brief in The New York Times. How did you know there was so much more to this story?
Anand: I was wrestling for a couple of years after my first book with this theme of what was going on in America. I was writing columns for the newspaper, The New York Times, at that time about what was going on. My sense was, at the time, this was right after the recession with the country very much still in economic shambles for many, many people. There was this deeper sense of a turning of the American dream being in crisis, perhaps, not being real anymore, perhaps, having never been real for some people and now being exposed in this more honest way.
I set about thinking about that for a while and thinking about ways to tell that story. Could I find a pair of brothers, one of whom rose out of poverty, and one of whom didn't? You create these fake scenarios and then try to find real people. It's interesting. People often don't talk about this. I teach writing now. People often don't realize how engineered some of these beautiful stories are because you, sometimes, have to actually think in your mind where would this idea I'm looking for, where would it naturally occur?
In the same way, scientists look for natural experiments. The more I thought about it, I felt like the fundamental story I wanted to tell that interested me about America in that moment was how resilient the American dream was proving for some of us, while it had utterly deserted others of us.
It occurred to me that that was what was actually weird about America in this moment. Then one day, I came across this little news brief in the newspaper, as you said, that says, "Texas executed this guy last night. So far, so Texas, nothing unusual."
The second, or third, or fourth sentence said, "In his final days, his victim, Rais Bhuiyan had been fighting to save his life from the death penalty." The combination of the name and the idea of someone fighting to save your life when they're a victim but they're still alive was unusual."
That was 9:00 AM. By 11:00 AM, I had called out to my wife and said, "You know, I think this is like the next big thing I'm going to work on" because I just had this feeling, after a couple of hours of research, that it was the Holy Grail.
This was a small bounded story of a couple of people and the people around them over a bounded period of time in a bounded setting that, if you looked at it closely, could tell you so many other things about so many other things.
Could get to this question of how the dream in this country has become so bifurcated. How it remains true for so many people and not for others.
What I loved about it was that it was the immigrant from Bangladesh who was a Muslim shot in the face who actually ended up embodying the America that still works, and still allows people to arise, and still gives people chances, and still has functioning institutions.
It was the guy who was born with white privilege, who was a man who was self‑confident and thought America was the greatest, even though the only part of America he'd visited was Dallas. It was he who actually embodied the America that stopped working.
Debbie: You wrote deeply and movingly about the notion of these two distinctly different Americans, Raisuddin and Stroman colliding, and said that the moral challenge of your generation is to reacquaint these two Americas. It seems especially pertinent in regards to the world we're still living in today, if not more so. Do you foresee a time when those two Americas can be reacquainted?
Anand: I would say two things about that. One, I got to see Trumpism without realizing it was Trumpism before there was Trumpism.
Debbie: That sets the stage for it in a lot of ways.
Anand: Because when I dug into that world, this was a crime story about which there was no dispute of the crime itself. Everybody knew what happened. There was not just this one shooting but actually three. In the other two, the guys both died. There's no doubt about who did it. The trial took a day or two. The questions that were left for me to investigate, as I wrote the book, were questions about why. By the way, those come up in the death penalty in the penalty phase, because in the penalty phase they actually have to ask not just what happened, but are there mitigating circumstances?
Why did you really do this? I had to go in and understand, apart from the prosecutor's story of this, what was motivating this guy? What I found was that, yes, he was trying to take retribution for 9/11, but 9/11 happened 10 days before he went to war.
We have to go deeper than just 9/11. 9/11's the thing that tipped him off. What I found was a braided white, working class, male anger that had many fathers. It was partly this feeling of living in this country that you don't recognize anymore because the Mexicans, the Muslims, and the women are all taking over.
It's partly this feeling of the economy becoming less prone to mobility. It's partly the effect of Fox News and things like it that have droned into the minds of many people who do not have the faculties, frankly, to know better.
This litany of talking points that explained, actually misexplained, reality to them. It's this sense of, in a very deep way, of men who don't know who to be in an equal world, and white people who don't know who to be in a world of inclusion and equality.
All of these forces which now as, I list them, sound so old hat because they have, unfortunately, been elevated [laughs] to the highest levels of our national life in the person of Donald Trump. I had to detect them and parse them in the life of Mark Stroman, in the letters he wrote, in the blogposts he ended up sending from death row, in the memories that his children, friends, and ex‑wife had of him. In a way, without being wise enough to realize that it was going to be Trumpism, I got this sneak preview of Trumpism, starting in 2011.
Debbie: A preponderance of gun violence.
Anand: Absolutely. In terms of, is there a prospect for the two Americas to be reacquainted? There absolutely is. I'm betting my life on it because I just don't think there's another choice, but, I think, it's going to be really hard.
There's a failure to understand on both sides of this question is what a hard thing we are attempting to do as a country. Mark Stroman's life and the backlash gives us some clues.
It's easy to make this about there being some racist people in Alabama. It's easy to make this about people not liking Barack Obama because they didn't like having a black president. It's easy to make this about inequality.
I actually think this is so much deeper. This country for 400 years has, essentially, been a country run and ruled by white men. In a relatively rapid burst of history, that is ending. It's not ended yet. In some domains, it's ending faster than others. In some, it may never end.
It may be slower than we think. We don't know, although all of us may be impatient for it to end. If you take a different historical view, this is actually happening incredibly fast. The language you and I use are terms we may not have known five years ago.
Debbie: For example...
Anand: White privilege. How much were you talking about white privilege five years ago? Some people in academia were talking about it. How much were we talking about people being cis five years ago? How many people knew that word five years ago?
Debbie: Or how to pronounce it.
Anand: People are very affected by that. We were talking about five years ago. How many people were not affected by it, or didn't think they were affected by it five years ago?
There's this rapid, rapid, rapid shift in our self‑understanding as a country. Who we are, who belongs, who is us? Who is American? Who is not American" Demographically, we're going to become this majority‑minority country.
No big country of this power and stature has ever actually done this. America, I say in the book, the true America is passing into new hands. I say that with two messages. The message, the people who don't like this, need to understand is this is happening. The train is moving. This new America is coming. It's not optional. You can kick out some Mexicans. You can make it a little harder for women in the workplace, like the new America's coming. It's going to take its revenge one way or another. It's a question of when. What people on my side of it who love the new America and can't wait for it to come fast enough need to understand. The new America's coming, but it's going to be really, really hard for so many people to understand who they are in the new world. Even if they are wrong, even if they don't deserve to be handheld into the new reality, even if you may feel that they've been fussed over too long and don't deserve to be fussed over as equality finally comes, we need to tend to those people who do not understand who they will be on the other side of the mountain.
If we don't, the next 40 years are going to be brutal. You're going to have a lot more Mark Stromans. You're going to have a lot more Donald Trumps, and you're going to have a lot more rage. You're going to have a lot more Fox Newses.
All of these things are symptoms of a disease that I think we sometimes don't see which is that this country is changing so fast, so quickly, so precipitously and fundamentally that it terrifies people. Toni Morrison has this great line, "What difference do it make if the thing you're afraid of is real or not."
What matters is that we have an unsustainably high number of people who don't know who they're supposed to be in the country that's coming. I think it is all of our problem to fix this and figure it out.
Debbie: That seems to be part of why Raisuddin sued the state of Texas to try and stop Stroman's execution. He first stated that his religious beliefs as a Muslim required him to forgive the man. The courts denied his request, and Mark Stroman was executed in 2011.
In your TED talk about the incident, you stated, "Raisuddin's mercy was inspired not only by faith. A newly minted American citizen, he had come to believe that Stroman was a product of a hurting America, that couldn't just be lethally injected away.
Where do we go from here? How do we bridge this gap? It's more than even reacquainting each other. It's about moving forward together. That seems a gargantuan task.
Anand: The other day I was talking to a psychologist, a big leader in psychology, relationships, and couples therapy. He's become very anguished by what's happening to the country.
He used this phrase that struck me. He said, "You know, we have to make sure we prevent a civic divorce. We're at risk of a civic divorce in this country."
Debbie: I worry that we're at risk of a civil war.
Anand: You can have a civic divorce, even if they're no guns in the streets and tanks. To continue with his metaphor, we need a couples' therapy for the nation.
Debbie: [laughs] Get Esther Perel on the case.
Anand: Exactly. One thing I've been thinking about is in any kind of relationship, reckoning like that, there's a real effort to ask people to just try to go a little bit beneath what the other side is saying explicitly to understand their need, understand the fear behind the thing they're saying.
I think for a lot of folks on the right, and the kind of Trumpers, and those who want to make America great again etc. the big thing I would ask them is to think about every time they see that there goes those young students protesting on campus, some speaker. There goes people really worried about bathroom signs.
When they think frankly that the Me Too movement is illiberal, is kind of scalping people that don't deserve to...
Anand: Right. What I would urge them is to understand what's going on beneath what they're observing. I think if they did that, what they might find is that for all of their belief ‑‑ and kind of what I call Great America versus Woke America ‑‑ for all the belief in Great America, and the American dream being amazing and the values and freedom of this country being amazing.
What a lot of these desperate signs that they may detect, what people are telling them is that actually those freedoms and values have not been evenly distributed. They haven't actually been extended to everybody, that a lot of people walk into a lot of rooms feeling unwelcome.
What I would say to people in kind of Great America is understand that all these people complaining about something, protesting something, walking out on something, building a movement around something are actually giving you an opportunity to make America what you think it is. They're pointing out bugs that you can fix.
They're pointing out ways in which the story you are very desperately clinging to about your country can be made more true. I think the same goes for what I would call Woke America, on the left. It's hard to look past a lot of what Woke America gets thrown its face. It's hard to look past the anger, it's hard to look past the racism.
I can't go on TV without being told on Twitter to back to my country which is Cleveland, Ohio. There's an incredible amount of degradation and abuse of women in online and offline spaces as we know. It's hard to ask Woke America to push past that, or do anything but resist that.
Yet I kind of fear that if resisting these things and avoiding them and keeping yourself safe from them is the only posture of Woke America, is the only focus then you are fighting the battle without making an effort to win the war. Because I think the only durable safety for people in Woke America is to persuade, not simply to resist these threats.
Anand: I mean, first of all, I've had jobs where I had to be in the objective role and I was. I used to work for the New York Times and I Tweeted differently than I Tweet now, but I think sometimes there's a kind of popular notion of what this objectivity thing means. That it's a little bit limited.
I'll give you some examples of things that fall into interesting question areas. Can someone who is a Democrat cover a presidential campaign? I think absolutely, yes. Does that mean you're not objective? Let's just hold that question.
Can you call the President of the United States a liar or do you have to only say according to PolitiFact, the president has lied on 132 occasions? Or can you just say, the President is a documented liar? Is that objective or not? In both of those cases, I am comfortable with a Democrat or a Republican, someone with their own political views, covering a campaign. I am comfortable with the New York Times or the Washington Post saying someone's a liar. There's some people who disagree with me.
I think there's a view of this kind of objectivity thing that's like only kind of neutered people ‑‑ who literally have no opinions, have no thoughts that are not just the recitation of facts ‑‑ can enter these domains of writing and reporting. I think that's wrong. What I think about objectivity as is as a craft, as a vocation.
It's a kind of work. It's a set of protocols. Let's shift the analogy because I find this works...people understand this very easily. If you take doctors, most doctors have a kind of sexual orientation. Most doctors in some sphere of their life are looking at the body in a certain way.
Most of us, most of the time when we go to the doctor, are somehow able because of their training and our trust, and the systems and institutions in our society, to understand that they're not looking at us that way in the context of the operating room. Yeah, there are exceptions and the people who abuse that. The same way people abuse that in journalism.
Most of the time, there's actually a set of protocols that have your doctor able to look at you in a way that is purely of the doctor‑patient relationship, despite whatever their kind of biases are. I think actually journalism is really similar to that.
Debbie: I think the key word there is trust. I think it also depends on where you're getting your information from. There is now a spectrum of objectivity and where Fox News or MSNBC fall on that spectrum is in a very, very different arena.
Anand: Part of what I'm saying is independent of that. What I'm saying is there are a set of protocols for ascertaining what facts are, what is true, that are not dissimilar from performing a surgery.
Debbie: Basically, what you're saying is that there's an almost passionless approach to it. You have a way of doing something that takes away the human subjectivity or the human fallibility, there's a protocol.
Anand: I don't think pilots put the gas on it when they're landing in places that they want to get to faster because they love those cities.
It sounds crazy what I'm saying, but there's a lot of people in the world who have personal feelings about things, who are able to follow careful protocols, and not allow how they feel about those things to decide how they do those jobs.
Debbie: We are seeing less and less of that happen in mainstream news organizations.
Anand: I don't think so. Maybe in Fox News but...
Debbie: That's what I'm talking about.
Anand: That's entertainment. That's propaganda. That's not...
Debbie: We know that. There's so many other people that don't.
Anand: If you look at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, if you look at those newspapers, they are all better than they were 10 years ago, 50 years ago. You cannot find a moment in the history of any American newspaper where it was better than they are now.
It's not popular to say it because their business models are in trouble, and these days the only thing we care about is business models. These are incredibly professional places, that just like pilots and surgeons, I think are trained in protocols of figuring out what is true, that are just able to completely make irrelevant their personal feelings about a candidate.
Debbie: I absolutely agree with you. I guess what I'm referring to are the Fox Newses and the Breitbarts and the...
Anand: Those are not news organizations.
Debbie: They're not news organizations to us, but we are in agreement and are in our own echo chamber about this. For the many millions of people that are getting their news from those places, that's what worries and concerns me about...
Anand: I don't know think they're getting news from those places, I think they're getting...
Debbie: That's the wrong word to be using. They're getting...
Anand: They're getting propaganda from those places.
Debbie: They're getting whatever information they're seeking.
Anand: That's not a question of objectivity. That's a different issue. The question you asked me was, what is objectivity in journalism? I think objectivity in journalism is as in many, many other professions, just as a surgeon is able to operate on a leg without thinking, "Well, that's a cute leg."
We all kind of know that surgeons are able to do that, most of them, we hope. I think journalists are able to evaluate a presidential campaign and objectively assess it without thinking like, "Man, I really hope this guy loses in November." Somehow most of us trust that with the surgeon and the leg, but very few of us trust it with journalism.
I actually don't think we're right when we don't trust it.
Debbie: In your 2016 TED Talk, "A Letter to All Who Have Lost in This Era" you wrote a letter about the haves and the have‑nots. You wrote a letter that is very much addressing the people that have so much more than most. You talk about how language is one of the only things that we truly share.
You go on to say that you sometimes use this joint inheritance to obfuscate and deflect and to justify yourself, but you're really talking about the world at large that have so much more and to rebrand what was good for me as something appearing good for us, when I threw around terms like the sharing economy, and disruption, and global resourcing.
Talk about why you wrote that letter. Talk about why you took the approach that you did in including yourself when in fact you probably didn't need to, and what you feel the reaction has been.
Anand: I had given that talk at TED the previous year about "The True American." They were having this event also in Canada the next year, and I was not planning to give a talk. Then Brexit happened.
Because Brexit happened that summer in a way that it felt linked to what was going to happen with Trump, it felt like it was part of this populous question around the world.
What I decided to do was to write a kind of letter of apology from the global elite to all the people who had not only been left behind, but who'd been bluffed into thinking that everything was good, everything was fine, and that all the complaints they had were made up. I'm in many ways a critic of the people I was pretending to be in the eye.
I decided as a literary form to write this letter from the winners of the age to those revolting in Brexit who would soon revolt in the election of Donald Trump. The idea was not to apologize to these folks and say, "Therefore, you're right about Brexit."
The idea was to say that many people in the world seemed on the brink of doing real damage to their societies, to the world order at large. What Brexit still bodes for the 70‑year project of European reconciliation is just barbaric.
What the election of Donald Trump and his foreign policy now bode for the postwar order, that the United States were the architect of, is barbaric. The fear in immigrants, and people of color, and women that have since been undammed, in some ways by both of those events, is barbaric.
I felt it was important to say to those people who are revolting that someone understood that the revolt didn't begin with their revolt, that they were revolting against something.
That even if the revolt, the substance of the revolt was wrong in my view, I understood that the America that I'm from played a part in creating the conditions for their revolt and inspiring it. I tried to kind of understand what our complicity was. People like me who've kind of lived in the lucky land.
What our complicity was in inspiring their revolt in the hope that there might be some taking of responsibility on both sides. The response was really interesting and overwhelming. There were a lot of people immediately stood up and clapped.
There were a significant minority of the kinds of folks who go to TED, who sat on their hands and didn't even clap and were very angry that I said things like, "I'm sorry that I've been focusing on immortality while down here your life was in some cases getting shorter.
"I'm sorry I've been focusing on colonizing space while it was being harder and harder to live here from any of you down here on earth." People didn't like that message because they like their little venture capital life extension programs, and their little moon conquest plans. They don't really care about the state of people around them.
It's been an amazing thing. I'll share a story with you. A few months ago, I was in Mexico with some friends. Over the course of the weekend, we were taking time to different meals to talk about each person's life and things on my mind and struggles.
I was in between these books and thinking about what do I do next, and often having this kind of moments of, "Is anything I'm doing really connecting with anybody? Is any of it really matter?" We're sitting there and on this like street in Mexico City, and this man walks by with his little son.
He's like, points at me and he says, "A letter to all who have lost in this era?" I was like, "Yeah." [laughs] He looked at his little 10‑year‑old son or whatever, and he was like, "This is the man in that TED Talk I showed you about all who have lost in this era." It was just this most surreal, weird moment.
You realize that you have no idea where you're reaching people, or how you're reaching them, or whose being reached. I'm often not reaching the people I wish I was reaching but maybe I'm reading some other people that I'd never imagined I was reaching.
Debbie: You've been very outspoken with your opinions about Facebook, and have this Tweet pinned to your Twitter profile. "Mark Zuckerberg will go down in history as a tragic figure and one befitting an age of billionaire savior delusions. He claimed to change the world even as he maimed his country.
"He pledged to rid the world of diseases while ignoring the disease he was spreading." Tell me a little bit more about why you feel this way.
Anand: I have spent the last couple of years after The True American working on a new book. It's not out yet but it's called "Winners Take All." It's trying to understand the following paradox. We live in this extraordinary age of rich and powerful people trying to "make a difference", change the world, give back. By raw numbers, we live in the most philanthropic time in the history of the world. If you are a rich person and you're not regularly talking about giving back, you're an outlier today. That said, America's more unequal than it's been in a hundred years. Half of Americans have, essentially, on average not gotten a raise since 1979. One percent of the planet now owns 50 percent of the wealth, and 10 percent owns 90 percent of the wealth.
We have this paradox of an enormous amount of elite concern, and the reality of a system that is as cruel as we've seen in a long time that siphons almost all of the gains of progress up to a very few. You and I know this because we live in New York. We know these people.
What I tried to understand is, what is the connection? If all these people are helping, why is the system so bad? What I started to understand was that this claim of changing the world, and sometimes even the well‑meaning intention and activity of attempting to change the world done by winners, is actually a critical part of keeping the world the same.
These billionaire saviors, those who insist that they must not only try to help, but lead the effort to promote greater equality from their perches atop the distribution of power often insist on changing the world in ways that protect their own privileges.
Do not disturb the social order. Do not risk anything that they hold dear. They will do charter schools, but they won't equalize how public schools are funded in this country. They will do lean in feminism, but they won't do the universal daycare that has shown across Europe to be actually the thing that allows women to go back to work.
They will support Goldman Sachs empowering 10,000 women through some CSR project, but they won't talk about Goldman Sachs costing many more women their homes through what it did in the financial crisis.
Mark Zuckerberg is this embodiment of the man who wears a hoodie, who never calls his company a company. He always calls it a community, and always claims to be emancipating someone somewhere, beaming the Internet across Africa.
Emancipating the people of India with free Internet that was actually just an assault on net neutrality, using his power to claim that he's this liberator of mankind while, in fact, he does business like Genghis Khan while, in fact, he is wiping out much of the American media industry.
Ask anybody who works in media in this country that's ever had a meeting with Facebook where you try and negotiate advertising or negotiate, "OK. How much would you pay us if we put our content on your platform?" It's a conversation between mafiosos.
Debbie: Why is this happening?
Anand: Because they're a monopoly on social. Google's a monopoly on search. I'm sorry. Standard Oil, steel companies, and all that of a hundred years ago, they were monopolies, they were all broken up, and AT&T, but it was steel. Steel's important, but these are our minds. These are monopolies that have total control over a billion or two minds at a time. These are companies that have declared that if they wanted to, they could probably tip election results. It is insane the power they have.
To me, it is a thousand fold the seriousness of any of the other monopolies that we have broken up in this country. You ask yourself, "Why aren't we treating it like monopolies? Why aren't young people who normally get agitated by gross abuses of power? Why are they, in fact, in love with these apps?
The reality of social is many young people are turning away from Facebook which is another thing. The moral glow that some of these folks have acquired through this notion of changing the world has been one of the most brilliant strategies in history for companies to not be seen as companies, to rebrand themselves as liberators of man.
Debbie: It seems almost preposterous at this point that we were ever talking about ‑‑ and I mean we, as in the rhetorical we, not you and I ‑‑ Mark Zuckerberg for president or Charles Sandberg for president, when, in fact, what they have willingly contributed to in terms of the situation that we find ourselves now in culturally is terrifying.
Anand: This is not a partisan point. You're absolutely right. It's Zuckerberg, it's Charles Sandberg, but it was also Bloomberg, the hankering that people had for Bloomberg to be president.
The feeling that everybody had when that five minutes of Oprah wanting to be president. Is Oprah a better person than Donald Trump? Yeah. Would she be an infinitely better president than Donald Trump? Yes. Would she possibly be a great president? Maybe.
I'm trying to point at something deeper, which is that why is it that there's something in our culture that now tells us that the feudal lords of our time are our caretakers, which is fundamentally a medieval idea that human beings finally got rid of a couple hundred years ago.
We finally understood that Downton Abbey was not a model for a successful society. We're all going back to wanting Lord Grantham to be our president. It's just a very weird, preposterous culture that I have tried to take a very gentle ax to in this new book.
Debbie: You started to talk about some of these ideas publicly at the Obama Foundation Summit last year. How did that speech come about?
Anand: One of the people I was actually writing about in my book, the young woman. I was writing about her senior year at Georgetown and how she decided what to do with her life. That is the moment that a lot of these corruptions happened.
It was narrative how she wanted to change the world and where she ended up. She had ended up some years later at the Obama Foundation. I wrote about her journey, and we got to know each other.
To the credit of the Obama Foundation, they were bringing together several hundred change makers, people who are active in their communities making real change, not the phony change that I dismantle in the book, people who are in their communities, known to their communities, working through civic life and democracy to make things better.
They wanted to put some challenging ideas on the table. To their credit said they wanted to start with someone critical of a lot of what was happening in the change‑making world. That's not something you hear all the time. They invited me to give the opening talk.
Debbie: In the speech at the Obama Foundation, it was both revealing some of the faux change making for what it is. There was also a lot of optimism in it. I want to quote you.
You said, "These days I find myself filled with a strange kind of hope. When times grow dark, the eyes adjust. What I see stirring in the shadows is people realizing that they have neglected their communities in an age of magic and loss. All around I see people awakening to citizenship.
"For decades, we imagine democracy to be a supermarket where you popped in whenever you needed something. Now we remember that democracy is a farm where you reap what you sow."
While I do think you are being appropriately [laughs] critical of a lot of what's going on, I think the notion of democracy as a farm is quite a beautiful thing.
Anand: It's happening, whether it's the kids at Parkland, whether it's the Women's March, actually, the weird health of our civic life in the Trump era, the record number of women running for office this year which blows the previous number out of the water. The record number of people running for office at all levels. I'm not sure that we will survive the Trump era intact.
Debbie: What does that mean?
Anand: There's a small, but in a way, significant chance that he could so degrade our institutions and standing in the world and foreign policy that we're not going to go anywhere. In a real way the run could be over in a meaningful way by the time he's gone. He could have shattered the norms.
It's not trivial the possibility that this is a fall from which we won't ever quite recover. That said, I think there's a bigger chance that we will limp through the Trump era and come out stronger than we've ever been, because people learned something that he taught us, which is that you are only as good as the country you fight for.
You can't just go make money in the private sector and hope you have a great country. You can't just start a social enterprise doing some little program here and not worrying about the fundamental systems at work in your country.
You can't just go create a charter school and not ask questions about what is the public system overall for everybody. You can't just go tell women to lean in and raise their hand more and ignore the structural injustices that hold women in their places.
You can't go and deplore, "Oh my God, this is so terrible, this gun violence in Chicago without understanding what our society is doing as a whole to people of color and black people, and has done for hundreds of years."
All around this country, I think there's an awakening where we're taking stock of the real story of this country, what it is and what it's been. We're actually realizing that you get what you pay for in a democracy. You pay in your effort and your civic love.
If you're unwilling to talk to people across divides, you get a country in which people are unwilling to talk across divides. We have collectively allowed our society to degrade, in part because we have individually become complicit in that degradation.
What is so exciting about what's happening now is that people are waking up to the utter obligation of citizenship.
Debbie: You state that "As wokeness has percolated from black resistance into the cultural mainstream, it seems at times to have become a test you must pass to engage with the enlightened. Not a gospel, the enlightened aspire to spread. "Either you buy our whole program, use all the right terms, and expertly check your privilege or your irredeemable." Then you go on to ask, "Is there a space among the woke for the still waking?" I was wondering how you would answer that question.
Anand: There has to be. I think the loving way to look at this country is to say, "It's always had high ideals. It's always failed to live up to them. It's always tried to narrow the gap." sometimes, trying harder than other times. Sometimes, doing a better job at narrowing the gap than others, but it is a remarkable country.
It's a remarkable country that is going through an extraordinary shift in who and what it is, in its very essence. For the most powerful country in history, in the history of human civilization, to be majority‑minority, to be a majority of people from, literally, all parts of the world is an extraordinary thing.
A moment for a pat on the back, we are trying something that is really hard. By the way, no European countries had its Barack Obama.
Let's be honest. People have more generous social welfare, and this and that. We are, in many ways, at the very forefront of an experiment about whether you can create a country in which people's heritage is secondary to their character.
As right and righteous a goal I think that is, I have no illusions about how hard that is going to be simply because it is hard for people to lose their certainties, lose their spot in line, and lose their routines.
People go nuts when they have to take a different route to work. Imagine what this is going to invite in people. When [laughs] I said, "Is there space among the woke for the waking?"
I think those of us who want the new America to come need to understand that if we are a closed circle expecting people to show up woke, show up ready, show up ready to sing and dance in this new country that's coming, it's going to be a small party.
What I think is so essential that we do is figure out how those of us who want that day to come as fast as possible, can tell the story in a way that brings people in, that brings in people who are a little scared of it, brings in people who don't know what cis means, or white privilege is. Or don't feel comfortable talking about race.
Don't think that they are in any way complicit in white supremacy, because they don't really understand what it means when people say they are complicit in white supremacy. When they feel that their neighborhood is not the place they understood it to be we can say, "You know what?
"That's not going to change, and you can't just get rid of the immigrants in your Walgreens because you feel uncomfortable." I think we can also say, "But I understand why you feel uncomfortable, and I refuse to change my immigration policy, but I understand why you feel uncomfortable."
I think we can do a better job of making space for the people who are limping their way into this new America. In politics, small numbers matter a lot. If five percent of the people who voted for Donald Trump feel like, "Actually, you know what? No. No." That's a landslide the other way.
Debbie: Let's hope so. I have this last question for you. In 2014, you posted an image of your last book's dedication to your wife, Priya. You wrote, "This won't be the last book I dedicate to Priya Parker, but it is the first. A book is a lot of wild rambling before it is actually a book.
From the earliest days, Priya selflessly put aside whatever she was doing to listen to every word of this book out loud as I was writing it. Finish a page or two, read it to Priya. That was the ritual. It's impossible to imagine writing without her, thank you forever, girl."
Now Priya has a new book that is coming out in May titled "The Art of Gathering ‑‑ How We Meet and Why It Matters". My question is, did you do the same for her?
Anand: I did.
Debbie: Good. [laughs]
Anand: I did. I have to after receiving such immense help. We're kind of partners in crime in that way. We worked on both of these books kind of sitting next to each other and this year's the year of two books...
Debbie: And a child. You had a baby.
Anand: ...one new baby, and an existing child.
Debbie: You have a lot of wonderful things going on. We have Priya scheduled to be on this show as well, so we'll talk to her about her new book very, very soon.
Anand: I'm looking to hear what she has to say. You should be hard on her, tough questions. Get to the truth.
Debbie: Absolutely, I'm going to get my big investigating hat on. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for helping us understand the state of the world a little bit better. To find out more about Anand Giridharadas, go to anand.ly. This is the 14th year I've been doing Design Matters and I'd like to thank you for listening. Remember, we can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both. I'm Debbie Millman and I look forward to talking with you again soon.