NPR logo Happy 2008!

Politics & Society

Happy 2008!

Happy New YEAR! We're back.

Actually, we never left. We were here all along, but some of you did not get to hear our magnificent offerings because — for reasons that escape me — a number of the NPR member stations preempt our programming, even when it's original, to put on other stuff during holidays.

Who knew? I sure didn't. A sign I'm still new, I guess.

But please, if you didn't get to hear some of the holiday programs, do check them out online, or on your MP3 player, if you have one. (I don't. I am not a technophile; the last new gadget I mastered was my breast pump. ... Sorry, that's another story.)

Other TMM ducklings are all heading back to the nest from their adventures. One of our producers is in Peru (and I do hope he brought me a present), somebody else went skiing. A lot of folks nipped out to spend time with family. I was here.

...And what would the holidays be without a trip to the emergency room with a sick kid, I ask you? Now that is quality time! (Everybody's fine now, thanks.)

But we're ready for action. We're talking politics. We're excited about Iowa, but we're very disturbed about what we see coming out of Kenya in the aftermath of presidential and parliamentary elections there. We gave you a preview when the voting began last week, but I don't think anybody anticipated this. We hope to have more for you tomorrow.

And, a bicentennial you may not have heard much about: On January 1, 1808, Congress outlawed the importation of slaves to the U.S.

Did this end slavery? Not by any means.

Even though we are a news program, we feel that history offers us important lessons for the present and the future. And I am fascinated by what I call the hidden history that scholars take for granted, but that the rest of us don't know. We have a bit of that history today. We have all heard about the Underground Railroad. But did you know about the "watermen"? They were whites and blacks who ferried messages and helped enslaved Americans escape to freedom. Well, now you will.

I got excited about telling these stories when I attended a conference last fall at Pace University. (A former colleague of mine asked me to sit on a panel. I wasn't that busy, so I said yes.) My head was spinning from the stories that so many of the scholars there all knew, about people and events I'd never heard of. I decided then and there that if the opportunity arose, I'd do my best to bring this new scholarship to life. And when I say new, it has to be said; it's been there all along. The stories are like stones from the river, waiting to be picked up...

Happy New Year. I hope your new year will be everything you desire.



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My comment is actually about the Oprah "Mixed Bag of Hope and Pain" segment of the January 1 podcast, which (from Michel's comment above) sounds like it might only be available as a podcast.

ANYWAY, among other things Michel and her guest discussed the negative feedback ("toasting" was how Michel put it) Oprah is receiving both in the media and on her website feedback for her endorsement of Obama. Apparantly, many of her white female fans feel betrayed, either because they don't like her choice of political party, or because they feel she has betrayed her gender by not supporting Hillary.

I find this backlash interesting on 2 levels. First, those white women who feel betrayed. I can remember being a Brownie Girl Scout, and sharing multicolored M&M's as a diversity exercise. (Though we didn't call it diversity then...I think we just called it "getting along.") We munched the M&M's and learned that no matter the color on the outside, we were all the same inside. Which of course is a falacy, and quite different from the concept of respecting/tolerating people whether our "insides" are the same or not. My late mother was a huge Oprah fan, and also a huge Tiger Woods fan, for the same reasons: they seem just like us white people on the inside no matter what color they are on the outside. So, we feel safe and we respect them. I think it would have been quite disquieting to my mother to discover that Oprah was a Democrat, much less that she'd endorse a black man for president. She'd have been comfortable with everything else Oprah did, but this...well, it forces one to take a political stand. And even though Oprah's left-leaning liberal political stand had to be obvious to everyone just in the topics she chose to cover, it was easier to ignore when she wasn't blatently wearing an Obama button.

The second level is: When the 15th Amendment was proposed (granting black men the right to vote) there was a similar gender/race struggle. Many white suffragists opposed it on the grounds that women should be included too. Others knew that they'd be lucky to get voting rights for black men, much less women. It caused a rift because black suffragists were forced to choose between their race and their gender. Do any of those irate posters realize how hypocritical they're being? If they say she's supporting Obama "just because he's black" why would it be any better to support Hillary "just because she's a woman?"

Great show, thanks for a thought-provoking start to the new year, and I'm really looking forward to the slavery series.

:-) Gerri

Sent by Gerri | 6:02 PM | 1-2-2008

I'm looking forward to another exciting year listening to your most excellent program, Robert H.

Sent by Robert H. | 8:59 PM | 1-2-2008

The Dec. 31 Alberto Gonzales story was on the money. Enjoyed the perspective very much - especially the metaphor of him (a Hispanic Republican) wearing a target on his chest.

Sent by True_Liberal | 9:22 PM | 1-2-2008