Us & ThemUs & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues
Us & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a Louisiana abortion law. The narrow decision may be a relief to abortion rights supporters, but political watchers speculate the ruling could ignite voters in November. It may bring out those who favor a presidential candidate determined to curtail abortion rights. The Louisiana case was something the Us & Them team was aware of last November when we released an episode called "Abortion Divides." Last week, we learned the Public Media Journalists Association honored our program with a national award. We're delighted to have our work recognized by our peers in the public media universe. To acknowledge this recent honor, we are reposting this episode just as we released it back in November 2019. It captures some of the passion people bring to the issue - but it also brought together two women on opposite sides who found more common ground than they — or we — expected. We hope even though the subject of abortion is emotionally charged, people can find a way to speak civilly about their differences.
COVID-19 has forced millions to stay at home for months. Isolation can feed anxiety and depression and now tens of millions of Americans say that potent combination threatens their mental health. Calls to help centers and suicide hotlines are up in what some call a shadow pandemic. Nearly a quarter of Americans have applied for unemployment insurance since March, when the pandemic forced businesses to shut down and people to stay home. Studies show a correlation between unemployment and suicide. In the past few months, counselors and therapists have shifted to tele-health, using phone and video chats to connect with patients and clients. Some say the changes offer a new set of clinical options that could change the way we define therapy in the future.
Much of the recent work of our Us & Them team has focused on our day-to-day experience as we live through a global pandemic. But we need to shine our light on the deadly consequences of police brutality. Racial inequality is America's most toxic "us and them" issue. George Floyd died from a Minneapolis police officer's chokehold. Police officers in Louisville shot and killed Breonna Taylor. Officers in Atlanta shot and killed Rayshard Brooks. The reactions to those and other killings have resulted in peaceful protests AND violent riots across the country. Those actions have prompted several Us & Them listeners to request that we re-post an episode we produced two years ago. It's called "The Black Talk." In the light of all the calls and demands for change in the matter of racial equality, we are going to honor that request and repost the episode as it was originally released on February 28, 2018. Here's to the dawning of a time, when this kind of "Black Talk" can become a historical footnote.
The coronavirus highlights many of our vulnerabilities, including the system we use to get food from the farm to the table. Lately, the pandemic has forced U.S. farmers to face the unthinkable. They plowed under perfectly good vegetables when schools and restaurants shut down and their market vanished. Livestock producers have euthanized hogs and chickens. They couldn't get the meat to consumers when workers got sick and packing plants closed. The growing season also brings migrant workers to U.S. farms. They come for jobs they need. But this year, some come wearing face masks, worried they may take the virus home to their families.
Coronavirus Czar Says Pandemic is a Stress Test for WV Health Care
It's about 10 weeks since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country, including West Virginia. While state officials are now reopening businesses, the pandemic is far from over. Seventy-eight West Virginians have died due to COVID-19. 250,000 unemployment claims have been filed. But the pandemic has exacted another toll — it's fractured many of the state's healthcare institutions. When the state was in quarantine mode, hospitals delayed and canceled many medical procedures. People shied away from elective surgeries that are just the kind of procedures that make money for hospitals. As a result, revenues are down and some health care systems have laid off staff to keep costs down. Recently, WV's Governor lifted those restrictions to allow elective medical procedures. As medical systems come back on line, Trey speaks with Dr. Clay Marsh — WV's "COVID-19 Czar." He sees the pandemic as an opportunity to fix the parts of the state's healthcare system that are failing some West Virginians.
Coronavirus Czar Says Pandemic is a Stress Test for WV Health Care
West Virginia's 2020 school year, from kindergarten through college, is wrapping up unlike any other. In recent years, Mountain State communities have been devastated by man-made crises and natural disasters, but nothing has affected the state's education system like a world-wide pandemic. The coronavirus forced an extended Spring Break in March that quickly became a season of virtual classrooms and distance learning. Teachers have converted lessons into online assignments. Parents juggle their work with home-based tutoring. And schools deliver millions of meals to low-income students. As this truncated school year comes to an end, we hear from West Virginia families trying to make it work and teachers who say they're learning valuable lessons they will use in the future. But we're all learning something unfortunate; during a pandemic, all students aren't equal.
Ten years ago, the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded in West Virginia. 29 men died and an investigation uncovered that a legacy of overlooked safety measures contributed to the disaster. A new play called "Coal Country" focuses on the stories of the men and their families. It aims to put a spotlight on prejudice against the rural working class... to bridge a divide between city dwellers and those who work with their hands underground. Co-creators Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen interviewed the families and the production weaves their words with the music of Grammy-award winner Steve Earle to help people understand another America.
The coronavirus pandemic prompts many reactions from people. Some people can be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Others step up to help where they can. U&T host Trey Kay splits his time living in West Virginia and New York. A few weeks ago, he got a message from someone trying to help Eva Crockett, a West Virginian traveling nurse looking to help treat COVID patients in New York City hospitals. This person wanted to know if Trey could help Eva find a place to stay in the Big Apple. Trey ran up a "Bat signal" on social media — asking his New York friends for help. The response was overwhelmingly positive. For Trey, New Yorkers helping a West Virginian who was willing to help New Yorkers felt like an "Us and Them" moment.
A global public health crisis in the form of an invisible virus, now officially divides us from each other. We've learned to call it 'social distancing.' But the coronavirus is creating or reopening many layers between us and them. There are divides between workers: some must show up while others work virtually and millions more have lost their jobs as businesses shutter and the economy grinds to a halt. Families see divides as they decide how many generations can safely live under the same roof. And the government creates divisions as national, state and local leaders have different responses to the pandemic.
In many cities and towns, there are people in charge, and there are people who get things done. Joe Slack is an instigator for community change in West Virginia's Upper Kanawha Valley. He sees the needs in his region, one that's been hit hard by one economic disappointment after another. But Slack is a self-described squeaky wheel. He connects people, helps identify realistic opportunities and then works to make things happen.