• 'You Want The Best For This Country, I Respect That': 2 Strangers Find Common Ground

    'You Want The Best For This Country, I Respect That': 2 Strangers Find Common Ground

     

    Israel Baryeshua, 38, and Tiffany Briseño, 35, at their StoryCorps interview in Denver.

    Camila Kerwin/StoryCorps

    This story is part of a new StoryCorps project called One Small Step, which seeks to remind people across the political divide of our shared humanity.

    In a recent interview with StoryCorps, two strangers, Tiffany Briseño, a social liberal, and Israel Baryeshua, who identifies as a conservative, came together to find common ground despite their opposing political views.

    Baryeshua is a single parent of two who says he beat the odds by rising out of poverty in Georgia. Briseño, a mother of three, is concerned about how the divisive climate will affect her multiracial family.

    They found common ground in how they parent their kids to understand the value of hard work.

    "I tell that to my children, Baryeshua said. "It comes from within."

    "And [that is] something that I also convey to my children," Briseño says. "My parents grew up with nothing. My mom didn't have shoes, didn't have food, that kind of thing. And she ... put herself through college as a single parent."

    Baryeshua asks Briseño what her biggest fears are concerning the future.

    "I am just really nervous for my kids," Briseño says. "Like I feel like, right now, everything is just mean and nasty."

    Baryeshua agrees. "Instead of reacting with kindness or compassion, people are quick to react with, I guess, hate."

    Briseño asks if there's one thing he respects about the way she sees the world.

    "No," Baryeshua says, and they share a laugh. He then adds: "I think you said that you want the best for this country. I respect that view, and I agree with that view."

    In return, she tells him that she respects that he's a "hard-working single father" who wants what's best for his children. "I think that that's commendable and common between you and I, for sure," Briseño says.

    Audio produced for Morning Edition by Kerrie Hillman and Mia Warren.

    StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

     

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  • Is There A Cure For Hate?

    Is There A Cure For Hate?

     

     

    Taly Kogon and her son Leo, 10, listen to speakers during an interfaith vigil against anti-Semitism and hate at the Holocaust Memorial late last month in Miami Beach, Fla.

    Wilfredo Lee/AP

    For months prior to the recent shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, suspect Robert Bowers spewed venomous bigotry, hatred and conspiracies online, especially against Jews and immigrants. During the Oct. 27 attack, according to a federal indictment, he said he wanted "to kill Jews."

    He is charged with 44 counts — including hate crimes — for the murder of 11 people and wounding of six others at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue.

    The attack follows a spike in anti-Semitic incidents, concerns about the rise in domestic extremism and calls for politicians to rethink their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

    We wanted to know what programs, if any, are effective in getting violent and violence-prone far-right extremists in America to cast aside their racist beliefs and abandon their hate-filled ways.

    Here are five key takeaways:

    1) Neglected, minimized and underfunded

    Creating and expanding effective programs to get homegrown far-right racists to find the off-ramp from hate is, overall, an under-studied, underfunded and neglected area.

    "We haven't wanted to acknowledge that we have a problem with violent right-wing extremism in this kind of domestic terrorism," says sociologist Pete Simi of Chapman University, who has researched and consulted on violent white nationalists and other hate groups for more than two decades.

    "White supremacy is really a problem throughout the United States," he says. "It doesn't know any geographic boundaries. It's not isolated to either urban or rural or suburban — it cuts across all."

    But it's a problem and topic that America has "tended to hide or minimize," he adds.

    That willful denial, Simi says, has left many nonprofits, social workers and police and other interventionists largely flying blind.

    "There really haven't been much resources, attention, time, energy devoted to developing efforts to counter that form of violent extremism."

    In fact, the Trump administration in 2017 rescinded funding that targeted domestic extremism.

    The administration, instead, has focused almost exclusively on threats from Islamist extremists and what it sees as the security and social menace of undocumented immigrants including, again, whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of the midterm elections.

    2) There's no consensus on what really works

    The research done so far shows that adherence to white supremacist beliefs can be addictive. Some who try to leave can "relapse" and return to the hate fold.

    But Simi says, "We're really very much in the early days."

    And there is no consensus yet on what works best over the long haul.

    Academically, there has been more attention and research on interventions with American gang members or would-be Jihadis.

    And while there is some crossover, far-right hate comes with ideological baggage often absent in gangs and is different from the religion-infused Jihadi belief system.

    3) Best practices are costly and labor-intensive

    Can racist radicals and homegrown right-wing violent extremists successfully be rehabilitated and re-enter civil society?

    "The answer to that question is absolutely 'yes,' " Simi says.

    The groups with the best approach, he says, seem to be those that partner with a broad section of civil society — educators, social workers, those in health care and police — to tackle the full range of problems someone swept up into an extremist world might face.

    They may need additional schooling or employment training, he says or "maybe they have some housing needs, maybe they have some unmet mental health needs," such as past trauma or substance use problems.

    It's a more holistic approach that he says, in the end, is far more effective and less costly than prison and packing more people into the already overcrowded U.S. criminal justice system.

    But that "wraparound services" model is also labor-intensive, expensive and hard to coordinate.

    It's also severely hampered, Simi says, by America's woefully inadequate drug treatment and mental health care systems.

    "A big, big problem that we face as a society is abdicating our responsibility in terms of providing this kind of social support and social safety net for individuals that suffer from mental health," as well as drug problems, he says.

    4) Life after hate

    Tony McAleer knows the mindset of the suspect in the synagogue shooting.

    A former member of the White Aryan Resistance and other hate groups, he once echoed the type of racist invective Bowers spewed online; the kind that sees a cabal of malevolent Jews running the world by proxy through banks, Hollywood, corporations and the media.

    And McAleer knows how savvy racist recruiters can be. He was one of them.

    "I was a Holocaust denier. I ran a computer-operated voicemail system that was primarily anti-Semitic," he says.

    He eventually renounced his bigotry and helped co-found the nonprofit Life After Hate, one of just a handful of groups working to help right-wing extremists find an off-ramp. It also was among those that lost funding — a $400,000 Obama-era federal grant — when the Trump administration changed focus.

    In McAleer's experience, adherence to racist beliefs — whether as part of a group or as a lone wolf like the synagogue suspect — is more often sparked by a flawed search for identity and purpose than by a deeply held belief.

    The group doesn't attack people's ideology verbally. He calls that approach "the wrong strategy. Because it's about identity."

    The best method, he believes, is simply listening and trying to reconnect to the person's buried humanity.

    McAleer says he tries to get at what's motivating the hate, to find out why people are really so angry and upset to begin with, and to start the dialogue from there.

    You condemn the ideology and the actions, he says, but not the human being.

    "I think of them as lost. Somewhere along the line, they find themselves in this place," says McAleer, "and I can tell you being in that place is not a fun place to be. When you surround yourself with angry and negative people, I guarantee you your life is not firing on all cylinders."

    He says that's the way he felt. "I was just so disconnected from my heart."

    The birth of his children and compassion from a Jewish man, he says, helped him to leave that life and to reconnect with his own humanity and that of others.

    People often have never met the people that they purport to hate, he says.

    "And there's nothing more powerful — I know because it happened to me in my own life — than receiving compassion from someone who you don't feel you deserve it from, someone from a community that you had dehumanized."

    5) How do you scale compassion?

    But there are only a few programs like Life After Hate.

    And they're often small. Since the summer of 2017, for example, the Chicago-based group has taken on only 41 new people who want to leave their racist hate behind.

    "Keep in mind, de-radicalization is a lifelong process," says Life After Hate's Dimitrios Kalantzis. "We consider it a major success when formers remain active in our network, even if that means checking in within our online support group. That means they are engaged and unlikely to relapse."

    But is inspiring compassion really scalable, and how can groups more effectively structure and organize similar efforts?

    How can researchers and others scale it to reach as large a number of people as possible?

    "That's the answer I can't provide because at this point, we really don't know," sociologist Pete Simi says.

     

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  • This is how we end hyper-partisan politics

    This is how we end hyper-partisan politics

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  • What Do Blue And Red America Have In Common? Craft Breweries — And More

    What Do Blue And Red America Have In Common? Craft Breweries — And More

     

    A customer returns a keg to the Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, N.H., in 2017.

    Robert F. Bukaty/AP

    The country's cultural divide, as evidenced by Tuesday's elections, is a real one.

    But there are some things that are part of the American experience, whether you're biking across Manhattan or driving a 4x4 through Montana.

    We analyzed 11 touchstones of American life and how common they were in districts that voted Republican and Democratic during this week's elections. Democrats won the most House districts Tuesday, so below we've sorted them from places that are mostly found in Democratic districts to those that are mostly found in districts that voted for Republicans.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Fortune 500 companies?

    The most? 36 in NY 12 (New York City, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? 255.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Starbucks?

    The most? 138 in NY 12 (New York City, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? One, as of these data being collected — but a tipster points out on Twitter that OK 12 has since built its only Starbucks.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the major sports venues?

    The most? Eight in both MA 07 (near Boston, voted Democratic) and TN 05 (Nashville, Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? 123.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the craft breweries?

    The most? 68 in CO 02 (near Denver, voted Democratic).

    How many districts don't have any? Eight.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the Amtrak stations?

    The most? 12 in Montana (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 183.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the museums?

    The most? 303 in ME 02 (uncalled race).

    How many districts don't have any? None. (So no excuse not to go to one every once in a while!)


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the military installations?

    The most? 21 in Alaska (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 157.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the state fair grounds?

    The most? Four in Alaska (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 367.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the hospitals?

    The most? 77 in both KS 01 (voted Republican) and South Dakota (at-large district, voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? None.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the mobile home parks?

    The most? 526 in FL 02 (Panama City, Tallahassee suburbs; voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 20.


     

    Don't see the graphic above? Click here: Where are the farms?

    The most? 35,850 in NE 03 (voted Republican).

    How many districts don't have any? 20.

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