Shepard and Jean Geller Interview Transcript

MATT JACOBSON: OK. So first as a start, would you just tell me your name. SHEPARD GELLER: My name is Shepard Geller. MJ: And your name? JEAN GELLER: And I am Jean Geller. MJ: OK. Before we really dive into the meat of this, do you mind just giving me a thumbnail sketch of where you came from, how you arrived inGainsville, what you do here, how long you've been here, just to kind of set the scene a little bit? SG: Well I was born in March of 1938, the same year and month that Superman were created in the Action Comics. I was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Went to local public schools, went to a high school in Manhattan, Stuyvesant. From there I went to college at Michigan State, and ended up in law school back in Manhattan at New York University. Travelled around the country, including two years in Korea while I was in service. Came back, ended up with a PhD at Princeton, and then spent 28 years working in Washington D.C. where we lived in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Been married for 42 years, happily I think. And I'm in good health, and I really enjoy living in Gainesville, Florida, although I dislike the Gators. MJ: OK. Well you're in good company then [laughter]. So let me just track on this a little bit. You did your legal training in the late '40s? SG: No, legal training was 1958 to 1961. MJ: Oh, so it was after the army? SG: After the army. MJ: Got it. And then you're -- SG: No, no, no, before the army. I went in the army in '63. MJ: Oh I see. SG: I had been deferred while I was in law school. And the after graduating, I eventually lost my deferment and had to apply for a direct commission. MJ: And then you were in the army and then you did your PhD work? SG: Right. MJ: And so then you've been a practicing attorney for how long? SG: Well, since I started at the Justice Department in '75. MJ: OK. And you've been in Gainesville for six years? SG: Six years, since 2003. MJ: Great, OK. Now one of the things -- I've been talking to all different kinds of people, in all walks of life. And one of the things that I'm eager to talk about is just what I'm calling, our current moment in America, which I think is an extraordinary moment. And most people think so in one way or another, although there's no agreement about whether it's good or it's bad or what's extraordinary about it. So let's just start in a general way, if you could -- when I say the phrase, our current moment, what does that mean to you? What seems to be the most important thing about 2009 in America? SG: Well the economic situation is probably the most important. It's not important to me, because I have a well secured pension that is independent of the stock market. And I'm working full-time, even though I'm 71, and have no plans to retire. But I think, for most of the people who are I think, the majority of the people that are now probably over 50, the disaster in the stock market and their reduced pension income, is the number one concern on their minds. MJ: Can you say a little bit about the changes that you see in Gainesville? It's not exactly long term, but the longer term changes since you first arrived here. And then what you've seen over the last year. SG: There's no changes in Gainesville. The only thing that changes is the price of gas. MJ: Really? SG: That I see. I go to my work every day. I have very little interaction with the private community. But [Jean's] experience is very different. She has a unique job...   Jean has a unique job, and she can speak to that. JG: But it's not in my job where I see it. In the course of networking with a lot of people and in an effort to make friends -- we only moved down here six years ago -- I needed to find friends, more so than a job. And some of the women who have dropped out of these networking groups, when I see them or I get in touch with them, they say to me, I can't afford the luncheons anymore. And we're talking about an $18.00 luncheon, or $20.00 if you're not a member. And I hear about husbands who have lost their jobs. There's one case where a husband, hospital administrator, is now working in Atlanta, Georgia, and he manages to come home for the weekends. So family life has been disrupted, and there is a sense of cut back and pull back and deprivation among well educated families who were not expecting this. MJ: We'll come back to Gainesville in just a second. First though, would you mind giving us a thumbnail sketch of your life, the same way that Shep did? JG: All right. Well I was born in 1943. I was a Bronx girl. Sometime around when I was five years old we took a step up and moved to Flushing, Queens. I too, went to public schools and Queens College, NYU for a Masters Degree in English Literature. Part of my early career was spent as a technical writer for a pharmaceutical company. When we moved down the East Coast to Washington D.C., I was a full-time mom, but then when the boys were back in school I went into publishing. So I spent 15, 16 years running the publishing division of an education association in the D.C. area. MJ: Which years were these? JG: Went back to work in '87 and we moved down here in 2003. During that time I did a lot of volunteer work. That was really my second career. And when we came down here I decided that I did not want to chase commas and brackets for the rest of my life, or crunch numbers for budgeting of a publishing line. And so I just used my transferable skills to hang out a shingle to be a professional organizer, which involved considerable self-education about ADD and it's concomitant conditions, because most of my clients who need help with life skills, coping, organizing, time management, are dealing with ADHD. And so that's kind of the niche that I have found. MJ: And what age group are most of your clients? JG: They're mostly adults, but they're all over that adult span. MJ: OK. So let's go back to what you're saying about Gainesville and just some of what you see in a kind of daily way about the way that the economic crisis has hit this community. JG: Well for me it's very casual. Among my clients, I see people who are really cutting certain things that they would buy without hesitation in better times. I see people who are buying store brands rather than the popular brands. But it's mostly the stories of people who have dropped out of certain activities because they can no longer afford them. Oh, I'm not going to meetings anymore because I can't afford the dues, and that sort of thing. I'm not up close and personal with the household agony of this in most cases. MJ: One of the things I've heard about again and again as a I've been travelling all over Gainesville over the last couple of days, is the recent spike in the crime rate. In your line of work do you see that, or is there any other way, just in your kind of -- by virtue of being here, that that's something that you're aware of in a personal way? SG: No, I think one of the interesting things about Gainesville, is that it has two main pillars for cultural and economic activity. One, is the medical community. There are 4 or 5 major hospital facilities, teaching hospitals, part of the University of Florida. And the other main pillar is the university itself where you've got 45,000 students and 10,000 faculty. So because of that, the community is pretty liberal from a political and social standpoint. So that there are no racial issues in the city. And there's a great deal of economic stability. I remember reading reports that Gainesville had the lowest unemployment rate in the state of any city, any good sized city. And basically, I think we're sort of insulated, except for the older people whose stock market fall has ruined their current income, but presumably will come back in a reasonable period of time. Next 4 or 5 years. JG: Yeah, if they live long enough to see it. MJ: You looked like you were maybe wanting to add something to this or -- JG: Well [he] doesn't read The Gainesville Sun or go online very much in sites and in around Gainesville. But there's plenty of crime here and you've obviously heard or seen the spike in crime in the figures. We have a new police chief, although I guess that's with the city of Gainesville. But yeah, I participate. I'm volunteering right now with Peaceful Paths, which is a domestic violence shelter. And I travel through some of those parts of town and some of my clients are in those parts of town. Now with east-west problems. And there is a racial divide in this town. That's why, you know, the building of certain items -- I wish I could be more specific now. But there was an instance of, where were we putting our money -- oh oh, the golf course, the city run golf course. People were up in arms over that, that there's much greater need over on the east side for civic improvements. SG: Instead of a golf course. JG: Instead of a golf course. Or the golf course has managed to maintain itself for so long it can stay just the way it is, thank you very much, without any further investment being made to it. MJ: One of the other things that people on both sides of the question seem to want to refer to when we talk about this current moment is, the current administration and what it means to have gone from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. And particularly in Florida where the last couple of election cycles have been so unusual. You were here for the 2004 election and then again in 2008. Can you tell me a little bit about how you see the political lay of the land in Gainesville, and how the whole, kind of, electoral season went down here? SG: Well I don't have any real views about the local political scene. I don't pay any attention to it. It's controlled by the university. That is the university community, which is insulated from Alachua County, which is a rural redneck county. And of course, that's true for other cities in Florida. But at any rate, I only pay attention to the national scene. And there, I think, Obama is proving to be a disappointment based on inexperience. Today's paper pointed out that they're going to pile on these, what do they call these things, why congress passes all these -- JG: Yeah, the adornments. SG: -- the pig -- not pig -- MJ: The riders onto the -- SG: Yeah. They said something with pigs in it. Earmarks, earmarks, that's what it is, right. Oh by the way, Gainesville used to be known as Pigtown. Gainesville was the major hog processing center in the state for many, many years. And it was picked as the location for the University of Florida, because it's midway between Miami and Pensacola. People don't realize it, but when the state of Florida was created around 1832, after we stole it from the Indians, Pensacola was the major industrial hub, and the main industrial center for the state. All the train lines ran to Pensacola and the Gulf of Mexico and the only -- MJ: Was Pensacola on the road that went from D.C. to New Orleans? My geography is a little -- SG: Yes it would be. MJ: It was? OK. SG: Yeah. But if you went from Atlanta to New Orleans, for example, you would go through Pensacola. MJ: OK. SG: And because there was a big port there, the rail head there, it was the major economic center. It wasn't until 75 to 100 years later that the East Coast of Florida was developed. Jacksonville was the second big city. I had worked in Florida in the mid 60's. And at that time Orlando was a hick town. It wasn't until Disney came that put Orlando on the map. Of course Miami grew because of the resort area. But I think the current political situation is one of disappointment across the board. And I think it's mainly just his inexperience. MJ: So for you, that's more important than the ideological differences between him and McCain? SG: Yeah. I'm interested in the practical consequences. I think that McCain would've been a more mature person, much more sophisticated politically, than Obama. I think Obama is being -- having his ass kicked by his own party, with the earmarks and with the war in Afghanistan, he's in a heads I win, tails you lose situation in Afghanistan. If he sends in 40,000 troops, then we'll have Mrs. what's her name, I can't think of the gal who used to camp outside Bush's house, she'll be out camping in front and the anti-war people are going berserk. On the other hand, if he sends the 40,000 troops-- I'm sorry, if he doesn't send it, then the Republicans will say that he's lost the war in Afghanistan, which he said was the main war. And the same thing with health care. JG: Yeah but don't you think the Nobel Peace Prize might sway his decision now? SG: Well here's what he's being criticized about, not the Nobel Peace Prize, but the trip to Copenhagen. JG: Oh for the Olympics. SG: Olympics, right. We've got 20,000 troops in Afghanistan. So he gets in the plane, he flies somewhere in Europe, and he talks to the commander of the troops on the ground for 25 minutes. Then he runs off to la-la land, spends two days trying to get the Olympics in his hometown, doesn't really reflect the priorities one would expect from a president who's involved in a war. So I think he's been politically naive and inexperienced and has been hurt by his inexperience. I don't agree with a lot of McCain's ideas, but I think he would have made a stronger, more sophisticated president. And now we'll hear from Jean. JG: I don't know that I can comment at this time. You know people, even young people, do learn. SG: Oh he's learning, he's learning. JG: And when you asked the question about -- your initial question about, what is exciting, or what do you find most remarkable in this country at the time. To me, it's the promise of change. The point is that, at least some in this country have realized that we're at a turning point for our economic structure, for our health care structure, probably for our education structure. How often does it happen that suddenly people learn these harsh lessons, if you will, and are poised to try to fix them? If the Democrats could ever coalesce-- I mean what they're doing even with the health care is kind of sad. But my answer to that not would have been, oh the economics and the effect it's having on everybody, it's the fact that this country has suddenly had a wake-up call in so many critical areas that we're going to have to deal with. And sometimes it takes a leap of faith even if the president doesn't have a lot of experience. He is our president. MJ: Are you basically optimistic or basically pessimistic about the near future? JG: Well you can't be pessimistic and optimistic, we have to be one or the other. It's got to be a basic optimism straight through. But I'm realistic in that the next couple of years, until we get the job market back functioning again, is going to be hard on an awful lot of people. And that's the cycle of the money running throughout society. And until we find a way -- I don't know that it's the dispensation of medical care, or the payment of medical care that we have to be addressing. I think what we do in this country, that our treatment modes are probably fine, but it's our payment modes that need the work. Health care needs to be changed. We've got too many little kids going unattended by their parents. SG: I think the big issue about medical care for me, is not the cost, I don't mind spending more money. In fact it's impossible to do this without spending more money. But to me the big issue about medical care that nobody talks about is, if they give insurance to 29 million or 20 million people, where are the doctors and hospitals to take care of them? Right now if you call a doctor, with any sort of a specialty, it takes you at least 30 days to get an appointment. And if you've got 20 million more people having insurance and getting appointments, it's going to look like the British system or the Canadian system until the medical economy grows. I mean, it takes six or eight years to train doctors, and it takes longer than that to build hospitals. JG: Yes, but a lot of these doctors who have been in training the last six or eight years, have been well rewarded by a system that causes them to go into high paid specialist. And we're already worried -- SG: Sure. JG: about running out of family doctors. SG: And the surgeon make $800 [an hour], yeah. JG: In a lot of cases, if you could get people into the family doctor, you might not need the specialist after that. SG: Yeah, but if the family doctor makes $200.00 an hour, and the surgeon makes $800.00, why the hell would anyone become a family doctor? JG: Well, but maybe the pay scales are going to be realigned. That's part of the future of medicine. And the old timer's are resenting it, because they see that changing tide coming. And they know -- heck the doctor we had in Virginia used to get angry about it. SG: The old timers are the ones who use the doctors more. So if access to medical attention is reduced by the numbers for say, the next 10 years, which I think would be the outcome, it's going to make the old timers very, very unhappy. MJ: I want to come back to the optimism, pessimism question with you, though. SG: Sure. MJ: Although I have a sense of which side of the spectrum you're going to come down on, but I want to hear more about it. But first, tell me what would be the single thing that would make you happiest that Obama might do in the realm of health care. SG: Oh, health care? MJ: What are you yearning to see from the White House on health care? SG: Well first of all, the problem with the public option is, we already have a public option. It's called Medicare. Medicare has no competition. It is the complete, exclusive health care provider for millions of millions of people. And so people used to say, well the simple solution is just make Medicare available to everybody. That's a typical liberal idea. It's logical, it's simple, and it should work. But like most liberal ideas, they won't work. Because the problem was liberalism is, not that the ideas are bad, the ideas are fine, but the way I explain the difference between liberalism and conservative viewpoints is, I used to work at the Justice Department. There's a painting on the wall that says, “The life of the law has not been logic, but experience." So the liberal approach to solving problems is the logical one. If people are poor, they have children that they can't raise, let's give them money. And that's what was in the welfare programs for generations until it really proved counterproductive. The idea is terrific. Help poor people. But the vehicle to do it, turned out to be impractical and counterproductive. So to me, the thing I like about conservative ideas is, I think they're more realistic. They're not as happy and as nice and clean, simple, as the liberal ideas, but I think they work a little better. Simply because they take into account the realities of human failure and human competition. MJ: How would you describe your own political education? You said earlier you're 72 years old? SG: 71. MJ: 71. So what would be the crucial years, and what would be the crucial lessons from your lifetime, in arriving at this philosophy that you sound very solid with. JG: [Laughing] It was the mural that he saw every day. SG: I saw that mural every day. You know, I don't know that I could really answer the question. I think that I'm a realist. Let me give you some concrete examples of what I mean. I very strongly believe in a woman's right to have an abortion. I believe in that as much as I believe in the second amendment right for people to own firearms. But I see them both as conservative ideas. I don't see one as liberal. I think that's liberal label is misconstrued on many issues, simply because of the political persuasion of people. But if you look at the ideas carefully, they really are both conservative ideas. The idea is that women, should have full reproductive rights. And if they don't want to have a child, they should have the right to not have a child. And that right belongs to them as free citizens as opposed to the government or somebody imposing their own moral framework on other people. To me, the essence of liberalism is, what's the word, elitism. We can do things better. The people at Harvard and Yale, not Princeton, Harvard and Yale are smarter than everybody. And if we can nationalize all these programs and have one program, everything will work smoothly. That's the essence of liberalism, which I dislike. I think that diversity is very healthy. So that if you have 50 political systems, and 50 educational systems, I see nothing wrong with that. And if you want to have commonality, as long as it's entered into freely and voluntarily, I don't have a problem with that. But the idea of controlling the country through the government to me, is the essence of liberalism, which I do not like. JG: But do you really think that Barack Obama wants to control the country through--? SG: Well you know, it's interesting when people talk about the president, Bush or Obama, or anybody, they talk about, well he runs the country. Well they don't really run the country, they-- JG: Of course not. SG: --just run the government. But that's not the way it's seen. And Congress's power is so broad, that they try to run the country and not just do the things-- to me the government's role is to do the things that people can't do for themselves, including health care, including education, and highways, and so on. Which all is basic socialism, there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing terrific about capitalism, it sucks in many ways. But in general, it works to provide the most for the most people, and provides the most personal freedom. MJ: What's your feeling about the state of conservatism today? Because you're-- SG: In great trouble, great trouble. MJ: You're a conservative of a very particular stripe, and your kind of conservatism does not seem to be carrying the day within the Republican Party. What's your feeling about that, and how do you see the lay of the land on the conservative side of the spectrum? SG: They're in a great deal of trouble because, I forget the name of Obama's-- Rahm Emanuel-- was brilliant when he categorized and labeled Rush Limbaugh as the head of the Republican Party. That was really brilliant, because Limbaugh's a schmuck. And the problem with the Republican Party is, that it's symbolized by Southern religious leaders. Or not religious leaders, but Southern people with heavy religious persuasion who want to keep and introduce that-- JG: Fundametalists. SG: --religious-- yeah the fundamentalists-- I thought President Bush violated his constitutional oath, not when he went to war and-- I think his motives in going to war are fine, wrong but fine. His motives were not bad. But he should have left his religious beliefs upstairs in the White House, and not brought them downstairs and made them part of his government programs. And we haven't even really talked about the big issue. I don't think the economic problem is the big issue, and I don't think that the war in Afghanistan or Iraq is the big issue, and health care is not the big issue. The big issue, which people don't realize, which is the sleeping giant, is immigration. People don't realize America has been invaded. There are now approximately 20 million Mexicans living in [the United States], half of them have been legalized, the other half are waiting to be legalized. And there are another 10 or 20 million more, or even more than that, waiting to come into the United States. And what that threatens is, without the consent of the American people, to fundamentally change America, where you'll have 20% of the population of Latino extraction, you know, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and so on. And it'll bring economic, social and political changes. For example, it will greatly empower the Catholic Church and increase the competition between the Catholic Church and Protestantism. And I'm not looking ahead, I'm not looking at next year, or the next two, I'm looking ahead 20 years from now, 30 years from now. And if they legalized these illegal aliens, of course, the ones who are here, and even the illegals who are already having children, and if they can hang on living in the shadows, their children become citizens. And so America's population is being changed against its will. Maybe that's too strong, but without its consent. MJ: In your view, what's the proper policy response to that? What's the thing that Bush should have done, or that Obama should do? SG: The easy answer is to build a wall. I think the wall is, that's not the real answer. The real answer is to take these billions of dollars that we're pissing away in Afghanistan and Iraq, and put them into Mexico. And build up the Mexican economy so it's comparable to Canadian economy. You don't see many Canadians running into the United States to become citizens. And that's what needs to happen to Mexico. I don't know why South American countries and many other Catholic countries are political failures, but they certainly are. And the people in Mexico are certainly exercising, they're voting with their feet by coming to the United States. They're not stupid about it. I think the big cannard in all of this is, is "Well, they're just coming to work." That's not really true. I think most of them want to become citizens. Even if they can't become citizens, to have children here and live in the shadows for these, whatever years. And this is the same thing of all the Europeans who came to America. They want a better life for the children. And that's what the Mexicans-- nothing wrong with the Mexicans, they're no better or different than the Italians or Germans or the Jews or the Russians or the Irish. It's just that there are so many of them. And because they have a distinct economic and political-- I mean their economics are fine. They're hard working people, they contribute to the economy, but we didn't ask them to come. We didn't invite them. MJ: Do you expect anyone, in either party, to adopt your hemispheric approach to the issue? SG: Well I think that it's an issue that politicians recognize as having a very strong fairness based anti-- what do you call it when you legalize them. When you-- MJ: Amnesty or-- SG: No, no. When you legalize-- JG: Naturlization. SG: Yeah. If you made these people citizens, I think there's an enormous, probably 85% of the American people, oppose it. And the politicians are scared to death of it. And nobody talks about it, and nothing's going to be done about it. JG: Yeah. It's the third rail for re-elections. MJ: Right, unless you take, kind of, the Pete Wilson approach and just scapegoat immigrants and say the easy thing about immigration. SG: Well it's not going to solve the problem. MJ: It's not going to solve the problem, but it makes for good politics, at least in certain locales. SG: Oh sure, Texas. Who the hell is for legalization in Texas? In fact, Bush became, I remember reading articles in local papers that Bush became very unpopular in Texas, because he wanted to-- he didn't want to legalize them, but he wanted to make it legal for them to come and work there. Which is really, just the first step. Like in New York, Hillary Clinton originally wanted to have driver's licenses issued by the state of New York in Spanish. But the people-- there was a huge political outcry and she backed down. MJ: So this was all, kind of in the context of talking about American conservatism. What's your outlook? What do you expect to see in conservative politics over the next couple of years? SG: I'm not-- MJ: Who are the figures to keep an eye on, who do you expect to emerge as a leader? SG: The one guy I like is Eric Cantor. To me, he's the number three guy in the house. He's from Virginia. JG: Talk about inexperience. SG: No, no, he's not inexperienced. And what the Republicans need is an Obama. They need somebody young. I think Cantor's about the same age, about 40. Somebody young who's conservative, who's not tied to the Christian right, who can put forward an image. I mean, the truth is that Obama, won on two things, one was Bush's incompetence, and the second was Obama's image. He made a really-- presents himself well, speaks very well. That's the trouble. He runs around speaking, and speaking, and speaking, and he doesn't do anything. JG: He's figuring it out. SG: Right. So the Republicans need an Obama. That's the simple answer. MJ: Have you been surprised that more mainstream Republicans-- I'm thinking about people like Arlen Specter, people like Olympia Snowe. SG: I know Arlen Specter. I've spoken with him. I worked with him a little bit. MJ: Oh really? SG: Mmm-hmm. MJ: But have you been surprised that people of that kind of brand-- SG: You mean a, what do you call it, a Rockefeller Republican, a moderate Republican? MJ: Right. That they haven't been more energetic in trying to quiet the far right, or even distance the Republican Party from people like Rush Limbaugh and others? SG: Right. Well don't laugh, but I thought that, what's his name, Rudy Giuliani, would be somebody who would fit in that mold. He was a big city mayor, as Republicans go, he's liberal. I don't know where he stands on women's rights and that stuff, but somebody like that was really needed. Unfortunately, he was quite stupid. He put all of his eggs in the Florida basket, and ran down there and got killed. Whoever told him that destroyed his political career. He should have run in the Northeast. Something interesting you may not realize, I'll tell you about something I found out here in Gainesville. Mitt Romney, who to me, would be I think, a middle of the road, not strictly middle of the road, but a much better candidate. There's enormous resentment, distrust, of Mormons. I don't know much about Mormons. They discovered the golden dishes in upstate New York, and Joe Smith, and all of that. But Southern Christians don't think Mormons are Christians. So Romney is dead. I mean, he has no political future. You can't carry Republicans-- you've got to include the South, but you need a moderate leader. And I don't know who the hell is going to emerge, if anybody. I thought, I like McCain because of one thing. I don't like his views, some of the views, but I thought he was an honest man, and that's why I voted for him. Because I thought he was personally honest. MJ: I still haven't forgotten the pessimism question, but first another layer-- SG: I think the other issues will go away. I think that we'll outgrow the economic distress. I think we'll get out of the wars, eventually. I think the wars were a disaster. MJ: That's what I want to talk to about, actually. Another layer to this whole historical moment that we're in has to do with 9/11 and what that has meant for this country. Especially since you've been in the legal world and the criminology world so much of your career. I was wondering what your view is of what 9/11 has ended up meaning to the political culture of this country over the last eight years or nine years. SG: Well it's empowered some conservatives. That is, the fear generated by it. You know, one of the big differences between my growing up and the current generation is, that I grew up in World War II and I remember the war. I remember being in the war. I started school in 1943 in the middle of the war. When the war was over, and I was now a teenager in the '50s, America was the world leader in many respects from the point of view of national security and so on. But also was a time of great economic growth, prosperity. Later in my teen years when the Cold War came out, we had to practice diving under the table for an atomic bomb, but nevertheless grew up in a time of great optimism and security. And to me that's the fundamental change for kids today, is growing up in a world which Americans don't feel very secure in. MJ: Do you regard that as the most significant change you've seen in your lifetime? SG: Yeah, I would say so. Yeah, I think the economic thing will pass in a few years. But the terrorism thing I think, is going to be around for a long time.Mainly because it's really a religious war. Nobody dares to say that. But I really think it is a religious war. MJ: Jean, what do you think is the most important change, or how would you answer that question? What's the most important change you've seen in your lifetime? JG: That's a hard one for me to answer, because my mind goes to things like, medical advances, saving lives, the more liberal artsy kind of thing. Politically there's-- I mean, I would agree with-- SG: You don't have to agree, whether or-- JG: --with what's his name, here. [LAUGHTER] SG: Shepard, Shepard. JG: That sense of security is gone. We're not the world leaders. And certainly what Bush has done to our reputation. And our functioning in the world has been difficult. But there is that insecurity, and it's just not a safe world. I mean, I think about the fact that as-- I used to play outside, I used to ride my bike all over. As a young woman, I used too travel down into Manhattan, meet my friends, go to the theater, come home at 1 o'clock in the morning on the bus, transfer buses in the middle of Flushing to get home. That world that I grew up in doesn't really exist anymore as far as-- SG: That's a good point. It's like a second pillar. The first pillar I talked about was national security, the terrorism threat from 9/11. [She's] talking about the broader societal issue related to abuse of children, children being kidnapped, women are attacked more. Now, it may be that statistically the numbers the same, but because of the media revolution-- JG: Publications. Right, we're much more aware of it now. SG: The other day Walter Cronkite died. So at the time we said, jeez there are only three broadcasters. You got Walter Cronkite, you got Huntley and Brinkley, and you got Dan Rather, whoever was on CBS. That's all there were. Today you've got 50 or 60 of these guys on national TV. JG: And women. MJ: And women. SG: And women, I'm sorry. Provided they have nice breasts, and they're willing to show them. And bleach their hair, and wear short dresses. JG: Oh what a cynic you are. MJ: Do you think that, in those terms, when you think about just the number of channels out there, does the advent of the coaxial cable end up being one of the most important things in our political life? I mean, one of the things that's striking to me, is now everyone has their own kind of boutique realities. And if you want to find a viewpoint that bolsters your own, just surf around and you will find it. And you have people watching FOX news, and you have people watching Keith Olbermann, and never the twain shall meet. And we can't even have a discussion about some of the basic, common questions before us. SG: Well here's the problem… because of our background and our work and so on, we watch the news every night at dinner. Instead of having a discussion over dinner, we watch the news and talk about the news. But one night we'll watch NBC, another night ABC. Or I'll watch FOX news first-- JG: Not if I can help it [Laughs]. SG: I'll watch FOX news. Then I get sick of what they're saying, I switch to CNN. So I watch both of them. JG: Oh but the most amazing transformation in this house is PBS. Do you remember the days when we would watch PBS? SG: PBS television is terrific. PBS radio is awful. JG: But I'm talking about the news now. You'd hear two seconds on a particular political story, on the main broadcast, and one night you actually said to me, all right, let's watch PBS now and we'll get the whole story. SG: Right. JG: I was very proud of you on that one. [Laughs] SG: Right. The national news is a joke. Today the president met and talked about what to do in Afghanistan. They're deciding whether or not to admit 40,000 more troops. End of story. You know, about 30 seconds. And when you watch the regular, not the regular, the regular cable news, CNN or FOX, every 2 seconds it's, Alert! Alert! There's been an accident in Toledo, Ohio. A truck laden with high explosives has run into the Toledo River and so on. JG: No that's the New York news-- SG: No, that's the cable news. It's awful, awful. Except for, what's his name, Lehrer. But on the other hand, [Jean] listens to PBS radio. The only trouble with PBS radio is, it's not about America. We listen for 20 minutes about hip hop music in Tibet, and then some other-- JG: Honey, it's just a much smaller world than you're used to. SG: In Ceylon. Yeah. Meanwhile, the Rapido River in Texas is overflowing and 6,000 home have been washed out. JG: They cover that, too. SG: Yeah, they cover that. No they don't. So there's a big difference between it. MJ: So now, back to the optimism, pessimism question. I'm going to ask it a little bit differently though, for you. What worries you most? SG: You know, I'm 71 years old. I'm going to live another 10 or 12 years. So I think about my grandchildren, and what they're going to grow up in. The economy will right itself. The forces of capitalism restrained should bring back the prosperity, bring back people's 401Ks. We will eventually get out of Afghanistan, and I'm not sure why we're there. But I think those problems will solve themselves. But I do worry about the immigration issue, because it threatens to change the fabric of American life, long term. I'll give you, for instance. I know some people in the Canadian government. And in the Canadian government you cannot rise to a significant position unless you're bilingual and speak French. And it's written into their law. And eventually, the same thing could happen in America, Spanish becoming a mandatory language. Everybody's got to take it through high school. And everything would be in English and Spanish. If that's something that the American public wanted to do freely and voluntarily, that's fine, but I think that the illegal immigration-- people already recognize that Latinos are now the biggest, most influential swing group in the country. And California is a good example. MJ: Florida's turning out to be a good example of that as well. SG: Believe it or not, it's not as bad in Florida. Gainesville has no serious, significant Spanish population. JG: Well they're migrants, so they don't stay around. SG: Yeah we don't have migrant industries here, except growing marijuana. [Laughter] There's a big industry in northern Florida related to the growth of marijuana. People buy rural farms, convert them to growing marijuana. And the people who work there, on these grow farms, are all employed from-- brought up from Miami. But that's really nickles and that's really not very significant. I think the other significant thing about Florida is, in about 20 years, it'll be the second most popular state, and pass New York. Which isn't altogether bad. I think New York is overrated. When we were kids, we thought New York was wonderful. We even lived there in the '70s on the Upper East Side. We were just married and went to the theater at least once a week, and you could walk around. It was really lovely. But it's changed now. New York is a third world country. I would never want to live there again, or work there. The same for northern New Jersey. MJ: Well you've been very generous. Thank you for the time you've given me. Before I turn off the machine, is there anything that you feel that we should have addressed that we didn't? SG: I always used to do the same thing when I interrogated people. MJ: I'm not interrogating anybody, but you understand the tactic here. SG: Right. No I think I may have surprised you on the immigration issue. MJ: Well think that I might surprise you, because I have a very different view. But I basically agree, absolutely that we've been treating that issue since the '70s as a kind of, criminal justice issue, when it really is a hemispheric, economic issue. And and it's the short-sighted kind of politics that can never win. SG: Well I can see that the problem is economic at its roots, and there is an economic answer. And it would be far cheaper and more sensible to put that money into Mexico and bring it up. But legalization of the people I think carries serious political consequences. Not the least of which would be the power of the Catholic church. Which I regard as a serious issue, because the church is very active politically. MJ: Did you want to add anything? JG: No. SG: Oh you want to make a disclaimer now? JG: No, no. MJ: Well thank you, both. I really appreciate it. SG: Sure. […]

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