PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 25, 2021

PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 25, 2021

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WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Good evening,   and happy Thanksgiving. I'm William  Brangham. Judy Woodruff is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight:  hunger in America. This holiday,   many Americans face food insecurity amid  the ongoing pandemic and rising prices. JAX GARNETT, Virginia: We live on top of a  Whole Foods that we can't afford to shop at,   so we feel the weight of food inflation  and insecurity on us every day. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Then: California burning.  The state's largest utility company  

faces questions over whether its aging  equipment sparked this year's biggest wildfire. And America divided. How the  culture wars engulfing the country   are finding their way into nearly  every facet of political conversation.

JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, University of Virginia:   There's a sense now that each side sees  the other as an existential threat,   and that intensifies our public discourse.  It intensifies the anger and the fear. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All that and  more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Millions of Americans have  celebrated this Thanksgiving day with a return   to traditions, this after the pandemic pause  last year, but with infections rising once again. In New York this morning, thousands gathered to   watch giant balloons and marching bands  in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And in Nantucket, Massachusetts,  President Biden and Mrs. Biden   met with U.S. Coast Guard members,  and thanked them for their service.

Elsewhere in the state, Native  American activists held an   annual day of mourning at Plymouth,  where the Pilgrims first landed.   They said it marks the disease and oppression  inflicted on them by European settlers. The COVID surge across Europe  raised new alarms today,   as Germany became the fifth European nation  to pass 100,000 deaths from the virus.   The Czech Republic declared a 30-day emergency,  and France announced stricter mask mandates. Meanwhile, the European Commission warned  against growing travel restrictions,   and called for all 27 E.U. members to  observe the same rules on vaccinations. DIDIER REYNDERS, Commissioner For Justice,  European Union (through translator):   In today's recommendation, we are saying that  anyone who has received a booster should be   considered fully vaccinated. There is an obvious  risk that differing approaches between countries  

could endanger confidence in the COVID certificate  system and harm free movement in the Union. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Europe now  accounts for nearly two-thirds of new   COVID infections globally, with around a  million new cases reported every two days. Russia is insisting it had no involvement with the  so-called Havana Syndrome that's been affecting   U.S. diplomats overseas. The Kremlin's  denial followed a Washington Post report   that CIA Director William Burns warned  Moscow of potential consequences.  

U.S. officials and family members have  reported unexplained brain injuries,   hearing loss and other ailments, with the  first starting in Havana, Cuba, back in 2016. A fire inside a coal mine in Russian  Siberia triggered a major tragedy today.   The TASS News Agency reports 52 people  were killed. Emergency crews arrived in  

snowy conditions to try to reach those trapped  underground, but three of the rescuers died,   and operations were halted. There  was no word on the cause of the fire. In Sudan, thousands of protesters marched today,  renewing their demands for a full civilian   government. They rallied in Khartoum, opposing  a deal with military leaders that let Prime   Minister Abdalla Hamdok return to office. Instead,  they demanded a complete end to military rule. IHSAN, Protester (through translator): Hamdok   came back without any power and without any  decisions. Why did you come back, Hamdok? The  

Sudanese people are on the street. The Sudanese  people don't want the army chief in charge. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The armed  forces staged a coup in October,   but top generals have promised new elections. And Australia is sending troops and  diplomats to the Solomon Islands amid   violent protests there. Two days of unrest have  rocked the islands' capital city about 1,000  

miles northeast of Australia. Demonstrators  burned Chinese-owned stores amid criticism   of their nation's closer ties with Beijing. They  also breached the National Parliament building. Australian forces say they will help guard  key sites, but their mission is limited.

SCOTT MORRISON, Australian  Prime Minister: Our purpose here   is to provide stability and security to  enable the normal constitutional processes   within the Solomon Islands to be able to  deal with various issues that have arisen. It is not the Australian government's  intention in any way to intervene   in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The two countries have  a security treaty, and Australian forces   helped restore peace in the Solomons  after ethnic violence from 2003 to 2017.

Still to come on the "NewsHour": a look at the  origins of the fraught state of American politics;   the former head of Saudi intelligence  discusses his country's decades-long   involvement in Afghanistan; a new exhibit  displays a collection of Titian paintings   not seen together in hundreds  of years; plus much more. On this day, when Americans traditionally  gather with friends and family to celebrate   the bounty of food, there are still many in  this country struggling to feed themselves. According to the USDA, almost 15 percent  of families with kids in the U.S.   suffer from what's known as food insecurity.  As the pandemic continues and prices rise,  

Amna Nawaz has a closer look at the  toll all of this is taking on Americans. AMNA NAWAZ: On a recent morning in  Virginia, dozens of people bundled   up against the November chill to wait  for a Thanksgiving turkey. The line at   the Arlington Food Assistance Center  was orderly and socially distanced. And in the middle was Cynthia Anthony, a  73-year-old grappling with how to make ends meet.   She moved through the line, checked in,  greeted volunteers she's come to know   over the past year she's been a regular  visitor, and collected her food items.

CYNTHIA ANTHONY, Virginia: My food stamps is  not enough to hold me throughout the month;   $20 in food stamps don't get you  nothing, and that's what I get. AMNA NAWAZ: What do $20 in  food stamps get you these days? CYNTHIA ANTHONY: A half-a-gallon of  milk, a pack of hot dogs for $1.99,   one loaf of bread. I might be able to get a  dozen eggs. If I don't, I get a half-a-dozen.   That's where the $20 stop at. That's for a  few days. I got 28 or 29 more days to go. AMNA NAWAZ: Anthony is not alone; 55-year old Ana  Dheming started coming here after she injured her   wrist and couldn't work her hotel job anymore.  Here, she's able to pick up the essentials.

ANA DHEMING, Virginia: They give me tomato, or  some onion, potato. They say I don't have to buy. AMNA NAWAZ: And then there's  23-year old Jax Garnett,   a military spouse and mom of five  who's currently looking for work. JAX GARNETT, Virginia: We live on top of a  Whole Foods that we can't afford to shop at,   so we feel the weight of food inflation  and the insecurity on us every day. AMNA NAWAZ: A recent survey found that the  pandemic made it harder for nearly one out   of every three Americans to access food.  And of those who responded that they had  

fewer financial resources, nearly  half said they were eating less. CHARLES MENG, CEO, Arlington Food Assistance  Center: You know, the minimum wage is still $7.25.   So, that really is impossible to live on. AMNA NAWAZ: Charles Meng is the head of  the Arlington Food Assistance Center.   He says, since the pandemic started, there's  one group they have been seeing more of.

CHARLES MENG: The typical profile is really  the working poor. That's the group that   changes the most. We have seen an increase  very significantly in that particular group AMNA NAWAZ: One reason, rising costs  at grocery stores across the country.   A dollar just doesn't go as far. A pound of ground  beef is up nearly 18 percent over last year.   Bacon is up 28 percent, eggs 29 percent.

KATIE FITZGERALD, President, Feeding  America: For low-income households,   about a third of their total income is spent on  food. So, this makes it really difficult to have   any -- any margin right now for them  to be able to feed their families. AMNA NAWAZ: Katie Fitzgerald is  the president of the nonprofit   Feeding America that coordinates a  network of 200 food banks nationwide.

KATIE FITZGERALD: We're seeing  skyrocketing transportation costs,   labor challenges at food banks, still a  challenge to get enough volunteers in.   And then just the price of food  itself is really pricing out   some products that food banks otherwise would  normally be procuring for their communities. AMNA NAWAZ: At the Arlington Food Assistance  Center, director Charles Meng said they bought   2, 400 turkeys to hand out ahead of  Thanksgiving, but that came at a cost. CHARLES MENG: Last year, we paid a $1.05  per pound for turkeys. We're now paying $1,   almost $1.42 per pound. So, there has  been a tremendous increase in that cost.   And if you're one of our clients, you see  that cost in your daily grocery store bill.

AMNA NAWAZ: Part of what's at play in higher  grocery bills begins in backed-up container   ships in ports around the world, a lack of truck  drivers to transport goods. Higher gas prices.   It all adds up to sticker shock on grocery  store shelves. And food banks aren't immune. KATIE FITZGERALD: The safety net is subject to  those same pressures, right? So, on one hand,   if you think about the supply chain backups,  we have orders that food banks have for   canned fruit and vegetables in particular --  that's right now a major problem -- that are   just not being fulfilled and are  delayed weeks, sometimes months.

The challenges for the supply chain are not  sustainable for us, because they're impacting   food donations as more food that would otherwise  come to us is going to the secondary market. AMNA NAWAZ: Another issue facing hungry America,   more than 54 million Americans live in  areas with poor access to healthy food. CHARLES MENG: That's why food  insecurity in the United States   looks like obesity. We have an  abundance, but it's the wrong food.

AMNA NAWAZ: In Arlington, they have  made it part of their mission to help   people get more nutritious foods  that often come at a higher cost   into their diets. With five children, Jax Garnett  says it's a big reason she started coming. JAX GARNETT: Sometimes, you're like, OK, I don't  want to make macaroni again, even though they   like that. It's not nutritious. I need substance.  There's a lot of other great resources that are   food drives or easy pickup options, but a  lot of them don't have fruits and vegetables. So, to get something fresh, to get  milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables,   this is one of the few opportunities  in Arlington that offers that. AMNA NAWAZ: And with a turkey in her backpack,   Garnett headed off, better prepared  to feed her family this Thanksgiving. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna  Nawaz in Arlington, Virginia.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:   Unlike last Thanksgiving, which  came in the depths of the pandemic,   the creation of vaccines means many of us can now  gather safely with our loved ones this holiday. We heard from people across the country  about the ways they're celebrating this year   and what they're most grateful for. GREG TENOR, Maryland: Hi, my name is Greg  Tenor, and I live in Rockville, Maryland. I think, this year, given everything that's  happened during the pandemic, we want to take   even the smallest things that give us joy and  really realize how important they are to us. MICHELLE DELGADO, Colorado: I'm Michelle  Delgado. I'm from Aurora, Colorado. I'm grateful for the response from my family,  how we have reached out to each other.

JEAN DARNELL, Texas: My name is Jean Darnell,   and I'm a middle school  librarian in Pflugerville, Texas. I'm thankful to have a job. Last Thanksgiving, I  didn't. I was out with current COVID, quarantine   and whatnot, and so I am eternally grateful  to be here in a library again inspiring kids. KEVIN REED, Washington: I'm Kevin  Reed from Seattle, Washington.

And I'm thankful for shelter, food. I live in  Seattle, so we have a lot of homeless around,   and you're reminded constantly how fortunate  you are just to have a home and food. JESSICA SHAPELY, Texas: My name is Jessie (ph)  Shapely. I'm 35. I live in Houston, Texas. This year, we're really looking  forward to being together as a family,   now that my 5-year-old are  vaccinated and we're all vaccinated.

SILVIA GARCIA-LIVELLI, Maryland: My name is Silvia  Garcia-Livelli. I live in Bethesda, Maryland. I think that we all have felt  the stress of knowing how fragile   life is and how important it is  that we are not isolated entities.   We are part of a group, that shared  responsibility and shared support. MICHELLE DELGADO: My grandchildren have sent me  artwork. My grandson, he and his mom traced his   arms and his body on tissue paper and sent me  a hug, which I still have hanging on my wall.

KEVIN REED: When I go out in the morning and  I could see the stars and the planets and the   moon and everything, I'm just aware of being  -- that we're on this ball of rock in space. And I'm just thankful for the life and everything  that's on there and being a part of it and being   on the cutting edge of billions of years of  evolution. That's always kind of exciting. JEAN DARNELL: My plans this Thanksgiving  is to get in the kitchen with my sons.   I'm going to teach them what goes into  their favorite dishes, whether it's   sweet potato pie or bacon mac and cheese, those  "Mama, this is so good, how did you make?" recipe. I'm like, you're going to  make it this Thanksgiving.   I'm going to sit on a stool somewhere  in the kitchen and supervise, delegate.

(LAUGHTER) GREG TENOR: I'm an only child,   so it's going to be my mom, my dad and I  spending Thanksgiving just at their home. I love to cook. I order out a lot, but  there's nothing like a home-cooked meal. SILVIA GARCIA-LIVELLI: I am going to just breathe,  be present and be happy and just enjoy the warmth   of their -- that comes from  interaction from family and friends. JESSICA SHAPELY: I know my daughter is  really looking forward to hugging my mom.  

They haven't seen each other in person  for a little over a year. And I know   we're all really excited for that,  just hugs, lots and lots of hugs again. WILLIAM BRANGHAM:   Southern California's largest utility company,   Edison, turned off power today for  over 63,000 homes and businesses,   as low humidity and high winds increased  the risk of starting dangerous wildfires. While that state is experiencing a record drought  driven in part by climate change, the initial   spark for many of these blazes often comes  from utility equipment and their power lines.

Fire investigators are now looking  into whether another utility,   PG&E, was behind the nation's  largest fire so far this year. From KQED and the California newsroom,  Lily Jamali reports how their findings   could have ramifications for the victims of  past fires caused by the utility company. LILY JAMALI: After three months, firefighters  in California have contained the Dixie Fire,   which, this summer, engulfed almost a million  acres, an area bigger than Rhode Island. It's  

the second largest fire in California history,  and has left at least 1,000 people homeless. It may have been started by equipment belonging  to California's largest utility, Pacific Gas   & Electric. PG&E has been implicated in several  devastating fires, including the deadly Camp Fire,   which destroyed the town of Paradise in the  Sierra Nevada foothills almost three years ago. It was sparked when this hook that kept a power  line suspended snapped after a century of use,   causing sparks to fly onto dry brush below.  The company ultimately pleaded guilty to 84   counts of involuntary manslaughter for  the residents who died in the Camp Fire.

Last year, Bill Johnson, PG&E's  then-CEO, entered the company's pleas: BILL JOHNSON, Former PG&E CEO: I wish there was  some way to take back what happened or to take   away the impact, the pain that these people  have suffered, but I know that can't be done. LILY JAMALI: Among the tens of thousands  of people who lost homes in that blaze is   Teri Lindsay. Since the fire, she and her family  have been crammed into one trailer after another. TERI LINDSAY, Fire Victim: There were five people,   four dogs, two guinea pigs, and a  cat all living in this mobile home.

LILY JAMALI: Teri escaped with her  daughter, Erika (ph), who was just seven   when they fled for their lives. Erika still  struggles to talk about what happened. TERI LINDSAY: She was really affected.   She sees a campfire, a little campfire in  a pit, and she gets scared of the smoke.  

She hears sirens, she gets worried there's  a fire. She is so traumatized by this. But she was my helper that day. LILY JAMALI: This past summer, the Lindsays were  on the long list of PG&E fire survivors waiting to   get paid from a controversial settlement set  up as the company left bankruptcy last year. Seventy thousand people who lost homes,  businesses, and loved ones in fires caused   by the company were promised approximately $13.5  billion, but their settlement has never actually  

been worth that much. And, today, the vast  majority of them have yet to receive a dime. PG&E set up a compensation fund for these  victims of past fires with $6.75 billion in cash   and, in a highly unusual outcome, almost 500  million shares of PG&E itself. That's left   PG&E fire survivors collectively holding  almost one-quarter of the company's shares   through a special trust, whose value  fluctuates with the price of PG&E stock.

WILLIAM ABRAMS, Fire Victim: PG&E  would not have the incentives LILY JAMALI: William Abrams was one of several  fire survivors who objected to those terms.   His family lost their Sonoma County home in 2017.   He says the deal has tethered the victims'  compensation to PG&E's performance. WILLIAM ABRAMS: Here's this company  that burned down your house,   and then they are forcing you to  take an investment in their company. LILY JAMALI: This past spring, more than  100 fire survivors organized a march   in the fire-ravaged town of Paradise. PROTESTER: Come on through.

LILY JAMALI: Making it known they're  unhappy. After more than a year,   just 12 percent of even the cash portion of  their settlement has made it to them, this   as independent administrators have racked up at  least $100 million in fees, with no end in sight. PROTESTER: It's a trust that's  set up for fire victims. Yet,   so many months and years down the  line, fire victims haven't seen much. LILY JAMALI: Teri Lindsay told fellow  survivors she needs cash in her hands   and a roof over her head.

TERI LINDSAY: I'm angry right now.   It's because my little girl here,  she can't heal until we can go home. LILY JAMALI: These victims have watched as PG&E  comes under scrutiny for more fires and faces   charges for more deaths. The company is facing  criminal prosecution for a 2019 Wine Country fire,  

and was charged last month with its  second round of manslaughter charges   for a 2020 fire in Shasta County. STEPHANIE BRIDGETT, Shasta County, California,  District Attorney: Their failure was reckless,   and it was negligent, and it resulted  in the deaths of four people. LILY JAMALI: PG&E acknowledges that fire was  caused when a tree fell onto its power lines,   but disputes the claim that it's criminally  liable. A tree striking its lines also   caused the Dixie Fire, this year's largest,  which PG&E is being investigated for now. PG&E CEO Patti Poppe: PATTI POPPE, CEO, Pacific Gas &  Electric: That tree that fell on our line   is one of eight million trees that  are in strike distance to our lines.  

This is an extraordinary problem. LILY JAMALI: PG&E declined our request to  interview CEO Ms. Poppe for this story. But the company sent us a statement,  saying that it is hardening its system,   piloting new technologies, and taking other  aggressive action to increase system safety. The   safety plan PG&E has submitted to state regulators  lays out just how tall an order that is. More than 30,000 miles of PG&E's power lines  run through high-threat fire districts,   places like this neighborhood in the city  of Fremont just outside San Francisco.  

It's ringed with high-voltage PG&E power lines. NATHANIEL SKINNER, California Public Utility  Commission: These houses, just they're right   up against the hillside. And so, if there was to  be a fire, it's right up against people's homes. LILY JAMALI: Nathaniel Skinner is a manager at  the internal watchdog agency of California's   utility regulator. He says PG&E has stepped  up work on its system in recent years,   but adds, the goalposts are constantly  changing, amid relentless change at the top. NATHANIEL SKINNER: So, we have been through  a never-ending cycle of CEOs at the company,   and yet we still keep seeing the same  kinds of problems at the utility,   missed inspections, delayed  inspections, falsified inspections. LILY JAMALI: For 2021, of those 30,000  miles of power lines in high-risk zones,   just 1, 800 miles are slated for PG&E's  stepped-up tree-trimming program,   and less than 200 miles are  set to undergo major upgrades.

The company is behind on those goals. But, even  at its planned pace, advocates like Skinner say   it would take PG&E up to 100 years to  address those risks across its system. TERI LINDSAY: Those are really  low. I mean, we can touch them. LILY JAMALI: Teri Lindsay's  temporary home is in the fire zone.  

She worries about what's ahead. With climate  change, these fires aren't going away. TERI LINDSAY: The winds that come  through here, we get some bad winds. LILY JAMALI: This fall, she learned  how much she's owed for her losses,   but she will get just 30 percent  for now, as PG&E stock flounders. And they will never get back all  that they lost, including their town.

TERI LINDSAY: We love our town. And  to see all this, everything gone,   ashes, all that stuff, it's not  something I would wish on anybody. LILY JAMALI: For fire survivors, promises of  a safer PG&E have come too little, too late. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lily  Jamali in Northern California. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Most families gather on  Thanksgiving hoping that politics is not   on the menu. And this year  is certainly no different. Amna Nawaz is back with a look at why it seems  that cultural and political polarization seems   to be getting worse in this country, and what  might be done to lower the temperature just a bit.

AMNA NAWAZ: We're witnessing the newest evolution  of the culture wars, a term first popularized   nearly 30 years ago in a book by James Davison  Hunter. He's also the executive director of the   Institute for Advanced Studies and Culture at  the University of Virginia. And he joins me now. James Davison Hunter, welcome to the  "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.

So, it was 30 years ago you used this phrase  culture wars. You were trying to capture sort   of the national divides and debates over issues  like abortion rights and LGBTQ rights and the role   of religion in schools. How have the culture wars  from 30 years ago changed? What's different today? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, University of Virginia:  One of the most important differences   is the ways in which the culture wars  have now become class culture wars.

Progressives tend to predominate in  the upper middle class, highly educated   professionals and managers. And traditionalists,  conservatives tend to cluster in the middle,   lower-middle and working classes. The class  differences are highlighting real differences in   life chances and opportunities, the horizons of  the future that mean so much to everyday life. AMNA NAWAZ: So, I guess, definitionally, too,  maybe I can ask you to help us understand how   you look at the phrase, what culture wars even  mean today, because it feels almost as if the term   is applied reflexively to any issue that people  disagree on that's not purely a matter of policy. You can talk about science or sports or  education or anything, and it becomes   a culture war issue. So, how do you see it? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: So, culture wars  can be understood in two different ways.

The main way in which people think about  culture wars is in terms of the politics   of culture. It's essentially about politics, but  around cultural issues. So, it's the politics of   abortion. It's the politics of gay rights, lesbian  rights. It's the politics of race and the like. The second way in which the culture wars plays  out is in terms of the culture of politics.  

It's the symbolic environment within which  politics and our democracy unfolds. This is the   difference between weather and climate. They're  related to each other. They feed on each other. But they're ultimately reinforcing the  same kinds of divisions in our society. AMNA NAWAZ: You have also written about and  talked about this idea of fear of extinction   being sort of a central issue in some  of these culture war issues as well. And polls actually show messaging like that  really resonates among the American public.  

In one recent poll, 52 percent of Americans  agree with the statement -- quote -- "Today,   America is in danger of losing  its culture and identity." We have just seen the largest and most diverse  nationwide calls for racial justice and people   more willing to see and recognize  the racist history of this country.   I'm curious what role you think  race plays in all of this. JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: Well,  my sense is that race is,   for the most part, replacing abortion  as the central issue of the culture war.

Ever since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,  abortion was really the main catalyst of   conflict. Race was never really discussed as much  through the '80s and '90s. It's now center stage. AMNA NAWAZ: There's also, we should point out, a  really deep divide, a partisan divide on that one   issue of whether or not America is in  danger of losing its culture and identity.

It's a 50-point gap, a 50 percentage point  gap between Republicans and Democrats;   80 percent of Republicans, we should say, agreed  with that statement. Does that surprise you? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: It doesn't surprise me. I think that there's the -- in a way, you can  think about the interplay of our national motto   of e pluribus unum. The pluribus has expanded and  it has polarized. The unum has all but evaporated. There's a sense now that each side sees the other  as an existential threat, and that intensifies   our public discourse. It intensifies  the anger and the fear. If there is an   unum right now in our public culture, it's  probably fear. It cuts across race, class, gender,  

the divide between conservatives and progressives. Fear seems to be our common culture right now. AMNA NAWAZ: You have also  talked about the justification   of violence that comes with  some of these culture wars. I'm thinking about the violence we  saw on January 6 that was perpetuated   by the lie of a stolen election and political  propaganda. I'm also thinking about messaging  

and political violence. We just saw Congressman  Paul Gosar censured for a violent video that he   shared online depicting him causing harm,  murdering a fellow congressional colleague. Talk to me about that. Should  we have seen all this coming?

JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: Well,  there was a 30-year culture war   that was prior to the Civil War. You never have   a shooting war without a prior culture war.  Culture provides the justifications for violence. It's -- and you tend to see this kind of move  when each side doesn't see any way forward,   when you're at a stalemate, and there's  no way democratically to move it forward.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, where is the exit ramp in all  of this? I mean, if the onus seems to be upon   the people who are perpetuating these kinds  of culture wars, leaning into them, maybe even   benefiting from them politically, if it's  resonating among the American public,   how does this all get tamped down? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: I think that there is a  sense on both sides of just deep exhaustion, that   we're no longer part of a  shared project called America,   and that -- and even reason or facts, each  side has their own reasons and their own facts. And there's the sense of exhaustion.   What's the point of talking through our  differences? They're not getting us anywhere. So, we end up with a very shallow public discourse  that's shouting. It's cliches. It's a kind of  

truncated discourse that tends to feed each side's  base and to mobilize the base toward action. This is not healthy for democracy. And it  seems to me, if we don't commit ourselves,   if leaders are not censuring acts of  both physical and symbolic violence,   these tendencies are only going to increase.  So, it's a dangerous moment. And my sense is  

that, unless we address this, we're going  to be seeing more violence in the future. AMNA NAWAZ: James Davison Hunter giving us all  a lot to think about, and we're grateful for it. Thank you so much for your time. JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: You're welcome. Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM:   It was the anger and fear seeping into American  political culture that struck journalist and   Pulitzer Prize-winning author Evan Osnos when  he moved back to the United States in 2013. He'd been living and working abroad for 10 years,  first in the Middle East and then in China.

As he recently told Judy Woodruff, Osnos set  out to understand why the country had changed. It's the focus of his latest book,  "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury." JUDY WOODRUFF: Evan Osnos,  welcome back to the "NewsHour." EVAN OSNOS, Author, "Wildland: The  Making of America's Fury": Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the title of the  book, "Wildland," fitting in many ways,   that the country does feel that way,  I think, right now to many of us. You went back for this book to  three of the places you have lived,   Clarksburg, West Virginia, where you  worked as a as a beginning news reporter,   Greenwich, Connecticut, where you spent  time growing up, Chicago, where you work. And you talked to hundreds of people to try to  get a sense of the trajectory of their lives,   how they're experiencing this. And what comes  through is often the destructive forces at work   out there. I'm thinking particularly  that hedge fund manager in Greenwich. EVAN OSNOS: Yes. Well, one of the things that I was really struck  by was the way that the things that were happening   in one place were impacting the politics in  another place, to a degree I hadn't expected.

Take Greenwich, for example, where  I grew up. It had experienced   huge growth in wealth in the early years of this  century. The average CEO was making hundreds of   times what the average front-line worker was.  And when I went to West Virginia and I spoke to   people about how they thought about the American  system, coal miner there said to me, he said:   "Do you know any man who was worth 400 or  500 times other men?" He said: "I don't." And that sensation, that feeling of  somehow things being off was deeply felt,   to a degree I don't think we appreciated. JUDY WOODRUFF: You give us the stories of these  individual lives, but there's a lot of data in   here to back it up, the discrepancy in wealth  in this country, the role of money in politics.

It gives the book a foundation,  I think, so that you're reading   human stories, but you're also  learning a lot about this country. EVAN OSNOS: Well, there were  statistics that staggered me, frankly. I mean, take, for example, the fact that, if  you live in McDowell County, West Virginia,   if you're an adult male, your life  expectancy there is 18 years less   than your life expectancy over the  border in Virginia, in Fairfax County.

And the fact that these are two  parts of one political community   gives you a window into some of the  underlying stresses that are pulling us apart. JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is the theme  of politics that runs through this. And along the way, Donald Trump appears, runs  for president, is elected, and, of course,   so much controversy around him. But you  see the forces that he's bringing out   in these communities and in the  lives of the people you talked to.

EVAN OSNOS: Yes, in a way, I suppose I was writing   about Trump before he was even on  the scene. I didn't know it yet. I was writing about this rising sense of fury  in American politics. And when he arrived,   I thought I was writing a book about somebody  who was never going to be president. He became   president, and then I realized, actually, that  was, in the end, the kind of confluence of all   of these structural forces I'd been writing  about, politics, economics, technology.

But, ultimately, it's also how we  relate to one another as citizens. JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think  you came away, Evan Osnos,   with -- from all of this reporting you have  done, with a better understanding of why   Donald Trump has the following  that he has in this country? EVAN OSNOS: Yes. I think, in the end, I was struck  by the fact that, fundamentally,   Americans have broken faith with  institutions, at the core. I mean,   these are -- it applies to universities  and government and the law and politics.  

And that's a process of restoration that takes  more than just four years to get back to it. It's not just enough to get rid of one president   and to put another in place. As we're  seeing right now, these divisions endure.   This is a generational project about restoring  credibility by restoring opportunity to people,   making them feel as if it's possible again to  be heard and to make their way in this country. JUDY WOODRUFF: There are stories of people trying  in their local communities to make a difference.

EVAN OSNOS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, there are some uplifting tales  here, but they're not the majority of the... (CROSSTALK) EVAN OSNOS: In a way, I was really struck.

I didn't go out looking for either successes or  failures. What I was trying to do was document   the country as it really feels to be here in this  period. I mean, frankly, I was writing so that,   later, my kids could read about what it was  like to be in the United States at this period. And, in a way, I came away encouraged by some  things, some really impressive projects. To just  

name one, something as simple as taking kids  from very segregated neighborhoods in Chicago,   bringing them across town to another  part of town and making them feel as   if the whole city is theirs, that can  transform their sense of themselves. And I came away quite encouraged by that. JUDY WOODRUFF: But is there  enough of that kind of thing   going on in our local communities,  in our cities across the country? EVAN OSNOS: There is this tension going on,   because there is a nationalized political  conversation. And that grinds us down.

I mean, there's an amazing fact,  which is that Americans today   have an easier time naming presidents  and vice presidents than their own   governors of their states. And it  wasn't always that way. Historically,   you used to know your local officials  better than you knew national politics. So, part of the lesson that I drew from this is,   it's time to reinvest in the places we know.  I mean, reinvest in your local newspaper,  

in the institutions that actually  connect you to your neighbors. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. And I -- and I think many people look  at that and they say, it's admirable,   but is it going to be enough? But you're  saying, in the end, you have hope? EVAN OSNOS: I'm saying it's  actually not hope; it's work. Like, we have work to do, but it's not as if it's  mysterious. There's very definable reasons why we   ended up in this mess. And, for that reason,  we can also begin to address them, things like  

fundamental income inequality of a scale that we  haven't had since the Gilded Age, things like the   decline of reliable news in a way that people feel  they can go online and read something they trust. These kinds of things are not, in the end,   impossible. And part of the process of  addressing them is laying it out on paper. JUDY WOODRUFF: Washington still  has a role to play in all this,   but you're saying it's got to be more than that? EVAN OSNOS: It is, yes.

I mean, one of the clear takeaways I had was that,   to understand Washington's dysfunction right  now, you have to get outside of Washington. JUDY WOODRUFF: Evan Osnos. The book is "Wildland: The  Making of America's Fury." Thank you. Thank you very much. EVAN OSNOS: My pleasure. Thanks, Judy.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It's been three months since the  U.S. withdrew its forces from Afghanistan after   20 years of war, but America's involvement  there didn't begin after September 11,   2001. It began decades earlier, after the  Soviet Union invaded that country in 1979. The U.S. wanted to do everything it could  to counter the Russians during the Cold War.   And so, at that time, the U.S.  worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan  

to arm Afghan Islamist fighters  known as the mujahideen. Nick Schifrin recently talked with one of the  key architects and partners in that effort. NICK SCHIFRIN: From the 1979 Soviet  invasion of Afghanistan to the 9/11   al-Qaida attacks plotted in Afghanistan, few  people have been focused on the country and   the battles its people waged on behalf of  world powers than Prince Turki Al-Faisal,   whose term as Saudi intelligence head  coincided almost exactly with those years. He's written a new book, "The Afghanistan File."

Your Royal Highness, welcome to the "NewsHour." PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD, Former Saudi  Intelligence Director: Thank you, Mr. Schifrin. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's start at the beginning. In 1979, the Soviets invade Afghanistan.  And the Carter administration  

decides to fund the mujahideen the Afghan  fighters who would fight the Soviet Union. There's a formal decision by the middle  of 1980 for Saudi Arabia to essentially   split the cost with the United States and have  the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI,   funnel weapons to the mujahideen. You were, of course, in the middle  of that effort. How did it work? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD:  The recipients were picked on their   ability to harm the Soviets, basically. The  Pakistanis and us and the Americans would   sit together and see which one was more effective  reaching certain targets that were put for them. I would say that, on the issue of Afghanistan,   from 1979 until I left the intelligence  department in 2001, there was, if you like,   a good war, and then there was a bad war. The  good war is when we got the Soviets out jointly.

But once that happened the United States,  basically, and the other countries in the world   turned their back on Afghanistan.  And, unfortunately, the mujahideen   that had worked so well together to get the  Soviets out, they began to fight each other,   and there was civil war. And  that's what I would call a bad war. NICK SCHIFRIN: In retrospect, do you think, if  the international community had stayed focused   on Afghanistan, the country could  have looked different in the 1990s? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: I believe so,  because remaining in a dysfunctional state,   as it happened in the civil war  that followed the Soviet withdrawal,   allowed for all sorts of developments to take  place, including the formation of al-Qaida.

Its roots began in the late  '80s in the refugee camps of   Afghans in Pakistan, with bin Laden and Ayman  al-Zawahri, who is now the head of al-Qaida. NICK SCHIFRIN: But is it only what happened there? Saudi Arabia itself has been accused of basically  sowing the seeds of Islamist radicalism. You write in the book -- quote -- "We  simply tolerated Saudis to fight in   Afghanistan if they wished, and we had  never thought, when we encouraged young   men to go to Pakistan in the 1980s, it  might change their political ideas."

In retrospect, do you think that was naive? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL  AL-SAUD: Well, it was naive. But, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,  everybody supported the mujahideen. When, finally,   al-Qaida established itself  in Afghanistan, and bin Laden   in 1989 came to me to inform me that he would  like, as he said, to bring his mujahideen to go   and fight the communist regime in the  Arabian Peninsula, South Yemen, at the time,   and I told him, we don't need your mujahideen,  basically, so, don't call us, we will call you.

The same year, 1990, the Iraqis  invaded Kuwait, and bin Laden   didn't come to me, but he went to another  Saudi official, the late defense minister,   basically repeated what I had told him  before: Thank you very much. Don't interfere. And I think that's when he began his  enmity, if you like, to the kingdom. NICK SCHIFRIN: In the book, you call bin  Laden -- quote -- "ill-informed, naive,   a believer in the most simplistic solutions."

But you also admit in the book how the  expansion of religious influence in Saudi's   education system, in the media played a  role in creating people like bin Laden. Do you believe the kingdom has a part to blame? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: There was this  growth of extremist opinion in Saudi Arabia. So, yes, we're -- definitely. And we rued the  day afterwards, when we were -- became even   more of the targets of these people inside the  kingdom. And that's why the kingdom went through   a soul-searching procedure and process, not just  by the government, but by the people in general.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Which brings us  to today and the kings and crown   Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts  to modernize, to diversify the economy. For every major announcement, such  as buying Newcastle Football Club,   hosting Formula 1, there are still  condemnations from human rights groups. Do you believe it would be wise for  Saudi Arabia to change its positions   on human rights, if for no  other reason than self-interest? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Well, it's not  a matter of self-interest. It's a matter of  

being human beings and holding  high principles and high ideals. It is unacceptable for anybody, and not just Saudi  Arabia, to stay rigid on a course and not reform   and evolve. And the kingdom has chosen  evolution. And the kingdom is, I think,   rightfully proud that it has managed in  a very short time space to come from,   I would say, the 17th century until the  21st century in a period of 60 to 70 years. NICK SCHIFRIN: Saudi Arabia's critics say it's  less a question of whether the kingdom is moving   fast enough than the motivations, frankly,  of Mohammed bin Salman himself to persecute   his critics, not only Jamal Khashoggi, but also  with widespread detentions inside the kingdom. PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD:  Welcome to criticism, if it is fair. In every case that they mention about arrests and  things like that, they are taken to court. And, in  

the court, with sentences and with accusations and  so on, the process is done, as happened with the   killers of Jamal Khashoggi, who were identified  and were brought to justice in the kingdom. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's end by  bringing this back to Afghanistan. In a speech in early November, you said  that the U.S. withdrawal would lead U.S.   allies to contemplate -- quote -- "a future  away from the Western-dominant paradigm." Why? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Well, if you can't  depend on your friends, who can you depend on? I don't think there is anybody that can  replace the United States and its -- with   its military power, its economic power  and its diplomatic capabilities and so on.  

So, we're not seeking to  replace the United States. But, definitely, I think we are seeking to have  friends, more friends. We should not turn our back   on Afghanistan. We should hold the Taliban to task  to see that they perform on what they said that  

they will do, an inclusive government, issues  of human rights, women's rights, education, et   cetera, et cetera, and that they're not going to  allow anybody to use Afghan soil to harm others. All these things have -- the Taliban have  to account for. And I don't think we should   offer them diplomatic recognition  until and unless they do that. NICK SCHIFRIN: Prince Turki  Al-Faisal, thank you very much. PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD:  Thank you, Mr. Schifrin.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It's an exhibition many  have called the art show of the year. It's a   collection of master works by Titian, which have  not been seen together in more than 400 years. They are on display at the Isabella  Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Special correspondent Jared  Bowen of GBH takes a look. It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

JARED BOWEN: At first blush, there is so much  to absorb, a master painter working at his most   majestic, skin bared to carnal extremes, but also  an atmosphere of terror. And then there is this,   seeing these six Titian paintings reunited for  the first time since the Italian Renaissance. NATHANIEL SILVER, Curator, Isabella Stewart  Gardner Museum: It's huge. They haven't been back   together since they left the royal collections  in Spain over the course of several centuries. JARED BOWEN: It was Spain's young  and soon-to-be-King Philip II who   commissioned Titian to paint this series in 1550.

Hiring the Venetian painter was akin to  landing Picasso as your interior designer,   says curator Nathaniel Silver. NATHANIEL SILVER: Titian was the celebrity  painter of Europe. He painted for popes.   He painted for princes. He was the  personal painter to the holy Roman   emperor, who was Philip II's father.  Everybody who was anybody wanted a Titian. JARED BOWEN: Titian painted  the works over 10 years.

In that time, Philip became king  and the world's most powerful ruler,   but the monarch gave the artist free rein. NATHANIEL SILVER: Usually, it was, you ordered  the work of art, you signed the check, and   that was it. This is really the  artist having quite a big voice. JARED BOWEN: The series depicts ancient  mythological stories as written by the Roman poet   Ovid, but Titian distilled the writer's epic text  into jam-packed paintings teeming with symbols. NATHANIEL SILVER: Titian calls these  paintings the poesie. And the word   literally translates as painted poetries. He is  putting his own stamp of originality on them. You could say that he's challenging the written  word with the painted image. He is challenging  

the pen with the brush. JARED BOWEN: They reflect on and  telegraph a world of violence. In the painting Danae, the God Jupiter  transforms himself into gold dust,   descending on the nude princess to  impregnate her. In Diana and Callisto,   Jupiter is again a perpetrator, having  assaulted one of the goddess Diana's nymphs. NATHANIEL SILVER: Diana is pointing  out her finger of judgment at Callisto,   casting her out of her sacred spring. Callisto is lying here. And if you look  carefully at her eyes, you see she's crying,  

the other nymphs around her  exposing her pregnant belly.   This is no less than the shaming  of a rape victim by her peers. The whims of the Gods leave so much of the fates  of mortals out of the hands of mortals themselves.   It's a hard painting. It's a very hard painting. And it's hard to reconcile the beauty of the way  in which it's painted, of the fabulous palette   that Titian uses, the incredible sunset  behind it, with the horror of its subject. JARED BOWEN: The works are metaphors for war and  conquest and a world often consumed with violence.  

It's Titian offering commentary, while  also working at the height of his career. NATHANIEL SILVER: He's a painter's painter. He's  a virtuoso with the brush. He knows how to apply   the minimum of paint to create a particular  figure and get the most out of it pictorially.

PEGGY FOGELMAN, Director, Isabella Stewart  Gardner Museum: One of the things that I   love about the installation at the Gardner is  how intimately they converse with each other. JARED BOWEN: Peggy Fogelman is the director of  Boston's Gardner Museum, the last stop on what   has been an international tour of the works, one  stalled, but not derailed by a global pandemic. PEGGY FOGELMAN: It's not an easy undertaking and  took a couple of years of negotiating, actually. JARED BOWEN: The works remained in Philip's  Madrid palace only for about 20 years before   being scattered throughout Europe. But this  one, titled The Rape of Europa came to the U.S.   125 years ago by way of the museum's shrewd  founder and collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner. Here, Jupiter appears again as a bull this time  stealing away with the princess Europa to Crete,   where he impregnates her, and she  ultimately gives birth to the first   of European civilization. It was Gardner's  prized masterpiece, if not a fraught one.

PEGGY FOGELMAN: It made quite a  splash when it came to Boston.   She talks about men sort of bowing down  before Europa and women averting their gaze.   She was very much enamored of the  emotional responses to works of art. JARED BOWEN: The purchase was so monumental,  Gardner's friend the writer Henry James   wondered if the pope would sell her one of the  Vatican rooms next. And she loved the painting   enough to give it a singular space in her  museum built to resemble a Venetian palazzo. PEGGY FOGELMAN: The Titian Gallery. She  named the whole gallery after this painting,  

she was so enamored of it. And  everything that's arranged on   the wall and the colors in that fabric  is really evocative of the painting. JARED BOWEN: At the exhibition's end, Europa  returns to the empty space on this wall. The   other five paintings return to their European  museums, but, says curator Nathaniel Silver,   this once-in-a-lifetime reunion has  made them more relevant than ever. NATHANIEL SILVER: We see horrifying things  every day, and we're forced to reckon with   these forces outside of our control. And that's  exactly what Titian is forcing Philip to do. JARED BOWEN: For the "PBS NewsHour,"  I'm Jared Bowen in Boston.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that is the "NewsHour"  for tonight. I'm William Brangham. Be sure to join us here again tomorrow evening. From all of us at the "NewsHour,"  we have so much to be grateful for,   and we're especially thankful for all of you for  being a part of our "NewsHour" family. Thank you. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Good night.

2021-11-27 13:01

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