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Thank you for your interest in A More -- or less -- Perfect Union...what matters most to Americans as elections approach. This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, any of the platforms listed above, or wherever you get your shows). Please subscribe/follow and  share your thoughts.

About

 

Take heed, candidates for office in 2022 and beyond – We the People have some things on our minds…

 

In the run-up to the 2016 election, CITIZENARTS’s Founder Jim Gabbe and Executive Producer Jeff Lewis traveled the USA – from the rocky coast of Maine to the murky bayous of Louisiana to Washington’s shimmering Puget Sound. They were seeking answers to a most distressing question: were Americans as angrily and hopelessly divided as was being reported by the media? Over the course of those months crossing the country, they spoke with over 200 Americans from all walks of life. The resulting eye-opening documentary film was titled A More – or less – Perfect Union.

 

Do you remember what mattered most to you in those days? Did you think Trumpist populism would be rocketed into power and that the election would be a clarion call for amplified political, social and cultural discord? 

 

But what about now? Do those citizens from the film still think that way as a new election cycle approaches? To find out, CITIZENARTS invited a cross section of them to a reunion of sorts – a national, online forum that is presented in Episodes Two and Three: a no-holds-barred discussion – sometimes debate –that underscores how quickly a nation can change in our high-tempo, cloud-powered world. And, how Americans better have clear ideas about what voting can mean in the coming weeks and years. Or even, simply, that they’d better vote.

 

A More - or less - Perfect Union… what matters most to Americans as elections approach, the latest CITIZENARTS podcast, tells a story of rapid, sobering change in America’s thinking and attitudes in just over six years.

 

This podcast is available at Apple Podcasts, any of the platforms listed above, or wherever you get your shows. For your convenience, you can also listen to A More -- or less -- Perfect Union by clicking the episode links below.

Listen to A More - or less - Perfect Union

Trailer

 

CITIZENARTS’s Founder Jim Gabbe provides a brief overview of the series – from the cautious, but nearly unanimous and obvious optimism of a swath of Americans in the runup to the 2016 elections to the growing skepticism and cynicism of today. Restlessness that, in the great American tradition, has the potential to lead to major change.

Episode One: Voices Not Heard in the Media Before the 2016 Election

 

A condensed audio version of the documentary that came out of our nationwide exploration just prior to the 2016 elections in which we sought answers to a most distressing question: were Americans as angrily and hopelessly divided as was being reported by the media? 

 

At its heart are the voices of over 200 citizens we interviewed - left and right, young and old, rural and urban; black, brown yellow, white; straight, LGBTQIA, blue collar, middle class -- and the upper echelons of politics and business. This film has been shown in educational forums at colleges, high schools and elsewhere throughout the U.S. and internationally and gives its title to this podcast: A More – or less - Perfect Union

 

Did those voices answer our question? They sure did – but NOT as the media would have it. With near unanimity and optimism, they spoke of an America that could take on and solve its challenges. 

Episode Two: A Call to Turn America’s Noble Ideals into Realities for All its 

 

In this episode, a cross section of the 200 or so Americans who spoke out in Episode One appear in a nationwide, online forum, discussing and debating the past six years of escalating political, social and cultural turmoil in the US.

 

They bring focus, passion and engagement to hot-button issues in ways reminiscent of the1960s. Women’s rights, race, economic equity, educational fairness… as well as climate change and gun safety – and overall concerns about the nation’s political, legal and even religious institutions. And, of course, the deep ramifications of COVID – including science skepticism.

 

We conclude Episode Two by giving our forum participants magic powers. With the snap of their fingers they become politicians who can run for and win any elected office on Tuesday, November 8. They reveal what office they’d like to hold and their top priority as a public servant. 

 

Overall, their voices underscore how quickly a nation can change in our high-tempo, cloud-powered world. How Americans better have clear ideas about what voting can mean in the coming weeks and years. Or even, simply, that they’d better vote.

Episode Three: America Can and Should Lead as a Force for Well-Being and Harmony 

 

Is America truly a paragon of democracy? Russia’s Putin and President Xi of China, among many others – including some in the US - don’t think so. And should America’s foreign policy be shaped by competition between liberal democracy and autocratic rulers?

 

These are two key questions explored in this third and final episode when our nationwide forum composed of a cross section of the over 200 Americans from the original documentary (Episode One) delves into issues at the forefront of debate in the U.S, and internationally about what can and should be America’s role in the world.

 

The discussion then focuses on America’s role in the Ukraine War – should we be involved? The U.S. – Russia relationship post the Ukraine War – should it include Putin? And of great significance, the fast-evolving competition between the U.S. and China – are the world’s two superpowers destined to be locked in hostility, increasingly on the brink of calamity? Or can there be harmony and mutual cooperation?

 

Last, our panelists tell us what their message would be if asked to speak on behalf of the United States to the world at the United Nations. 

 

Forum host and CITIZENARTS founder Jim Gabbe concludes our podcast with final thoughts about the road traveled by Americans since 2016. Most importantly, he observes there has been a profound alteration in thinking and attitude. The abundant optimism and determination of a few years ago has been diluted by questioning – even skepticism and cynicism - about America’s fundamental institutions. Sobering? For sure. But, he posits, such questioning can be a catalyst for renewal and meaningful change.

 

As we round the bend to the mid-term elections, we hope A More - or less - Perfect Union: What matters most to Americans as elections approach provides added insight into what our votes could mean over the coming years – and the impetus to go out and vote. We better. It matters.

 

We the People

We are so thankful to the participants in this podcast series -- almost all of whom appeared in the original film presented in Episode One. Their decency, thoughtfulness, compassion, tolerance, and respect are the truest voice of America. And it is a privilege for us at CITIZENARTS to present them in this podcast.

Credits

 

Jim Gabbe - Host and director

Jill S. Gabbe - Executive producer

Jeff Lewis - Co-producer and technical director

 

A More -- or less -- Perfect Union... what matters most to Americans as elections approach is a production of CITIZENARTS. All rights are reserved.

 

Final Thoughts from Discussion Leader

We started each of the three episodes in this podcast with the same question: have our thinking and attitudes evolved in a meaningful way since the 2016 election. 

 

I believe our nationwide discussions give us some answers that help to reveal what matters most to Americans as elections approach. 

The top three priorities of our fellow citizens are the same now as before – quality education for all; a level playing field for economic opportunities; peace on earth good will among all. 

 

But thoughts and attitudes about each of these priorities – the context in which they are discussed – have evolved.  

 

Six years ago, our education discussion was lit up by the dismaying realization  that the US. has rapidly fallen behind many other developed nations. 

 

The current education discussion is now more centered on specific, in some cases seemingly intractable – issues. Chief among them:  racial inequity and discrimination; assimilating and harmonizing the extraordinary, growing, diversity of our American world; and ideological, religious influences on what should or should not be brought into our classrooms – you know, critical race theory, book censorship and so on. 

 

Six years ago, there were sobering questions about the widening gap in economic opportunity and the imperative to find ways for all people to benefit from America’s growth and wealth.

 

But now, the commentary has veered into questioning the very structure of our economic and financial systems and whether they inevitably benefit the rich and offer diminishing opportunity for the rest. This is captured in terms repeated by a number of our panelists: that the US is now an oligarchy, a plutocracy.  What was considered inflammatory rhetoric of the recent past – you know, the one percent versus the 99 percent - has gone mainstream. 

 

And world peace. A few years ago, perhaps beaten down by decades of flawed, futile, costly, brutal military conflicts abroad – we were questioning whether the USA could/should be a force for global synergy and rapport. Whether that shining beacon on a hill that took its glow from a mighty self-sense of American exceptionalism, had lost is oomph and was dimming out. Whether isolationism – America first dogma -  was now more plausible for America.

 

But over the past six years, four really traumatic, global events  have – if not overshadowed  – at the very least has rocked this kind of thinking.

 

One, of course, is  COVID – the first truly global plague of our times.  It brought home the reality that America cannot, realistically, isolate itself. That for myriad health, economic and cultural reasons, we need to be worldly in our goals – and smarter and more proactive in pursuing them. How else do we identify, protect against and treat diseases that spring up and spread in a flash anywhere? And if a plague strikes, how do we protect supply chains and economic well-being except by thoughtful cooperative cross-border action. As the poet John Donne wrote about 500 years ago, “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind….”

 

Second – the rise of autocratic, populist movements worldwide – including in the USA. Seemingly out of nowhere, the sanctity of our Constitution, our democratic way of life, were being questioned. And the conversation has become truly bizarre.  I mean, there are voices proposing the US adopt the governing style of an autocratic, self-proclaimed Christian nationalist who runs Hungary – a lovely nation that has an economy and geography the size of Kansas and the population of Michigan. 

 

Third, the invasion of Ukraine – a manifestation of the horrors that can be unleashed by one man with dictatorial power. Horrors that can impact the world. And we’d thought the possibility of such a thing had ended with Hitler.

 

And fourth, the furiously intensifying competition with an increasingly nationalistic, assertive China – an increasingly intrusive autocracy that will soon be as economically and militarily powerful – or even more so – than the US. The potential for global calamity is reaching unprecedented levels. I say this with anguish – because there’s so much about China that is admirable and could benefit the world. There’s so much that all humanity could benefit from if the US and China could truly work together.

 

Considering these matters, our panelists were nearly universal in affirming the US must be a force for peace and harmony in the world. And they offered many ideas for what kind of leader we should be.

 

For some, it has to start at home by coming to grips with the festering evils of racism, poverty and other social and economic inequities. In so doing, setting an example for how a diverse, democratic society can equitably enhance the lives of all its citizens. 

 

Others put the focus on marshaling and sharing America’s can do, innovative talents to help the world tackle make or break matters related to energy, climate, education, humanitarian needs and more.  

 

And there were calls too for America to up its direct investment in the vast untapped, often poverty-besieged  human capital in developing nations - so they can pull themselves up into the ranks of the "haves." 

 

From my perspective, this smacks of a sort of global Marshall plan. Whatever form it takes, taking the lead in investing in a more equitably healthy/wealthy world would surely yield incredibly positive returns.  

 

Our discussion highlighted another boiling topic that was not at the forefront of discourse a few years ago - abortion – or more largely, women’s rights. The knowledge, perspective and passion brought to this subject by our nationwide panel seems to indicate that the abortion vote in Kansas could be a signal for what’s to come. 

 

A final thought. Yes, friends, our discussion about many specific matters of great importance has remained the same and has also changed dramatically since the 2016 election.

 

But it’s not in the specifics where the most profound alteration in our thinking is seen – at least I don’t think so. Six years ago, there was a theme throughout our documentary – expressed by people all over the country. Simply put, it spoke of an America that believes it can turn its noble ideals into realities for all its citizens.

 

But now, a few tumultuous years later – there’s a change in tone - most apparent in discussions about race relations, economic inequity, gun violence, political and class divisions. A universal recognition that we must do better – but also a questioning about whether our civic, economic and legal institutions – our cultural values and practices can meet the challenges. There’s fatigue, skepticism – some of it likely magnified by COVID.

 

But rather than see this as demoralizing, our panelists would see this as an opportunity.  We know this because we asked them what would be their top priorities if elected to public office – if asked to speak on behalf of the USA to the world.  All of those priorities were aimed at bettering who we are as citizens and as a society. 

 

In doing so, they point the way to what we must do as elections approach. We must identify and champion political leaders who value our constitutional ideals. Who will inspire us to wise up, shake the tree – find the best in ourselves, our country – and lead by example. They are out there, for sure. That’s part of the enduring strength of America. Exceptional people step up and help us to continue striving for a more perfect union.

 

On behalf of my CITIZENARTS colleagues – and the extraordinary participants in A More – or less – Perfect Union - a heartfelt thanks for lending an ear. We invite you to join the conversation. Let us know what you think. 

 

Please stay healthy in mind and body, wealthy in goodwill and wise in action.

 

-Jim Gabbe

 

Feedback

We are proud to share just some of the comments we've received about A More -- or less -- Perfect Union, the documentary film and podcast series. We'd love to hear from you as well.

The filmmakers went after humanity. It could’ve been another of those head to heads, showing how this place and these people are different from those places and people. But if you point out the folly in our tendency to make people others, and you don’t ask divisive questions and just focus on basic views and values — you see how everybody is saying the same thing. And isn’t that much more compelling and informative and constructive…?

-Maureen, Boston, MA, College Student

 

The message that most resonates is that we are one humanity, and that it would be just wonderful and in everyone’s interest if we could just stop for a moment to accept and appreciate that – and then interact with each other in a way guided by this recognition. Making the effort to simply see each other as each of us desires to be seen, without artificially influenced prejudices and biases – setting this as a goal and understanding that it is, in fact, achievable. There just has to be willingness to make it happen.

-Joe, Raleigh, NC, Retired Military

 

I want to go into politics.  I thought I wanted to represent the members of my party, but after this, I want to represent everyone because everyone deserves to be heard. I also notice now when I read the news, I am seeing the ways they are pitting the parties against one another.

–Tom, Baltimore, MD, Junior High School Student

 

I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the discussion forum following your terrific film. I have been promoting civic engagement for as long as I can remember — my mantra is, “you get the kind of government you are willing to work for,” and the forum we held the other evening was a fantastic example of “putting in the work!” And my students who attended have expressed to me how much they got out of the forum. 

–Michael, Boston, MA, University professor

 

This captures what I’ve hoped is the state of our union — despite what we hear in media.

-AJ, Philadelphia, PA, Educator, Professional Musician

 

Well, it’s brilliant. It gives us an understanding of the feelings of anger and frustration about the dysfunction in our government: feelings that our unique and noble political, economic and cultural institutions and our wondrous heritage are being frayed, squandered and dissipated by a host of seemingly uncontrollable forces. This shows clearly there is more to be hopeful about than the media is willing to believe.

-Bill, Wittman, MD, Communications Consultant

 

You’ve done a great job capturing the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of many people here in the USA. It made me laugh, smile, and tear up, but mostly I feel proud to be an American! The freedom to think and voice our own likes and dislikes within reasonable means makes us true Americans. It’s not that we are a divided, two-way country, but a country filled with many dreams and plans to make many choices and build many good ideas to help America grow.

-Melissa, Paso Robles, CA, Vintner

 

Seriously, well done. It is funny and heartwarming. The message is so important for our country. People need to see this!

-John, Boston, MA, University Administrator/Newspaper Columnist

 

The film is outstanding and to fully absorb in its entirety I had to view it twice.  Hopefully, for many viewers, it will be a call to arms. This presentation should be “must see” for not only education (civics and political science) but also freshman orientation for local, state and federal lawmakers to reinforce why they were elected in the first place.

-William, Falmouth, MA, CEO

 

This is great, creative work!

-Beth, Austin, TX, Political Professional

 

This film needs to be seen by our elected leaders in Washington!

-Renada, Oklahoma City, OK, Financial Executive

 

I watched the movie and am so pleased with what I saw. The diversity of America was amply illustrated and the comments intriguing. The ending of the film, when the interviewees offered their prescriptions for what ails America, really hit me. The topic is timely and valuable.

-George, Washington DC, Politician, Foundation Founder

 

It’s so amazing to see that even with all diverse backgrounds in our country, so many of us can agree on many things. It really shows that the American people can and will make an impact on our society when collaborating with each other. Truly inspirational. And thank you for giving Appalachia a voice. It’s not often you get to hear from Appalachians unless it is a documentary showing how hard life is in Appalachia when in reality it has the potential to be a very prosperous and productive region. Thank you for not settling for clichés.

-Tyler, San Antonio, TX, Landscaper

I find myself at a loss for words to describe my reaction to A More-or Less-Perfect Union. It has struck me as a captivating, absorbing, even ‘shocking’ presentation of a massively complex story of the principles which have been ground up through the gristmill of history (by power of greater forces of will), into a nation so powerful it challenges itself daily, even hourly, to respond to all the emotions, dreams, wishes, heart-breaks, of a diverse longing for a “State-of-a-Union” driven by a hunger for freedom constantly challenged by an arrogance of human passions.

This view through the lens of the insights and hard-hitting spontaneity of such a diverse group, interspersed with delightful commentary, brings this effort beyond expectations. It is, to me, mind-boggling as an interpretation of a complex society of participants in forming “A More Perfect Union,” which is not always “perfect,” but which beats anything else mankind has tried! My mind has a lot of work to do to try to sort out what it recognizes as a major piece of work!

-Ron, Mandeville, LA, Retired Executive

 
Contact

For more information or to share thoughts about this podcast or any CITIZENARTS programming, please contact:

Jeff Lewis, Producer, CITIZENARTS

jeff.lewis@citizenartscreative.org