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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 rocket into power and that the election would be a clarion call for amplified political, social and cultural discord?
How about now? As a new election cycle approaches, do those citizens from the 2016 film still think the same? 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. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to A More - or less - Perfect Union.. what matter most to Americans as elections approach
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 Citizens
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 the 1960s. Women’s rights, race, economic equity, educational fairness…as well as climate change and gun safety – and overall concerns about the nation’s political, judicial 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 U.S. - 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.
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.
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.
Thanks for this podcast, especially for the inspirational moments. I need those, as my hope for the future of this country and the world often falters. What concerns more even than media tribalism is simple ignorance, the spread of often-intentional misinformation, and the gullibility and truncated thinking processes of the masses (think Q-Anon). I never understood Berlin 1930 until I lived in America 2016-2020: the cult of personality, the manipulation of the media, the moral cowardice of a major political party who will toady up to anyone who will keep them in power, the Big Lie, the politics of grievance and victimization and the scapegoating of The Other. Anyway, thank you for fighting the good fight. I applaud your faith in your fellow man.
Richard, California, via email
Listened to the podcast - really well done. The host is a great moderator, the questions were thoughtful and the editing was engaging throughout. Very important reminders that we are all more alike than not. Congrats on the great piece.
Ryan, North Carolina, via email
I enjoyed your pre-election podcast A More - or less - Perfect Union. It was refreshing to get such a thoughtful and fresh perspective on US politics in these times.
Dick, Washington DC, via email
Refreshing to hear a lively, well-thought political discussion with strong opinions from "both" sides, but conducted in a civil manner. So rare these days and a model for all political forums.
5-star review, Podchaser
I really enjoyed this podcast. These are such challenging times, and it’s sobering to hear people being so frank about what concerns them. It’s also encouraging to hear them voice their differences. I was also impressed with the optimism and nuance in this age of anxiety and absolutes.
Demetrios, Boston, via email
Just listened to Episodes 1 & 2 on Amazon and, WOW! Yes, we Americans have more in common but the media (hate ‘em) push us apart. This podcast provides encouragement because people with quite different opinions express them respectfully.
Stan, California, via email
I admire your commitment and persistence so much. This is a great extension of your documentary work.
-Jack, Massachusetts, via email
I enjoyed this podcast series very much. First, it was very interesting to listen to where people's heads were at just before the 2016 election, which seems like a lifetime ago after everything that has happened in the last six years. And then to compare it with today after we've all been down such a rough and winding road. One of the things I most enjoyed was that even though the people speaking at times shared very different opinions (and there were some compelling debates), it was done in a civil, thoughtful manner. These days, that almost feels like a vacation. Get out and vote
! Fishcough84, 5-star review on Apple Podcasts
Thanks for podcast. It is good work you do.
Craig, New York, Via email
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
Below is a condensed, ten-minute "highlights" version of CITIZENARTS’ A More - or less - Perfect Union documentary created for a televised forum hosted by BronxNet TV and Manhattan College in New York City. The panel centered on the film followed by moderated panel discussion with CITIZENARTS founder Jim Gabbe, joined by chair of Manhattan College’s Political Science Department; CEO/founder of a government affairs consultancy, and the state representative for the 84th District New York State Assembly, South Bronx. They explored the political, social and economic divisions in our country and communities, and ways we might overcome them in our hyper-partisan environment. The condensed version of the film can be viewed below, and the entire televised event can be seen here.