NOTE: Listen to Annabel Park & Eric Byler talk about this video on Coffee Party Radio
Annabel Park recently spoke to Diane Rufino, leader of the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party, at the "Honor the Oath" rally at the State Capitol in Raleigh.
Diane had drawn applause during her speech when she praised North Carolina's role during the Civil War, yet, she said that Rev. Dr. William Barber is wrong to remind us of historic struggles for racial equality in order to counter the TEA Party, and address modern day injustices. "Time to move on," she said.
Story of America is a web series and feature documentary that explores the polarization that exists in the America today along political, economic and cultural lines. The filmmakers use the transformative power of dialogue to reach Americans from across the nation and across the divide to address their fears and bring us closer as a nation.
In today’s America, 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and 150 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, America faces profound divisions along political, economic and cultural lines that threaten to destabilize our nation and our democracy.
Opinions have polarized to the point that people along both sides of the divide view the opposition with a great deal of fear and paranoia, leading to alienation and a dehumanizing view of those who don’t share our beliefs.
The state of our polarization is so great that some historians have pointed to parallels with the conditions before, during and after the Civil War. Some scholars argue that the current state of ideological polarization among the electorate is to blame for US’s economic decline and governmental dysfunction. Economists argue that income inequality will lead to disruptive civil unrest and possibly another financial crisis.
The filmmakers will travel across the country engaging people in a dialogue about the issues that divide us and narrating their journey in search of how America may become more united as a nation.
We invite viewers to submit their own statements, responses, and stories in the form of videos, photos, voice messages, or texts. These submissions will be uploaded to the website, and, we anticipate that many of the clips that make it into the documentary feature film version of Story of America will be the work of content creators who responded to our videos, or to one another, via the web.
On Monday, January 21, 2013, President Obama articulated a clear version of the Story of America. Arguably, it is a brilliant articulation of the American social contract. It seems to me that much of the philosophical and historical parts could have been said by many of our past presidents. I was also surprised and delighted to hear him respond to a version of America once articulated by Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural speech.
In some ways, there is a stark contrast between the America that Reagan envisioned and the America Obama envisions especially in regard to the role of government. In his first inaugural speech, Reagan famously said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem."
On Monday, President Obama said, "Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
Eric Byler, Bobby Wagnerman and I have been documenting in Newtown, CT all week. Bobby lives in Danbury which is next to Newtown. He's a bit surprised that the Story of America, along with the rest of the world it seems, has come to his hometown which until a month ago had a reputation for not being newsworthy at all.
My first impression of Newtown, CT is that it is the most picture-perfect American town. It made me think of Frank Capra and Norman Rockwell immediately. It is the kind of town that I was told by residents where moved to because it has a reputation for being very safe, the best place for raising children.
After spending this week in Newtown, I am in awe with the strength and love among the residents here. We were told that there was a strong sense of community and civic responsibility that existed before the Sandy Hook shooting and how people have come even closer together since December 14th.
After the fiscal cliff debate, I think most people would agree that we need to hit reset on the national dialogue about our economy. With the hope for a more constructive dialogue, I stood on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange and stated what I thought were falsehoods hurting our economic recovery.I just posted this video a couple of hours ago on Facebook and Daniel Teeter commented, "Misdirection is what an illusionist would call it," and I think that is a perfect way of thinking about it. I think we've been misdirected by these false notions.
1) Debt is our biggest economic problem. 2) Government can't create jobs. 3) Americans feel "entitled" to things that they don't deserve. 4) Our debt was created by government handouts. 5) Small government = freedom.
This video is part of a series that we are working on called, "Inside and Outside Washington: Shaping the National Dialogue." We have six videos so far. In the coming weeks, we will be posting videos of people from North Carolina, Washington DC, Virginia, New York City, and Connecticut. They are American voices from inside and outside Washington during this historic time of national transition.
I have been reflecting a good deal on this past year and why my new project Story of America means so much to me.
It was a difficult year for many of us because, regardless of how you feel about the outcome of the 2012 election, the debates that we witnessed this year were a reminder that we are indeed very divided from each other.
As some of you know, I have deep faith in the transformative power of dialogue and storytelling. Even during the ugliest moments during the election, I maintained the faith that we can heal the divide in our country through dialogue.
We began filming Story of America in the first week of November and documented just how divided we were as voters even down to our experiences of voting. We created videos about Battleground Virginia and were featured in the Washington Post for our dramatic coverage of the 5-hour lines at polling stations in Prince William County.
After the Newtown massacre, I must confess, my faith in dialogue was tested. Two days after the shooting, I wrote a blog post, Replying to my pro-gun friends, addressing some popular pro-gun talking points and pointing out that we need sensible gun regulation. My basic point is that gun laws should be regarded as a public safety issue. With nearly 50k likes and over 650 comments, it generated a lot of discussion. Along with hundreds of people, I tried to reply to some of the angry comments on that page and in my inbox. I found it incredibly challenging to engage people in a constructive dialogue.
Virginia resident and pro-gun advocate, Larry Ward, interrupted protesters who gathered on Friday, Dec 21, 2012 to deliver a petition with 200,000 signatures to the NRA during its first press conference since the Newtown massacre. During the press conference, the NRA called for armed guards at schools.
Larry argued outside with the protesters that school personnel including teachers should be armed with guns. The protesters shouted him down.
I just launched a crowd-funding campaign for my new project Story of America: A Nation Divided. Our goal is to raise a thousand dollars per day for 60 days.
I have great faith in the power of storytelling and dialogue. They offer opportunities to understand one another, heal wounds and create empathy.
I have seen this work powerfully during the making of 9500 Liberty, an award-winning documentary about a culture war over immigration policy in Prince William County, Virginia. I documented what happened as people began to reach across racial and political divides. In that revolutionary act of talking and listening, a polarized community came together to stand against extremism and win.