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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Iran from the Rooftops
Colleen Scheck, Producer

In our editorial discussion at this morning’s staff meeting, we talked about the remarkable fallout from last Friday’s election in Iran. Over the weekend, I received an e-mail with a link to video of Iranians shouting from their rooftops at night. Simply, I found the sounds of the voices simultaneously haunting and beautiful.

This has been described as Mousavi supporters chanting Allahu Akbar, or “God is Great” — a symbol of similar nighttime protests done over 30 years ago to show opposition to the Western-backed monarchy before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A few news outlets report it this way, and I can hear Allahu Akbar in the video, but an AP story reports people also were shouting “death to the dictator,” and others report chants of “bye, bye dictator.”


A Witness to History, One Day Shy

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Eugene Allen, Butler to the White House At the end of each day (or often during), my spouse Shelley and I often talk about articles, blogs, and photographs we’ve read and viewed during work. Her reading anchors me to the world outside of the news and journalism business. In my circles so many times, the news is cited at you — ‘Did you read the article about the Ugandan man in the Times?’ ‘Wasn’t that report on breast cancer on CNN…’ and so on — serving as fodder for a potential story we might cover.

This is as it should be, in some respects, but sometimes I feel like the larger point is lost — relating to others, to people and their joys and their sorrows. On Friday, while we were driving, Shelley told me this story about Eugene Allen and his wife:

They talked about praying to help Barack Obama get to the White House. They’d go vote together. She’d lean on her cane with one hand, and on him with the other, while walking down to the precinct. And she’d get supper going afterward. They’d gone over their Election Day plans more than once.

"Imagine," she said.

"That’s right," he said.

On Monday Helene had a doctor’s appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

"I woke up and my wife didn’t," he said later.

Some friends and family members rushed over. He wanted to make coffee. They had to shoo the butler out of the kitchen.

The lady whom he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Well, we looked at each other, found ourselves choked up, eyes welling and reaching for each other’s hand, and our two boys in the back seat wondering why their mommy and daddy were sad. Through this story, we truly understood the power of this election and its impact on our sons’ generation. But, as importantly, they’ll know how their parents understood each other more deeply and more personally — all through several paragraphs of a single news story.

(photo: Kevin Clark/The Washington Post)


Teasing Out Issues of Race and Religion

Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

It’s a mixed bag when somebody verbalizes what others dare not express. There’s always one loud-mouth that says something that makes people around him feel completely uncomfortable, even if he’s saying something that is at the back of others’ minds.

From David Kirkpatrick’s "Abortion Issues Again Dividing Catholic Votes" in this morning’s online edition of The New York Times:

"One parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. "Are they going to make it the Black House?" Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen. (Five of the six, all lifelong Democrats who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, said they now lean toward Mr. McCain.)"

Unfortunately, I hear some of the people (loved ones included) from my home when I read this statement. I just have to wonder if some Catholic voters aren’t using the Vatican’s stances on abortion and homosexuality as a pretext, a protective shield for their prejudices. And this gets conflated in reporting about Catholic and Evangelical voters and the issues that will determine these voters’ decisions in the booth.

For one, I’d like to thank the man for articulating a sentiment — racially discriminatory though it may be — to a reporter, in public. I may have cringed, but it needed to be said — in a parish rectory, no less. And thank you to Mr. Kirkpatrick for diligently teasing out the lingering mindset of racial discrimination from social issues girded by one’s faith.

As you can see, I have strong opinions about this. What do you see? What do you think?


Effective Campaigning or Fearmongering?
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Colleen sent around this Wall Street Journal column examining one of Sen. McCain’s latest ads titled “The One.” Waldman does a good job of breaking down the methodology and ideas behind the campaign’s tactical approach. He also questions whether lightheartedly toying with a concept such as the antichrist, even meant in good humor, is an appropriate course of action for McCain’s campaign.

If the McCain campaign’s strategy is to solidify its base of support among Evangelical Christian voters in any way possible, they just may be paying attention to the polls. An August 11 report from The Barna Group states it more explicitly:

Among the 19 faith segments that The Barna Group tracks, evangelicals were the only segment to throw its support to Sen. McCain. Among the larger faith niches to support Sen. Obama are non-evangelical born again Christians (43% to 31%); notional Christians (44% to 28%); people aligned with faiths other than Christianity (56% to 24%); atheists and agnostics (55% to 17%); Catholics (39% vs. 29%); and Protestants (43% to 34%). In fact, if the current preferences stand pat, this would mark the first time in more than two decades that the born again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.