The Country Doctor on Snap Judgement

America has had problems with discrimination from day one. Look no further than the death toll of Native Americans, often deemed to be heathens, as settlers pushed onward from sea to shining sea. And with the invention of the cotton gin, wealthy landowners sanctified an increase in slavery, economically justifying the practice of kidnapping, shackling, and selling Africans to the highest bidder.

Then we have the egregious treatment of Mexican citizens. You know, the folks who owned a significant chunk of the Western U.S. until they exited south at gunpoint. And let’s not forget about the treatment of immigrants from China, South America and the Middle East. These are not simple histories. In fact, quite the opposite, as there have always been Americans who were welcoming to people of any country, ethnicity or religion. But discrimination has been, and continues to be, a shameful truth in the land of freedom and justice for all.

It was encouraging to see America make progress on this front during the late 60s into the 70s and 80s, but backsliding on the ideal of equality was evident from the 1990s onward. Slowly at first, but rapidly accelerating over the past 3+ years with public displays of hate and prejudice seen in many parts of the country. Displays without remorse of apology.

But all is not lost. Hearts can soften and open with grace whenever people resist stereotyping and instead rely on the power of human connection to speak truth to hate. Whenever we remove the wall of discrimination long enough to forge meaningful relationships, a space for the miraculous appears. A space where healing and justice coexist alongside internal struggle.

Snap Judgement recently broadcast a story that I highly recommend listening to. It was one of those rare podcast episodes that stopped me in my tracks, as I needed to hear the story of Dr. Ayaz Virji until the very end. Give it a listen.

Dr Ayaz Virji on Snap Judgement

Artwork by Teo Ducot | Snap Judgment | WNYC Studios

When Dr. Ayaz Virji first set foot in Dawson, Minnesota, he didn’t know what to expect. He was a brown Muslim man walking into a predominantly white rural town. But much to his surprise Ayaz and his family fit right in. Dawson quickly became home and his neighbors became like his extended family. Then came the presidential election of 2016.

Dr. Ayaz Virji was aware of the positive impact he could have on a small rural town serving as a clinic medical director and chief of staff. And while the community embraced his family upon their arrival, and he enjoyed working with his patients, an abrupt change in the national political climate upset his view of the world, and his place in it.

The narrative follows Dr. Virji’s journey of self-discovery and reflection, of confrontation and conversation within the town after the 2016 election. As you listen to his story, think about the decisions made along the way, by all parties, but especially by Dr. Virji. How did each decision alter the plot of the story? How would you have reacted?

With my white, middle class background, living a life free from discrimination, it’s hard for me to wear his shoes (or anyone else in similar circumstances), to understand his decisions, to feel the pain and frustration that I clearly hear in his voice. What would I have done?

I continue to struggle with recognizing and dealing with the rifts of hate and discrimination in society, but as all impactful stories do, this podcast has altered my frame of reference, and I now view my own story through a new lens. And hopefully it will also make me a better storylistener.

Nancy López on Snap Judgement

Image credit: Snap Judgment | WNYC Studios

Nancy López is a senior producer at Snap Judgment. She started in radio in 2006 when she joined Soul Rebel Radio, a collective of novice storytellers in Los Angeles. Since then, she’s worked as a producer for Radio Ambulante and Making Contact. Her stories have been featured on PRI’s The World, KALW in San Francisco, and Radio Bilingue.

The Country Doctor – Season 11 – Episode 18 – Produced by Nancy Lopez, Original score by Renzo Gorrio, Artwork by Teo Ducot – Snap Judgement founded by Glynn Washington.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Going Home in the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 16th marked the tenth day of my visit to the United States, and it was hard to believe how much the world had changed in that short period of time. It was a travel day for me, actually a pair of travel days as I was scheduled for a train ride from Irvine, California south to San Diego, then a flight to Los Angeles before an overnighter to London, then on to Lisbon.

The headlines that greeted me via my smartphone were even worse that when I wrote my previous blog post about Storylistening and the COVID-19 Pandemic. The BBC announced “Global coronavirus infections outpace China cases“, “Germany latest country to close borders”, “Stocks plunge despite global central bank action“, “Airlines cancel most flights as coronavirus spreads” while CNN offered their own spin on things.

I felt like I was living in a James Bond movie. One where the ammunition factory was about to blow up, and the steel doors are closing as Bond sprints across the room and leaps through at the last second and the building behind him explodes in a ball of fire.

Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but the odds of my reaching Portugal seemed to be diminishing. And what would the world look like when/if I made it? Some governments were moving quickly – Italy had already declared a state of emergency – while others were taking a go-slow strategy, with Britain’s chief science adviser opting for their “herd immunity” strategy.

In America, Donald Trump was heard to quip, “Relax. We’re doing great. It all will pass.”, while the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci stated, “As I’ve said many times, and I’ll repeat it: The worst is, yes, ahead for us.”

There were few seats open in the boarding area for the London flight from LAX. Less than 10 percent of the passengers were wearing face masks, and most of them were nonchalant about the necessity. There was the thirty-something couple hugging and kissing. She wore a mask, but he didn’t. The family of four in front of me was split along gender lines, with the mother and daughter masked, father and son without. One young man had his mask around is throat, while an older woman had pulled hers down to where it was hanging from her chin. America was not yet with the program, and the president did not seem to give a shit.

After 35 hours of Uber, train, bus, flight, flight, flight, metro, metro, ferry, train, taxi I made it home with a small sack of groceries. I had to stand in line dragging two suitcases, then do my shopping wearing plastic gloves, but it illustrated that Portugal was taking things seriously. America, not so much. The following day Portugal declared a state of emergency. They were definitely serious about dealing with this health crisis.

So now I’m sequestered at home, other than walking to the market for groceries. The count of infections and deaths continues to rise. I sit here on the couch, still contemplating what my future looks like, what will happen to my community, to my friends and family, to the billions of people who I don’t know but who are dramatically affected by COVID-19.

All of us have some measure of control in how we act, but in the grand scheme of things, are largely dependent upon decisions of world leaders who may, or may not, make the right call. Who may, or may not, pay attention to the science. Who may, or may not, let money be their guiding force. Who may, or may not, let politics get in the way of what’s best for the planet.

What’s your world like, how have you experienced the pandemic? What stories are you living, and more importantly, what stories are you capturing in the moment. The stories that you’ll want to tell your young children when they’re old enough to understand. The stories you will want to remember when you make decisions on what to buy, where to go, who to vote for, and how to treat others in the world. Yes, those stories.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Storylistening and the Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s Saturday, March 14th. I’ve been traveling for the past nine days, from Lisbon to San Diego by way of London and Los Angeles. At the moment I’m visiting a friend in Orange County, California. From the balcony I look out across the upscale community, an enclave of posh condos and apartments intermixed with office buildings built of glass, steel and stone. Patchy gray clouds drift above the rain soaked streets as the occasional BMW or Tesla zips by below. (This is quite different from my lifestyle in Portugal, but the world comes in many variations.)

Apartment Balcony View Orange County

It’s a peaceful day, and it’s obvious that folks live rather well in this part of the world. But the world has changed radically in recent days as Covid-19, Coronavirus as it’s commonly called, has been rewriting life for everyone, even those who are accustomed to the pleasurable stories that money can conveniently purchase. Write a check, problem solved, life is good.

But Covid-19 is something of an equalizer. If you spend time with someone who is infected with the virus, whether they have obvious symptoms or not, you may be the next in line for a trip to the hospital, or spending a few weeks under self-quarantine. You can’t bribe a virus, or hire a bodyguard to protect you. A virus just doesn’t care. Your behavior will write your story.

Woman Wearing Face Mask Coronavirus Covid-19

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

With large gatherings now banned and the sports industry on hold, it’s no surprise that more people are turning to social media to stay connected with friends and family. It’s a time for personal storytelling, and an opportunity for heartfelt storylistening. A time for empathy and solidarity, for sharing and understanding.

And I’m seeing a lot of that, thankfully, as friends and strangers band together to weather the viral storm with offers of help for those who are under quarantine, or who are at risk and don’t want to venture out. But sadly there are voices out there claiming the situation is a hoax, or is being overblown, even as the infection rate soars and the deaths mount daily.

That’s why it’s important during such times to continue our storytelling, so that others know what is actually happening. But just as important, we should spend more time storylistening. Listening to the stories of those who are affected, listening to the scientific and social experts (not the politicians) who understand the complexities of how this virus is spreading, how it’s impacting individuals, and how those effects ripple out through all societies.

Group Taking Selfie

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

By sharing stories we gain a better understanding of the issues that each of us is having to deal with, and by do so we become more empathetic toward others, especially those at great distance. It’s about the old adage of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, of thinking about what they must be going through, and how that situation would feel if it were us.

It’s also about recognizing that we will never know the whole story. That there are unknown elements in play that can further complicate the narrative. If we’re in dialogue, then we have an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, and I encourage you to do so, but if not, if you’re just reading, hearing or watching someone’s story, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume.

Though we don’t know when, life will ultimately return to some sense of normalcy, and when it does, we can take more group hug selfies. Until then, be safe, and listen to the stories that manifest from these difficult times. It has the potential to change us, and thus, humanity.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved