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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  September 24, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT

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09/24/19 09/24/19 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! failingre mailing us -- us but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. lives of future generations are upon you. if you choostoto f fail us, i sy we will never forgive you. amy: 16-year-old swedish climate activist greta thunberg gives an impassioned address to world leadaders at the u.n. climate
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action summit, but the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters make few new commitments to address the climate crisis. president trump attended the summit for just 14 minutes. we speak to the prize-winning writer ta-nehisi coates about slavery, the power of memory, and reparations. his first novel is out today. >> "the water dancer" is the story of hiram maker, enslaved after nemec and the son of a slave master and the child of a woman whoho that slave master intern sold out. in 1861laved people wanted freedom. amy: ta-nehisi coates on "the water dancer."" all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. the u.n. climate action summit
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kicked off in new york monday with world leaders calling for action to prevent apocalyptic climate change. u.n. secretary general antonio guterres said his generation had "failed in its responsibility to protect our planet." 16-year-old swedish climate activist greta thunberg fought off tears as she gave an impassioned address. plus you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet i am one of the lucky ones. people are suffering. .eople are dying enter ecosystems are collapsing. we are in the beginning of a mass extinction. and all you can talk about is the money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. how dare you! amy: president trump later mocked the now world-renowned activist on twitter, writing -- "she seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.
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so nice to see!" meanwhile, youth climate activists filed an official complaint under the convention on the rights of the child, calling on world leaders to protect future generations from climate catastrophe. we'll have more on the historic action and what took place at the summit after headlines. president trump made a brief and unexpected stop at the u.n. climate summit before moving to a u.n. session on religious freedom or he committed $25 million to "protect religious freedoms, religious sites, and relics." alex azar urged world leaders at the u.n. general assembly to cut healthm "reproductive and rights" when speaking about health care. he said these "ambiguous terms can help promote practices like abortion." googler the washington post" is reporting president trump ordered a hold on $400 million in military aid to ukraine about one week before he spoke to
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ukrainian president volodymyr zelensky and pressured him to investigate joe biden's son and his business interests in ukraine -- this according to three top administration officials. trump has acknowledged discussing joe biden and his son hunter with the ukrainian president but insists there was no quid pro quo. connecticut senator chris murphy said to linsky told him he believed the aid was cut out because refused to launch such an investigation. senator murphy said "there is an implicit threat and every demand that united states president makes of a foreign power." house speaker nancy pelosi is reportedly consulting with democratic lawmakers on whether to impeach trump over the mounting scandal. the british supreme court ruled that prime minister boris johnson's suspension of parliament is unlawful. brenda hale, head of the supreme court, said it was not justified and has no effect. it's not yet known what action boris johnson, who is in new york for the u.n. . general assembly, will take in response
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to the historic ruling. britain, france, and germany saidid in a joint statement mony iran was responsible for attacks on saudi oil facilities earlier this month. last week,k, saudi arabia alsoso said the a attacks were unquestionably s sponsored by iran." iranan has denied theyerere responsible for the attacks, which have been claimed by yemen's houthi rebels. iranian president hassan -- trump is expected to address iran during his statement at the u.n. today. iranian president hassan rouhani, who has rejecected the possibility of talks with the u.s., is set to speak wednesday. on monday, democracy now! spoke with iraqi president barham salih at the u.n. about the escalating tensions in the region. quick question about the possibility of saudi arabia and war with iran and u.s.? >> we hope to avert a war. the last thing the region needs is another war. amy: in afghanistan, at least 40
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civilians were killed by u.s. and afghan forces as they attended a wedding sunday evening. the civilians are believed to have been cacaught in ee crossfire of a raid onon a talan hidedeout. at least 22 memembers of the taliliban were alslso killed an4 were arrested in the operation, according to the afghahan minisy of defense. the attack came after the u.s. killed at least 30 farmers in a drone attack in eastern afghanistan last week and as the country prepares for presidential elections on satuturday. in h haiti, an associated press photojournalist was shot in the face when a senator opened fire on a crowd of protesters outside of parliament monday. chery dieu-nalio was wounded but survived the shooting. a security guard was also injured. haitian senator jean marie ralph fethiere later claimed he drew the gun in self-defense. the protests came as the government of president jovenel moise was attempting to push through the confirmation of a new prime minister, fritz-william michel. anti-government protests have rocked haiti for months, calling on the president to step down over accusations of corruption
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and mismanagement of the hades economy. in china, drone footage posted on youtube appears to show police leaeading hundrededs of blindfdfolded and shshackled uir or other minority prprisoners a train station in xinjiang. the didisturbing vidideo shows blindfdfolded men with shaved heads sitting in r rows on the ground before being led away by police. china has been accused of cultural genocide against the uighur population. over 1 million ethnic uighurs and other muslim minorities are believed to be imprisoned in internment camps, and countless children separated from their families. israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu and rival candidate benny gantz are in negotiations over a proposed power-sharing deal. president reuven rivlin pushed for a unity government in talks with involved parties after neither leader's party was able to secure a victory in last week's elections. negotiations are now focused on who will lead government first, according to far-right former defense miminister avigdor lieberman. benny gantz had previously
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rejected a unity government wiwh netanyahu, who is facing indictments over three corruption cases. back in the u.s., the fbi arrested in active duty soldier who suspected of sharing online instructions on how to build bombs and discussed killing antifascist activists as well as bombing a news network, reportedly cnn. 24-year-old jarrett william smith also named presidential candidate beto o'rourke as a possible target. smith also posted online about wanting to fight for a far-right group in ukraine, according to prosecutors. he c could face up to 2020 yearn prison if convicted. investigators say the federal aviatition administration mimisd congress about safety inspections for boeing 737 max aircraft. safety inspectors charged with training requirements for 737 pilots were under-qualified, according to the investigation, which arose from a whistleblower complaint. two boeing 737 max airplanes from indonesia's lion air flight 610 and ethiopian airlines flight 302 crashed five months apart, killing all 346 people on board.
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on monday, boeing announced it will begin paying out $50 million in financial assistance to the families of the victims of the two crashes. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. scores of world leaders gathered in new york on monday for the u.n. climate action summit but the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters announced few new measures to address the climate crisis. president trump briefly attended the summit but left after just 14 minutes. near the beginning of the summit 16-year-old swedish climate , activist greta thunberg gave an impasassioned address to word leaders. .> this is all wrong i should not be up here. i should be back in school on the others of the ocean. to us young people for hope. how dare you. you have stolen my dreams in my
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childhood with your empty words. and yet i am one of the young -- lucky ones. people are sufferiring. people are dying. inter ecosystems are collapsing. we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is the money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. how dare you! [applause] for more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. how dare you continue to look saying youme here are doing enough when the politics and solutions are still nowhere in sight. you say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry i am, i
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do not to believe that because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. anand that i refuse to believe. [applause] the popular idea of cutting our emissions in half andnd 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off a chain reactions beyond human control. you, may be acceptable to but those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, warnings hidden by climate justice. they also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your co2 out of the air
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with technologies that barely exist. so a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us when you have to live with the consequences. chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise, the best odds given by the ipcc, the world had 420 gigatons of co2 left to emit back on january 1, 2018. today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons. how dare you pretend that this can be solved with just t busins as usual and some technical solutions. ,ith today's emissions levels that remaining co2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8.5 years. there will not be any solutions
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or plans presented in line with these figures here today because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. you are failing us. but the young people are starting t to understand your betrayal. the eyes of all future generations are upon you. and if you choose to fail us, i say we will never forgive you. [applause] we will not let you get away with this. right here, , right now is where we draw the line. andworld is waking up change is coming whether you like it or not. thank you. [applause] amy: 16-year-old swedish climate activist greta thunberg speaking
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at the united nations on monday. greta was later seen glaring at president trump as he passed near her inside the united nations. meanwhile, greta thunberg and 15 other children from around the world filed a complaint monday with the united nations, accusing five major countries of violating the convention on the rights of the child by failing to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate crisis. greta anand the other petitiones spoke at the unicef headquarters. >> my name is alexandria. i am 14 years old. i am from new york. i am here because 30 years ago, the world signed a contract bebetween generatioions that t e present worlrld uldd leave a world woworth inhnheriting g te future. and today i want to tell the world, you are defaulting on that conontract and we are hereo collect. [applause]
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> hi, my name is carl smith. i am fromm alaska. i am 17 years old. i am here because climatete changes affecting the way i live . it hasas taken away my home, the land, and the animals. >> [speaking foreign language] i am 17 years olold. i am from the e marshall island. i am here because climate change is destroying my islands through sealevel rise and storms. >> [speaking foreign language]
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morning. i amam 17 years old and i am frm argentina. i am here today because i have things to say and i'm here today on behalf of my peoplele. argentina suffering from the climate crisis. side weto decide which are on and we need to do it now. [speaking foreign language] hello, my name is david. i'm 16 years old and i'm from the marshall islands. i'm here today because my islands are drowning and i am here to stop it. >> [speaking foreign language] hello, i am 12 years old and i'm from b brazil. i i am here to demand all the world leaders to listen to us and d to help us stop climate
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change together. government dumbs sewage in the river which goes to the ocean in which we cannot go swim or sururf because we wil get sick. i am saying this because this is the right thing to say and this is the truth. in this is our life that is being harmed and our future. >> my name is carl. i'm 17. i am here because i want my voice to be heard. i want bigger countries to know that small island nations are the most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change. our homes are slowly being swallowed up by ocean. to have fune used and enjoy. it is sad to say but those
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places are slowly disappearing. i am standing in front of you because i care about mymy generation. i care about my future generation. i want a better life for us, better future. in the most important thing, i want a better planet for us to live in. thank you. [speaking foreign language] good morning, evereryone. i am 15 years old from hamburg, germany. i am here today because the climate chahaes not jusust affecting all of us, it is affecting every single person in this room and every single human being g on our planet. i want you t to take your responsibility and make decisions today you can still be proud of in 11 years. thank you. [speaking foreign language]
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i am from the marshall islands. i am here because i am goingng o speak on behalf of my people because we are on ththfront lines of the climate crisis. and i am here to stop that. >> [ [speaking f foreign langua] hello, everyone. i amam1 yearss old and i am from india. i am here because i want all of the global leadersrs to do something g to stop climate chae becaususe it is not going to be stopped, it is going to harm our future. if we want to stop mobile warming, we have to do something now. cook for locum everyone. first of all, i would like to introduce this s little sweet girl. from the community
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of sweden. she is eight years old and she is here today because she loves reindeer and she wants to take care of it when she gets old. people in heris country are suffering from the food -- reindeer in her country are susuffering from the food shortageges. thatat is why she is here today. [speaking foreign language]e] hello, everyone. i am fromarars old and tunisia. i came here today to tell you i want my voice t to be heard by y country, which is one of the most countries that are suffering from climate change. and i want to tell you that climate change is definitely coming. we must prepare for confrontation. thank yoyou. > hi.
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i am 12 and i am from nigeria. i'm here to make an impact to represent my country. >> [speaking foreign language] hi, i'm 16 and i am from france. i am here because climate change is affecting my country econonomically, but alsoso affeg me personally. [speaking foreign language] my name is greta thunberg. i amam 16 years old and i am dog this because world leaders a are faing to protetect the rights of the child by continuing to ignore the climate and ecological crisis. amy: greta thunberg and other young people speaking at unicef headquarters about their new complaint filed with the night a
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nation's committee on the rights of the child. in other news from the u.n. indigenousmber of came to new york to protest the policies of brazil's far right president jair bolsonaro push to open up the amazon for agribusiness, logging and mining. chief raoni metuktire talked about the situation in the amazon including the recentt fires. >> today there are many things happening in brazil. in the previous government, it was not so bad. is the bolsonaro government authorizing deforestatn. he is authorizing the entrance of wildcat miners and loggers and mining companies into indigenous territories. this is bad because it will destroy everything. it will destroy the forest, the amazon. it will be bad for us in the future.
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this is what i defend. i don't offend standing burgeon forcrce just for me. no, i'm thinking of the future, our grandchildren and great grandchildren living in peace in this forest. what bolsonaro is doing is very bad for me. nermeen: do you have any hope that something will happen at this s summit? bolsonaro is not here. president trump is in the building, but he is not attending the climate summit. what do you hope will happen to save the amazon here, if anything? >> i hope something good comes out of this gathering. i hope they decide to help the amazon and the environment. i hope here in this gathering they help the amazon to remain. this is what i want. i don't want people to be in conflict. we need to live in peace, to live well, to live with our
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conflict -- without conflict. i always say this, and this is what i say now. this is my thinking. for you to hear that we should live in peace without fights, without problems, without conflict. this is what i think. nermeen: what are indigenous groups like your own people doing to resist bolsonaro's policies in the amazon? , want to continue defending our lands come our forests, our future, and our people. we will resist. we will continue. i will continue speaking so that they in brazil respect as, that they respect our culture, our customs, our land. i have been saying this and i am saying it again here, butut destruction is happening around our area. corn planters are
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destroying our land. but we kayapo will continue our struggle to not have invasions of miners, loggers, fishermen. this is what i do not like and do not accept. nermeen: you said the amazon, which we know is very important for the survival of humanity, not just for the communities who lived there. explain why the amazon is so important for the climate of the world. >> i have seen the standing forest cools the land. the land becomes cold, becomes normal. if you do forest, there will be no more trees to provide shade. amy: after the interview with democracy now!, chief raoni metuktire attempted to enter the u.n. climate action summit.
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amy: despite support from dozens of activists, he was barred from entering. earlier this month, a group of brazilian anthropologists and environmentalists nominated him as a candidate for the 2020 nobel peace prize. special thanks to democracy nadura.harina when we come back, our interview with ta-nehisi coates. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "manana" by desaparecidos. this is democracy now!, i'm amy goodman. "the water dancer." that's the name of ta-nehisi coates's first novel which has came out today. it centers on a man named hiram walker who was born into slavery in 19th century virginia. a review in "the new york times" calls ""the water dancer" a "crowd-pleasing exercise in breakneck and often occult storytelling that tonally resembles the work of stephen king as much as it does the work of toni morrison, colson whitehead, and the touchstone african-american science-fiction writer octavia butler." over the past decade, ta-nehisi coates has become one of the nation's celebrated writers. in 2014, he wrote a piece titled
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"the case for reparations," which rejuvenated the push for the government to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. earlier this year, ta-nehisi coates testified on capitol hill about reparations. his 2015 book "between the world and me" was written as a letter to his adolescent son. it won a national book award. in addition to his non-fiction writing, coates began writing comics in 2016, authoring his own "black panther" series. and now he has completed his first novel, "the water dancer," out today. it was just unveiled as the first selection of oprah's new book club. we spend the rest of the hour with ta-nehisi coates, who we spoke to here in our democracy now! studio. welcome back to democracy now! congratulations. you have just come from talking with oprah. they just revealed this on cbs. talk about what this means to
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you. pretend likeve to i don't care about the number of readers i have. i don't care who reads me. but that is not true. i think all or most authors want to be read. while on the one hand i spent a lot of time crafting the story -- the bottom line is for me to be proudud of the story, for my editor to be proud, but the endorsement of oprah not just in terms of the readers but to put me in the company of colson whitehead, the company of totoni morrison, is just gigantic. this is my first novel. i have all sorts of insecurities and feelings going on. living in the back of my head. i am overwhelmed. absolutely overwhelmed. juan: i wanted to ask as a
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journalist and someone who is written principally nonfiction, why did you decide to take a stab at a novel? what could you do therere you could not junior nonfiction? >> great question and it is multilayered. i actually started working on this in 2009. what that means is this book, at least in its inception, predates "between the world and me" and the vast majority of work. in many ways this is one of my oldest published works. when i finished "the beatable struggle," my first book, my editor felt stylistically and might be successful if i tried fiction. i began working in that spirit. but something else happened. probably after the case for reparations or after i've done quite a bit of research and writing about the civil war, it really became clear to me that you could make certain political arguments based on n facts. you can have all of the facts on your side. but for reasons that reside deep
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noimagination, people say anyway. we see that with climate change denial. i saw that around the civil war that on some level facts did not matter, people were attached to deeper thing. whemany of the things we were saying it wasn't so much they were wrong objectively, but they ran so hard and so counter to american myth. in many ways, this is an attempt thingsat american myth, that are much deeper. amy: you are now a storyteller. tell us the story of "the water dancer," starting with the title. >> it is the story of hiram walker who is in enslaved african-american who is the son of a slave master and the child of a woman that slave master interns s hold off.
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--hink most enslaved people there were 4 million andnd they wanteded freedom. it is the story of coming to understand his individual freedom is tied to the lararger vision of freedom of the community into which he was born and refining that idea freedom and figuring out it means something much, much larger than anything he ever imagine. juan: but he is not just someone who was born into slavery and his mother was auctioned off at five, but he also i's magical powers. >> he does. juan: can you talk about in terms of memory is something called conduction? >> i'm trying not to blow the book. amy: you can't blow it. you can tell us the story and even more people will want to read it. >> i think the thing to understand is for much of the research, i spent a lot of time reading slave narratives. this is undedeeported and not talked about as much as it should be, but magic exists anad
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it is ththrough the world of black folks. when frederick douglass talks about one of his f first escape attempts, he talks about an african-americanan giving ththea root that will grant him special powers. you read it and people talking about putting graveyard dust in their shoes and how that would give them magical powers to avoid the hounds. i sasaw it in the literature and it felt natural. to say nothing of. tubman is in this book and for many was a mystical figure. i write stories like that already but my mind immediately went to that, saying that. in thehe case of hiram, this por of conduction to move from one place to another and most important for him to move from the land of slavery, the coffin of slavery says come into the land of freedom, is deeply tied to memory. he is a young man who has a photographic memory, who can remember everything except the
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things that are most important. most personal to him. it turns out this power of conduction is tieded to that. amy: telell is the year and the place. talk about the plantation in the family. >> a and by i imagination, wewee in late antebellum america. i was thinking somewhere between 1830, 1850 in virginia. in my mind, in western virginia close to the mountains. i spent a lot of time researching at monticello. there is a lot of influence of and someas jefferson of the great research the folks are doing excavating the lives of enslaved like people at monticello in there. i was trying to pull all of that together and make it into some sort of coherent story. juan: and the setting of the plantation where he is initially
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raised, he is a mixed raced son. his mother was enslaved and his father was the master of the plantation. could you talk about the conditions in that plantation are not necessarily as horrific as many people are accustomed to understanding and slavery, why you chose to make it -- it was still slavery, but not as oppressive necessarily as other plantations? >> i would say it was, but not in the way we were used to. it is not that you are incorrect, it is -- traditionally, when we think about slavery, what immediatelyy comes toto mind is physical torture, being beaten, being worked to death. horrible things that actually happen. in the course of researching this and looking at thee narrrrative, , probably the most painful i saw that struck m me s family separation -- it was basically family separation for profit during that period.. totally legal, actually done by ththe state at times.
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jefferson died in debt after living this lavish life. people were sold off, families were broken up to pay off his debt. i focused much more e on that tn some of the more visual aspects of slavery that we think about. i guess that is because when i thought about myself, when i put myself in that time, i tried to imagine myself being sold off for my wife, my son being sold off. that was probably the thing that got me a lot more than some of the other things we associate with slaveryry. amy: talk about hiram's relationship with his slave owner-father and his brother maynard. starts from a place of definite admiration for his dad. he is clearly searching for some sort of parental figure. his mother is gone. he is not prepared to face up to what happened and why his mother is gone and his dad -- even though everyone around him is telling him what actually happenened.
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his dadad is aware he i is a yog man a particular intelligence. indeed, perhaps more intelligent throughgh ate brother more legitimate relationship. at the white brother is the heir to everything, even though in his qualities he is not someone who, you know, the father had his druthers, he would choose. but that is the situation of societety there living with. much of this book is him coming to terms with who his father actually is and what he actually did to his mother and accepting that. amy: ta-nehisi coates, this novel "the water dancer" came out today for after the break, he will read an excerpt from the book. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!, i'm amy goodman. that is paul robeson, "go down, moses." we continue with townhouse hussey coates, one of the nation's bus celebrated writers. one gonzalez and i interviewed him monday to discuss his first novel "the water dancer," " just published today. you begin your book by talking -- by quoting frederick douglass "my part has been to tell the
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story of the slave come the story of the master never wanted for narrators." could you start by reading a part of your book? ta-nehisi coates is with us today. his first novel is called "the water dancer." the story is a large part of this novel and hiring beginning to understand the story of african-americans who are resisting through escaping slavery is a big part of it. at this point, in the novel he is grappling literally with the written oral stories of escaped african-americans. he is beginning to understand his place in it. "in all of these words in each of these stories, i saw as much magic as anything i had seen in the goose. souls conducted as surely as i was from out of its depths. and i saw them coming up on
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railroads, barges, river runners, skiffs, and bribery coach. coming up on horseback of a hard snow and march elting ice. they were fitted in ladies dress and came up in gentry's close and came up in dental bandage and came up, in sling and came up come in rights came up. they bribed and stole horses from across the potomac and wind, storm, and darkness, came up as i had, driven by the .ember it's a mothers or wives they came up devoured by frost, came up with tales of hard drinkers and overseers who took glee in applying the lash. they came up still like coffee and boats braving turpentine, scarred and singed by saltwater anointing is coming guilt rack for finding themselves so broken that they should bow before their own flogging for having held their brothers down under the lash. in the stories that they saw
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them running out into the forest yelling i shall never be taken. i saw them boarding theories singing low and only to themselves. i saw them that day at the philadelphia docks. i saw them wandering on bainbridge and crying for all their dead. those who had taken ship for the final harbor from whence none shall return. all of them came to me from the memories. all of them drawn up from pandemonium come up from slavery , up out of the job the drugnation, up out of the and has drills singing before the sorcery of this underground." that whole motive of memory. there's another section in the book where hiram is in philadelphia. who otherst a mentor call moses and it turns out it was harriet tubman.
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at one point he is walking with tubman and there over the delaware river. and she says, "memory is the chariot and memory is the way and memory is bridge from the curse of slavery to the boon of freedom." in essence, the power of hiram's memory really represents what we, americans, lack in terms of our own understanding of the history of how our country came to be? >> yeah, well, what i will say w withhe thing is conduction, the power is tight always not just a memory, but memories that maybe we would not like to talk about or deal with. it is the excavation of deep and often painful things that we would rather not speak of. and one of the themes in the book is the extent to which the enslavers are themselves actually enslaved by their inability to remember and
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recall. while i would not tell anybodody how to read the book, i would cecertainly say there's someme amount of allegory in t that in today and how even those who are in power and are governors are enslaved by their inability to remember painful things that folks would rather forget. amy: you mentioned harriet tubman. she is a real figure in your fictional book "the water dancer." talk about why you imbued her with this power and how significant she is for you. >> the thing to understand is, first of all, i from baltimore, maryland, harriet timon was from maryland. she was probably my earliest notion of a superhero. it really was -- there were these tales they would tell us. some of them exaggerations.
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but even when i got to reading, they were these incredible tales. i can remember when i was reading biographies when i first started getting the idea to include her in the book, even in the biographies you had this know, -- well, you i would say of the supernatural, something really, really incredible. i was just attracted to that. i can remember reading one biography they're trying to atattract the trails she took fr so many of these escapes. theseography, some of they can try. any time 70 doesn't know anything in nonfiction, in my imimagination, it immediately gs there. i felt like it was really important. one of the things i was afraid of and one thing i had was how to boil her down to an actual person and not have a slab of marble walking through the book will stop so i tried to give her
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humor and do these things, but she was probably my first notion of a superhero. amy: you also write about the white family, who also was based on a real story, the william and peter still. talk about how you research this, how you knew them. >> there is a great book on the underground railroad that is absolutely incredible. and that, he pulls source material from a book that william still published contemporaneously in the 19th century. it was basically a volume of all of the enslalaved folks who have escaped to philadelphia -- through philadelphia. incredible stuff you read about. some i was alluding to the last reading. people stuffed in boats and folks putting in turpentine to try to smoke out whatever to expose the slaves. people on the tops of carriages
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and railcars. crazy, crazy stuff. it just excited me. i feel like a lot of times african-american history is presenented in a kind of each or vegetables kind of way. but if you read the accounts from the time, i mean, these folks i think of a great sense they are involved in a great adventure. beasley, nobody likes being enslaved, but you can almost see readinge -- when i was williams stuff, i was like, can you believe this? i was naturally attracted to him. hiram's power is closely tied to water and of couourse "e water dancer" is the title of the book. can you talk about water in this story? >> this goes back really old for me. i would hear stories about the transatlantic slave trade. stories about people that would leave off the boat into the water.
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there e are some rather beautifl renditions of this people reporting these folks leapt off. it seem like they were dancing among the waves. i was thinking about that and myths in about these the african-american culture of people flying. they actually flew. that was the immediate thing i thought about. -- very idea of the middle it felt natural to use water. i was probably pulling some for my own biography going back as a kid to the e eastern shore of maryland. we would often go to the beach. it is something to be on the land where your ancestors were actually enslaved in the ocean is right there. the ocean is like 10 miles away. water was always i think in the back of my mind. it just felt natural to pull from thahat when it came time to tell the story. amy: i also want to ask about
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magical realism. several novels that deal with 'savery'like colson whitehead and octavia butler and encourage people to go to to see our interview with her right before she died, have long used science fiction as a means to deal with these subjects. why do you thinknk it lendnds if to the subjectct matter? you also o a writer of comic books. you write "the black panther" series. >> i don't know. is -- that isf it a great question. that is a really great question. i felt like in nonfiction -- - d this is not to say i will never go back to it -- but i felt like i was coming dangerously close to repeating myself. i felt like the methodology through which i was exploring stories, which was to go out and do the journalism, do the
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historical research, analyze, synthesize, tell you what i thought, probably shortly after we were eight years in power and we got our current president, i felt like i can't do this anymore. like, i can't keep doing the same thing. and when i came to fiction, it was the opportunity -- even though the novel was in the process by then, to talk about these things, but in a much more layered way. i felt like i had much more control. i felt like it could apply to other things. i think, thinking back to myself as a young person and a comic book fan, i think the imagination is very, very important. when you come from an oppressed class. aboutk when i was maybe 22, 23, maybe a little older, i read "the intuition nest." the way in which he interpreted african-american history with these two different schools, i ththought, well, i can't believe somebody that.
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i did not evenn know this was possible w within fiction. i i was probably inspired by stories like that. it felt like the natural way to go. book another novel in n your to me about slave masters and the quality and the tasks. >> echoes back to your earlier question about how slavery was presented in the book. i started this book in 2009. one of the things by editor immediately said to me when i told him what i was going to do is said, listen, you're going into territory people have read about quite a bit. anytime you're writing about a theme that folks have tackled, you have to make it yours. you have to figure out, ok, what ofta-nehisi coates' vision police brutality in 2015 to make a between the world and me? how do you just not selling some
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dude who read some james baldwin and decided i'm going to go right? same here, how do selling some and who'd not read "beloved" and i'm going to try to do that? is rendering my envision of enslavement. and part of that is figuring out a vocabulary that speaks to it in a particular way. the enslavers are called the task, called the quality. those are whites who don't have the luxury of owning people or referred to as the low whites. i thought all of that was really important to give a different vocabulary in a different sense of where we were. amy: and the decline of the plantation. talk about that. is a subtle and slight i think parable about ecology and about climate change in
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there. one of the things that happens in this novel is virginia, the state, grows rich off tobacco in the world of this novel, that hang, etrm and cut and cetera land.bacco exhausts the the land is exhausted, the wealth which all of these virginia planters are living off decline, too. so they start selling people. a lot of characters comment on the fact how long can this go on? because what folks are basically doing is once they exhaust one area, they moved west. within history of this novel from virginia to tennessee to mississippi, the characters are always afraid of being sent natchez way, because that is where the land is rich and blooming but in the mind of the slaves, they will exhaust that, too. the fact they have turned from enslaving people to actually
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cultivating and selling people ofa commentary in and itself. amy: so here you are f for 10 years writing this novel at the same time that your writing these paradigm-shattering essays and books that are getting so much attention. and so it is all coming together . in the midst of all this, testify beforere congress around .he issue of reparations and you have senate majority leader mitch mcconnell responding to the issue. when you work last in, we had to respond. but i'm wondering now, as "the water dancer" comes out, and as issueeply drove into this in a different way in a fictional way, your thoughts on what senate majority leader mitch mcconnell said? i just want to play that clip. for don't think reparations something that happened 150
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years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea. tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting the civil war, bypassing landmark civil rights legislation. we have elected an african-american president. i think we are always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsisible for that. and i don't think we should be trying to figure out how to cocompensate for it. first ofof all, it would be prey hard to figure out who to compensate. we have have waves of immigrants who come to the country and experienced dramatic disco nation of one kind or another. no, i don't think reparations are a idea. amy: again, i want to point out that mitch mcconnell was being questioned by an african-american reporter of spectrum news about whether the
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government should issue a public apology for slavery. so in light of this, and just this deep world you have been living in both imaginary and very, very real? >> i would say that commentary i think is one of the themes of the book, the idea that you get to forget ththe things yoyou d't like. makes anomeone anti-reparations argument, almost 95% of the time what undergirds that is the idea that one cacan have an all occurred approach to israel. mitch mcconnnnell would d ever , george washington didied a longg time ago therefore, we should not pay any attention to georore washington. he would not say thomas jefferson died a long timime ag, thererefore we shoululd not payg attention to thomas jefferson. he would not say there were treaties that were signed before any of us were alive, therefore, we are out ofof those treaties. he would not say that
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pensionaires who are still alive from world war ii, even though the vast majority of us were not alive to fight that war, should no longer have to pay. the very idea that history shouldld not matter, if we wereo apply that rule across the board and not just repararations, it would be tough to hahave a state in and of itself at all. part of being part of a state is being responsible to things you don't directly d do. be they things that happened across t time in historyry or be they thingngs that happened acrs titime and space. i tax telescopes to subsidize highways that i may or may not make utilization. that is what it means to be part of a state. the second fallacy is somehow the oppression of african-americans ended in 1865 and does not extend d up to the lifetime of mitch mccoconnell, which i tried to make clear during my testimony that in fact that is quite false. this would be an entirely different conversatation had d s country done in 1865 what
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let thee -- frederick enslaved alone and let them prosper. that is not what happened. what followed was a 100 years to true lung terrorism campapaign, which was backed by policy at the federal, state, local level. the folks who suffered under those policies are very much alive today. one thing i wanted to get to in "the water dancer" what i was tackling was this idea you can be opportunistic about memory, that hiram's father who lives off of t slave labor of all of these people can remember the "greatness" of the folks that founded the plantation while ignoring what all of that wealth and greatness was actually based on the first place, while ignoring what he did to this enenslaved womanan. i feel a problem that like is with us across the board. it is not just -- it hunts all of our policy come this inability to grapple with
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history. amy: ta-nehisi coates. "the waterovel dancer" about today. tune in tuesday for part two of our conversation when he talks about the 2020 presidential race , politicians using blackface from canadian prime minister justin trudeau to virginia governor ralph northam and alabama governor kay ivey and more. ta-nehisi coates to watchta-nehisi coates testify on capitol hill about reparations, go to democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate t the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!]
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