Happy Birthday, America & My PBS Show Launch
Last week I spent some time in Chicago and the suburb of Elmhurst. Along the beautiful and inviting Main Street, I came across this stupidity. A cigar shop that won’t take money from people who voted for Biden. This is the opposite of how to celebrate a nation’s birthday.
If you read the Puck version already, this newsletter is quite similar, but I added the photo above and these special promotional options because my PBS TV series launches this week! Tuesday July 5th.
The best encapsulation of the show is this 3 minute extended trailer on PBS’s YouTube as well as my Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Please reshare! Yesterday I joined Larry Wilmore on his podcast, and we tied my PBS show to Independence Day in some profound ways.
If you want to go farther and post something yourself, I put together this dropbox with a few video options and still images that can work on various platforms. The hashtag is #AmericaOutdoorsPBS and tag “baratunde”!
You can watch the show on your local PBS station at 9pm ET and PT, 8pm CT and MT. But don’t fret if you “don’t have a TV.” It’s also on the PBS website at pbs.org/americaoutdoors or in the PBS Video app which is available on all smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.
Finally the premiere episode on July 5th will stream on YouTube at 9pm ET / 6pm PT, and I’ll be in the chat live sharing extra tidbits and engaging with viewers. Right after, at 10pm ET, 7pm PT, head over to my Instagram for a post-show live chat.
Now for the regular newsletter.
Wow! It’s been an intense few weeks in our nation’s capital, all culminating in the most awkward birthday party ever. Let’s start with the January 6th Committee hearings. Our former commander-in-chief, as revealed in staggering testimony by his chief of staff’s top aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, was also an insurrectionist-in-chief, ready to join the armed mob himself. This menace to society got to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court who are working to bring that Trumpian chaos and selfishness to every sector of the country. The court wants all of us carrying firearms (in which case, let’s defund the police after all, because we’re all the police now); is forcing women to give birth (see my Twitter thread with updated thoughts on my Roe piece for Puck); and refuses to let the Environmental Protection Agency protect the environment.
SCOTUS v. All of Us
At this point, it’s difficult for me to keep up with or keep track of my own outrage, but the E.P.A. ruling upset me not only for the preposterous idea that the E.P.A. can’t do its job, but because media outlets are covering it with headlines like “Supreme Court Handcuffs Biden on Major Climate Rule” (Politico). This is about so much more than a single U.S. president’s agenda. This is about the long-term ability of our species to have any agenda beyond bare survival. When the United States refuses to take this existential threat seriously, we become a threat to every person on the planet.
Bill McKibben offered up a more honest headline in his New Yorker piece: “The Supreme Court Tries to Overrule the Climate.” The hard truth is that there’s very little time to avert the worst outcomes of the climate crisis. Every day counts. Every partial degree of warming means lives lost. But Congress has been captured and paralyzed by industry, and it seems so has the Court. Thursday’s ruling makes climate-conscious actions by companies and states even more important, so let’s celebrate the positive actions happening at those levels, beginning with this Twitter list put together by Nick Abraham of the League of Conservation Voters.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you know needs an abortion, check out AbortionFinder.org. It’s the most comprehensive directory of trusted and verified abortion service providers in the United States. If you want to do more to help people achieve their personal healthcare decisions, consider supporting Elevated Access. This is a network of volunteer pilots who provide free transportation to people seeking abortions and gender-affirming care. If you know pilots or people with private planes—maybe that’s you—connect them to this network, and use your resources to help the growing number of domestic healthcare refugees in the United States.
Amidst the horror, I’ve been traveling this past week and attending some hopeful gatherings, both virtually and physically. I remotely joined the Hollywood Climate Summit, which lifted my spirits immensely. I made my first-ever visit to the Aspen Ideas Festival, where I was relieved to find that even the billionaires realize there’s little value to a remote, luxury enclave when the air is so choked with wildfire smoke that it’s hard to breathe. I had a memorable conversation with Eric Liu, the founder of Citizen University, an organization that has offered up a set of July 4th rituals to reconnect us with the shared values required by an active citizenry to maintain a healthy democracy.
But my primary reason for going to Aspen was to support the launch of my new PBS series, America Outdoors, which premieres this week on July 5th. Of course I want you to watch the show on TV or the PBS Video app or even YouTube, but I think you’ll also appreciate my conversation with Jenn White of NPR’s 1A, which we recorded during the trip. Our session was titled “America The Beautiful” which is something that can be hard to see right now, but making this show has helped me see it. Our connection to nature is one of the keys to unlocking a deeper connection to ourselves and each other.
Meanwhile, with all the turbulence in our nation, I’m reminded of Valarie Kaur’s December 2016 Sikh prayer: “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?” Increasingly I think the America we’ve known is dying, and there’s a lot of pain and suffering associated with that demise. But that America was never the best version of us. And while there will be a lot of pain and suffering ahead, we also have an opportunity to give birth to a new America, a true multiracial democracy that allows us all to thrive. We have to try. And I can think of no better moment to commit to the rebirth of our nation than the 4th of July.
Happy Birthday, America. New year, new we!
P.S., I’ve been writing this newsletter while listening to Usher’s NPR Tiny Desk concert in Washington D.C. I had the chance to see him at a small concert recently, and he’s one of the most positive, energetic, and talented entertainers we have. Feel your anger and your rage, and make room for love and joy with Usher as your soundtrack.