Us & Them

Podcast

Us & Them is a podcast exploring all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us.

Peabody Award winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on cultural issues.

Us & Them is a joint project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, PRX and Trey Kay Productions.

You can subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR OneRadioPublicSpotifyStitcher and beyond. 

This project has been made possible through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the West Virginia Humanities Council, the CRC Foundation and the Daywood Foundation.

The way you read the results of the midterm election might depend on where you live.

In California, candidates were rewarded for opposing President Trump -- critics like California’s new Gov. Gavin Newsom won big. But in West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin was returned to office while siding with the president on key issues.

What's going on?

Reading Wars

Nov 7, 2018
Kids reading
Emily Hanford / APM Reports

Researchers say science makes it clear that there's a direct, systematic way we should be teaching kids to read.

But lots of people discount the science of reading. They say teaching kids to sound out words is boring, and kids will learn to read naturally if they're read to and exposed to lots of books.

This is more of an angry argument than a polite debate. It's been raging for years. And there's a lot at stake. Millions of American adults are not proficient readers.

Two Voters Talk It Out

Nov 2, 2018

When we cast a ballot, it's personal. About as personal as it gets.

That’s easy to forget when we talk about big blocks of voters -- congressional districts or entire states.

So Blue State host Chery Glaser takes it to the personal level and talks with two voters.

The migrant caravan moving through Mexico is nowhere near the U.S. border, yet it's smack dab in the middle of the nation’s politics.

But immigration pushes different political buttons in West Virginia and California.

Mitch Hanley

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in the last two years, 2 million people in the United States misused prescription opioids for the first time. “Steve,” a curious kid from New Hampshire, found his mom’s oxycodone pills in the medicine cabinet and liked the way they made him feel.

Climate change and energy jobs are hot issues, but they spark very different reactions from folks in different parts of the country. Those reactions are the heart of this installment of “Red State, Blue State," our weekly chat between Trump Country and the Blue Bubble.

Sen. Joe Manchin
Simon Edelman, U.S. Energy Department

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Manchin was the only Democrat in the Senate to cross party lines, and he did it in a very public way. Manchin’s vote didn’t surprise many Mountain State voters, but it left a lot of people in other states asking, “Why is he even a Democrat?”

©2012 Shawn Poynter

Why did rural Americans love Donald Trump so much in 2016?

Some say they’ve felt left out of the economic recovery. Others say the culture is changing in ways that makes rural people feel uncomfortable. Others say it was simply because Trump made rural people feel like they mattered. Trey talks with three journalists who live in rural places and report on rural issues.

With all turmoil surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, red and blue state voters are taking the long view. This is the second episode of "Red State Blue State,"  WVPB's collaboration with KCRW in California.

If you really listen, we sound like two different countries: Red America and Blue America. Then again, most of us are not listening. Heading into the midterms KCRW and WVPB are teaming up to try to change that.

And Now...On the Radio!

Sep 27, 2018

We’re excited to announce that West Virginia Public Broadcasting has invited Us & Them to be a regular part of the radio lineup!

Us & Them: ‘Us’ Music

Sep 13, 2018
Stephan Said and Kurdish musicians
Courtesy of Stephan Said

Stephan Said takes his fiddle and guitar to refugee camps and war zones. He's on a quest to make music that speaks across boundaries.

Us & Them: Shack!

Aug 29, 2018

If it seems football has, perhaps unwillingly, become a platform for civil rights issues, well, keep it mind that didn’t start with Colin Kapernick but with James “Shack” Harris, the first African American to be named in a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Trey Kay & Randy
Joni Deutsch

Americans tend to sort themselves into tribes that share similar culture, ideas and values. Trey recalls kids at his West Virginia high school sorting themselves into different camps and how one dressed was often a defining factor, right down to the shoes.

Are America’s schools hostile to religion? There’s been a tussle over this issue since the early 60s, when the Supreme Court ruled that prayer and school-sponsored Bible reading were unconstitutional. Since then, evangelical Christians have claimed that God and religion have all but been driven out of education and secular Americans, concerned about blurring the wall between church and state, have been vigilant over any erosion of that separation. The fact is religion has been a part of America’s classrooms ever since there were public schools.

Gabriela Arp

Things have changed in the old neighborhood. There are cool little restaurants and cafes, funky little shops and a vibrant art and music scene. On one side, you have the newcomers— people who came here to open new businesses and live in this trendy neighborhood. On the other side you have the old guard — the people who grew up here, before it was trendy, and have been watching the place they call home rapidly dissolve all around them.

Hey, it’s Independence Day - the official birth of our nation! Watching fireworks on July 4th may be as close as some of us get to expressing a shared love of country with fellow citizens. As you very well know, there is a great deal of polarization in our nation. To work through many of our differences, we have to do more than just stand next to each other on patriotic holidays.

Alex Proimos (CC)

Places like Lake Tahoe, Nantucket and Colorado ski country are playgrounds for the wealthy. To make the playground run smoothly, there’s a dire need for people to cook food, bus tables, clean rooms, mow lawns, manicure golf courses and operate ski lifts. It all works well until those same workers don’t have a place to lay their heads at night.

Curt Truc

Trey Kay has observed how things have changed significantly for LGBTQ people where he lives in New York. But he’s not sure if anything’s changed in a more conservative place like West Virginia, where he grew up.

America and Iran used to be close allies, but since the Iranian Revolution began in 1979, the relationship has been akin to a bad divorce. After President Trump’s announcement to pull the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, cable news has been abuzz with political pundits and foreign policy scholars reacting to the latest chapter of the tortured relationship. But there are Iranian and American love stories that have worked out.

Ashley Rodgers, Texas Tech University

In today’s culturally polarized society, discussing whether the planet is warming and if humans have an impact on the climate is a topic that’s often avoided. Why? Because speaking about it can be akin to touching the “third rail” of religion and politics.

As the United States works through what the American Medical Association describes as “the worst drug addiction epidemic in its history,” we revisit the story of Dimitri. This former junkie was delivered from a 27-year heroin addiction by a controversial treatment that seems to work miracles for people addicted to opioids.

Back in 2015, we aired an episode called “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” that didn’t go over so well with a bunch of our listeners. We received messages saying that Trey mishandled a conversation between a physicist who defends climate science and a former public school teacher who’s an evolution skeptic.

Albert Melise

Moazzam Begg, a British citizen of Pakistani heritage, and Albert Melise, a former housing police officer in the Boston area, were unlikely to have their life stories intersect and become friends; but then September 11 happened.

Auschwitz Birkenau Under a Gitmo Sky
C.Puisney

For a little more than a century, there’s been at least one concentration camp somewhere on earth. The fact that camps still exist and that humans can justify forcing other humans into such inhumane living conditions is the “us and them” dynamic taken to the most vile extreme.

How old were you when you first learned that police may think of you as a threat?

You’ve never been told that?

Us & Them : The Talk

Feb 14, 2018

Despite all the fuss about sex education in America, students get precious little of it. Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian, tells Trey how Americans spend more time arguing about what kids should learn about human sexuality in schools than they actually do teaching anything about it.

Trey Kay

 

On Friday, January 22nd, 2016, I was in New York City preparing to head to West Virginia. So was a blizzard called Jonas.

Dave Mistich

What do you do when a panhandler hits you up for some money? Whatever your answer is, what experiences or facts inform your policy for giving or not giving? People have strong opinions on this. With this episode we try to separate the facts, suppositions and ideology.

Just a few weeks ago, a listener wrote in to tell us that she “love, love, loved” our Amazing Grace episode. I actually know this listener; she grew up Jewish. I was kind of surprised that she was so moved by this episode. I assumed that Amazing Grace resonated with Christians, mainly. But, as a choreographer and teacher, she’s used many different arrangements of Amazing Grace in her work over the years. And she loved hearing the richer background of the hymn.

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