Body politic

By IRIS FANGER  |  September 2, 2008

Let us in on the way you work, your process.
For this project, the last time I counted, I had interviewed 320 people. Each interview lasts about an hour. I’ve been doing these interviews since 1970. With House Arrest, I did 534 interviews. All of these projects are under the banner of “On the Road: The Search for American Character.” My book Talk to Me: Travels in Media and Politics is about my process.

House Arrest was about the role of the media in American life. Do you think the media ruined Hillary?
Yes, I do. It’s very hard to see a woman get beat up in public. No matter where you stand, you have to say this moment is so fascinating because it’s bringing us material about ourselves that is both good news and bad news. I think, in terms of Hillary and Obama, it’s an extraordinary opportunity to see the anxiety and fears that the culture still has and the promise the culture has.

Have you any ideas about the American character, after doing so much research into it?
I think the astonishing thing about America, and maybe it’s because I’m African-American, is how much the color has changed. In a brief amount of time, maybe 15 years, we don’t think about black and white. It’s Latinos and Koreans and all kinds of people. When I was a kid in Baltimore, it was all white people and maybe a black cleaning lady, but that’s changed. On the other hand, the gap between rich and poor is huge. I’m very concerned. I hope there’s some innovative public figure or intellectual in our culture who can get that questioned. I don’t think it’s good for us.

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