A week ago today, Peggy and I had dinner with Amy Goodman, the host of “Democracy Now: the War and Peace Report” (DN). The program airs each Monday through Friday on radio and TV stations across the country. I watch it every morning in its podcast version that can be accessed at any hour at http://www.democracynow.org/
The dinner was a Christmas present from my daughter, Maggie who (with her husband, Kerry) had given DN a substantial contribution.
[The gift came with a black Democracy Now tee shirt (which I wore to our dinner) and two coffee cups showing the program’s logo. The meal portion of the gift was for me and a companion of my choice. Naturally, it was Peggy. Still another of the gift’s components was attendance at one of the show’s morning productions (which we’ll take advantage of sometime in the future).]
There were four of us in Thursday’s dinner party. Amy brought along her factotum, Edith Penty, whose presence was absolutely delightful. We ate at the Hangawi Korean restaurant on 32nd street between Fifth and Madison Avenue. There we shared “The Emperor’s Tasting Menu” that featured starters, appetizers, entrees and dessert – acorn noodle salad with avocado fritters, dumplings in pine nut and pineapple sauce, tofu with sesame leaves and seaweed sauce, and dessert.
As the meal unfolded we all shared our biographies.
Amy is a New Yorker raised in Bay Shore. She is the daughter of an ophthalmologist father and a mother who taught literature and Women’s Studies. Her family is Jewish Orthodox. Her maternal grandfather was an Orthodox Rabbi. She studied Hebrew and Torah from kindergarten through high school. Amy graduated from Radcliffe College in 1984, with a degree in anthropology.
From her stories about participation in demonstrations, vigils, and campaigns, it’s clear that Amy Goodman has always been an activist. For some years she worked in an organic bakery that eventually supplied buns for Arby’s restaurants. Journalism has always been in her family’s blood. (Her brother published a family newspaper before reaching his teenage years.) She founded Democracy Now in 1996; this is its 20th anniversary year. Throughout Amy’s account of her life, there wasn’t a trace of self-promotion. On the contrary, both Peggy and I were impressed with her interest in our stories, and with her unassuming presence.
In all the four of us spent about two hours together. And of course conversation went far beyond autobiographies. Inevitably we discussed Trump, Bernie and Hillary.
The most interesting insight came when Amy shared the fact that the Obamas and Clintons can’t stand one another. Obama made Hillary his Secretary of State following the principle: Stay close to your friends, and even closer to your enemies. One of the first questions asked in any Obama or Clinton vetting process is: “What do you think about Hillary?” “What do you think about Barrack?” Hiring decisions are made accordingly.
Towards the end of our time together, Amy left the table for a moment. Soon afterwards waiters came to our table with ice cream and small cakes and a candle. Amy had informed them that Peggy and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. That’s the kind of thoughtful person Amy Goodman is.
As we left Hangwai, a young African American man caught sight of my Democracy Now tee shirt. He said to me: “Love your tee shirt. I watch that program every day. Love that too!” I pointed ahead of us to Amy who was deep in conversation with Peggy. I said, “That’s Amy Goodman right there.” He couldn’t believe it. Soon we were all taking pictures with the celebrity. It was a moment that topped the evening off just perfectly.
If Democracy Now isn’t part of your daily news-gathering routine, it should be. Unlike other newscasts, it centralizes stories from the grassroots. So it often interviews victims of police violence, representatives of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), political dissidents, and community organizers. Noam Chomsky, Glen Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Cornel West, Lori Wallach, Richard Wolff, Tariq Ali, and many other thought-leaders and journalists are among the program’s frequent guests.
“Democracy Now” covers the Black Lives Matter Movement along with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction campaign against the Israeli apartheid system – whose proponents are almost never interviewed in the mainstream media.
If you watch Democracy Now, you know details of the recent coup in Brazil, its predecessor in Honduras, and current attempts at still another in Venezuela. You know about Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. But you also are familiar with police killings of Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson, and Miriam Cary.
None of the stories is reduced to sound bites. Interviewees like Noam Chomsky are sometimes given an entire hour (without commercial interruption) to analyze a whole host of world and national issues. An hour-long broadcast was devoted recently to Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit peace activist who died last month.
Peggy and I are so grateful to Maggie and Kerry for making possible such a memorable evening — and of course, to Amy Goodman for spending so much time with us and for being the huge inspiration she is