[UPDATE: aclj.org has changed the settings on this video to private.]
Last spring I appeared on the Sean Hannity Show. It was a major learning experience. The subject was the Berkeley city council resolution to welcome one or two cleared Guantanamo Bay inmates to Berkeley. There was quite a media circus and the resolution was defeated. A few months later it was reintroduced with little fanfare and a small amount of editing, and passed. Read about it at http://www.nogitmos.org/.
Going by the public response to my appearance, what matter wasn’t the issue, but my personal appearance. My mental health was also speculated upon. Ad hominem attacks were the order of the day. What I actually said didn’t matter. The attacks didn’t upset me as they were nothing I hadn’t heard in middle school. The only one that irked was a comment that I had a glazed look in my eyes.
I sat on a high stool in a tiny, black-walled room, with only the camera person present. Behind me was a photo mural of the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bank of white lights in front of me and I couldn’t see a thing, yet I was supposed to look at the camera. I heard the voices of the crew and later, Hannity and Jay Sekulow, my debate opponent, faintly through an earphone. So I was straining to see and hear, knowing I was on national television. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I no longer judge people who look glassy-eyed on TV. It isn’t their fault and it isn’t their natural facial expression.
As for the content of the debate, alleged Constitutional lawyer Jay Sekulow claimed that the cleared detainees are not innocent because they were not found innocent by a court of law. No matter that the Constitution says people are innocent until proven guilty. These cleared detainees are rotting in Guantanamo for two reasons. One is that other countries say, if the US won’t take them, why should we? The other reason is that some fear returning to their home countries. They claim they will be tortured, even killed, if they go back. Hannity chose not to believe this, but it is easily verifiable.
Hannity expressed disbelief that I would want a cleared detainee in my home. I said we had the spare bedroom ready. There is broad community support here in Berkeley. Should a cleared detainee settle here, he will have help with work, education, housing, everything he needs.
America owes these cleared detainees a debt it can never repay. How do you give back the stolen years? These men deserve everything we can do for them, along with our apologies as a nation. As an American, I apologize for the way my country treated and continues to treat cleared Guantanamo detainees.
In conclusion, I learned that when Fox viewers have their minds made up, facts will be ignored. I learned that a Constitutional lawyer can make claims contrary to the most basic tenets of the Constitution and get away with it. On a personal level, I learned that I can hold my own against two aggressive men while millions of people watch. I learned that ordinary people like myself who go on television will be critiqued for looking, well, ordinary. I learned that my skin is thicker than I thought.