“You know the old saying—and it’s usually passed down through generational advice from an older person saying you only live once? I don’t buy that. You only die once. You live every day.” ~ John Feal, interviewed by Terry Gross on 9/11/17, 9/11 First Responder John Feal
History repeats itself. When times get tough economically, we look for a scapegoat. Currently, it’s illegal immigrants who are taking all of our jobs and using all of our services. We must deport them, presidential candidates scream.
Francisco E. Balderrama, the author of Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, spoke at length to Terri Gross about our earlier strive to purge the US of Mexican-Americans.
In the 1930s—not the early ’30s or the late ’30s, but the entire decade—we turned on Mexican-Americans, deporting them in droves. Legal and illegal. People born here and who lived their whole lives here. People who didn’t speak Spanish.
They were all to go. We didn’t discriminate in our rush to discriminate. We escorted them to the border but many came back. Then we paid to transport them not just to the border but deep into Mexico.
When did this decade of madness end? December 7, 1941. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor and our entry into WWII, suddenly jobs were plenty and we needed all the workers we could get.
So when will our current passion for deporting end? When the US realizes that it needs immigrants—legal and illegal—for many of our jobs?
I recently heard coworkers talking about this series of podcasts. And then I heard the host and producer interviewed by Terri Gross on Fresh Air. I was intrigued and thought about dipping my toe in to see how it was.
I ended up plunging in head-first. The real-life story is that engrossing.
Serial is a series of 12 podcasts that debuted October 2014 as a spin-off from This American Life. The host, Sarah Koenig, as an investigative journalist, looks into the 1999 strangulation of a high school student and the subsequent incarceration of the newly deceased’s ex-boyfriend.
Sarah has ongoing telephone conversations with Adnan Syed from his prison. She reenacts the events of the day, walking through the timeline presented in court. She interviews different people: Adnan, Jay (the sole witness), jurors, lawyers, detectives, and those that knew Hae Min Lin (the deceased). She tracks down any item in the records that wasn’t followed up on or that seems suspicious, such as girl who could corroborate Adnan’s alibi or the lack of DNA testing done.
Through her investigation, we learn things about the judicial system and how police investigations are carried out. For example, Sarah tests the hypothesis that memory is reliable, which is a bit shocking when you consider how much stock we place on witness accounts and their memories in criminal investigations, at trials, and in life in general.
Sarah also discusses her feelings, the ups and down, the roller coaster she is on. One minute she thinks Adnan is innocent, and then something suggests that there is no way that he is innocent, and then something else suggests that there is no way that he committed the murder. And on and on.
And she discusses her perspectives on Adnan’s reactions and feelings. Fifteen years after the conviction, the wounds for him are being reopened for him to suffer through again.
It is disconcerting to consider the amount of human error in legal judgments. And what Sarah is investigating and discussing is not a hypothetical. It is a real case with a dead high school woman and a convicted man behind bars for life. Swirling around them are numerous lives that were affected to varying degrees…from the friends, to the parents of Hae, to the guy who helped bury Hae’s body.
Both the interview with Terri Gross and the podcast series Serial are well worth a listen. The first season of Serial is over and you can binge listen to all 12 episodes (which is what I did). 2015 brings a new season…and a new story.