Main Street USA–Voices From Across America

StoryJanuary 14, 2004
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Award-winning filmmaker Jon Alpert takes a cross-country bus tour interviewing a cross-section of American opinion on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, domestic issues and more. [includes transcript]

  • Jon Alpert, filmmaker and founder of Downtown Community Television center.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: John Alpert, who runs Downtown Community Television where we are based here in Chinatown, blocks from ground zero, who is a journalist who has won many awards and world renown, has gone across the country with a team of people, with his cyber car, the DC-TV cyber car to get a sense of how people feel about issues around the country, and he joins us in the studio now. Welcome, John.

JOHN ALPERT: Hi. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Before we start, let’s just get a clip of the voices of people that you have spoken to around the country. VOICES (tape): “They’re going to be sorry they missed this…” “They’re going to kill thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq…” “We didn’t ask to be attacked.” “I lost family, too.” “Why would Bush want to liberate Iraq, when we’re not liberated ourselves?” “I think we should retaliate every time.” “How you can say God Bless America, when it’s the whole world hurting.”

AMY GOODMAN: Main Street, U.S.A. John, this program is going to be airing on Link-TV tonight on Direct TV, satellite TV. Can you talk about this as we take a little trip with you, and hear some of the voices?

JOHN ALPERT: Well, we had been in the past two years to ground zero on September 11. We were in Afghanistan, and we were in Iraq. We took footage from those places. We put it on the cyber car. The cyber car has a big video wall an the side of it and we drove around to main streets all over America and had impromptu town meetings. We showed the clips and got the reactions of people all over the country. It was astonishing because we didn’t know what to expect.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the next clip. This is from Main Street, U.S.A.

JOHN ALPERT: how do you feel about the clip that you saw?

WOMAN: My heart goes out to her. Anybody that has children or family, seeing clips like that, it brings it back to a human being, they’re hurting just as much as us. I have three sons that would just devastate me if i lost one.

JOHN ALPERT (tape): What should we say to someone like that?

WOMAN: I don’t know what you can say. I mean, nothing–no matter what we say is going to bring her child back. We can say we’re sorry and we can come in and help, but for the rest of her life, she will never have that boy and never see the dreams the way he was going to be, what kind of a man he was going to be. I don’t think you can ever say anything that’s going to make up the loss of her child.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what she was responding to.

JOHN ALPERT: That’s a firewoman from Anderson, Indiana. When we showed up on Main Street in Anderson, all of the firemen came with their trucks to watch our tape. They were especially interested in what happened at ground zero. But we showed them a clip from a suburban neighborhood in Baghdad that the United States dropped cluster bombs on, and a woman in the tape was mourning the death of her 18-year-old son. And before we showed that tape, I would say that everybody in the audience with the exception of one man, was very supportive of the war and what was going on there. And that shook them up, especially this woman when she began thinking about what it would be like if she lost her son.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you introduce another clip for us.

JOHN ALPERT: Every time we went — it was really different. We went to so many towns. I don’t know what town is next on the tape.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s just take a listen and then you can respond.

WOMAN: Who thinks going into Iraq is a good idea? I think it’s definitely a good idea. Not only for us, but for those people that are so oppressed by that dictator. They’re worse. They’re worse than what our American slaves ever had to live. That’s what a lot of people forget and they don’t remember. When this is over, the United States will go in, and they will build schools and hospitals and help educate those people.

WOMAN 2: They’ll go in there and rebuild schools. There will be hospitals and everything else. But they won’t leave the money here in the United States to take care of what they should take care of first. Charity begins at home.

WOMAN 3: We don’t have streets. You’ve been on our streets. We don’t have hospitals. There are more prisons being built than there are schools. Take care of home first. That’s why I think it’s a bad idea.

JOHN ALPERT: We just heard excerpts from Palestine, Arkansas, population 700. Mayor Ruletta Clark used to be chopping cotton in the cotton fields as a sharecropper. The big issue in that town are the deaths from the railroad trains. They don’t have enough money to put a crossing guard there and every single year, two or three people get killed. They’re angry–they felt that money was being spent on the other side of the world when it was needed in Arkansas. Another place was interesting was Yasu City, Mississippi. The mayor of that town, mayor Clark, the first black mayor — the first black mayor that they have ever had in Yasu City — was holding an impromptu meeting based around the cyber car.

AMY GOODMAN: And people will get a sense of that tonight on Link-TV–what time is this broadcasting? “Main Street, USA.”

JOHN ALPERT: 8:00 p.m.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for the program. John Alpert, thanks so much for being with us.

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