April 25, 2008
Thoughts on "Houston Have Your Say"

If you tuned in to Houston Have Your Say last night expecting to see me on the TV, you would have been either annoyed or relieved to learn that I was on the sidelines with a laptop, liveblogging it instead. That was a somewhat daunting prospect for me, as my initial foray into that form of media wasn't terribly successful. You can read my efforts as well as those of my co-liveblogger Ree-C Murphy here and see how I did. At the very least, I think we got a lot more detail than the Chron story includes.

I'm still kind of taking it all in, as is Ree-C, who posted some pix from our vantage point here. I'm going to give a few thoughts here now, then think about it some more and see if I can come up with a coherent narrative.

- I don't know what I expected of this going into it, but I do know that I expected a fair amount of acrimony, and I was pleasantly surprised to see things remain mostly civil. There were a few jabs thrown by UH/HCCS Professor Luis Salinas and Sen. Dan Patrick at each other, but the funny thing is that in between the two segments, and again after the send half, the two of them were talking to each other, in a fairly calm manner. Here's Ree-C's observation from last night:

During the break, I noticed that people were getting together and talking with each other without animous. It was outstanding. It is the way is should be.

Solutions are made person to person. Kuffner said that Patrick and Salinas should be put in a room together and the door locked until they come up with workable solutions. I would agree in principle on that. These people in this room could be the key to working out solutions. It will depend on how far they carry it later...

(Hey, if I can talk to Kuffner with cheer and humor, anything is possible. Right? ;)

Indeed. Though, as I mentioned to someone later, a shared affinity for bad 80s TV shows, which we had, can break a lot of ice. If Mr. Belvedere can't bring us all together, what hope do we have?

- On a more serious note, I have to say that Sen. Patrick was one of the more pleasant surprises for me from this event. He got his talking points in, and he's way too fixated on "sealing the border" for my taste, but I do believe he really wants to find a solution, which is not something I would have said 24 hours ago. This dropped my jaw:

Dan Patrick: "We have to remove the fear from all sides." Calls "amnesty" a buzzword, and says a small group of people in this room with 30 days to come up with a solution would be able to do so. I must say I agree with him. There may be hope yet. Ree-C is with me on this.

He specifically said that the "extremists" on this issue were the main hindrance to a solution. I wouldn't know if he's ever said anything like this on his radio station, but he gave me the impression of acting in good faith. For that I commend him, and next spring when the Lege is in session and bad bills are flying about, I hope he remembers and acts on those words. It's going to take someone like him to change the dynamics of this debate.

- I wish I could say the same thing about some of Sen. Patrick's ideological colleagues, but the others who there representing a nativist perspective gave no indication of budging or listening. The Border Watch guy, who sat next to Patrick, and another fellow whose name and organization I've forgotten (somewhat stupidly, I failed to bring a copy of the guest list home, so I can't look it up), were prime examples of the "extremists" that Patrick said were in the way and inciting fear. Part of the dilemma here is that the nativists have a lot of "facts" that they like to cite that just aren't true. If you can't agree on what the problems are, then you can't even begin to talk about solutions. The fearmongers and xenophobes have to be marginalized in the discussion so that the legitimate concerns can be honestly discussed and dealt with.

- Still, in the end I came away feeling hopeful about this, and I think Ree-C would agree with me on that. Getting these people into the same room and getting them to talk to each other instead of at each other was a good thing, which we need a lot more of. There's still a lot of fear and ignorance out there - sadly, this came through very clearly in the video clips, call-ins to the show, emails that were read, and blog comments we've gotten - and that must be overcome, but for the first time in awhile, I feel like that can be done. It'll take a lot of work, and a willingness for people who agree on some but not all of the fundamentals to speak with one voice about the things they do agree on, but it can be done. Some leadership from our elected officials would help, but this is going to take all of us.

- Finally, I'd like to thank Patricia Gras for doing a fine job as moderator, Julie Coan with KUHT for inviting me to participate, the staff of KUHT for providing us with laptops and Internet connectivity, the panelists for their time and efforts, and my co-bloggers Ree-C and Mizanur Rahman for their camaraderie and for making liveblogging a lot more fun than I thought it could be. Having Ree-C to bounce stuff off of before and while this was going on was a big help for me, and she's right: if we can get along, so can the rest of y'all. Let me know what you think.

UPDATE: I see that Michelle, who's been a stalwart in the HHYS blog comments, saw Sen. Patrick in a considerably more negative light than I did. That's fair, and had he not made his comment at the end about amnesty being a buzzword and extremists hindering the debate, I'd be fully in sync with her assessment. Maybe I'm being naive, but I agreed with that sentiment, and I want to build on it. Doesn't mean we should forget what else he's had to say, of course, and she did a good job highlighting that aspect of it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 25, 2008 to Other punditry
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