MetroFocus: September 29, 2021

The struggle to get rights right is just one of the many important conversations happening at this week’s Brooklyn Book Festival. The discussion at the city’s largest free literary festival focuses on the fact that one of the first words a child learns is “mine” but immediately it is challenged by the word “ours.” American law has struggled since the Constitution was written to balance, respect and protect individual rights within the structure and laws of a democratic society. Author Jamal Greene, “How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession With Rights Is Tearing America Apart,” and Johnny Temple, co-chair of the festival’s Literary Council, discuss America’s struggles to achieve proportionality between individual and societal rights beginning with the Bill of Rights and continued contemporary challenges. They also preview the other major events at this week’s festival, which include Jenna Flanagan’s discussion with rap icon and author Talib Kweli and another talk with poet, essayist, and critic Hanif Abdurraqib.

For more information on the Brooklyn Book Festival, click here.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THE ALL-OUT BATTLE OVER RIGHTS IS DEEPENING SOME OF THE COUNTRY'S GREATEST DIVISIONS, WHETHER IT'S RIGHT TO ABORTION OR THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN.

THESE DAYS THE AMERICAN IDENTITY FEELS ROOTED IN RIFE AND CONFLICT.

BUT WHAT IF IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY?

WHAT IF THERE WAS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE POLARIZATION AND A JUDGE ULTIMATELY DECIDED WHO WINS AND WHO LOSES?

THE STRUGGLE TO GET RIGHTS RIGHT IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY IMPORTANT FACETS UP FOR DISCUSSION AND UNDER DEBATE AT THIS YEAR'S BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL, WHICH IS UNDER WAY NOW IN PERSON AND ONLINE AND RUNS THROUGH NEXT WEEK.

BUILT AS NEW YORK CITY'S LARGEST FREE LITERARY FESTIVAL, THE BLOCK BLOCKBUSTER LINEUP FEATURES OVER 200 AUTHORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

AND YOU CAN ALSO CATCH ME THERE THIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON HOSTING A DISCUSSION ON THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF BLACK MUSIC IN AMERICA, WITH RAP ICON PHILLIPE AND YALE PROFESSOR DAPHNE BROOKS.

BUT OUR GUEST TONIGHT WILL ALWAYS BE DRIVING AND LEADING THOSE CONVERSATIONS.

UP FIRST WE HAVE JAMAL GREEN, A RENOWNED CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR AND DWIGHT PROFESSOR OF LAW AT COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL.

HE WILL BE TAKING PART IN THIS WEEK'S DISCUSSION ABOUT RIGHTS, WHICH HE TACKLED IN HIS BOOK 'HOW RIGHTS WENT WRONG: WHY OUR OBSESSION WITH RIGHTS IS TEARING AMERICA APART.'

JAMAL, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU, GOOD TO BE HERE.

AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY JOHNNY TEMPLE.

JOHNNY IS THE CO-CHAIR OF THE BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL LITERARY COUNCIL, WHICH ORGANIZES THE ANNUAL EVENT.

HE'S ALSO THE PUBLISHER OF A THE AWARD-WINNING BOOK LYNN BASED COMPANY.

JOHNNY, WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THANKS.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

GOOD TO BE HERE.

THERE'S A LOT, OF COURSE, ABOUT THE FESTIVAL THAT I DO WANT TO GET INTO BUT CONSIDERING EVERYTHING THAT AMERICA IS STRUGGLING WITH RIGHT NOW, JAMAL, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND ASK THE QUESTION THAT YOUR BOOK TITLE POSES, HOW DID OUR OBSESSION WITH RIGHTS GO SO WRONG?

WELL, THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.

AND IT'S -- IT'S A LONG STORY, BUT A VERY INTERESTING ONE.

I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT COMPONENTS TO IT.

ONE OF THE THINGS I WANTED TO DO IN WRITING THIS BOOK WAS TO KIND OF CONNECT WHAT I WAS SEEING IN LAW AND IN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND IN THE HISTORY OF THE COURTS WITH WHAT WE ARE SEEING IN KIND OF ORDER POLITICS, WHERE WE SEE PEOPLE TAKING RIGHTS VERY SERIOUSLY, TAKING RIGHTS SERIOUSLY IN CONTEXT WHERE IT MAY NOT NECESSARILY MAKE ALL THAT MUCH SENSE, SO THE IDEA THAT THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN IS JUST THE SAME THING AS THE RIGHT TO WAVE IT AT SOMEONE, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU KNOW, TAKING RIGHTS TO THE EXTREME, AND HOW WE GET THERE IS I THINK A COMPLICATED STORY HAVING TO DO WITH OUR ORIGIN OF OUR RIGHTS CULTURE IN RACIAL CONTESTATION AND IN REALLY QUITE DEEP, EPISODES OF RACIAL TERRORISM.

SO WE DEVELOP OUR SENSE OF WHAT RIGHTS ARE IN A CONTEXT WHERE THE GOVERNMENT IS TOTALLY UNTRUSTWORTHY.

AND THEN OVER TIME, AND I TELL THE STORY IN THE BOOK OF HOW THIS HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 20th CENTURY AND IN PARTICULARLY THE 1960s AND 1970s, WE TRY TO TRANSLATE FROM THAT CONTEXT, TO THE RACIAL CONTEXT, TO LOTS OF OTHER CONTEXTS IN WHICH RIGHTS COME UP AND RIGHTS REALLY COME UP ALL THE TIME.

REALLY INCENSED IN THE 1960s, WHETHER IT'S CERTAIN KINDS OF GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE, RIGHTS IN THE CERTAIN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE SPACE, REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM, SEXUAL FREEDOM, MUCH BROADER RIGHTS LANDSCAPE THAN WE START WITH, BUT BECAUSE OF OUR EXPERIENCE AND PART, BECAUSE OF OUR EXPERIENCE WITH RACE, WE DON'T QUITE KNOW HOW TO TRANSLATE A SITUATION WHERE YOU CAN'T TRUST A GOVERNMENT TO A SITUATION WHERE YOU HAVE RIGHTS BUT THE GOVERNMENT IS ALSO DOING SOMETHING QUITE LEGITIMATE.

ALL RIGHT, THAT DEFINITELY SEEMS LIKE FODDER FOR A REALLY RICH DISCUSSION AND A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHERE WE ARE WITH RIGHTS, AND THAT SEEMS TO FIT RIGHT IN WITH WHAT THE BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL IS ALL ABOUT.

JOHNNY, I WANTED TO ASK YOU, YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, 15 YEARS OR SO, AND I'M WONDERING HOW DID THIS FESTIVAL GROW TO BECOME THE LARGEST FREE LITERARY FESTIVAL, AND DID YOU EVER IMAGINE IT BECOMING THIS MUCH OF A CULTURE PORT?

WE STARTED THE FESTIVAL IN 2006.

THAT WAS THE FIRST YEAR OF THE FESTIVAL.

AND I WILL SAY THAT IT SEEMED LIKE A REALLY GREAT IDEA.

BACK THEN I STARTED TALKING TO BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF STARTING A HUGE FESTIVAL IN BROOKLYN AND ALONG WITH CAROLYN GREER AND LIZ KOCH, THE FESTIVALS TWO PRODUCERS WHO WERE WORKING AT BOROUGH HALL AT THAT TIME, WE SORT OF DOVE IN.

ACTUALLY, THE CONVERSATIONS BEGAN IN 2005 BECAUSE THE FESTIVAL'S FIRST YEAR IS 2006, AND THERE REALLY DID SEEM TO BE A NEED FOR A LARGE FESTIVAL IN BROOKLYN.

BRACK LYNN HAS BEEN THE HOME OF CREATORS FOR SO LONG DATING BACK TO RICHARD WRIGHT AND WALT WHITMAN AND EVEN FURTHER BACK THAN THAT.

AT THE TIME THAT WE STARTED THERE WAS A LARGE FESTIVAL IN NEW YORK CALLED NEW YORK IS BOOK COUNTRY BUT WE DIDN'T REALIZE RIGHT AT THE TIME WE WERE LAUNCHING THE BROOKLYN BECK FOOT VAL, THAT FESTIVAL WOULD STOP, WHICH CREATED A VACUUM WHICH WE STEPPED INTO.

AGAIN, WE DIDN'T START KNOWING THAT WOULD HAPPEN BUT IT DID HELP TO CREATE THE SPACE FOR US TO BECOME THE BIGGEST FREE PUBLIC BOOK FESTIVAL IN NEW YORK CITY AND ONE OF THE BIGGEST IN THE COUNTRY.

AND FROM THE GIT-GO, THE IDEA WAS TO HAVE INCLUSIVE, SMART PROGRAMMING THAT REFLECTED IT.

IT'S AN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL.

IT'S NOT A BROOKLYN OR NEW YORK.

IT'S NOT A LOCAL FESTIVAL.

BUT HAVING SAID THAT, WE WANTED TO SORT OF HONOR THE LEGACY OF BROOKLYN AND INCREDIBLE DIVERSITY OF BROOKLYN TO CREATE A FESTIVAL THAT HAS OFFERINGS FOR THE YOUNG, THE OLD, THE RELIGIOUS, WHETHER YOU'RE JEWISH, CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, HINDU, ATHEIST, WHATEVER YOUR INTERESTS ARE.

OUR BELIEF FROM THE GIT-GO IS THIS FESTIVAL SHOULD AND DOES PROVIDE SOMETHING FOR YOU AND REALLY TRYING TO ENGAGE THE PUBLIC WITH BOOKS ON A HIGHER LEVEL.

WELL, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT, SAY, FOR EXAMPLE A BOOK LIKE JAMAL'S THAT RESONATED WITH THE FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS THAT IT JUST FELT LIKE THIS IS SOMETHING WE SHOULD DEFINITELY BE NOT ONLY HIGHLIGHTING BUT ENGAGING IN A DISCUSSION AROUND?

SO IT'S SO CLEAR TO US THAT -- THAT PUBLIC DISCOURSE IS SO CRUCIAL RIGHT NOW, AND I DON'T WANT TO SAY POLITE, BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE THE CONNOTATIONS OF THAT WORD SO MUCH, BUT RESPECTFUL DISCOURSE AND JAMAL'S BOOK IS OBVIOUSLY VERY IMPORTANT, VERY RELEVANT TO THIS WORLD RIGHT NOW IN 2021, THIS TROUBLE WORLD THAT WE LIVE IN, AND THE WORLD WAS TROUBLED 16 YEARS AGO AND WHEN WE STARTED THE FESTIVAL, NOT ALL OF OUR PROGRAMMING IS FOCUSED AROUND THE TROUBLES OF SOCIETY.

WE HAVE POETRY PROGRAMMING, FICTION, NONFICTION, YOUNG ADULT, CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK PROGRAMMING, WE HAVE ALL SORTS OF OFFERINGS.

BUT IT IS OBVIOUSLY CRUCIAL THAT PUBLIC DEBATES OVER VERY IMPORTANT SUBJECTS LIKE RIGHTS THAT JAMAL HAS WRITTEN ABOUT IS CRUCIAL FOR GETTING -- FOR KEEPING OUR SOCIETY CIVIL AND ON TRACK AND PROGRESSIVE AND MOVING FORWARD.

I DON'T MEAN PROGRESSIVE IN AN IDEOLOGICAL SENSE, JUST PROGRESSIVE IN TERMS OF THE WORD PROGRESS.

JAMAL, I'M WONDERING FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, DOES IT FEEL, I GUESS, SORT OF LIKE A NATURAL DEVELOPMENT OR ARE YOU FULL OF SURPRISE BROOKLYN HAS EMERGED AS THIS CULTURAL FORT, AS JOHNNY POINTED OUT, TO THE JUST FOR NEW YORK CITY BUT FOR THE WORLD?

AS SOMEONE WHO GREW UP IN BROOKLYN, NO, NOT AT ALL.

THIS IS THE BROOKLYN I KNOW AND LOVE, AND JOHNNY REALLY TALKED ABOUT THE DIVERSITY OF BROOKLYN, AND IT'S ALWAYS -- IT'S ALWAYS HAD THAT, REALLY, JUST THE DIVERSITY OF LIFE EXPERIENCES AND DIVERSITY OF CULTURES, AND IN A LOT OF WAYS, YOU KNOW, I LIKE THE USE OF THAT WORD IN THE CONTEXT OF MY OWN THINKING ABOUT LAW AND ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, BECAUSE I THINK OF THE BOOK AS REALLY HOW DO YOU MARRY A CULTURE OF RIGHTS?

WE HAVE INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS, TO A GENUINE PLURALISM, A GENUINE DIFFERENCE OF EXPERIENCE, CULTURES, VALUES, COMMITMENTS AND BELIEVES.

I THINK WE HAVEN'T DONE A GOOD JOB OF THAT BUT IT REALLY IS GROUNDED, AS JOHNNY SAID, SHOWING RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN NECESSARILY AGREEING WITH EACH OTHER, IT DOESN'T MEAN BEING POLITE AS HE SAID NECESSARILY.

IF YOU FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU CAN FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT IT.

BUT IT DOES REQUIRE A CERTAIN DEGREE OF EMPATHY, THE ABILITY TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF OTHERS.

THAT'S WHAT BROOKLYN -- YOU CAN'T GROW UP IN BROOKLYN WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO DO THAT.

IT'S EASIER TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT IF YOU'RE IN THIS KIND OF -- THIS KIND OF SPACE, KIND OF BEAUTIFUL PLURALISM OF THE BOROUGH.

WELL, SO A QUESTION I ALWAYS WANTED TO ASK, ESPECIALLY CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS, AND THAT IS SO OFTEN WE HEAR PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE ESPOUSING WHAT THEY BELIEVE THAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE, THEY WILL OFTEN SAY, AND BECAUSE IT SAYS SO IN THE CONSTITUTION, SO FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT IS IT THAT WE AS AMERICANS MIGHT NOT BE GETTING ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION?

WHAT IS IT WE MIGHT BE MISUNDERSTOODING, OR IS THERE ANYTHING IN THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE RIGHT WHEN THEY SAY NO, THIS IS MY RIGHT AND IT'S IN THE CONSTITUTION.

I THINK THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS AND IT CERTAINLY IS COMMON FOR AMERICANS TO TALK IN THAT WAY.

ONE OF THE IRONIES OF IT IS THAT THE U.S. CONSTITUTION IS ACTUALLY THE SECOND SHORTEST CONSTITUTION IN THE WORLD.

SO JUST ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE HAS A MUCH LONGER, MUCH MORE DETAILED CONSTITUTION THAN THE U.S. DOES, AND MOST OF THE RIGHTS THAT WE ARGUE ABOUT ARE NOT SPECIFIC IN THE CONSTITUTION.

THEY'RE MOSTLY ABOUT RIGHTS TO EQUALITY, RIGHTS TO LIBERTY, PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES AS A CITIZENSHIP.

14th AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION HAS THAT LANGUAGE AND THOSE ARE REALLY QUITE BROAD, RIGHT?

IT'S NOT AS IF IT'S IN THE CONSTITUTION, IT IS THERE, BUT IT'S NOT SPECIFIC IN THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH GIVES A LOT OF SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO ARGUE ABOUT WHAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE.

AND LOTS OF OTHER COUNTRIES THE CONSTITUTION IS MORE SPECIFIC THAN IN THE U.S.

SO THERE'S AN IRONY THERE.

THE OTHER THING I WOULD SAY IS WE ASSOCIATE OUR DEEP CULTURE OF RIGHTS WITH THE FOUNDERS, WITH JAMES MADISON AND ALEXANDER HAMILTON IN FOUNDING THE NATION, AND WITH THE BILL OF RIGHTS, WHICH HAS THE LIST OF TEN PROVISIONS THAT HAVE RIGHTS IN THEM.

BUT THE FRAMERS THOUGHT ABOUT RIGHTS IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY THAN AMERICANS DO TODAY.

THEY VERY MUCH HAD AN IDEA OF RIGHTS AS SOMETHING THAT GETS NEGOTIATED WITHIN A COMMUNITY.

IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN BECAUSE YOU'RE PROTECTING PARTICULAR KINDS OF DECISION MAKING INSTITUTIONS, SO JURIES, LEGISLATURES, FAMILIES, CHURCHES, THE MILITIA EVEN, THESE ARE THE INSTITUTIONS OF POLITICS REALLY, WHICH IS WHERE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO WORK OUT QUESTIONS ABOUT RIGHTS.

THE IDEA THAT YOU HAVE THESE KINDS OF ABSOLUTE ENTITLEMENTS THAT YOU RUN TO THE COURTHOUSE AND THE COURT IS GOING TO LET YOU SORT OF WIN OUT OVER THE LEGISLATURE, VERY FOREIGN TO THE WAY IN WHICH THE FOUNDERS THOUGHT ABOUT RIGHTS.

NOW, THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT'S NOT AN IMPORTANT WAY TO THINK ABOUT RIGHTS SOMETIMES.

AS WE KNOW, THE FRAMERS HAD A VERY EXCLUSIVE IDEA OF WHAT COUNTS AS COMMUNITY AND RELATIVE POLITICAL UNIT.

THEY EXUDED UNLIKE MEN WITH PROPERTY FROM DECISION MAKING BUT THE CHALLENGE EVER SINCE THE FOUNDING HAS BEEN HOW DO YOU MELD THE UNDERSTANDING OF RIGHTS WITH ACTUALLY TAKING SERIOUSLY THE IDEA THAT WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER, HAVE DIFFERENT VALUES AND COMMITMENTS?

AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE STILL STRUGGLING WITH TODAY.

OF COURSE.

JO JOHNNY, I'M WONDERING FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, THIS JUST FEELS LIKE ONE OF THOSE KINDS OF CONVERSATIONS THAT PEOPLE PERHAPS MIGHT ASSOCIATE MORE WITH A BOOK STORE OR SOMETHING IN MANHATTAN ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE.

BUT PASSIONATE DISCUSSION IN THE BAY IS A BIG PART OF BROOKLYN'S HISTORY, CORRECT?

ABSOLUTELY.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND IF YOU'RE GOING TO -- OUR FESTIVAL GATHERS TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.

SO THERE'S PROGRAMMING, THERE'S PROGRAMMING FOR EVERYBODY, NOT EVERYBODY'S GOING TO BE INTERESTED IN EVERY TOPIC.

I SHOULD SAY THAT THE MAIN FESTIVAL DAY IS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3rd, SATURDAY OCTOBER 2nd IS THE CHILDREN'S DAY, AND ALL WEEK LEADING UP TO THE FESTIVAL WE HAVE OUR BOOKEND EVENTS SCATTERED AROUND THE BOROUGH.

BUT, YOU KNOW, WE WANT -- MAYBE NOT SO MUCH IN THE CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING OR MAYBE THE LITERARY AND FICTION PROGRAMMING BUT IN THE NONFICTION PROGRAMMING, YEAH, WE WANT -- WE WANT DISCUSSION AND DEBATE.

WE DON'T NECESSARILY WANT SEVERAL PANELISTS TO BE ON STAGE ALL AGREEING ABOUT EVERYTHING.

WE WANT PUSH AND PULL AND THAT'S, AGAIN, HOW PROGRESS IS MADE AND HOW PEOPLE'S IDEAS CAN BE CHALLENGED AND MOVE FORWARD.

WELL, WHILE I CAN CONTINUE AND WILL PEPPER JAMAL'S BRAIN WITH A FEW MORE CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS, ESPECIALLY ABOUT HIS BOOKS, BUT JOHNNY FOR YOU, I'M WONDERING WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER MAJOR SOCIETAL ISSUES THAT WILL BE THE STUFF?

I HAVE A PANEL ABOUT THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF BLACK MUSIC IN AMERICA BUT WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER BIG THINGS?

THERE'S -- THERE'S ALL SORTS OF, YOU KNOW, WHETHER IT'S CLIMATE CONTROL, RACIAL JUSTICE, YOU WILL HAVE MULTIPLE PANELS DISCUSSING RACIAL INJUSTICE, OBVIOUSLY, SOMETHING THAT HAS TO BE CENTER STAGE FOR ANY AMERICAN PUBLIC FESTIVAL RIGHT NOW.

BUT I ALSO WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S CLEAR THAT THERE'S A LOT OF OTHER PROGRAMMING.

WELL, ONE THING I WILL SAY, THERE'S A GREAT PROGRAM WE HAVE SCHEDULED CALLED 'WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?'

FEATURING HEATHER McGHEE, THE AUTHOR OF 'THE SUM OF US: WHAT RACISM COSTS EARN AND HOW WE CAN PROSPER TOGETHER,' IN CONVERSATION WITH GEORGE PACKER, WHOSE LATEST BOOK 'THE LAST BEST HOPE: AMERICA IN CRISIS AND RENEWAL,' MODERATED BY THE VERY WELL-KNOWN CHRIS HAYES FROM MSNBC.

BUT THERE'S OTHER PROGRAMS I'M VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO INCLUDING ONE I'M MODERATING THE LITERARY DISCUSSION BETWEEN TWO TITANS OF FICTION, JOYCE CARL OATS AND PAUL OSTER, AND THERE IS ALSO ANOTHER PROGRAM I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO, ALLISON BECHTEL IN CONVERSATION WITH ERIC OORNER.

AS MANY PEOPLE KNOW, ALLISON BECHTAL IS A GRAPHIC ARTIST WHO'S ALWAYS PUSHING THE ENVELOPE AND PROVOKING IN THE BEST OF WAYS.

AND WE HAVE OVER 100 PROGRAMS.

SO I'M NOT GOING TO LIST THEM ALL.

JUST A LITTLE LIST.

BUT I PROMISE TO ALL VIEWERS, WE HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU AND BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL.ORG HAS A COMPLETE LISTING OF ALL OF THE PROGRAMS.

SPEAKING OF ONE OF THOSE TOPICS, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

JAMAL, I WANT TO KIND OF TURN THAT BACK TO YOU AND ASK, AS YOU MENTIONED SO MUCH OF AMERICANS' AT LEAST CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING OR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION ARE ROOTED IN THE FOUNDING FATHERS BUT THE CONSTITUTION, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, IS SUPPOSED TO BE A LIVING DOCUMENT THAT HAS BEEN AMENDED SEVERAL TIMES.

DO YOU SEE THAT IN OUR CURRENT CULTURAL LANDSCAPE AS A POSSIBILITY THAT PEOPLE CAN BE OPEN TO AND ACCEPT, OR DO YOU THINK THAT THERE'S AN IDEA OF IT THAT'S NOW BECOME FROZEN IN TIME, AND IF SO, CAN IT GET UNFROZEN?

THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.

AND IT'S IN SOME WAYS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION WHEN IT COMES TO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE QUITE OLD AND QUITE STATIC.

AND A LOT OF OTHER PLACES HAVE RESPONDED TO MODERN DEVELOPMENT WITH MODERN CONSTITUTIONAL INSTITUTIONS.

THERE ARE WAYS IN WHICH WE ARE STUCK IN STONE.

NOW, I WILL SAY THAT A LOT OF CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE OVER TIME, IN FACT I THINK MOST OF THE IMPORTANT CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE OVER TIME, HAS NOT HAPPENED THROUGH THE AMENDMENT PROCESS.

IT'S HAPPENED THROUGH SOCIAL MOVEMENT ENCOURAGING CHANGES IN THE WAY CONGRESS UNDERSTANDS ITS POWER THROUGH JUDICIAL DECISIONS AND SO FORTH.

SO THERE'S BEEN A LOT THAT THE FRAMERS DID NOT ANTICIPATE BE WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GROW ORGANICALLY THROUGH POLITICS AND THROUGH THE WAYS IN WHICH SOCIAL MOVEMENTS INFLUENCE POLITICS.

SO I WOULDN'T LOAD EVERYTHING UP ONTO THE AMENDMENT PROCESS, BUT WE DEFINITELY DO HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT AMENDMENT PROCESS, WE AMEND OUR CONSTITUTION MUCH, MUCH, MUCH LESS THAN MOST COUNTRIES DO.

AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF PROCESSES THROUGH THE WAY WHICH WE'RE CURRENTLY ORGANIZED.

THERE ARE MOVEMENTS TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION IN VARIOUS WAYS.

I'M NOT THAT OPTIMISTIC THEY WOULD SUCCEED.

AT THE CORE WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM OF ABSENCE OF GENUINE POLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES.

WHEN I SAY POLITICS, I DON'T MEAN POLITICAL DISCOURSE.

I DON'T MEAN WHAT YOU SEE ON FOX OR MSNBC OR IN THE WELL OF CONGRESS.

I MEAN THAT WE DON'T TALK TO EACH OTHER TO TRY TO WORK OUT WAYS OF SOLVING OUR COLLECTIVE PROBLEMS.

OUR POLITICS ARE SIMPLY THE PRACTICE OF POWER, YOU'RE TRYING TO GET YOUR SIDE TO WIN AND GET THE OTHER SIDE TO LOSE.

UNTIL WE RECOVER THE ABILITY TO -- TO GOVERN COLLECTIVELY, THERE'S NO POSSIBILITY WE'LL AMEND THE CONSTITUTION IN PRODUCTIVE WAYS.

SO THERE'S THE KIND OF CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE THAT YOU GOT TO TRY TO SOLVE.

OF COURSE.

JOHNNY, I KNOW YOU WERE GOING THROUGH SOME OF THE OTHER PANELS THAT WILL BE TAKING PLACE BUT IS THERE ANY ONE IN PARTICULAR -- I KNOW THAT YOU'RE HOPING A CONVERSATION OF YOUR OWN WITH LITERARY TITANS AS YOU MENTIONED, BUT ARE THERE ANY THAT I GUESS STAND OUT TO YOU THAT REALLY FEEL LIKE THEY WOULD FEED YOUR CURIOSITY IN YOUR SOUL IN THIS WEIRD MOMENT THAT WE FIND OURSELVES IN IN OCTOBER OF 2021?

CERTAINLY.

AND I SHOULD ALSO POINT OUT, BECAUSE I DON'T THINK I HAVE MENTIONED IT YET, SOME OF OUR PROGRAMMING IS IN PERSON AND SOME OF IT IS VIRTUAL.

SO FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE STAYING HOME OR DON'T LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY OR WON'T BE IN NEW YORK CITY, THERE'S PLENTY OF PROGRAMMING AND THE IN-PERSON FESTIVAL, THE BOOKEND EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE FESTIVAL ARE SCATTERED AROUND THE BOROUGH AND A LOT OF THEM ARE VIRTUAL, SCATTERED AROUND THE BOROUGH, SCATTERED AROUND THE CITY, ALL FIVE BOROUGHS, AND THEN THE IN-PERSON ON SATURDAY FOR CHILDREN'S DAY IS AT METRO TECH PLAZA IN BROOKLYN AND MAIN FESTIVAL DAY SUNDAY IS AT BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL AND BOROUGH HALL PLAZA.

BUT IN TERMS OF THE QUESTION THAT YOU ASKED, ONE PROGRAM THAT FOR ME I KNOW MY CURIOSITY WILL BE STIMULATED IS A PROGRAM CALLED 'I'VE FOUND A REASON' WITH A WRITER WHO'S A WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL WRITER AND LAUREN GRAF, WHO IS A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST.

AND THAT'S MODERATED BY LEE HABER, THE DIRECTOR OF OPRAH DAILY AND 'O' QUARTERLY.

I'M A FICTION GUY MYSELF SO I READ CONSTANTLY, A LOT OF NONFICTION AND POETRY AS WELL BUT SOMETIMES IT'S THE FICTION PROGRAMMING THAT GETS ME THE MOST EXCITED AT THE BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL.

AND WE HAVE IN TERMS OF OTHER AUTHORS, JUST TO MENTION A FEW OTHERS THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE APPEARING IN VARIOUS PROGRAMS, RUMAAN ALAM, WHO WROTE THE PHENOMENAL NOVEL 'LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND' THAT WAS ON BARACK OBAMA'S READING LIST AND MANY OTHER PEOPLE'S READING LIST.

WALTER MOSLEY, JONATHAN LEEJ UP.

AS YOU MENTIONED TLAIB KA LEEB FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE HIP-HOP.

KWAN, WHO WRITES IN THE SORT OF STREET TRADITION.

THE AUTHOR OF THE HUGE HIT BOOK 'WONDER' WILL BE PARTICIPATING, FRANCINE PROSE AND ON AND ON.

IT TRULY IS AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES.

IT TRULY IS, AN IMPRESSIVE LIST OF AUTHORS THAT WILL BE ATTENDING, TALKING, DISCUSSING THEIR WORK AND WHAT INSPIRED THEM.

ON THAT NOTE, JAMAL, I DO WANT TO ASK YOU, THIS IS YOUR FIRST BOOK AND THIS IS QUITE A TOPIC TO TAKE ON.

I'M WONDERING, WHY DID YOU ULTIMATELY DECIDE THAT THIS IS THE RIGHT STORY, THE STORY OF OUR RIGHTS?

AND IF THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT OUR CURRENT MOMENT THAT FELT LIKE NOW IS THE TIME FOR THIS BOOK?

WHEN YOU TEACH CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, AT LEAST FOR ME, I'VE SEEN SOME OF THE PROBLEMS THAT I TRIED TO IDENTIFY IN THE BOOK KIND OF EVERYWHERE I TURN.

AND A LOT OF THAT IS SORT OF TECHNICAL LEGAL DOCTRINE WHERE I SEE THINGS THAT COURTS ARE DOING, AND I THINK TO MYSELF, YOU KNOW, THE COURTS ARE REALLY THINKING ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS IN A KIND OF NARROW WAY AND THINKING ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS IN A WAY THAT'S DIFFERENT THAN I SEE IN COURTS IN CANADA OR COURTS IN GERMANY OR COURTS IN MANY OTHER PLACES IN THE WORLD.

AND THEN SEEING THAT BEING MIMICKED IN ORDINARY CONVERSATION.

SOMEONE SAYS THEY DON'T NEED TO WEAR A MASK IN A TACO SHOP AND THAT THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT DO THAT.

AND THAT KIND OF BINARY THINKING, SHOWING UP IN OUR DAY-TO-DAY DISCOURSE, OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IN WAYS THAT MIMIC WHAT I SEE IN LAW BOOKS.

SO I THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD TOPIC FOR BRIDGING THOSE CONVERSATIONS AND ALSO SEEING WHAT WE CAN SAY ABOUT HOW TO SOLVE THEM OR HOW TO RESOLVE THEM.

BECAUSE THERE ARE STRATEGIES WITHIN LAW FOR KIND OF DEPOLARIZING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RIGHTS.

YOU THINK LESS ABOUT WHAT'S ESSENTIAL ABOUT THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND RIGHT TO GUNS OR RIGHT TO ABORTION AND THINK MORE ABOUT WHAT'S THE GOVERNMENT TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?

WHAT ARE THE BURDENS ON PEOPLE, ON -- WHAT BURDENS -- ARE THERE WAYS OF ALLEVIATING THOSE BURDENS THAT WOULD BE LESS BURDENSOME ON THE RIGHT?

AND THINKING ABOUT THOSE KINDS OF FACTUAL QUESTIONS, PART OF ME IS THINKING THAT JUDGES ARE SUPPOSED TO RESOLVE ALL OF OUR RIGHTS QUESTIONS ON THE BASIS OF SOMETHING THEY SAW WRITTEN IN THE TEXT OR SOMETHING THAT DAVE MADISON SAID, THAT DENIES AGENCY TO PEOPLE IN THE HERE AND NOW TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS, RIGHT, TO RESOLVE RIGHTS QUESTIONS FOR THEMSELVES.

UNFORTUNATELY, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE, WE'VE RUN OUT OF TIME.

BUT AS YOU CAN SEE, THESE ARE INCREDIBLY RICH AND FASCINATING CONVERSATIONS WITH AUTHORS THAT YOU GET TO EXPERIENCE AT THE BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL.

I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS, JAMAL GREEN AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, RENOWNED CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR AND THE DWIGHT PROFESSOR OF LAW AT COLOMBIA LAW SCHOOL.

HE WILL BE TAKING PART IN THIS WEEKEND'S DISCUSSION ABOUT RIGHTS, WHICH HE TACKLES IN HIS BOOK, 'HOW RIGHTS WENT WRONG: WHY OUR OBSESSION WITH RIGHTS IS TEARING AMERICA APART.'

AND I WOULD LIKE TO THANK OUR OTHER GUEST JOHNNY TEMPLE, CO-CHAIR OF THE BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL, LITERARY KCOUNCIL WHIH ORGANIZES THE ANNUAL EVENT.

THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING IN CREATING THIS WONDERFUL FESTIVAL.

THANKS A LOT.

THANK YOU.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION,

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489