Monday, October 16, 2006

Finding Common Ground

“So a Hindu, a Jew, and a Mormon walk into a coffee shop….”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. It’s not a joke; it’s my life—my life at NPR.

For the past month I’ve had the opportunity of working with the wonderful reporter-producer team of Guy Raz and Nishant Dahiya, outstanding journalists, and all-around good guys. Nishant is a master's student in international affairs and the son of an Indian naval officer. Guy is a Jewish-American who graduated from Cambridge with a master's in history, and I’m a country-music-loving die-hard conservative who just graduated from BYU with a degree in English. Talk about group dynamics. (Think “The View” with an added measure of testosterone). Before anyone goes putting Ms. Walters and her constituents on notice, however, I should qualify something: Guy is the only one of us with a strong enough T.V. presence to pose a formidable threat. Take care of him, and I think you can rest easy.

In all seriousness, travel time to and from interviews has afforded us ample time to discuss an array of issues and ideas, and we’ve had some truly fascinating conversations.

Once, we stopped at an outfitter on Quantico military base, and Nishant pointed out the sweet irony of the fact that the flak jackets and utility knives had “made in Vietnam” stickers attached to them. Another time, Guy introduced me to Newt Gingrich as “his biggest fan” and insisted I have my picture taken with him. He said it would be reassuring to my parents to see that their son wasn’t being “brainwashed by left-wing liberals” (his words). And once, we sat with rapt attention as terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman recounted the tale of a foiled terror plot at a counter-terrorism conference, only to have the conversation turn to Hollywood B-movies, the willing suspension of disbelief, and the worst action films ever made.

We’ve talked about God and war, democracy and justice, faith and foreign policy, baseball and fine dining. And while our palates seem to be as different as our political penchants, through it all we’ve managed to find some common ground, all the while allowing for moments of respectful dissent. We haven’t resolved any long-standing political crises, but we haven’t started any new ones, either. And I’m willing to bet we’ve all learned a thing or two along the way. I know I have.

P.S. Mom and Dad said thanks for the picture.

-Joshua Figueira, National Desk

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