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Ariz. Churchgoers On What Keeps Them Up At Night


When you vote in November, you're going to make a choice based on your hopes, your fears and your life experiences because politics is personal. And we felt that so deeply on a recent road trip from Albuquerque to Phoenix. We met five different families from across the political spectrum, including the Crandells.



GREENE: Hi. Lena?


GREENE: Hey. I'm David.

L CRANDELL: It's nice to meet you.

GREENE: Nice to meet you, too. This is Arezou.

Lena and Joe Crandell live in a suburban development just north of Tucson, where it has been hot, like even hot for Tucson.

It's only 107 degrees, right?


GREENE: Do you get used to that?


GREENE: (Laughter).

We were sitting out on their back porch next to an AC unit that was working overtime. Lena and Joe have been married for 26 years, and you get an idea why.

JOE CRANDELL: I love her personality and her - I know everybody laughs, but I love her skin color.


J CRANDELL: She's Mexican - or Latino. Everything - she's a great mom, great wife, just a great person, good friend, great friend.

L CRANDELL: And we're pretty much two peas in a pod. I don't know how you can get a white and a brown pea in the same pod, but that's what we are. I'm loud; he's quiet. I talk too much; he doesn't talk enough (laughter). So, you know, we kind of complement each other, and I love that about him. It's like, we're the perfect puzzle pieces.

GREENE: One of their shared passions is their church. Lena and Joe help kids in foster homes, and for Lena, that work is very personal.

L CRANDELL: There was abuse in my home. And so I was actually the person that mentioned it. I was the one that mentioned it to a classmate, who mentioned it to a teacher. And so we were - me and my sisters were taken out of the home for a while. But when the danger was removed from the home, we were able to go back with my mom.

GREENE: So it was your dad who...

L CRANDELL: Mmm hmm.

GREENE: I'm so sorry you went through that.

L CRANDELL: It's OK. You know, I forgave him, and in his last dying days, we took care of him.

GREENE: Really?

L CRANDELL: Yes. He was a totally changed person. And that's why when people say, you know, are you very connected to your church, it's not really the church; it's God because he can change hearts, and he can change minds and lives. And my dad was a completely changed man. I love him to pieces. He's up in heaven. With all my heart, I believe it. People can change.

GREENE: So the question we've been asking all the voters we meet is, what's been keeping you up at night? When I asked Lena, she said the Democratic Party.

L CRANDELL: I think the party is pushing the narrative of racism, pushing division. And we can never become a nation united if they continue to push rhetoric that divides us. Quit pointing out what the differences are; let's point out what similarities there are. If we love this country, point out those things. Do you really love this country? Do you want to preserve it? Do you want to preserve the family? Do you want to preserve good education? Let's just focus on what we do like about each other because we're never going to all have the same ideas, you see?

Because even kids - my daughter's 12. She has even faced, from her classmates, people telling her she's racist, people telling her, well, if you don't support this movement or that cause, you're a racist. And she's lost friends over that. She's 12.

GREENE: Really?

L CRANDELL: Oh, yeah.

GREENE: What is - like, what are they saying to her? Like, what is their - what are they pushing her to do?

L CRANDELL: Well, for example, this George - the George Floyd case, OK? So they were talking about - she was on a group chat with all of her friends. And they said, Layla (ph), you need to support the BLM movement. And she said, well, I'm not going to support anything until we know for sure - we don't even know for sure what everything is about. We don't know what happened, whether he was on drugs, whether he was innocent. We don't know any of that stuff yet. And so she said - and so they told her, well, you're just a racist, and we don't want to be your friend anymore. We never knew you were a racist.

She said, how can I be a racist? She said, I have family that's Black. My mom's Latino. My dad is Caucasian. We have all kinds of - my best - her best friend is Black. And she said, I don't understand how you can say that, that I'm - just because I don't want to support a movement that's based on lies. And she lost, I would say, three or four friends from that, that won't - they will not talk to her.

GREENE: You said that the Black Lives Matter - you don't want your daughter to support a movement based on lies. It just strikes me, like, that - some people would hear that and feel like that is just as divisive as some of the things that you're worried about. I mean, it - what would you say to them? I mean, because that, like, to my ears, sounds pretty divisive, too. Like, to...

L CRANDELL: OK. Yeah, I can see that. So if someone says to me, Black Lives Matter, I agree. Black lives do matter. Latino lives matter. Caucasian lives matter. I also have a problem with people telling me that a specific group of people are being constantly, systematically degraded when I am, personally - now, again, this is a personal opinion - I have not seen it. I'm Latino. I've never been treated bad by anybody. Well, I'll take that back. I have been treated wrongly by some people, but they've been people of my own race because they say I'm a coconut.

GREENE: What do they mean by that?

L CRANDELL: I'm white on the inside and brown on the outside because I married a Caucasian man. You have to be careful. If you look everywhere, you can find racism even if it isn't there, OK? So when I say it's based on lies, I'm talking about the premise of systemic racism. We're never going to get rid of racism. You can legislate to change people's actions, but you can't legislate to change people's hearts.

GREENE: As Lena was talking to us, Joe - her husband - was sitting, listening with interest. And I did wonder if he agreed with all of this. Joe was a staff sergeant in the Army. He served in Iraq. He's retired, but now he's fighting a different kind of battle.

J CRANDELL: I still have a problem with talking to people that I don't know (laughter) - a little anxiety. But everything's a little different.

GREENE: What keeps Joe up at night is thinking about the fellow veterans he's lost.

J CRANDELL: I think I've lost more friends after I've retired from the Army than when I was deployed.

GREENE: Really?

J CRANDELL: Yeah, with the suicides.

GREENE: This is a man who fought in a war that badly divided our country. Now, like back then, he looks to the American flag as one thing that should hold us all together.

J CRANDELL: When I see people out there burning the flag, stepping on the flag and not having respect for our police, I just go back to - we need to be united again. I just - I can't take it, and I know a lot of my friends can't take it. I know there are some veterans out there that say, you know what? It's just a - no. When I was younger, I remember going to school, saying, I pledge allegiance to that flag. And - sorry (crying). Give me a minute.

GREENE: Take your time.

J CRANDELL: I don't like to get emotional.

L CRANDELL: America is very important to our family. This is our homeland. Where else would we go? America is the last beacon of hope, in my opinion.

GREENE: Can I ask - you both have said that you wish our country was more united right now. And I'm really - I was struck by something you said, Joe, about the police there, to protect and serve. I mean, you obviously have a deep, deep respect for police and police officers.

I wonder just, in the spirit of unity, like, if you were sitting here with a family who, let's say, is African American and they are - based on what they've seen, based on watching George Floyd be killed, based on, you know, real fears that they have - you know, are terrified to let their, say, you know, son go out into the streets because they feel like there might be that one cop who just reacts in a way because their son is Black. And if you were sitting there having a conversation with them, how would you search for unity with another couple like that?

L CRANDELL: You know, that is hard to - that's hard, when you haven't walked in someone's shoes, to try to put yourself in their shoes. I agree with you on that. I think what I would do is I would - now, this is assuming they're from where I'm from. I can't speak to someone who, say, is in Georgia. I've never lived there, so I don't know that. But say they're from here, and they tell me they have this fear of their son, this or that or the other, I would totally understand why they feel that way, especially if they're listening to the news medias. That's where it's being talked about. That's where the narrative is at right now.

I would say, let's look at it in a way where we can look at statistics. Have you heard of anybody locally being hurt? Well, one or two. Out of a population of how many? Well, quite a few. OK, well, what makes you think your son would be hurt? Like, why? Because you've heard it on the news, or because you've seen it? Now, if they came at me and said, well, I have a friend or a neighbor, I'd say, what was that friend or neighbor doing? Just playing outside? Well, then I would be concerned. Have you gone to the police? Like, I would walk through - down that person's life and say, why are you afraid?

GREENE: And you'd be open-minded? I mean, if they...

L CRANDELL: I would be open-minded.

GREENE: If they showed you statistics from, like, their city and said...

L CRANDELL: If they showed me - yes.

GREENE: ...People who are Black are being stopped more often and have been treated violently, I mean, you would...


GREENE: You'd want to go through it but be open-minded as well.

L CRANDELL: I would. I would. And I'll tell you why - because I know that that stuff does exist. I've said that. I know it exists. But if you're going to turn everybody, every law enforcement, into a monster, you're not going to get the truth. I'm all about getting to the root problem and getting it fixed from the root, but it has to be based on facts, not on fear. And I would think I would go down that route with someone who came to me with that because you don't want people to be unfounded on their fears. If they have a real reason, sure, let's talk about it, and let's get to the bottom of it.

GREENE: Are you both optimistic, pessimistic about, you know, our country in the coming months? Where are you - like, what gives you hope? What are you afraid of? Where are your heads right now?

J CRANDELL: I'm optimistic, I guess. I think everything is going to turn out OK. And seeing as how President Trump has fought for the last four years everything that he's fought - every press conference, everything he's gone through - he truly believes in our beliefs.

L CRANDELL: I'm optimistic that our future is good. I'm optimistic that if - that President Trump will be reelected. If by any chance he is not, my optimism may go down. I really would probably worry about the future of America.


GREENE: Lena and Joe Crandell of Marana, Ariz., just outside Tucson.

(SOUNDBITE OF THRUPENCE'S "HAKEA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Arezou Rezvani is a senior editor for NPR's Morning Edition and founding editor of Up First, NPR's daily news podcast.