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BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here’s what’s coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot be sure that people will not come to arrest our families or to do something bad to them.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Democracy and free speech under attack in Belarus and Russia. I speak to two journalists about the threats they face.
Then: the right to bear arms. Are we truly all equal under the Second Amendment? Renowned historian Carol Anderson joins me on her latest book,
“The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America.”
DR. BECKY KENNEDY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I would tell every single parent watching this, go to your kid today, no matter how old they are, and just
say to them, it’s hard to be a kid right now.
GOLODRYGA: Helping kids emerge from the pandemic. Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dr. Becky Kennedy about the mental health crisis gripping kids.
And finally: our battle to live longer, bestselling science writer Steven Johnson on the revolution in health care that saved our lives.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
President Biden marked Memorial Day today in the U.S. with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a way to
reflect on the country’s enduring democracy made possible by those who died in service to their country.
But around the world, democratic values remain under attack and journalists seeking the truth are being shut down. In Belarus, often called Europe’s
last dictatorship, the editor in chief of a local news Web site was detained over the weekend. It follows the brazen arrest of journalists
Roman Protasevich, kidnapped after Belarus diverted a European plane.
And in neighboring Russia, the crackdown on free speech continues, with online news sites being designated foreign agents.
Joining me now are Alexey Kovalev, investigations editor at Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet that was also designated a foreign agent
there in April, and Belarusian journalist Hanna Liubakova.
Welcome, both of you.
Hanna, let’s begin with you because I know that Roman Protasevich was a close friend of yours. We continue to see other journalists detained, as
just mentioned, the editor in chief of another news site over the weekend.
Can you describe to our audience the pressure that the Lukashenko regime puts on journalists there in that country?
HANNA LIUBAKOVA, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime never treated journalists, independent journalists, as some — somebody who
is really needed in the country.
But I think, since last year, a real war has been alleged against free media, free press in Belarus. Only last year, journalists were detained
nearly 500 times. We were shot with rubber bullets. We were arrested on the streets. We had to wear — we had to take some T-shirt, T-shirt with us in
bags, because you never know whether you would be arrested, whether you would come back to your home or you would spend your night at jail at the
Free media are being blocked. Two weeks ago, the largest media outlet, TUT.BY, was practically demolished. Now, currently, there are more than 30
journalists who have been arrested who remain in jail.
And I would say that, also, while there are so many kind of cases of detentions, last year — last week, a studio of Belsat TV, which is the
only independent TV station in Belarus, was raided as well. It’s all done to prevent information from coming out, from spreading inside the country
and also outside the country, because Lukashenko is scared of this information reaching people, reaching foreigners, because they would know
what’s happening in Belarus.
And that’s also the key with — the case with the Roman Protasevich, who’s — who was on this plane, Ryanair flight, that was diverted and forced to
land in Minsk, in the Minsk Airport. And that was done clearly to arrest the blogger, the dissonant blogger who is a really prominent one, who is
really famous in Belarus, who was based in Lithuania, and who was behind this most influential Telegram channel in Belarus.
GOLODRYGA: And these brazen crackdowns have only continued, especially following that sham election last year.
We should note that Lukashenko has been president of the country in office since 1994. And while all election observers would say that he had lost
that election last year, in fact, his opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is living in exile now.
As she is working on democracies for that country, his impulse is to crack down even further now.
Hanna, you even said that you were surprised, however, by just how brazen this incident was, by bringing down this airliner to take your Roman off of
that plane. What is your message to the world about what we could expect possibly next from Lukashenko, as he continues to try to hold on to power
any way he can?
LIUBAKOVA: Because Lukashenko feels so backed in a corner right now, he feels threatened by his own citizens, he clearly understands that he lost
support of the people, because he — well, while there are no mass protests currently, but people are still expressing their discontent in any way
And Lukashenko perfectly understands that — well, the majority of the population is against him. That’s why he needs to react. That’s why he
needs only to increase the level of fear, the level of repressions in Belarus. And if he is not stopped, I would say that, well, more even can
And Lukashenko has become not only a threat to his own citizens. He is now threat to the whole region, to the whole continent, basically, because, on
that Ryanair plane, there were passengers, well, citizens of mostly E.U. countries.
So, this is not only a Belarusian internal issue. Lukashenko is the issue for the E.U. and for the world, basically, for Western democratic
countries. And it’s time to show to him that, well, enough is enough.
And, Alexey, you wrote over the weekend that every Belarusian journalist that you know is in jail or an exile. And you list just a handful of names
of those colleagues or associates who you have known over the years and worked with.
You also write that: “It would be calamitous if the pressure campaign on Mr. Lukashenko, targeted sanctions, boycotts and condemnation were to fade
Are you concerned that that is, in fact, what will happen?
ALEXEY KOVALEV, INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, MEDUZA: Well, that’s just the name who — that’s just the people whose names that I’m at liberty at
KOVALEV: And there is no other way to put. Every single one of them is either in jail or exiled.
And, yes, I’m not even sure what the pressure campaign could achieve, because there is very little leverage left and very little international
leverage left on Lukashenko. His only international partner right now is Vladimir Putin.
And they — these two seem to be in a very good relationship at the moment. At least, that’s what — that’s the face they both show to the world, to
the outside world.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. That’s the public face, obviously, that Russia is a benefactor for Lukashenko.
Belarus is a relatively small and poor country, but they depend a lot on Russia. And over the weekend, there was a sort of bromance that we saw,
this very public meeting between Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko in Sochi, where — there you see them on Putin’s yacht. And it was bizarre to watch.
And Lukashenko’s son accompanied them as well.
But this was not — this was not happenstance. This wasn’t just a coincidence that this meeting took place. Days after that brazen attack to
bring that plane down, Russia extended a line of credit.
And I want to get your take, Alexey, on how the U.S. and the rest of the world can counter that, because there are sanctions that have been imposed
just by the U.S. as well. But I want to read to you what Russia’s deputy foreign minister said today on just that, and whether there would be any
consequences or whether those sanctions would impact Belarusians.
He said: “I don’t think that this will even give a psychological effect, in terms of impact on markets, not to mention a long-term impact. We see how
accustomed our Belarusian allies, neighbors, friends are to live under the pressure of sanctions.”
So, we’re seeing Russia really double down, even though there’s no love lost between these two leaders. But this is happening as we’re just a few
weeks away from a summit between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. What could the U.S. do? What could President Biden do to put more pressure on Vladimir
Putin, specifically on this issue?
KOVALEV: Well, I’m not even sure what the pressure on Vladimir Putin could be, because everyone in his close circle have been under sanctions for
The same goes for Lukashenko’s close circle. So, it’s probably not about sanctions, but support of the people in Russia and Belarus who are
suffering, because, if you impose more economic sanctions on either country, it’s just the regular people who are going to suffer.
So, I would probably suggest supporting individual reporters and editors and their publications. That will probably help. Also, our only resource at
the moment is international attention, because, these repressions, they don’t happen to like a single swing of the axe.
They drag on for months and months. And check in on me in a few months. If I’m not in jail or exiled, it’s probably not as bad as it could be.
But, anyway, this attention tends to wane. And the less attention we get, the more brazen our respective countries’ authorities are getting.
So, just don’t…
GOLODRYGA: And I want to get back to your situation as well, working for Meduza, also now deemed a foreign agent, really almost a death knell to the
business model there for that publication.
But let me just quickly turn to Hanna to follow up on that. about
Do you agree with Alexey? Are there more sanctions? For example, NATO now says that it will restrict Belarusian officials’ access to NATO
headquarters. I mean, do any of these sort of headlines have teeth to them? What, if anything, can break through?
LIUBAKOVA: Well, sanctions should be more targeted and more painful for the regime. Sanctions should target oligarchs and should target
Sanctions might also target Russian oligarchs who might be willing to buy Belarusian state-owned enterprises. It’s important to non-recognize the
agreements between Lukashenko and Putin and kind of send a clear signal that such agreements would not be recognized, any of them.
I totally understand and support that the West, well, does not have many tools of how to influence the situation in Belarus, but the West should use
the tools that it has. Pressure is one of those tools.
And, well, there are kind of — there is evidence that pressure that was imposed before led to releasing political prisoners. But it’s also true
that sanctions alone are not enough. There should be a comprehensive approach to the solution of the Belarusian crisis.
This is not about punishing a few people who gave orders to force down the plane, but to find a solution to the political and human rights crisis
situation in Belarus.
GOLODRYGA: And, Alexey, there’s obviously a lot of concern going on in Russia about independent journalists as well.
And this comes as there was sort of a renaissance of independent journalism and really, really deep reporting and enterprising reporting and
investigative journalism over the past few years that just within the past few days and weeks we have seen really put to the test.
You wrote a piece that, with Putin’s latest crackdown, Russia is going dark. This is obviously even before what transpired in Belarus with the
plane being brought down. But you said, “At least we’re not Belarus.” That’s what Russians would say to console themselves, until, obviously,
journalists are facing similar situations right now.
How concerning, how worried are you to be a journalist in Russia right now?
KOVALEV: Well, I would say that the differences between press freedom in Russia and Belarus are really granular right now.
So, for example, in Belarus, reporting from unauthorized protests, that is all protests, is just formerly illegal now, whereas, in Russia, it’s just
the legal and financial burden is — is just too much for many publications, especially smaller ones.
For example, there’s a lot of bureaucratic — there is like a mounting bureaucratic pressure on reporting. You have to wear a special high-
visibility vest and wear a lot of paperwork. But none of that helps.
For example, just today, one of our reporters was again charged with reporting from a protest without a license. And that is just — if you go
to a protest, even if you are — it doesn’t matter if you have all the credentials and you have all the bells and whistles that they make you
aware. It doesn’t matter.
They later charge you with being at an illegal protest as a participant, not as a press — not as a member of the press, because your credentials
KOVALEV: There’s nothing you can do about it.
GOLODRYGA: They really are looking for any excuse. I was watching this, especially during the rallies and the protests, and obviously in support of
Navalny, earlier this year.
And there were journalists completely wearing their journalist insignia. You could see it. It was very visible. Some of them were beaten on camera.
And, smartly so, maybe in a subsequent protest, they were approached at their homes days later, so that it wasn’t captured on camera.
But it was stunning and very alarming to see that. It leads to my question about the circumstances surrounding Alexei Navalny right now, who continues
to be imprisoned there in Russia. He was, I believe, in court today. This is another issue that Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will be discussing
during their summit.
What is the latest? And talk about the pressure squeezing around his supporters, them being deemed extremists as well?
KOVALEV: Well, the latest bill currently being approved by the Russian Parliament effectively disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Russians
who have ever contributed in any way, even selling — sending a small donation to Alexei Navalny anti-corruption fund foundation, which bars them
from running for office for three to five years, depending on their status.
And that has just effectively criminalized a lot of people for just any, however tangential, connection to Navalny. And most of the recent laws are
just being dubbed anti-Navalny laws. Of course, they don’t — are described as that, but everyone sees where this is going, why this particular law is
being passed and at whom it’s being targeted.
And the same goes for — of course, the same goes for press. A lot of amendments to the press laws in Russia, they put additional restrictions on
independent media. But state-owned media aren’t even expected to follow the same restrictions.
It’s just a way to slowly crush us under this mountain of bureaucratic restrictions, that, the smaller you are, you just cannot — by now, most of
the independent media in Russia are kind of expected to have an in-house lawyer on staff, which is expensive.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And…
KOVALEV: And there’s a lot of bureaucratic procedure, yes.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And even lawyers then need to get their own lawyers, as we have seen be the case over the past few weeks as well.
KOVALEV: Yes, of course.
Well, many of these journalists, independent journalists, like yourselves, are risking your lives. Many of you are living abroad. And we just want to
take a moment to thank you for your work. It is crucial.
And we will obviously continue to follow this story closely. Thank you so much. We appreciate it, Alexey and Hanna. Thank you.
Well, today, we remember one of the darkest chapters in the long history of racial violence in America, the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre
that left an estimated 300 black people dead after a rampage by a white mob on a wealthy black neighborhood, also referred to as America’s Black Wall
Our next guest has devoted her life to examining the racial inequalities that are deeply embedded in American society. And now historian Carol
Anderson has turned her gaze to the Second Amendment in her new book, “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America.”
It asks what if the right to bear arms is not about guns, but about anti- blackness?
And let’s get into that right now. Carol joins me from Atlanta.
Carol, thank you so much. A lot of talk and buzz about this provocative topic.
But I do want to get to you on the subject of today and the anniversary of that massacre, the 100 year anniversary of the massacre in Tulsa, and get
your take on where we are right now as a country, and specifically why so many Americans, myself included, never even learned about this massacre in
school and are just hearing about it over the last several months?
CAROL ANDERSON, AUTHOR, “THE SECOND: RACE AND GUNS IN A FATALLY UNEQUAL AMERICA”: Thank you so much.
What we saw with Tulsa was a black community that was prosperous, that had done everything that it was supposed to do, you know, that standard
American narrative. You work hard. You go to school. You earn. You achieve. You accomplish. And you too can have the American dream. And they did that
And they did that against all odds, because this is in the era of Jim Crow. And these are folks who are just a few decades out from slavery in the
United States. They did it.
And what happened was, there was a triggering event, as it were, where a young black man was accused of attempted rape of a white woman. He is
thrown into jail. There’s a white mob that is forming outside that jail. African-Americans from the prosperous Greenwood community, they come to
prevent a lynching. They are armed.
That sent just a wave of anger through that white mob, that black men had the audacity to believe that they had the right to self-defense, that they
had the right to demand justice, that they had the right to intervene in a lynching.
The next thing you know, the mob is deputized, and they just eviscerated, just waylaid that community, 35 to 40 blocks just destroyed, planes
dropping kerosene bombs on that community.
The reason why we don’t know this basically gets to the battles that we’re having right now in American society about American history. When you have
an American history that cannot acknowledge racism, that cannot acknowledge the devastation that has happened in the black community, then you get a
narrative that is what they call hagiographic.
It is about the greatest nation on Earth founded by white men who worked really hard, and they did everything they could to bring democracy to
And then that makes the nation that we live in right now unintelligible to our eyes, because we have really bad history that makes what we see very
difficult to discern. And so we come up with, oh, we must be looking at a culture of poverty kinds of rationales, instead of what we’re looking at is
the systematic devastation of the black community and the stripping of their wealth and their aspirations and their achievement from not only
their community, but from the history books themselves.
GOLODRYGA: And over the weekend, we saw several black groups participate in a Second Amendment march. They are commemorating the massacre 100 years
And it brings us to the subject of your most recent book about the Second Amendment and its relation to race in America. So many just assume and
quote that the Second Amendment was written by founding fathers who wanted to protect the liberties of Americans from tyrannical governments, whether
they were afar or here domestically.
You’re arguing that it was actually a defense against black Americans — or blacks in America or to not allow them the same liberties as Americans. Can
you give us more detail and explain that rationale?
ANDERSON: Absolutely. Thank you.
When we look at what was happening at that time, you had slavery in America, and you had the enslaved refusing to be subjugated. And so there
was the constant fear of revolts, the constant fear of uprisings. That fear was so palpable that you had a series of laws being put in place in
colonial America that denied black people the access to arms, the access to weapons.
And it got so intense that, during the war of independence, when the British are attacking the South, what they called the soft underbelly, that
South Carolina was beseeched upon to arm the enslaved because there weren’t enough white men to fend off the British.
But South Carolina refused. They were horrified that they would be asked to arm the enslaved. They would rather take their chances with the British
than actually arm those whom they held captive.
And that fear of black people, that fear of retribution courses through into the debates in the founding of the Constitution and in the debates in
the ratification of the Constitution, particularly in Virginia, where the Constitution had language in there that the militia would be under federal
control. The militia was essential for quelling slave revolts, for keeping the enslaved under rule.
The debates in Virginia then were about being left defenseless, because if the federal government controlled the militia, then that meant that the
federal government that had states in there like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts would be reluctant to send a militia down to save Virginia if
there was an uprising.
And that battle in Virginia over ratification led James Madison, who was the architect of the Constitution, to know that he had to have a Bill of
Rights that would quell that dissent, that would mean that there wouldn’t be a movement to have a new Constitutional Convention. And that’s what the
Bill of Rights was designed to do.
But when you think about it, you have got in that bill things like the right not to be illegally searched and seized, the right to a fair trial,
the right to not have cruel and unusual punishment. But you have got this really weird outlier about the right to a well-regulated militia for the
security of the state, which leads to the right to bear arms.
That was about a bribe to the South to make them comfortable that the militia would remain under state control.
GOLODRYGA: A consolation of sorts, in your view. And you do sort of a historical arc where you talk about the origins and why you think that was
the specific premise behind the Second Amendment, or played a huge role in that, to today, because I know that you were inspired by Philando Castile
and his murder.
He had an authorized handgun in his car. And there wasn’t much talk about that, the sort of right that he had in this modern age to carry a gun. And
yet, once again, he became another victim of police shooting.
I mean, and that’s what actually sent me on this hunt, was the killing of Philando Castile, because here he was, a man who had a licensed weapon, and
gunned down because he had a licensed weapon. He wasn’t threatening anyone. But the police officer said he was fearful, he was afraid.
And that fear, that fear of black people, is underlying the Second Amendment. It’s underlying the short circuiting of African-American
citizenship rights. And the NRA, which is the guardian of the Second Amendment, they went virtually silent in the killing of Philando Castile.
ANDERSON: And that was just jarring to me, and — because this was the same NRA that was absolutely vociferous at Ruby Ridge and at Waco, calling
federal officers jackbooted thugs who would murder law-abiding citizens.
And so to have that — for Philando Castile to be gunned down because he has a weapon, a legally licensed weapon, and to get nothing of any
substance from the NRA, led to the question, do black people have Second Amendment rights?
Now, I thought that was a great question.
GOLODRYGA: Or are they represented and supported by the NRA, which obviously has gone through a lot of ups and downs, most recently downs,
filing bankruptcy and investigation from the New York attorney general?
But let me ask about the gun culture in America in particular, because new statistics show that nearly 40 percent of all American homes have a gun and
U.S. households have guns. And sales have gone up over the last year or two.
We traditionally see it around an election year. But some are questioning whether this is tied to the pandemic. And we’re seeing new trends. In
particular, it’s not the same gun purchasers of the past. Many are first- time owners, gun purchasers.
Many are white-collared individuals in America that are lawyers, doctors, what have you. And we’re seeing an increase in women, black and Hispanic
gun owners. What do you make of this new trend?
ANDERSON: What I see happening here is a culture of fear and a culture where we don’t trust each other, that so much has happened in the last few
years that have just embedded that lack of trust, embedded that sense of insecurity in American society, that the response: I have got to defend
That’s what I see happening with the rise of gun sales and the changing demographic in those gun sales. But what’s also clear to me is that, when
African-Americans have weapons, they are judged a threat. And when they don’t, they are still judged a threat.
And so that threat factor is still there. It’s still operating.
And this is a book that you say is not in support or condemning of guns. This is just taking on a new subject matter that many in this country have
not even thought about. And it’s very insightful. It’s been a wonderful conversation.
You have made me think of things that I hadn’t thought of before in the past as well.
Carol, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, from sudden changes, like having to take lessons at home over Zoom, to not being able to see their friends regularly or wondering
what adult life might look like when they get there, the pandemic has hit children in ways we may not be able to quantify.
It’s an issue one psychologist is putting front and center of her work. Rebecca Kennedy is known for her hugely popular podcast and Instagram page.
Here she is speaking to our Hari Sreenivasan about the mental health crisis facing kids today and how we, as an adult, can step up to help them.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna.
Dr. Becky, thanks for joining us.
When you are in your practice with parents, what are the ways that you have heard about and counseled kids and the range of reactions that they’ve had
over this past year, especially in the context of mental health?
KENNEDY: There are kids who are just eager to get back out there, and maybe they’re super social kids, they’re super sporty kids, they’re kids
who are in that adolescent stage where, developmentally, they’re not supposed to be forming so much of their identity around their parents,
they’re supposed to be separating, and that’s been really, really hard. And then there’s other kids who find the nuances of real-life 3D interactions
with other kids to be really, really hard and have always kind of retreated to video games or things that are online, and those kids, in some ways,
look better and yet, are almost getting more entrenched in the struggles that they have.
I think kids really miss being able to explore. The primary job as a kid is to explore the world. That’s why we form close relationships with our kids
and why we want them to feel so close to us, is that an attachment language, we form a secure base for them. So, essentially a kid can go on
the playground or try a new math problem or even say, I am going on a sleep over, explore because they just kind of know they have the security behind
And we’ve said to kids for so long, no more exploring. That’s literally their job to do that. That’s how they experience and learn about the world.
And so, to have the developmental pass really thwarted, yes, kids are anxious, I think some kids are more prone to expressing anxiety as anger or
frustration, they’re taking it out on siblings for sure or some of them are really withdrawing, maybe even more into iPad or into even just their bed.
And I think we’re seeing that whole range all coming from this real disruption in the developmental tasks.
SREENIVASAN: There’s also on the kid level or student level a little bit of anxiety around going back to school. I mean, it’s — you know, some
young people really suffered from the social isolation of the past year and some kind of excelled. That this was, all of a sudden, the first time that
they were on equal footing and it changed the social dynamic. So, you’ve got some kids who can’t wait to get back to their friends and you’ve got
other ones who are like, well, this was kind of pretty good.
KENNEDY: I think you’re right. And I think what does Zoom schooled do, it equalizes certain things, because you know what doesn’t happen on Zoom
school, you don’t watch four kids from your class walk out, laugh and talk to each other, and you’re watch them thinking, I wish I was in that group.
Instead, everyone shuts down their computer and is looking at a blank screen and going on with their day. And that’s a tough transition.
And, you know, one of the things I talk to parents about all the time is kids never do well when we avoid naming things. It is not like, oh, I’m
just going to cross my fingers and hope my kid figures it out, and –or I think parents worry, I don’t want to put that in my kid’s head. It’s just
not a thing. You know, put things in kids’ head. If you know my kid has some anxiety, my kid is one of the more hesitant, reticent kids, My kid
used to feel about at school and Zoom school has kind of been amazing because those dynamics aren’t in play, now is the time even if it’s before
your kids go back to school to start talking about that. And I think the language of wondering is such an easy way for parents to do that.
I wonder what it’s going to be like when you go back to math class? And part of that is going to be nice. You can actually learn from people who
have legs, and like now you’ll know if they’re even wearing pants. Like you never know. And that’s going to be kind of nice just to be aware. And yet,
when you walk out, it might be the thing that the group you talked to me about last year kind of goes off and you might be with them, you might not,
you want to be, do you not, I’m just wondering, oh, I’m wondering what that might be like.
And I think a lot of parents just say to me, Becky, do you think my eight- year-old son is going to give me a good response to that, and I say, think no, but we don’t ask questions to get good responses, we ask questions to
let our kids know we’re not afraid to talk about things and to start the process inside of our kids of just wondering about it. So, then when the
school day comes, they’re not shocked by this awful isolation feeling, we planted a little bit, they had a little time to prepare for it, because it
is never the feelings that really overwhelm kids as much as being totally surprised by a new feeling.
So, if you’re a parent listening to this and you’re thinking, yes, my kid is just going to look at me and say, mom, can I have my snack now. My kid
says that too, but that’s not a sign that the intervention wasn’t really effective.
SREENIVASAN: You know, I have seen reports from Connecticut and Ohio and hospitals around the country that are saying that emergency rooms are
seeing more children showing up with behavioral and mental health issues and even — you know, are you, in your practice, hearing about sort of
acute things, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, I mean, the ways it manifests in children?
KENNEDY: Yes. I mean, my private practice is pretty small. So, I’d hate to use it as, you know, anything representative. But certainly, my Instagram
community is not small at all, right. Where it’s almost — it’s over a half million people. So, you know, there’s many kids in those families. And I
think I am hearing a lot about kids, yes, across the board who are having a hard time for sure.
I mean, symptoms are tip of the iceberg, right? They matter. We need to pay attention to them. They tell us a kid is having a hard time with something,
right? And sometimes two kids can have a hard time with the same types of things and they just happen to manifest, right, one has a lot of social
anxiety, one has an eating disorder based on temperament. But I think, yes, across the board, I am hearing that kids are trying to figure out, how do I
go back to being a kid? Do I feel support in this transition? How do I go from staying in and feeling scared to being explorative and supposedly
going to camp this summer? How am I doing that? Meanwhile, my parents seem to be fighting a lot, there’s a lot of stress about money, and I’m supposed
to go and put on a happy face, like no thank you. That doesn’t make sense to me.
Soo, I think kids are picking up on the stress in the home, the stress in their own child development. And then, of course, we see that on the
surface as various kind of behavioral problems.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, by the time you get to the hospital there’s already lots — I mean, that’s the last line of defense, right? I mean, what can a
parent do in that stressful household that you described where people are concerned, they have economic anxieties about whether their job is coming
back or fast enough or — and by the way, we are still responsible for making sure everyone is sheltered and fed and clothed, right, and that can
cause stress in families.
So, how do you talk to a child about the stresses, the grown up stresses that you’re feeling and make sure that the child understands that this
isn’t their fault?
KENNEDY: Yes, that’s everything, right? So, I would a couple of things. Connection is the single biggest thing kids need. I think on some level,
our brains say, OK, that makes sense, and that most of us, even me, we go in with a solution, which actually is experienced at the opposite of
connection. Because when you’re have a hard time with something and someone tries to solve your problem, they’re inherently saying, I am not connecting
to the feelings under the problem.
So, if we translate that to a strategy, I would tell every single parent watching this, go to your kid today, no matter how old they are, and just
say to them, it is hard to be a kid right now or life has been pretty stressful, hasn’t it? Let’s even look at the calendar. It’s like this
coronavirus thing, the not knowing, the staying home, the OK, maybe we go out with masks. We don’t have to say to kids, everything is going to be
great, or put on a smile. We don’t have to solve the problem. We have to let them know we see the problems and that we’re in it with them.
I also think just talk about things in the house. Our kids pick up on everything. Study after study always shows us kids pick up more on the
environment than parents do, all the time, because they’re evolutionarily primed to have to because they’re not able to take care of themselves. So,
if you’re not able to survive on your own, you better be extra perceptive about all the different things going on around you so you know when there’s
a threat and need to seek protection from an adult.
So, if you notice something in the environment, if you’re saying, wow, me and my partner, we are getting at it, we are definitely arguing more, but I
think we’re in the corner of the house, I don’t think my kids know, the kids know. I’m just going to — the kids know. They feel it. And that
doesn’t make you a bad parent. What’s actually so helpful for a kid is just going to them and saying, I think you have been hearing me and daddy argue
a little more, and I love this line, you’re right to have noticed that, and there’s a couple things, part of being married is tricky and this
coronavirus time has been hard. And even when we are arguing, our family is safe and you’re safe and we can take care of you and it is not your fault.
That is experienced as a kid is like a major deep breath. And is protective for a kid’s mental health because then they don’t have to hold onto stress
of the family and wonder, what did I do, am I a bad person and how do I fix this? That is what manifests as tantrums, as acting out, as withdrawal, and
we can help get ahead of that by talking honestly with our kids about what’s happening.
SREENIVASAN: You know, I wonder about teenagers and kids who are going to go out. I wonder if the pendulum sort of swings in different directions.
You know, we’ve been so risk averse. Do they engage in not just baseline risky behavior but higher than average more risky behavior throughout this
summer where everyone is seeing each other for the first time, hugging each other, and if you’re a certain age, probably doing more?
KENNEDY: Yes. I’m really glad you brought it up because I feel like it is not talked about enough. That — right. In general, even healthy, like
experimentation and some amount of risk seeking is part of adolescence, it’s how they explore the edge and then kind of come back to something in
the middle. That’s been halted for a year and a half in a 16-year-old’s body, in a 18-year-old’s body maybe in a 19-year-old’s body, who would have
been in college, instead they’re living with their parents. Like I think we can all think, wow, that’s not ideal, right?
And so, I think there are some kids who feel extra anxious and there’s these other kids who are like, get me out, I need to make up for lost time.
And I don’t even think that’s conscious but they’ll be compelled. I cannot recommend enough to parents that this is the time, especially before the
summer fully starts, to talk to your kids about this. And yet, not in a way of, hey, you know, when you go out, you might want to be drinking a lot,
but don’t do that. I mean, you can say that, but it just won’t be effective.
Like I don’t know one teenager who has been in an environment and says, I remember my parents’ word of wisdom. So, I’m not going to drink a lot. Just
never happened. Going back to the idea of asking more questions than saying things because that’s actually what helps our kids start to ask themselves
questions when they’re in environments without us. You know, and look, it depends on the baseline where you’re at where you talk about things like
drugs and sex with your kids, right? So, you certainly can’t go from zero to 180. But if you’re a family where that’s incorporated, I think it’s fair
to say, you know, you have your kid who is home from college and now is — you know, you say to your — say it is your 22-year-old who you still are
in close contact with, look, I could see being with people there might be extra motivation to not just have a drink but to have like six or seven,
like let’s just call a spade a spade.
I am talking about — and I think this is important to say to kids, there are urges and actions. I could see why kids would have big urges or want to
do something around drinking, and then there’s the action of drinking not much. It’s really tricky. I totally get why there would be that urge after
all this time and I think we also both know that the action is super dangerous, it’s really scary to think about.
I know for so many parents maybe hearing me model this they might be thinking, Becky, you’re not saying anything though. Like shouldn’t you just
say, don’t do that? Our kids, at the end of the day, are going to be making their own decisions. So, either we are helping them with the process that
leads to them being mindful and reflective, which are things that help anyone make better decisions, or we’re feeding them advice that I am pretty
sure for most kids who actually go to those type of events, it literally goes right into the garbage can. And not only that, it just leads a kid to
feel like, my parent does not get me. That will be the last time I talk to my parent about any of these types of things.
And so, I think the idea of, yes, let’s talk about it, let’s help our kids ask themselves questions, let’s imagine situations and understand these
aren’t so black or white, it’s not so easy to say no to a drink if your friends are there and you haven’t seen anyone in a year and a half. That’s
not easy, even though it is logical. I know. Me and you, we make plenty of decisions that are not logically a good decision because emotionally, it is
hard to do. I showed up early and worked out this morning. I know that with my brain. I didn’t do it because I was feeling lazy, right? So, we have to
come at it that way with our kids.
SREENIVASAN: I don’t know if it is even possible to call any kind of silver lining out of the catastrophe we all lived through. But do you think
that there’s an opportunity here where we can rethink how mental health fits into the fabric of how we take care of ourselves?
KENNEDY: I really hope so. I mean, I think, just anecdotally, you know, when I think about my close psychologist colleagues and I try to make a
referral to them, every single one of them is, hey, I have a huge wait list, like I have never been so busy because I think we’re seeing it is a
real thing and I think that’s something I keep hearing. Like my mental health is real. This — my feelings are real. I can’t, I don’t have a blood
test for it maybe, I don’t see it, but I feel it and holy moly, I need to look into this.
So, I do hope that continues, that — not only prioritization but in some ways the respect that the things inside of us are really important and need
to be taken care of. So, I do hope that really kind of maintains.
SREENIVASAN: Dr. Becky Kennedy, thanks so much.
KENNEDY: Thank you for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Another reminder there that we need to take our mental health seriously, especially when it deals with children.
And finally, they say a cat has nine lives. Well, our next guest says that humanity has gained an extra one. Steven Johnson is a bestselling science
writer whose new book “Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer” looks at discoveries that lead to the average life expectancy doubling in the
last century. It’s also the topic of his series of the same name airing on PBS and BBC Four, co-hosted with broadcaster and historian, David Olusoga.
Steven Johnson is joining me from New York.
Steven, great to have you on.
And this is very encouraging. We’ve been dealing with headlines over the past year and a half that have not been so much. And here, you put into
context the number of lives, around 100 million, that are estimated to have been lost in the 1918 great influenza compared to 3 million, again, a
horrific number, but that’s 3 million today with the pandemic and COVID when a global population has quadrupled. What can you do to put that in
perspective for those who seem to just focus on the tragedy of today?
STEVEN JOHNSON, AUTHOR, “EXTRA LIFE: A SHORT HISTORY OF LIVING LONGER”: Well, thank you for having me on. And it is a tragedy. We can’t take
anything away from that. I mean, it has been a horrible year.
But what I’ve tried to do with this book and the show is try and take the longer view of human health. If we went back to that era during the Spanish
flu in 1918 to 1920, just about 100 years ago, life expectancy in the United States was 41, around the world, it was probably in the mid-30s. And
so, today, globally, this is not just a story about, you know, the industrialized west, globally, life expectancy is now 73. So, we doubled
the average human life in 100 years.
And we don’t tend to focus on that story which is one of the most extraordinary things we’ve ever done and probably the single most important
thing that’s happened in the last 100 years. We don’t really focus on it because it’s slow and incremental, it’s built out of thousands of small
changes and innovations that improve our health, you know, in innumerable ways.
JOHNSON: And so, we lose track of it and we have to kind of step back and say, oh, look, let’s take kind of the long view of this progress and remind
ourselves of how far we’ve come.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. You’re right. In effect, during the century since the end of great influenza outbreak, the average human lifespan has doubled. There
are a few measures of human progress more astonishing than this. If you were to publish a newspaper that came out just once a century, the banner
headline surely would or sure be that this should be the declaration of this incredible feat.
But you’re right, we seem to focus on more of a narrow timeframe than the longer timeframe. Can walk us through what made that possible that we’ve
doubled our life span in just a century?
JOHNSON: Yes. And that’s really the mystery that both the book and show are trying to wrestling with, it’s how does change happen, right? How do —
when we see changes this big, like what drives that story? And in the case of health, sometimes it is things that we take for granted. I mean, there
was amazing fight in late 19th century and early 20th centuries to clean the drinking water, preclean in big cities. So, it’s a major — I mean,
this is something we’ve forgotten. But 130 years ago, if you lived in a big city, you could drink a glass of water and be dead from cholera 48 hours
later. That was just commonplace thing that happened. It was particularly dangerous for young children. Something like 40 percent of children died
before reaching adulthood, well into the — kind of the end of the 19th century.
So, just doing basic infrastructure things, like cleaning drinking water, building sewer systems, chlorinating drinking water, that made a huge
difference. And then, you know, one of my favorite stories in this whole project is the mass vaccination campaign that led to the eradication of
smallpox. And this is an extraordinary achievement. I mean, we took what was a deadly and terrifying disease that killed everyone in society, the
richest people in the world and the poorest people in the world. And in the middle of the 1970s, we eradicated it entirely. No one has died from
smallpox in the while since around 1975.
And to me, this is an example, the kind of stories that we should be telling. Every kid knows that we landed a man on the moon in the late ’60s.
But how many learn that we eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth right around that same period? I think that those — in a way, the smallpox
eradication is — you know, had a bigger impact on our lives than space travel. But we don’t tell that story enough.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And even the most optimistic of health care experts and epidemiologists early on in this pandemic said that, you know, it may take
three or four or five years before we get that vaccine. And here, well, a year later, we had multiple. I am curious as to your take then on the whole
anti-vax movement. Because you hear many people, whether because they’re skeptical of this particular vaccine or just vaccines in general, you know,
there’s a reason their child, thank goodness, doesn’t have polio, but they don’t seem to be approaching it that way. What is it that you view this is
JOHNSON: Well, I want to say two things. First just to pause on your initial point about the miracle of these vaccines. And the best example I
can give to put this in context is, with HIV, the virus that causes aids, it took us four years just to identify the virus in the early 1980s, four
years just to figure out what was causing the disease in the first place.
In the case of COVID, we have identified this new virus within weeks, we shared its genome around the world overnight, and we developed a vaccine in
a matter of weeks. It took us a little longer to actually test them. But, I mean, that speed is extraordinary. So, we should really look at the
progress we’ve made with vaccination. We’ll look back historically and say, that this was a milestone in the history of human health for sure.
In terms of anti-vax movements, I think one of the fascinating things, and I wrote about this at length in the book, is that anti-vax movements are as
old as vaccines themselves. In fact, arguably, they were stronger in the 19th century. And I think there is just something about the nature of
vaccination as a medical intervention that has always had this tension, which is that, you know, you’re taking somebody who is fundamentally not
yet sick and injecting something into them to protect against future illness. And particularly when it is your child, that can seem scary and it
was maybe a little bit more scary in the 19th century when the vaccines were slightly more dangerous.
But today, with these wonderful vaccines we have that don’t involve any of the virus itself, like the mRNA vaccines, the numbers are clearly on your
side. You want to get vaccinated and where possibly, you want your kids to be vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Which is why early on you would see scientists vaccinate themselves or their children when they discover the vaccine just to show
that they trust it and they are using it on their families as well to build community trust.
Not to be the Debbie Downer here, because this is an incredible story. But let’s talk about the flip side because this all comes at what cost? We’re
talking about climate change on a daily basis now. This is not just some, you know, small portion of society, this is something that’s impacting
every aspect of society now. You have pockets of the country that don’t have enough or the world that don’t have enough water or food. And many
would attribute that to people living longer and the expansion of life. What do you make of that?
JOHNSON: Yes, it is a very important point and I wrestle with this a lot in the end the book. I think sometimes people assume that if you go back
and look at over global population, 100 years ago, it’s just under 2 billion, now it’s just under 8 billion. So, we’ve been on this on runaway
growth in terms of overall population. That is not because people are having more babies, the way that sometimes people say, right? People are
actually having fewer babies than ever.
What changes is people stopped dying. Young children stopped dying. Grew up, have their own children. Grandparents lived long enough to become
great-grandparents. And all of the generations, basically, stacked up. And so, we have — as you alluded to, we have climate change as a problem
because, one, we industrialized, and two, we have 8 billion on the planet. And if somehow manage to we keep the populations at 2 billion, we wouldn’t
really be facing the climate crisis we’re facing today, there just wouldn’t be enough people. And so, no change this momentous in terms of the
extension life is every purely positive in its effects.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we’re seeing many aging populations throughout the world, the developed world in particular, even, you know, slowing rates
here in the U.S., and in Japan. Just let me get your last thoughts on the question of, OK, if we’ve doubled it in 100 years, what could 100 years
from now look like? Are we going to be 120, 130 years old or, you know, going back to reading the telemeters (ph), I’m just trying to get the raw
law level of science, data and terminology that I know? Is this sort of it? Is the 90 to 100 the peak?
JOHNSON: It’s a great question. We can definitely, using existing medical science and public health that we have today, we could push average life
expectancies, you know, up to 100. That seems reasonable. Right now, there’s kind of an outer boundary of about 110, where very few human beings
live past. To get past that, we’re going to need radical new approaches that really effectively treat aging itself as a kind of disease that can be
cured and whether we can do that, well, that is an open question.
GOLODRYGA: Well, look, I am just so grateful that my 91-year-old grandmother got to meet her great grandchildren, too. These were some of
the marvels and wonders of science and technology that you delve into in the book and the series. It’s fascinating. Thank you so much. We appreciate
it, Steven Johnson.
JOHNSON: Thanks for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Well, that is it for now. You could always catch us online and on our podcast, across social media. Thanks so much for watching and good-
bye from New York.