One Nation, Under Discussion

Director: Cheryl McDonough

Run Time: 50 mins

So, what really is going on inside America? 

Following Katie Couric through a myriad of current issues ranging from white anxiety and technology addiction to alt-right movements and islamophobia, America Inside Out with Katie Couric serves as a reminder of just how simultaneously close and yet far away we are from actually achieving the American dream.  

In the first two episodes of the series, Couric tackles racism and prejudice head on by diving into the social justice issues surrounding African American and Muslim communities. And in true Couric style, she takes viewers on a journey of cause and effect, discovering and explaining her interpretation of why America is in its current state with each issue. 

In the first episode, “Re-Righting History,” we relive the horrific events of Charlottesville, Virginia to uncover the true motive that led to the erection of Confederate monuments and understand the demands that now surround them, calling for their destruction. Episode two, “The Muslim Next Door,” follows a similar vein with conversations and interviews that seek to dismantle American fear and prejudice of Muslims by separating the traditional Islam faith from the radicalized few who commit crimes in the name of their faith. 

In both episodes, Couric gives viewers the chance to hear from multiple sides of the controversial issues. And along the way, she uncovers confusing and beautiful outlines of humanity – outlines that threaten to conjure from the viewer compassion perhaps not previously considered. Each seemingly shocking story of despair in one community is matched by a steadfast story of courage from another.  

In episode three, “Your Brain on Tech,” Couric takes a detour from the social justice issues to venture into the technology world to understand why our country, as a whole, is walking around with heads down, glued to a screen. As someone who observes the social media and digital connectedness obsession with a detached kind of disdain, I was at the edge of my seat, ready for her findings to validate my disdain. 

I was validated, but I was also pleasantly surprised. 

Throughout the episode, Couric follows a young man whose obsession with video gaming lands him in a technology rehab center—his mother’s last resort to help him unplug and engage with the outside world. His story is a direct juxtaposition to the residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, a town that houses the world’s largest radio telescope, placing it right in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone. As such, the community lives entirely without wifi, cell phones, and, consequently, digital connectedness.

This National Geographic Channel series deserves the American public’s attention –– Couric has done the research and asked the hard questions, leaving us to draw our own conclusions. But she’s left us a bit of hope in the wake of her findings. In the “Our Brains on Tech” episode, that hope comes in the form of OpenAI, a non-profit company founded in early 2016 whose sole mission is to protect artificial intelligence and ensure it is used for the good of humanity. 

America Inside Out reminds us that even as our technology addiction grows, racism crashes to the surface, and islamophobia spreads through the country, a resilient thread of humanity remains, ready to dig in and work to bring about change for the good of the country. 

-- Angelina Danae

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