How Mónica Guzmán navigated the 'Subtext' in Seattle
After 2016, journalist Mónica Guzmán found herself in some awkward conversations, about her parents, and Donald Trump. To understand why, you have to explore some subtext.
Coming off his afternoon show on KUOW, "The Record," Bill Radke’s next endeavor hits your podcast feed this week. "Subtext" is a short-run series that brings Bill’s empathetic style, curiosity, and willingness to delve into the fray around human behavior, as well as some of that classic Radke humor.
"Subtext" covers the things we leave unsaid. Maybe it’s what you don’t say around family. Perhaps it’s our evolving workplace norms. Or maybe it’s how we perceive body image and cultural expectations as we form new Zoom habits.
No one would accuse Guzmán of being a conservative. She’s more known among liberal circles. Her personal, family history combined with her involvement in the left-leaning Seattle social scene led to some uncomfortable conversations after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. Guzmán would hear a lot of generalities and simple stereotypes tossed around to explain the average Trump supporter.
“And so I would find a way to say that my parents are Mexican immigrants who voted for Donald Trump,” Guzmán said. “And that is the way that I could stop conversation at any Seattle networking event, get together, diner party.… my heart would sort of start pounding a little bit when I heard these things spoken about folks who supported Trump, because I knew that I loved people who voted for Trump, and I understood them, and I felt an obligation to speak that. And so then I would just see: would people change the subject, or would they walk away?”
Sometimes, after an awkward pause, the topic would change or the conversation would end abruptly. But sometimes people got curious and asked her about it. For Guzmán’s mom, it was easy. Abortion is a big issue for her. Trump did not support abortion, so that was that. But her father is a much more complex story. Growing up in Mexico, he watched his own father be mocked for following the rules — paying his taxes on time, for example. Guzmán said her father looked north of the border and saw a nation of laws and people who valued them. That conveyed a sense of honor, principles, and doing the right thing.
“He is so not OK with people breaking the law to enter this country,” Guzmán said. “He is happy to talk about changing the law. But as long as the law is the law, ‘No, we need to protect the borders, we need to uphold our laws.’ Because of this value that came from his father. Even if we can get away with it, we follow the rules.”
Of course, that begs further inquiry about supporting Donald Trump, who is not known for following the rules, and more known for trying to get around them, while spreading falsehoods. Guzmán has a few thoughts on that as well in the first episode of "Subtext." There is a lot more discussion with Guzmán to hear.
Surface answers are easy. "Subtext" is complex and nuanced, just like people. That’s where most of us live — in the subtext where not everything is said, but is deeply felt. And that is where Bill takes us with his new podcast.
Listen to Subtext by subscribing to KUOW Shorts on your favorite podcast app. New episodes released each Monday. Listen to the first episode here.