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Interview with Former Jordanian Foreign Minister and Carnegie Endowment V.P. of Studies Marwan Muasher; Interview with "Kiss the Future" Producer and Actor Matt Damon; Interview with "Disillusioned" Author Benjamin Herold. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today we witnessed one of the most historic and consequential bills to have ever passed the Senate.


AMANPOUR: The U.S. inches closer to sending stalled military aid to Ukraine and Israel. As the Jordanian king joins President Biden trying to

rein in Netanyahu in Gaza, I get insight from former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How its writers, filmmakers, musicians can inspire people to find the strength and courage to resist.


AMANPOUR: When Bono went to Bosnia. Actor, producer Matt Damon joins me on his latest project, "Kiss the Future," about U2's historic trip to war-torn


Plus --


BENJAMIN HEROLD, AUTHOR, "DISILLUSIONED": You can really see how this dream was eroding almost in real-time.


AMANPOUR: "Disillusioned." Author Benjamin Herold tells Michel Martin that American suburbs are unraveled.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The Senate did not blink, so says Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about passing the stalled aid package for Ukraine and Israel. But there's still

no guarantee this will make it through the House. Where MAGA minded politicians are becoming more and more hostile to sending any further

assistance to Kyiv.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence chiefs are meeting with intermediaries to hammer out a hostage deal and a pause in the war.

And in Gaza, all eyes are on Rafah, where Palestinians are bracing for a ground assault, even as President Biden urges Israel to hold off and come

up with a clear plan about how to achieve the goals and protect civilians.

Last night, Jordan's king, Abdullah, the first Arab leader to visit the White House since October 7th, called for a ceasefire.

KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe. The situation is

already unbearable for over a million people, who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started.

We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now.


AMANPOUR: My first guest tonight, Marwan Muasher, was Jordan's foreign minister and deputy prime minister under King Abdullah, having been

Jordan's first ever ambassador to Israel in 1995. And he's joining me now from Amman.

Marwan Muasher, welcome back to the program. You just heard your King say, "We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah." Do you think that will make

any difference?


pushed from North Gaza into Rafah, which is on the border of Egypt, you know, in Southern Gaza. Any attack on Rafah is going to result in hundreds

of thousands of Palestinians probably trying to flee into Egypt.

We talk about a credible plan to prevent that from happening. But frankly, I don't see any plan that can be credible in preventing these people. They

have nowhere to go. They cannot go back into their homes. And their homes are gone in Northern Gaza. But they cannot even go back to the area because

Israel is preventing them from doing so. They have nowhere to go.

AMANPOUR: Marwan Muasher, what then do you think is going to unfold? Do you think there's any hope for the negotiations that are happening to get

some kind of a pause in order to have a hostage and prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel? What do you think is going to prevent this movement of

Palestinian civilians that you describe?

MUASHER: Well, there are -- I mean, obviously there are efforts to achieve a ceasefire, but as the king said in his meeting with President Biden, what

is needed is a lasting ceasefire. What is the purpose of a temporary ceasefire after which Israel is going to bomb Gaza again?


We need one lasting ceasefire, and then we need a political horizon. This cannot keep going on every few years. There is something called the

occupation. Israel has been occupying the Gaza Strip for the last 57 years. In fact, all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And what is needed is a

credible plan to end the occupation, not just a ceasefire in which hostages are released as they should be, but then Gaza gets bombed again by the


It is very clear, Christiane, that what Israel is doing goes far beyond trying to eradicate Hamas military capabilities. They are trying to affect

a mass transfer, which is why Jordan is so worried. Israel does not today want a Palestinian State and it also does not want a Palestinian majority,

because the Palestinians are already a majority in areas under Israel's control.

Their only alternative, in their view, is to affect a mass transfer from -- of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt and then later maybe from the West Bank

to Jordan.

AMANPOUR: Marwan --

MUASHER: This is what the King is guarding again.

AMANPOUR: So, as you know, and we've talked about this before, because that was the feeling at the beginning of the Israeli counteroffensive. The

U.S. and all the European allies have said that is a nonstarter. They cannot forcibly transfer. The -- Prime Minister Netanyahu says that's not

his aim. Although, as you rightly say, many of his far-right coalition partners have said different things. Egypt and Jordan stood up very, very

forcefully at the beginning of the war, saying that they would not accept Palestinians being forced out of either side.

Do you think you can still hold the line? Or, I mean, at some point, there's a border break? I don't know. What do you -- how do you see it


MUASHER: Well, that's the worry. Of course, you know, there might very well be a border break. And the options that are available to Jordan and

Egypt are, you know, either to let Palestinians in and thereby empty Palestinian land of their inhabitants.

And remember, every Palestinian that left in 1948 was not allowed to return by Israel despite the presence of U.N. resolutions to the contrary. And so,

you either let them in and help, you know, empty Palestinian land of its inhabitants or you don't let them in and you are faced with a huge

humanitarian problem. That's the kind of scenario that both Egypt and Jordan want to guard against.

And I think the two countries have successfully, at least, brought attention to the issue of mass transfer to the International Community, so

that today the International Community is standing firm against mass transfer in a way that that it did not before.

That does not mean that Netanyahu is not going to try to affect that. And it is clear today that while the United States is pushing Netanyahu not to

go into Rafah without a credible plan, as President Biden said, that Netanyahu has no intention of heeding the advice of the Americans.

He wants to stay in power. He wants revenge. And he is affecting, you know, mass killings of people to the extent that the International Court of

Justice is looking into whether this is genocide or not.

AMANPOUR: Marwan --

MUASHER: This is the security issues we are faced with.

AMANPOUR: So, on that side. So, obviously, you know, we have the 1,200 people slaughtered in Israel on October 7th, more than 200 people kidnapped

and held hostage, and now some -- 100, perhaps a little more, are trying -- families are trying to get their loved ones back.

I'm putting all this down here because I want to ask you, as somebody who's had many, many hours, days, months, years of negotiations and face to face

with Israelis. You were the first Jordanian ambassador to Israel after your country signed a peace treaty in '94.

Do you think that the current political landscape in Israel and the people have any -- you know, any sort of willingness to accept what you're saying

and what President Biden is saying, in other words, the day after the two- state solution and, and things like that? And what your King is saying too.

MUASHER: Christiane, first, I want to say that the killing of civilians should not be condoned by anyone, whether these civilians are Israelis or



Yes, the Israeli public opinion today is very much against a two-state solution, frankly, the Palestinian public opinion is also against a two-

state solution. Both sides don't see or don't believe there is a partner on the other side. What I'm trying to say, though, is that when President

Biden or anybody in the International Community starts talking again about a two-state solution, they better accompany it with a credible plan to make

it happen. Otherwise, it's just an empty slogan.

That means nothing -- while Israel builds more settlements and kill that very two-state solution that the International Community is talking about.

I'm afraid that the more realistic scenario is no peace process after, you know, the war on Gaza and we are going to be left in a situation where the

Palestinians are a majority and increasing majority in areas under Israel's control, where a two-state solution does not materialize and where the

Palestinians are going to start asking for equal rights within the territory they are living under.

The whole nature of the conflict is going to change from one that focuses on the shape of a solution to one that focuses on rights. Otherwise, we are

faced with an apartheid like system that the International Community will not accept indefinitely.

AMANPOUR: You addressed the Security Council at the end of last year. You've written a big article about the day after. And I know that you're

laying some of it out right now. Just before I get to more detail, I want to know what you make of the two developments. One is President Biden has

signed a memorandum linking any further American aid, military aid, to any countries, he's not just saying Israel, but it would include Israel and

everybody, to -- adherence to the rules of the international, you know, game.

And that means that, apparently, according to the times of Israel, that any country, including Israel has about 45 days now to sign and write, you

know, pledges to that. It's never happened before in the United States. Do you think that'll make a difference?

MUASHER: I'm not sure, Christiane. In fact, we have before the Leahy amendment. The Leahy -- Senator Patrick Leahy in the Senate did have, you

know, a law that prohibits people importing U.S. military equipment from abusing or using it to abuse human rights. And Israel has not abided by


I do not see, you know, that Israel is going to abide by that today. I hope they do. But President Biden has himself said that what Israel is doing in

Gaza is over the top. Well, it is going to still be over the top if the United States keeps sending arms to Israel in what has become clearly mass


You know, Israel has said that it is defending itself but there is no international law that defends collective killing of innocent civilians,

none. And I don't think that there should be any, you know, basic -- there's no basic humanity in allowing the killings of people in such a

manner. We are talking about the possibility today of millions more refugees, Palestinian refugees than was the case before. There must be

another solution.

AMANPOUR: I know that you speak to it from that perspective. And clearly, clearly, the world has become enraged by the -- you know, the mass death

toll in Gaza now. According to their authorities, around 28,000, including thousands of children.

But I also want to ask you this. You have known Hamas leaders. I assume that you've met some of them, or you know of them, or you've been, you

know, negotiating around them. I mean, what would you say to them at this point right now? I mean, the place is leveled just about. You know, Israel

says it tries to take a care with civilians. But there's almost -- according to aid organizations and others, almost no Gaza left. I mean,

really, in terms of a huge percentage of buildings.

And who knows what the leaders -- or actually, what do they want? What do they think they're going to get out of this? Do you know Yahya Sinwar? Do

you know Ismail Haniyeh? What are they doing right now?


MUASHER: Christiane, there are extremist leaders on both fronts. We've seen and we've talked about the Hamas leaders that have hardline positions

on the peace process. We have not talked enough about people like Ben- Gurion, people like Smotrich, who are members of the Israeli cabinet openly and publicly calling for the expulsion of all Palestinians from their land.

That, to me, is an equally radical, if not more radical position than the position of Hamas.

What we need is to offer Palestinians a political horizon so that they, you know, have hope that they can live in peace and security. And in the end,

Hamas, which, you know, is deemed a terrorist organization by many countries in the world, let's remember that the IRA in Ireland was also

deemed a terrorist organization by many members of the International Community. In the end, when there is a political process, these forces

become political forces rather than military ones. This the natural evolution of things. But without a political horizon, we are not going to

achieve it.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, let's say there is a political horizon along the lines of what you've just laid out and what basically the International Community

is laying out, if it's still possible, to have a two-state solution.

You've just said, and you're correct in what you've said and we've been reporting it, that those, you know, far-right nationalists in the

government in Israel have made those statements. They have said that about excluding Palestinians, et cetera. But Hamas has said the same thing. I

guess I'm trying to get at -- where -- about Israelis, right?

So, where does it -- where is there any hope if people are looking for the day after for some kind of solution that is one that is just fair and

secure for everybody?

MUASHER: If there is a credible political horizon led by the International Community, you can change people's mindsets in both camps. But today, a

majority of Palestinians and a majority of Israelis do not want a two-state solution because they do not believe there is a partner on the other side.

If the International Community does not credibly launch a political process that ends the occupation and establish a state, then I'm afraid the

alternative is going to be more violence on both sides for a sustained period of time. This what we are looking at. Peacemaking might be

difficult, might be very difficult, but sticking to the status quo is going to be, you know, even more difficult.

AMANPOUR: Marwan Muasher, thank you so much indeed, Former Jordanian foreign minister, for joining us tonight.

And next, how art can sustain life and hope even in the most desperate circumstances, even in the most war-torn nations. The siege of Sarajevo

during the Bosnia War of the '90s was the longest in modern warfare, lasting four years before coming to an end 28 years ago this month.

But despite the shelling and the sniping, there was an underground music scene. For many, their only escape from the horrors of that war. And from

their world tours, the superstar rock band, U2, sent messages of support to the people of Sarajevo and vowed to perform there once the war was over.

And that is the extraordinary story at the heart of a new documentary, "Kiss the Future." Here's a little bit of the trailer.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It was the heart of culture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a bright, shining light, Sarajevo. And they needed to kill that light. During the war, we would play music. That's what

kept us sane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Art can inspire people to resist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You got five minutes. What would you do? You do what you love the most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Courage is grace under pressure. That's a good definition of the people of Sarajevo.


AMANPOUR: And yes, for anybody who caught it, it was my voice in the trailer. I was interviewed for the film about my reporting during that

time. But joining me now is one of the film's producers who also happens to be the Oscar winning screenwriter and film star Matt Damon.

Matt Damon, welcome to our program.

MATT DAMON, PRODUCER, "KISS THE FUTURE" AND ACTOR: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: So, what drew you to this project? How did you even come to know about it?

DAMON: Actually I -- the story was told to me and I just thought it was so incredible and that coincided with knowing a certain director, Nenad, who

wound up directing this film. And to listen to him talk about it and his passion.


He's from there. He's got a very personal connection to this whole story. So, we knew we had the right storyteller and the right kind of people in

place. And so, then we went to the band and they had all this footage from that time that they just gave us.

And, you know, really their one concern was that they didn't want to make a film about them. They wanted -- you know, if we were going to do it to

really make it about the people of Sarajevo. And it's just the most uplifting story and it's really about light winning over darkness.

And thank you, by the way, for participating, Christiane, because you're obviously huge to have you there and you're able to put this whole story in

context for viewers today who may not be as familiar with what happened back in Sarajevo.

AMANPOUR: Yes, and I actually did meet Bono in Bosnia in Sarajevo after the war ended, but before he went back to perform. And he did that after

the war, it was, you know, the post war. And some -- like 45,000 fans turned out to see him. I mean, unthinkable during the war. It was really

quite something for those who were able to see it.

But I want to pull out a little bit -- you know, a clip because it is talking about -- you know, Bono is talking with one of the local musicians

who also features in the doc. Let's just look at this clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U2, during the war, they really had something to say, you know, that was really important for us.

BONO, SINGER, U2: All of us use music to, you know, protect ourselves, you know, as a kind of shield against all the dark forces inside our heads. In

Sarajevo, there was war. They were in the middle of it. And they were using music as a shield against actual dark forces.


AMANPOUR: It was amazing when I saw, you know, the whole documentary because, you know, even though we were there as reporters, we didn't

actually know that there was this underground local music scene thriving, you know, even under curfew and all the rest of it. So, it was really

amazing to see it.

I just wonder, because directors came. They -- for instance, one of them performed "Hair." You know, Susan Sontag came and she put on the play of --

what is it? Gudow (ph). She did -- yes, she put on the play there. What do you think, as an artist, actually about the power of art in the worst kinds

of situations?

DAMON: Yes, that's -- that to me is the most beautiful part of the movie. It's really about our humanity. And in the darkest times, there's something

about expressing ourselves and doing it together. You know, these people were going to these underground music clubs at night to either listen to

music or to play music.

I mean, we have a -- there's a photograph in the film that we have is -- one of these punk rock drummers got his hand blown off on the front. And

literally, there's a picture of him with a drumstick duct taped to -- where his hand used to be. And it's just, music as an act of, of resistance and

defiance, you know, art as an act of defiance. And you can put us in the most horrific circumstances, but you can't take away our celebration of our

humanity. And we're willing to die for that.

And that just -- it's just a very beautiful message, certainly something to put out into the world today. And that was why we wanted to just help see

it get made, because I just thought it was such a beautiful story.

AMANPOUR: It really is. And the musician you're talking about, he's Surgeon (ph). His name is -- his first name is Surgeon (ph). And we're

going to play that clip, because it is remarkable to see that level of resistance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The audience was literally risking their life running from the different bridges to the theater. Our sound guy died before one of

those performances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day, my bass player came to me and said, oh, our drummer, he lost his hand on the front line. He lost his right (INAUDIBLE)



AMANPOUR: It was, it was a drummer, actually. Surgeon (ph) was talking there. But I mean, just to watch that. And I remember, you know, those

scenes of people running, you know, from bridge to bridge, from road to road, from shelter to shelter, trying not to get sniped or killed.

And just emotionally for you, how does it make you feel when you see that? And you can see the same stuff happening in Ukraine right now. There's a

thriving underground art community.

DAMON: Yes, I think that's built out of necessity. We have to have these things. We have to continue to be human beings and be together and

experience the best parts of life together or else it's just -- we're on the road to madness.


And obviously, there are all of these forces that are -- you know, Milosevic was trying to weaponize tribalism. And now, today, with, you

know, social media, it obviously gets easier to aggregate and amplify that kind of weaponized tribalism. So, it's something that we really need to --

it's a cautionary tale on the one hand, but also it's just a celebration of what these people did in the in the darkest -- in their darkest hour. And

it's really -- and that part of it is just incredibly beautiful.

But it stands to reason that you would see that in Ukraine. You would see that in all these places that are dealing with these types of horrors that

they need to hold on to their humanity and their community.

AMANPOUR: Does it ever strike you? I mean, Bono is famously political in aid of humanity essentially. He's -- he is a political guy. He makes many

messages in many of his, you know, global performances. And of course, you know, from the Vietnam War to -- for decades, many, you know, Americans

were overtly political and others.

Do you think that's still happening? Do you think it's still relevant? Do you -- or do you see music, maybe even acting and actors, not being as

political in defense of humanity?

DAMON: I don't know. I don't know if I could make a kind of a grand statement about the state of things. It certainly felt like I was raised

during a time where the citizenry was a lot more engaged. I mean, I grew up during the Vietnam War, and that was a very kind of fractious time in

America, obviously, and very, you know, deeply felt on all sides. And, you know, the country was in quite a bit of turmoil.

I don't know if we've been somewhat anesthetized since then, or if -- you know, with all of the changes in technology and in the human experience

that we're just getting overridden with some of the inputs and we can't kind of keep up with everything. I'm not sure.

But I do feel like, you know, certainly a band like U2, they've always -- I mean, they've always been -- I remember talking to Edge about the fact that

he almost didn't join the band because he wasn't sure if it was enough to do with his life. He wanted his life to have greater meaning in service of


And so, certainly that band has always -- you know, it would have been enough to have the incredible music, but they've always tried to do more.

And I think that just speaks to the kind of people they are.

AMANPOUR: You know, "Kiss the Future," this documentary ends with a montage of news reports from all over today. And you've said, the powerful

message of peace is as relevant and as important today as it was in September 1997 when Bill Carter -- now, he's the American aid worker who

brought this story to Bono. And the Sarajevan community brought U2 to post war Sarajevo.

How important is it, and what are you doing -- this interview is part of it, but to make sure people watch these documentaries? I mean, you are a

producer as well, and you've done all sorts of different things. What do you think is the selling power of this one, and how important is it that it

does sell?

DAMON: Great question. Look, you never know. As a producer, an actor, or a writer, when you put something out, it's tough to handicap whether people

are going to go or not. And this just was a huge effort by a lot of people, even -- you know, it's going to go into AMC theaters on February 23rd, all

across America.

And I spoke to the head of AMC theaters who literally just watched the movie and just loved it. So, he's like, I'm putting it in. You know, so

it's like a lot of times you get these -- you know, we've -- we sold the -- it's been sold to Paramount Plus. So, it'll come out later in the year on

that platform, but we're going to have a full theatrical release.

And that usually speaks to kind of a bigger group effort when people see something that they feel is worthy of your attention. And, you know, I

don't know -- I mean, I'm not really -- I haven't made a lot of documentaries in my life. So, this isn't kind of my core business. This

just a story that I thought was so wonderful. I really wanted to help get it told.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to get some of your films in a moment. But first, I want to talk about something we first talked about when we first met on

air, and that's your charity work. And in particular, the water charity, which is always so important.

I wonder how it's going. Are you still doing it? What are the areas -- you know, the main nations? But, you know, you see what's happening in Gaza,

and you just heard maybe some of what our first guest was talking about in terms of the humanitarian needs. And, you know, the water crisis, the food

crisis. What are you still doing? Are you operating in Gaza? Would you?

DAMON: We tend to -- we're in 11 different countries. We're all over the world. But we don't usually -- our expertise are not in areas that are

dealing with kind of a hot conflict. That's not -- we -- what we try to do is -- you know, through a system of micro loaning, we've actually empowered

now over 60 million people to get access to safe water and sanitation.


So, I know -- and you've been great for us the entire time at, Christiane. You've been a supporter for us. And I think I remember you were

there when we celebrated our first million in 2012.


DAMON: But our work's really been able to scale. And so, just in the last 13 years, we're now over 60 million people. So, we're very proud of that.

But obviously, there are 771 million people on the planet who lack access. So, there's a long way to go. But we're -- you know, we do feel like this

boost of energy and momentum, and things are going as well as we could have hoped, and we just got to keep our foot on the gas.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And obviously, it was really important for me to engage because I've reported on those places which have, you know, such a lack of

basic necessities. But also isn't -- aren't you trying climate resistance methods and try to figure out how to offset the crisis there?

DAMON: Yes. Yes. Well, we're now moving into climate resilient infrastructure, right? So that you can -- a lot of the times, if you talk

to people at, say, the -- you know, the World Bank, they'll say we can reach the top 85 percent. It's the bottom 15 percent we really struggle

with. That's really where we come in.

But We're looking now at this bottom up and a bit of the top-down approach where some of these utilities can move into places and reach more people.

But if -- but they need to do it with climate resilient infrastructure, because, I mean, if you think there's -- I mean, something in some of these

places, 35 percent of the water is leaking, it's just leaking out into the ground. And if you think about just the carbon cost of moving, I mean,

water is such a heavy commodity to move it, to treat it and to, and to pipe it, to only then lose it, just dripping out of your pipe into the ground is

an unbelievable waste of energy.

And so, yes, we're looking at it from a lot of different angles. It's a vastly complex and interesting issue. And it takes -- it's going to take a

lot of collaboration in order to get where we're -- where -- to our mission statement, which is, you know, a world in which everybody has access in our


AMANPOUR: So, you do have a day job. You are a pretty famous and active movie star. And "Oppenheimer," of course, has just, you know, brought

everybody back to the cinema. Blown out box office. Done unbelievably well.

Now, apparently you were looking to take some kind of time out to be more with your family. I heard, I read that you had told your wife you're going

to take a good time out unless Christopher Nolan called you. And then he did.


AMANPOUR: And then comes your role in "Oppenheimer."

DAMON: I was smart enough.


DAMON: I had one little carve out in our deal. This one caveat was -- you know, because Chris pretty mercurial. You never know. But most actors have

a sense of his timeline. Every kind of three or so years you may or may not get a call. And so, I just left myself that one out because if you get a

call from him, you really want to be able to pick it up and go.

AMANPOUR: So, you play Leslie Groves, right, the general who oversaw the Manhattan Project that Oppenheimer, you know, did. What was it? Was it the

story or, as you say, is it, you know, Christopher Nolan that drew you to it?

DAMON: Well, I think anybody would just do the phone book with Chris Nolan if he called and asked. But the script was really spectacular. And -- you

know, and I appreciated it even more after I read the -- you know, the book, "American Prometheus," that it's based on -- won the Pulitzer Prize.

It's a phenomenal book, but his distillation, that adaptation was so incredible. And it's just, you know, one of those once in a career type of

jobs that come across your desk. And, you know, there's no way you can't do it.

So, I'm really -- I'm -- I liken that movie to like a great record that where I get to say, I played on that record, you know.


DAMON: I was -- I'm in there somewhere, you know, and I'm really -- I'm lucky.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it was a wonderful film and a great performance from yourself. But I'm going to -- my final question is going to start with a

clip from a Dunkin Donut ad.


BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: The DunKings. Touchdown Tommy on them keys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Play it, coach.



AFFLECK: And needs no introduction, my partner.

DAMON: Sometimes it's really hard to be your friend.

AFFLECK: You said you were going to support me?

CROWD: DunKings.

AFFLECK: Don't, don't dunk away at my heart. Why you're dunking me, girl? Why you dunking?

CROWD: DunKings.

AFFLECK: My heart.

DAMON: How do you like them donuts? I'm so sorry.

AFFLECK: You had to see it, but I forgive you. Lay us on the track.



AMANPOUR: OK. Super Bowl. Super Bowl fun. There's so many layers there, but your close friendship with Ben Affleck and your personal and

professional. Of course, there was Jennifer Lopez. I mean, there's just so many layers there. But you work together on films, on so many, you know,

other issues and you remain such good friends. Do you ever fall out?

DAMON: No, no. No, we've been friends, you know, since -- I don't know, I was 10 and he was eight. So, that's 43 years, I guess. No, it's kind of

beyond that. We've just accepted. It's like -- it's a brotherhood at that point, you know. There can't really be a breakup. You know, and he called

me, I thought the idea was really funny.

He's clearly making a bigger fool of himself than anybody in the commercial. So, everybody else felt fine about putting the track suits on.

And we had a lot of fun.

AMANPOUR: It was funny. I saw you smiling a lot while you were watching that. Listen, thank you so much. "Kiss the Future" is really important. And

also, despite the war and despite the setting, it's a really uplifting documentary that does actually tell that story of how humanity can actually

survive and can thrive even in war when they have, you know, a sense of resistance. Matt Damon, thank you so much.

And as he said, the film, "Kiss the Future," will be in selected U.S. theaters next week.

So, next to the U.S. suburbs, where many white Americans, including our next guest, grew up. Once it was the quintessential image of American life.

These neighborhoods now reveal a systemic racial disparity with new black and brown residents struggling to deal with the declining conditions left

by white occupants who had moved on and up.

In his new book "Disillusioned", education reporter Benjamin Herold looks at five suburbs across the country. And he now joins Michel Martin to

discuss what families are experiencing in these communities.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Benjamin Herold, thank you so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: You're an education reporter. So, what made you take a look at the suburbs? What made you think of it?

HEROLD: You know, we have -- as Americans, have invested so many of our hopes, our dreams, our visions of the future in suburbia, and a lot of that

really revolves around the public schools. It's this idea of it's still the place where we feel like we can go not only for the good life for

ourselves, but to give our children a better future. That's a really powerful thing. And that really is centered around. public schools. And so,

that was the opening window into going into the five communities that I focus on in the book.

MARTIN: What was the question you were trying to answer?

HEROLD: It kind of comes back to my origin story. So, I had grown up in a suburb east of Pittsburgh called Penn Hills. And I grew up there in the

'80s and early '90s. And it was a place that worked very well for my middle-class white family, largely in the public schools.

I got a lot of opportunities. And, you know, in some ways, it's not hard to trace my career as a journalist back to my experience in the public schools

in Penn Hills. When I was in third grade, for example, I was the kind of kid who used to, you know, get bored and I would draw on my desk. And my

teacher, instead of punishing me, she brought in her typewriter from home and said, Ben, when you get bored, you work on this typewriter.

And so, I actually started a class newspaper up to date with room 38. And so, that was my first journalism job. And you can kind of see how things

progressed from there. But when I left in 1994, I really didn't look back. I thought the real world was happening somewhere else. And I spent much of

my career as an education journalist covering big cities and rural areas.

And then in 2015 and '16, all of these headlines started coming out of Penn Hills. Somehow this community and school system that had worked so well for

my white family had somehow run up a $172 million debt. They were laying off teachers. They were slashing programs and services. Property taxes were

going up, and home values were stagnating.

So, you could really see how this dream was eroding almost in real-time, and it was overlaid with this demographic shift. So, the Penn Hills public

schools were 72 percent white when I graduated. By the time all of this bad news started happening, it was six -- the school system was 63 percent


And so, it really made me realize, oh, wait. All of these opportunities and benefits that my family and me personally received a generation ago were

really being paid for by the families who live there now. And I was very curious if that was something that was happening just in my hometown or if

it was happening elsewhere. And what I learned is this a cycle that's common in suburban areas all over the country.

MARTIN: One of the people that you quote in the book and also people writing about the book have basically likened this to a Ponzi scheme,

right? Where it's like a shell game, where, you know, somebody has to be the sucker. Somebody's going to get taken. So, tell me why you say that.

And then we'll dig into a little further.

HEROLD: That's right. And I think the two things to remember about the way that America became a suburban nation, and this really, we're talking about

the post-World War II period, when many of these communities, like my hometown, grew up almost overnight. So, you had former farmlands and coal

mines and limestone kilns, all of a sudden being converted into subdivisions and residential neighborhoods.


And so, what you saw was all of this infrastructure, roads, streets, sewers, public schools, being built almost overnight, a lot of it very

heavily subsidized by state, local, and federal government. And so, what that resulted in for those first generations of families in the suburbs,

who were largely white, because many of these communities were by design and statute racially restrictive, was this tremendously generous social

contract where we get cheap mortgage loans, massive tax breaks, new infrastructure, public schools we can make in our own image, all of these

benefits that come and are made possible both because of the subsidies on the front end and because we're pushing the true costs of renewing and

repairing and maintaining those off into the future.

And that's where the Ponzi scheme aspect comes in. Ponzi scheme basically means, I'm going to get money now from someone else who's going to get

stuck with the bag -- holding the bag later. And that's how a lot of these suburban communities have worked.

So, in Penn Hills, for example, this small, you know, town outside of Pittsburgh where I grew up, you know, if you look now, the families who are

living in that community now and using the public school system now, including Bethany Smith, who's a mother that I met who bought the house

three doors down from my childhood home in 2018, are essentially not only getting that same benefit and deal -- you know, this generous social

contract that my family received, but in many ways are on the hook for paying for those opportunities we already extracted. And that shows up in

sewage bills. It shows up in property tax rates. It shows up in a higher cost of living for lower services and benefits.

MARTIN: I want to mention that the names of people you wrote about are actually pseudonyms except for Bethany Smith who wound up writing the

epilogue to the book. Where did the idea of the suburbs come from to begin with? Just the idea of the suburbs in America, like where did that come

from and how did it become something to sort of aspire to?

HEROLD: That's a great question. And I think part of what is so important for us to remember when we look at the challenges that suburbia is facing

now is that, you know, how they kind of got built. And not just the -- you know, the infrastructure and the policy behind it, but the vision and the


And so, there's -- you know, there's always been this mythology that the suburbs are the place where we can go to escape our problems, to escape the

past, to escape our racial sins as a nation, to escape the people that we want to leave behind, that we don't want to share resources with, that we

don't want to share tax dollars with, that we don't want to share schools and neighborhoods with.

And it's fundamentally racialized from the beginning. The idea from the federal government was essentially subsidizing through cheap mortgage

loans, through developer guarantees, many of which required segregation, you know, essentially setting up these communities to, by design, be

racially and economically exclusive. And so, there's always been this mismatch between the vision and the reality that's inflected by race and


MARTIN: You kind of described this as kind of a pernicious idea from the beginning, but was it though? I mean, was it really so terrible that people

came back from fighting wars overseas and wanted some space? Did it really start out as a kind of a Racial escape project?

HEROLD: Yes, I think is a short answer.

MARTIN: Really? Yes. Basically, yes, is what you're saying.

HEROLD: I think that's part of the problem.


HEROLD: And that the impulses that you're describing to want, you know, a new home with a nice yard, on a quiet street, with good public schools and

nice amenities, but that's a very common desire. And when it becomes available, like, it makes perfect sense. It's a very rational decision that

we want that lifestyle. There's a reason tens and tens of millions of people reorganize their lives to -- you know, to fight their way into those


The problem from the beginning, as it has always been, as you described, this kind of racial escape project. And so, what we're seeing now is that

we're kind of running up against the limits of that. And so, part of this dynamic that I described in suburbia is, you know, we think a lot about

white flight out of cities into suburbs in the formation, and that's very true. But what we've missed as a nation is that we're seeing white flight

out of older suburbs as well.

MARTIN: Your argument is that the bill is coming due. Why is that?

HEROLD: I think it's two factors. So, one is to -- you know, we, I think, lose sight sometimes of how vast this suburbanization project was. Like,

there were thousands and thousands of communities that were really built up almost overnight in the -- you know, in the time period right after World

War II. And this was something all over the country. And it was because there was federal investment in policy to spur it.

But part of what we have to remember is that those communities were, again, designed for one group of people at one stage of life with one general set

of kind of dreams and ambitions, and it worked very well for them at first. But as those communities age, all of that infrastructure needs repair at

the same time.

So, we see roads, sewers, streets, schools, the siding on your house, the roof your house, all of these things start to need repair at the same time.

And what we've done as a nation is we've incentivized people to just leave rather than to stick and improve and grow.


So, you know, part of what happens again is these communities, you know, kind of everything gets old at once and we kind of have to fix them at

once. But it is, in part, because they were really designed for, you know, young white families and a very particular kind of family, nuclear

families, like that is very baked into both the design and the kind of social fabric of communities.

And that -- you know, as that changes, as that evolves, as different families, different family structures come in, the community often really

struggled to respond to that. And you can see it in, you know, the housing stock, but you can also see it in these day-to-day interactions that end up

producing a lot of this disillusionment that I really found when I talked to parents.

MARTIN: Like why? I mean, why? Because for example, changing that -- why would changing demographics necessarily, you know, lead to that? Are these

people under resourced compared to the people they left or are they getting less support from the sort of government at large or from the society at

large? What's the difference?

HEROLD: I think the key point is where we kind of locate the problem. And where I do in the book is locate the problem. You know, we see it most

clearly in public schools. And I'll give you an example of a story.

So, I -- one of the families I got to know and spent several years following along with, they're named the Robinsons. They're a middle-class

professional black family in the suburbs of Atlanta. And so, you know, we have multiple advanced degrees. Mom's working on a PhD. Dad's a former

teacher and a network engineer. They're incredibly invested in their kids' education.

Very much what you're describing. They bought the nice house, in the nice neighborhood, attached to the nice school, and kind of felt like, OK, we're

buying into this dream. We're doing what we're supposed to do. And it kind of worked out OK for a while. Until their oldest son, who's a black boy

named Corey (ph), starts middle school.

And then all of a sudden, his physicality, his personality, his way of communicating, his -- like the way he interacts with his friends, all of

that starts to become a problem in a way that gets starts getting punished very directly.

And so, the parents, you know, they're very involved. They say, OK, we're going to nip this in the bud. We're going to go up and talk to the school

system, say, we want to be partners with you. We're in this together to, you know, hold our son accountable for what he's done wrong. Make sure he

can improve, you know, corrected and move on.

And so, what happens is when they decide to go to that meeting, the mother and father say -- you know, they're very intentional and strategic. And

they said, we're going to invite also his grandparents, his minister, his coach, his mentor and some of his adult friends. And for them, the idea is,

we're coming here to show you that we're a good family, that there's a lot of support for our child, and there's a lot of resources that we have that

you can tap into. And what the school system said is, those people can't come into the meeting because they're not your family.

MARTIN: They're also basically saying, we're scared of him.


MARTIN: That the behavior that reads as normal middle school kid behavior to his family and his extended community reads to this school as

threatening, dangerous and to be controlled.

HEROLD: And that's something that mom starts seeing in his discipline files, those words, bully, aggressive, threatening. And so, what she starts

to realize and -- you know, both parents start to realize is like, you know, they're savvy, they're professional people.

And she -- you know, they're in this meeting. And mom says, I see what you're doing. You're trying to document my child to death so you can send

him out. And I know what you're doing because I'm in management too. I've done it myself. And so, there's this moment of trying to say, see us for

who we are. And like you're saying, recognize the gifts and the resources that we bring so we can work together. And there's just this constant

mismatch around that. And you see it in these micro interactions and you also see it at a school board level.

So, in that county, you know, Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta, was 90 percent white and as recently as 1990. Now, it's nearly three fourths

black, brown, Asian, multiracial, but the change in leadership of that school district changed much, much more slow. And we're seeing that all

across the country.

MARTIN: You know, I'm going back to that anecdote you talked to -- you spoke of at the beginning, right, where you said you were drawing on the

classroom furniture and the teacher said, don't draw on the classroom furniture, use my typewriter. And now, I'm thinking about the story that

you're telling me. And I'm wondering if that boy had driven on -- drawn on the furniture, what would have happened?

HEROLD: He got write ups for everything, you know, from tapping his pencil too loudly on his desk, that's a write up. Spending too long in the

bathroom, that's a write up. Slapping a friend in the back of the head on a dare because you're a 14-year-old boy, that's a detention. And it starts to


And so, part of what is so alarming and like where the Robinson family in Gwinnett really had this reckoning as parents of like that reflects on the

suburban dream we were talking about earlier saying, you know, we've organized our whole lives, our educations, our careers, our home, our

finances, where we -- you know, how we're raising our children around access to this dream in suburbia in Gwinnett County. And what we're seeing

is it's -- you know, it's kind of not working. It's not happening.

And so, part of the disillusionment that so many families are feeling, and especially suburban families of color, is that we've done everything right

and there's still no good options where we have access to all of these opportunities that should be ours, that the community has promised and

where our child is not only safe, but it's recognized, seen and respected.


MARTIN: It's so interesting because we don't -- it seems like we don't even have an infrastructure to talk about it. Like, what is the Housing

Department -- the Federal Housing Department is housing and urban development? It's not, you know, housing and everybody development, or

housing and suburban development. It's housing and urban development.

So, it's almost as if we have this sort of notion that the whole question of resource balance, resource allocation, right? What is public? What is

private? How should that responsibility or burden be shared? It's almost as if we only think of that as an urban issue.

HEROLD: The way suburbia was formed, it was really, from the beginning, you know, deeply baked into both the operations and the culture of places

to deflect scrutiny, to deflect analysis. We don't talk about this. They were just this bland, vanilla place where people retreated from the real

world of cities and work and all of that. And that is a -- it's deeply rooted and it's a big problem. That's part of why we're so bad at talking

about what's happening in suburbia now.

But what I did see when I traveled the country and got to know these five families and spent time in the communities and school districts, is that

every suburban community that I went to, there were groups of parents who were working on these issues. And sometimes that might be, hey, we need to

get the dress code right at the school, because I'm not going to let my kid get in trouble for wearing braids.

In some places it might be, hey, we need a school board that looks like us. In some places it might be, we need to repair the sewer system. But there

are citizens and people in suburbia all over the country, especially parents, who are working on this. But you're right. We don't have a larger

national narrative that allows us to connect the dots and see how my struggle, my work, my fight to improve my community is connected to yours.

And that's really part of what I hope "Disillusioned" will do is shine a light on not only the problems, but the things that people are already

doing to address them and help us connect to each other, because we really do have a national shared problem on our hands.

MARTIN: One of the arguments that you see playing out in school boards and in PTA meetings and in these confrontations over books and curricula is a

perspective that some people have that their version of history, their version of society is correct. And that is the one that is to be subsidized

and supported by shared resources, right?

I'm just interested in if your reporting indicates a way out of that binary, what seems to be a binary. And frankly, a sense of entitlement on

the part of some that other people -- that they don't believe other people have, right?

HEROLD: Part of what happened for me, when I started doing that reexamination of my own experience, my own family's involvement in this

dynamic we're talking about, it's very painful. And I had a very difficult set of conversations with my father, for example. And he told me at one

point, you know, kind of explaining the condition that he had left the house in. You know, I just didn't want -- I wasn't interested in being a

good community person.

And that was part of how I grew up, and part of what I had to unlearn in order to write the book, and it really showed up most directly in my

relationship with Bethany Smith, who's the African American mom who bought the house three doors down from my home -- my childhood home in Pittsburgh

in 2018, and found herself all of a sudden confronted not with this generous social contract, but with all of the burdens that had been left


And so, when we would talk about this stuff, you know, we would -- you know, the relationship evolves over months and we would talk and it became

very personal. And at one point, Bethany said exactly what you're saying to me. She said, I'm very uncomfortable with this, with this idea of you as a

white man coming in to tell this story and take it away and tell it for your own purposes. And she was exactly right. It was a repetition of that


And so, once I knew that pattern and what it was, I was able to understand the accuracy of what she was saying and we reconfigured the way we work

together. And she actually ended up writing the epilogue to the book in her own voice, and in some ways, you know, kind of putting her own perspective

on these dynamics. It was different from mine, but it adds something that is incredibly powerful.

And for me, the root of that part of what was so powerful was that I learned to not only see my own experiences in a different way by

considering them side by side with others, my own experiences as a white middle-class suburban child by comparing them with others, but also began

to understand there are other ways to dream about a community and what it can be, that there are ways to have, you know, a notion of community that

is about intergenerational contract, that is about making sure you leave behind something that is good for who is going to follow.

And that was something -- it's not how I grew up. And I had to unlearn a lot of what I grew up with and learn something new. And we do that by

allowing ourselves to hear these conversations and stories from other people. Not everyone's willing to do that, but a lot of people are.

MARTIN: Benjamin Herold, thanks so much for talking with us.

HEROLD: Thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here.


AMANPOUR: It's a really interesting community investigation, really important.


And finally, tonight, it is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. And in many nations that celebrate Easter, carnival season is in full swing.




AMANPOUR: And over there, as ever, thousands of performers filled the streets of Brazil's Rio de Janeiro for their week-long celebrations with

some revelers arriving on glamorous floats and dressed head toe in flamboyant outfits, shiny sequins, vibrant feathers. Samba dancers are seen

here giving it their all as 12 schools vie to claim this year's Carnival Champions title.

That's it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.