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'Carl From Nashville' Dials In His Complaints To A Political Talk Show


Next, we have one answer to the question, what does it mean to be an American - and what can the next president do to further that vision? Those questions come up as NPR stations around the country lead a conversation called A Nation Engaged. Those answering include a prolific political talk show caller known as Carl from Nashville. Tony Gonzalez reports from our member station WPLN.

TONY GONZALEZ, BYLINE: Carl Hill cranks open a rickety patio umbrella, kicks back in a folding chair and prepares to dial.

CARL HILL: I try and fancy myself as a voice for the voiceless.


TOM ASHBROOK, BYLINE: Carl in Nashville is calling.

Hi, Carl. You're on the air. Thank you for calling. Good to hear from you today.

HILL: Tom, I am horrified by the fact that over 13 million of my fellow Americans voted for this xenophobic racist, Donald Trump.

KAREN SHIFFMAN: He is bold and brave and just cuts through the crap and tells it like it is, at least through his eyes.

GONZALEZ: That's On Point executive producer Karen Shiffman. She and host Tom Ashbrook have met Carl in person. Shiffman lauds him as a frequent and fearless caller. And she knows Twitter lights up when Carl's on air.

SHIFFMAN: He really speaks from the heart. But you can really hear that his mind is really going all cylinders. You can sort of hear the gears whirling around.

GONZALEZ: The engine analogy applies nicely to Carl. He hauls junk appliances and scraps metal in Nashville.

HILL: Now this is worth 20 times what that's worth.

GONZALEZ: He's holding a copper coil pried out of an air conditioner. Carl, a 45-year-old with graying dreadlocks takes pride in being his own boss. Along with his wife who works in insurance, they cover a mortgage and help support five children.

HILL: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, if you have a go-get-it attitude, you can make it in America. Now, are there obstacles? Yes. Are there still advantages for certain people in this country and disadvantages for others ones? Hell yes. Don't tell me that my country is falling apart when I see what we do here every day.

GONZALEZ: Carl's customers often hear a first draft of what he will soon say on air. Lately, he's all about Trump.

HILL: If you think that our country is some type of disaster area, some desolate wasteland, like Donald Trump think, then what will you do?

GONZALEZ: Carl bristles when he hears Trump talk about African-Americans living in so-called hellish, urban neighborhoods. As a black man who's always lived in cities, Carl angrily charges Trump with racism - racism, he says, that can only lead to political animosity and gridlock. As we talk, a passing train lifts his mood.


HILL: Got to love it. That right there - what you're hearing, a lot of people may think it's a botherance (ph). That is American ingenuity. That is America working.

GONZALEZ: In the train's horn, Carl hears commerce in motion and America working pretty well. That optimism comes from a man who spends all day trying to salvage things that are broken.

For NPR News, I'm Tony Gonzalez in Nashville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tony Gonzalez, a reporter in Nashville since July 2011, covers city news, features inspiring people, and seeks out offbeat stories. He’s also an award-winning juggler and hot chicken advocate who lives in East Nashville with his wife, a professional bookbinder. During his time at The Tennessean newspaper, his investigative reporting and feature stories were honored in the state and nationally. Gonzalez grew up near Chicago and came to Nashville after three years reporting and editing at Virginia's smallest daily newspaper, The News Virginian.
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