Them: why we hate each other – and how to heal

them

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing American Adult, an intimate and urgent assessment of the existential crisis facing our nation.

Something is wrong. We all know it.

American life expectancy is declining for a third straight year. Birth rates are dropping. Nearly half of us think the other political party isn’t just wrong; they’re evil. We’re the richest country in history, but we’ve never been more pessimistic. What’s causing the despair?

In Them, bestselling author and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn’t really about politics. It’s that we’re so lonely we can’t see straight—and it bubbles out as anger.

Local communities are collapsing. Across the nation, little leagues are disappearing, Rotary clubs are dwindling, and in all likelihood, we don’t know the neighbour two doors down. Work isn’t what we’d hoped: less certainty, few lifelong coworkers, shallow purpose. Stable families and enduring friendships—life’s fundamental pillars—are in statistical free-fall.

As traditional tribes of place evaporate, we rally against common enemies so we can feel part of on a team. No institutions command widespread public trust, enabling foreign intelligence agencies to use technology to pick the scabs on our toxic divisions. We’re in danger of half of us believing different facts than the other half, and the digital revolution throws gas on the fire.

There’s a path forward—but reversing our decline requires something radical: a rediscovery of real places and real human-to-human relationships. Even as technology nudges us to become rootless, Sasse shows how only a recovery of rootedness can heal our lonely souls.

America wants you to be happy, but more urgently, America needs you to love your neighbour. Fixing what’s wrong with the country depends on you rebuilding right where you’re planted.

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I listened to this audiobook on the recommendation of a social media influencer I follow, Angie Braniff from This Gathered Nest. Although Sasse is an American Senator writing from an American point of view, I found it very interesting and his arguments are easily applicable to most other countries, including here in Canada.

Sasse self-describes as the second or third most conservative Republican in the Senate. There are limited points that I agree with Republicans on so it was particularly interesting for me to read a book by someone from whom my political ideology differs so greatly.

I was surprised though, by how much we did agree on points in Them. Sasse has authored books in the past and his experience is on display. His points were eloquent, factual and well-written. His use of quotes helped to structure and support his arguments, but were not so plentiful as to take over the narrative.

I appreciated his takes on community, technology and economic environment, and the relationships these factors have with social policy and politics.

I find it disheartening to witness so much vitriol and divisiveness on every online platform, as well as in interpersonal dialogue. His argument that the collapse of positive community structures has led to the development of anti-tribes is easily understood and something I wholeheartedly believe is true.

I highly recommend Them to anyone interested in politics, building stronger communities, or just wondering what the hell happened.

* * * * *

xx

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