Them: Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal Hardcover – October 16, 2018
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“Mr. Sasse’s experience as a senator in a time of hyperpartisanship gives his analysis a special poignancy… [his] remedies are wise and well-expressed… his prose has a distinctively cheerful warmth throughout. Perhaps at last we have a politician capable of writing a good book rather than having a dull one written for him.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Sasse is highly attuned to the cultural sources of our current discontents and dysfunctions. … Them is not so much a lament for a bygone era as an attempt to diagnose and repair what has led us to this moment of spittle-flecked rage. … a step toward healing a hurting nation.” ―National Review
“Sasse is an excellent writer, unpretentious, thoughtful, and at times, quite funny … even if you disagree with some or all of what Sasse writes, it's an interesting book and his arguments are worth reading ― as are his warnings about what our country might become.” ―NPR
“The Nebraska senator presents a hopeful path forward.” ―New York Post
“If Sen. Ben Sasse is right – he has not recently been wrong about anything important – the nation’s most-discussed political problem is entangled with the least-understood public health problem. The political problem is furious partisanship. The public health problem is loneliness. Sasse’s new book argues that Americans are richer, more informed and “connected” than ever – and unhappier, more isolated and less fulfilled." ―George Will, The Washington Post
“Sasse emphasizes the importance of civil debate, denouncing Fox News and MSNBC, and laments the extreme partisanship that characterizes public life in the Trump era. But ‘the dysfunction in D.C.,’ he says, stems from something ‘deeper than economics,’ and ‘deeper and more meaningful’ than politics. 'What’s wrong with America, then, starts with one uncomfortable word,' he writes. ‘Loneliness.’” ―The New York Times
"An eloquent appeal for healing... what makes Them worth the read is Sasse's amalgam of realistic alarm and warning." ―The Guardian
“Mr. Sasse’s strongly written analysis of our current existential unease should hit a national nerve.” ―The Washington Times
"Sasse presents a compelling, well-supported look at why so many of us no longer have strong community ties and, why, in spite of all the interconnectivity in our constantly expanding, internet-driven world, so many people feel lonely.... whether readers agree with his political views or not, Them is a crucial contribution to a more open and productive social dialogue." ―Booklist
“A thoughtful plan of action to begin to dissolve the toxic divisions that threaten the very survival of our Republic. While I often find myself at odds with Senator Sasse over specific policies, we are as one when it comes to understanding the need to transcend these mostly superficial differences of party and partisanship to ensure that the country we both love endures. Here’s the blueprint for going forward―together." ―Ken Burns, filmmaker
“Ben Sasse confronts our destructive obsession with political theater. Candid, sensible, and wise, Them gives a nation blinded by myside-ism a reminder that the love of neighbor is our highest calling, and the surest path back to our founding ideals.” ―Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute
"Ben Sasse thinks free speech is in peril in the United States ― and he's right. Far too many on both the left and the right are jettisoning America's inheritance and settling instead for the mentality of the mob. Sasse pulls no punches in diagnosing why we're experiencing so much loneliness, how technology is fueling greater division, and what we must do to put free expression and meaningful engagement back at the heart of our democracy. Read it!" ―Kirsten Powers, USA Today
"Ben Sasse and I don't agree on every issue, but that's why this powerful and persuasive book is so important. Because we do agree on a fundamental point ― Americans have to find a way to civilly discuss our differences and rebuild trust in each other or our nation is doomed. By examining the roots of this crisis, Them offers a path out of hate and toward greater understanding." ―Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google (2001-2017)
“If you really want to know how to make America great again, get off of Twitter and read this book. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin knows that the moral, cultural, military, and economic power of the United States is far too great to challenge directly. And so, befitting his KGB background, he launches insidious attacks to turn Americans against each other. Unfortunately, as Them illustrates convincingly, this was already been happening on its own. The amazing American-made technology that is connecting the world is also dividing the country of its birth, weaponized by both foreign aggressors and home-grown demagogues to create bubbles of partisan hatred and collective ignorance. America may have lost its way, but Senator Sasse shows that the best way to recover is by bursting these tech bubbles and coming together as human beings, communities, and citizens. Them provides a map back to a place where Americans can once again savor the unique freedoms that unite them instead of the politics that divide them." ―Garry Kasparov, world chess champion, and author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
“Senator Sasse’s Them is a cry from the heartland to remember who we are and what unites us. As a family man, scholar and politician, he takes contemporary America to task for our tribalism, exclusion, reflexive attitudes and outright harshness to one another. At its heart, his is a call to community―the best antidote to those who would divide our society and exploit our darkest angels.” ―Gen. Michael Hayden (US Air Force, Ret.), former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA)
“Finally, someone says it ― politics will not solve our problems. And further, neither Trump nor the resistance is the cause of them. Malignant loneliness is. Through his inimitable historian’s gaze, Sasse cuts through the self-serving partisan noise to jerk us back into focus on what’s important: community. It’s so much easier to blame each other than to remember it’s “each other” that makes us great, fulfilled, healthy and moored. I don’t care how old you are, where you’re from or what you do ― you need Ben Sasse to slap some sense into you. WE all need to hear the hard truths of Them.” ―S.E. Cupp, CNN
“A wonderfully thoughtful ― and wonderfully thought-provoking ― book that challenges us to recognize and embrace, at a time of hyper-partisanship fueled by technology, the importance of what unites us as Americans over what divides us. Them provides a passionate and persuasive argument for rebuilding the bonds of community, planting roots and tending them, remembering what is truly important in life, and getting the most out of new technologies without allowing them to undermine our ability to come together to address the challenges we face.” ―Gen. David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), former commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
“In this era of division, we must remember America is at its best when we resolve conflicts through the principles of compassion, understanding, tolerance, and above all, civility in our political discourse. Our country was founded on the notion that these values could lead to a more just and more harmonious society. In Them, Ben Sasse reminds us that in order to preserve these basic tenets we must open our hearts to the hopes and anxieties of our fellow Americans, seek common ground and community where we can find it, and engage each other around shared values. Only then can we renew the dream of our Founders, to ‘create a more perfect union.’" ―Sean Parker, founder of Napster, and first president of Facebook
About the Author
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (October 16, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250193680
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250193681
- Item Weight : 1.06 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.41 x 1.08 x 9.55 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #40,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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I do remember with great clarity the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as I was a Jr. in High School. And, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination followed in 1968. And, Robert Kennedy's was in June of 1968. The Civil Rights movement in the US was ongoing as well as the turmoil as the result of the Viet Nam conflict. Surprisingly, I worked at GE in the Armament Division as a mechanical inspector.from 1966 to 1970. (At that time GE had contracts for the 20 MM Vulcan Guns and the 7.62 Mini Guns).
Somehow, despite this turmoil in our nation (including the Viet Nam conflict), I enlisted in the United States Navy in 1971 and remained on active duty for 20 years (and 13 days!) retiring as a Chief Petty Officer. Each and every time I re-enlisted, I took the oath of enlistment most seriously and swore to obey the orders of the President of the United States and those of the officers appointed over me.
So, here I am 27 years after my USN retirement...and wondering what in the world is going on in our country. I am trying to understand what has happened to the moral compass in the US and the pure hatred and venom that is being spoken throughout our country. Rancor, a lack of civility and derisive descriptions are everywhere. Respect has gone out the window. And, as for politics, I like to remember the days of President Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. In 1980, it was a divided government and Tip said 'We will cooperate'.
The bottom line is that I truly love my country. In the preceding paragraphs I wanted to gave some background on myself as an individual and the reason I am trying to ascertain the problems in the US today.
I decided that I should educate myself more and have started reading books that I normally would not read. Hopefully, this will give me a clearer understanding of the current climate in the US. So, I read with objectivity and a desire to learn.
Senator Ben Sasse and his book 'THEM - Why we Hate Each Other' is well written and offers compelling arguments about the reason the United States has turned into such an angry place. For me, the anger is most difficult to witness as it is appearing everywhere.
To paraphrase the author, this crisis really is not about politics. Local communities and families have changed considerably in the last decades. The workplace is more mobile and the loss of that close community feeling has evaporated. Loneliness has invaded our society which has led to depression and in some cases abuses of alcohol and Opioids. Statistics for deaths are included which are mind boggling.
The portion of this book that dealt with 'Polititainment' was indeed right up my alley. A couple of months ago, I stopped watching the national news. (And, nearly all of our local news as they started to cover the national stories, as well). I was inundated with 'breaking news' all the time and just tired of hearing it. Sen. Sasse confirmed my belief about the reporters and inherent biases. Once again to paraphrase the author...people work hard to confirm biases and not to challenge them.
After reading this book, I do have hope for our country once again. Will it be an easy journey to embark on? No, I fear it won't, but as individuals we can start by developing new habits of mind and heart. And, I do see a circle of division that does go back to politics. Politics may not be the problem, as the author states, but from my viewpoint is definitely a contributing factor.
One quote that I felt most pertinent 'We need to be needed' and this is the crux of what is missing today. And, I have lived through tumultuous times and we as a nation have survived. 'Love your neighbors and connect with your community'. Get back to the roots that once were such a part of our society. Family, friends, community and church need to be stressed once again...
Most highly recommended.
I wasn’t disappointed. I already knew that Senator Sasse is a convinced and unashamedly Christian voice in the public square. But I discovered he is also an above average writer, with an easy and riveting style even when writing about complex – and somewhat controversial - matters pertaining to our public life.
In this book you will get to know Ben Sasse, the small town Nebraska boy (he attended a Lutheran day school), the sports fan, the devoted husband and father. He and his wife have purchased a home in the small prairie city where he was raised. Ben now commutes weekly between DC and Fremont, NE in order to raise his own kids while simultaneously engaged in debating important national issues on Capitol Hill – did you catch his masterful put down of the raucous behavior of his Republican and Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Kavanagh hearings, lecturing them on the operation of the Supreme Court as envisioned by the Founders and outlined in the Constitution?
His Lutheran roots show up in a number of places as he nicely unpacks the doctrine of vocation, two kingdoms, etc. As a college student he was involved in Campus Crusade and began to read theology in earnest. The writings of R C Sproul converted him to a Calvinist understanding of the reformation. Though he spent some years as President of a Lutheran college, he is currently a member of a PCA congregation in Fremont. Still, he calls himself a “Lutero-Calvinist,” saying he is “in love with the Lutheran tradition.” He counts among his closest friends none other than Mike Horton of White Horse Inn fame, who is a great fan of Lutheran teaching. All of which explains why you will find so much of this book solidly rooted in theology. For example:
"We all remember that our Founders had strong views about freedom and equality and about how government depended on the consent of the governed. But we tend to forget that our system rests on an even greater core conviction: human beings are fundamentally fallen, selfish, and inclined to let our passions run roughshod over our reason. Simply put, the founders believed that we’re very broken.
"….Colonists taught their children that imperfect human beings could see the world only imperfectly, through unreliably self-centered lenses. Children learning their alphabet from the New England Primer, the most important and most widely read textbook in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North America, began with human fallibility from the letter 'A': 'In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.'” (140)
His analysis of the aforementioned vitriol in public discourse is intriguing. We hate each other, Sasse claims, because we are lonely. The ties that used to bind previous generations to family, friends, neighborhoods and communities are no longer in place, so America is suffering from a “loneliness epidemic.” I find this personally gratifying, because in my 1994 book “Dying to Live” I used precisely that phrase to describe what day-to-day existence had already become way back then in a frenetically busy, but ultimately lonely world.
The greatest health crisis in America, Sasse writes, “is not cancer, not obesity, and not heart disease – it’s loneliness.” Citing research by health professionals, he states: “Persistent loneliness reduces average longevity by more than twice as much as heavy drinking and more than three times as much as obesity. (In fact, loneliness drives obesity, and not vice versa, as previously thought.)” (23)
As an attempt to treat their persistent loneliness, Sasse theorizes, people create “tribes” of “us” vs. “them” to create an artificial sense of identity and belonging. Secure within their tribe, they lash out and hurl personal insults at the opposition instead of engaging in reasoned and intense dialogue. He calls all of us to examine the alliances we have formed in the culture wars: “There is a deep and corrosive tribal impulse to act as if ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ but sometimes the enemy of your enemy is just a jackass.” (156)
The Senator does not suggest a truce or compromise on any of the important moral and civic issues facing our nation, but he does advocate for debate instead of hate. “I’m not advocating for a ‘mushy middle’ on policy, as if just singing ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘splitting the difference’ between conservative and progressive policy proposals would somehow work,” writes Sasse. “I don’t think it will. But debating policy and demonizing our debate partner are fundamentally different things.” (242 f.)
Daily bread, according to Dr. Luther, includes “devout husband or wife, devout children, …good friends, and faithful neighbors.” Dr. Sasse suggests we re-cement the ties of family, friendship, and community as a remedy for the hatred dished out regularly and routinely in our society. The antidote to loneliness is, of course, love – not what too often passes for love, but the genuine variety that is born, nurtured, and carefully tended within caring familial relationships and deep friendships. The senator is refreshingly personal and transparent about how both these essential components in human life transform and give meaning to a busy public life.
This book, more than any I’ve read, has given me a healthy respect for the power of technology for good or for ill. Rather than usher in a new information age of an informed and motivated citizenry, computer technology has instead amped up division among us and diminished our social capital.
"Social media companies promise new forms of community and unprecedented connectedness. But it turns out that at the same time that any Billy Bob in Boise can broadcast his opinions to thousands of people, we have fewer non-virtual friends than at any point in decades. We’re hyperconnected, and we’re disconnected." (28)
"The smartphone, with its endless apps, is designed to whisper to you that the thing you are doing is not the thing you ought to be doing. The phone isn’t encouraging your progress; it’s causing you stress. Want to know what hostile AI looks like? You’re holding it." (196)
Of course, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we are compelled to tote around the very treasure that is destroying us. Few of us have the luxury of living or communicating off the grid, without our technology. How, then, shall we live? Sasse candidly shares his successes and failures with us in devising a way to use his devices rather than allowing them to use him.
Some of the rules or guardrails are relatively obvious: "Turn off most notifications and alerts. Stop checking in on retweet counts and likes. Read the comments on your posts only at a predetermined time (or just don’t read them). Unfollow the politics addicts. Have places your phone is never allowed—such as at the dinner table. Take regular social media fasts—times of the day and days of the week where you don’t open the apps. Constantly ask yourself: Two weeks from now, will I wish I had spent the ten minutes I’m about to spend on Twitter reading five pages of the book I’m carrying around instead (and oh, this plan requires constantly carrying a book around)? One of my most important rules is that I never allow any long chunk of work time to be interrupted by social media. Instead, I look at it primarily only in small, hard-to-use, backend-constrained chunks of time—boarding a flight or at the end of a workout." (196 f.)
So, no - I haven’t seceded entirely from the social media swirl; but I have cut way back. Because like many, I rely on Facebook to promote and manage the non-profit I work for, I’ve kept my Facebook account for the time being. But I’ve resolved (for better or worse) never to post anything more on my personal timeline – nor ever again to waste literally hours endlessly binge-scrolling through everybody’s take on matters great and small. I’ll get my news from the Wall Street Journal and NPR (just to keep matters balanced), but I’ve resolved not to become just one more “Billy Bob in Boise” broadcasting my opinions to thousands of people who themselves are endlessly scrolling through the detritus of shock and dismay, looking for something to repost to their own circle of “friends.” I prefer my friends real rather than virtual anyway.
Don’t get me wrong; Sasse’s book is not a diatribe against how social media has created the tribalism phenomenon in our country – you may or may not be led to the self-imposed fast I have embarked on. But you will find this remarkable book enlightening and inspiring on numerous levels regarding civic and political life in our land. Do yourself a favor and read it!
Harold L. Senkbeil
Using statistics and information from the social sciences, Sasse shows how moving from one community to another, changing jobs more frequently than in the past, and the rise of technology that puts us “alone together,” all stimulate a sense of loneliness. Loneliness and community are themes that runs through the book.
Urban vs. rural lifestyles and differing educational levels give us diverging ways of looking at ideas. Media’s financial need to grab the attention of viewers can lead to divisions. In response to queries about what keeps leaders up at night, their worry was: “to quietly exacerbate the fractures that already divide America internally.“
As a liberal, I wanted to understand why I admire Ben Sasse so much. I was not disappointed. In his book, The Righteous Mind, Johnathan Heidt supplements the liberals’ values of care and fairness with the conservatives’ values of loyalty, authority and sanctity. Sasse’s ideas about putting down roots and participating in the life of one’s community made me understand more deeply what Heidt was talking about.
Sasse’s book is liberally infused with thought provoking quotations. He quotes Madison: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Top reviews from other countries
It's a very good book and well worth a read