I’ve had the privilege to received a pre-lease copy of Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How to Heal by U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) officially released on October 16. I’m still making my way through the book and hope to provide a review as soon as possible.
In chapter five where Sasse starts to discuss the solutions to the overarching problem, he covers in the first two parts of the book which is disconnectedness. He described that problem and the starting point to address this way:
As natural, healthy tribes – family, friends, workplace, and neighborhood have crumbled, we’ve turned to anti-tribes: an us-versus-them politics and a rage-fueled media complex that exploits our divisions for clicks. Reclaiming the American idea against all this means returning to the beginning: to our fundamental commitment to the inexhaustible, inviolable dignity of every person, and to our recognition that an effective and enduring politics can only be built atop this fundamental conviction.
In chapter five he noted that in light of our civic neglect we need a civics lesson.
A government of, by, and for the people puts extra pressure on the people to live in a manner consistent with self-government – crucially, even when we vigorously disagree on matters of mere policy. Policy fights are important, but not nearly as important as agreeing about our fundamental civic principles.
Where should we start? The two indispensable insights of the American experiment are inextricably linked: each and every individual is created with dignity – and therefore government, because it is not the source of our rights, is just a tool.
He notes that if we have to reflect carefully on our limitations if we are going to preserve the freedom we have. Sasse shares four core truths about human nature and government that our founding fathers understood.
- We’re flawed – and naturally inclined to fight.
- Those who wield government power shouldn’t be trusted to resolve many fights or to declare many winners and losers.
- Politicians shouldn’t confuse their temporary roles with ultimate meaning.
- Citizens in a republic must cultivate humility – or the experiment will collapse.
This is why, at the heart of America’s constitutional structure, is a commitment to anti-majoritarianism. America believes in big and grand things about human nature and human potential. America believes in poetry. But the only way to preserve sufficient space for true community and for meaningful, beautiful human relationships is to have a political philosophy that emphasizes constraint –
constraintthat applies much to ourselves, with our tendency toward absolute certainty and self-righteousness, as to the government.
What Sasse writes is true, and there is no quick fix. Because of our disconnectedness, we don’t agree upon our fundamental civic principles. But we can’t begin to fix this rift if we don’t commit to embracing these truths and conveying them and communicating them in a winsome,
Just a reminder, however, that this is just the starting point. To pass these truths on and build upon shared values, we need to have real connections.