I dropped my 22 books I’m reading every day to spend 3 days reading Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized. As a life-long liberal Democrat, I found his book provocative, challenging, and inspiring, plus it explained a lot. Anyone who is a comfortable liberal or frustrated Democrat can read it with profit. Your notions of how politics work in this country will be put to the test. Conservative Republicans will be battered no more than they already are but Klein recognizes what motivates you and challenges you and those who are not in your “tribe” to move off a bit from national politics and go local as well. You may friend partners in governance you didn’t know you had.
Noting Klein’s insistence that we are dealing with identities, not political ideologies, recalls Karen Armstrong’s comment in a lecture I heard that she had never seen a lethal communal riot that did not involve threats to identity.
Then I read Gods of the Upper Air, the Boas circle of anthropologists. These were the people I benefited from as an anthropology major in the early 60s. Racism and sexual hierarchies were not considered relevant nor was rampant nationalism considered normal. The ideas and concepts launched by Boas, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neal Hurston, Gregory Bateson, and so many of their sponsors, benefactors, students and colleagues were in the upper air. This book gave me the gritty details of the massive waves they battled against, with all the smugness and authority of what was left of the Victorian Age ranged against them. Very nicely, the author, Charles King, ends with Allen Bloom’s nasty, pugnacious proclamation of the superiority of the Western Christian male (The Closing of the American Mind), showing us we must continue their fight for the liberation of the human mind.