After he was elected in 2014, Ben Sasse emerged as one of the most conservative voices in the US Senate. Full disclosure, based on his voting record, the junior Senator from Nebraska and I do not appear to agree on most policy issues. But after reading this Op-Ed, I decided to pick up a copy of Sasse’s latest book Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.
Sasse is quick to lament that America has lost that “Hometown Game on a Friday Night” feeling, but there’s more to his argument than hollow, nostalgic rhetoric. Throughout the book, Sasse challenges his readers to focus on what matters, Do you have family you love and who love you? Do you have friends you trust and confide in? Do you have work that matters, callings that benefit your neighbors? Do you have a worldview that can help you make sense of suffering and death?
The beauty of Them is the way that Sasse communicates basic truths that unite us instead of emphasizing differences that further divide us. We don't need to agree to begin a discussion. We’re all still trying to figure out what it means to form community in the digital age. Each of us would be better off if we could improve our ability to gather, discuss politics, and still part ways as friends and neighbors.
Sasse’s call to action is to start here, now. Don’t form your identity by uniting around a common enemy, it’s a trap. Debate policy, but don’t demonize your debate partner. Find purpose and meaning by getting involved in your local community.
As Senator Sasse eloquently states in his conclusion,
We’re living through an economic and social revolution that is transforming the life we’ve known for a century and a half. We need to be able to name this moment, to assure ourselves that we can put some bounds around this Frankenstein, and we need to be clear eyed enough to admit the challenges this moment presents are not going to be solved by government. They can’t be, because ultimately it’s not legislation we’re lacking, it’s the tight bonds that give our lives meaning, happiness, and hope. It’s the habits of heart and mind that make us neighbors and friends. At the end of the day, it’s love. And when a bunch of “them” are joined by love and by purpose “they” can become “we”.