New York Times bestselling author and economist Arthur C. Brooks says America is being ripped apart by bitterness and contempt, fomented by public bullies and self-interested leaders – but following the plan in this book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from Our Culture of Contempt, we can fight back to reunite the nation around principles of respect, kindness, and dignity.
Battered by partisan rancor and caustic public discourse, America is tearing at the seams. Across the political spectrum, we are told by divisive leaders that our ideological opponents are worthless. And as both history and leading social science show, the consequences of this growing culture of contempt are calamitous and lasting. Without a solution, this will destroy America from within.
"93 percent of Americans hate how divided we've become," Brooks told Gordon Robertson on Friday's 700 Club. "One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of politics since the 2016 election. And every single person watching us today loves somebody with whom they disagree politically," he said.
He argues that contempt is not what we want, and a popular backlash is coming. A large majority of Americans are sick of being bullied and terrorized by the fringes, do not assent to the claim that those with whom we disagree are knaves and fools, and are sick of the political warfare that makes progress impossible. The bullies will soon have their comeuppance.
"Nobody in history has ever been insulted into agreement," Brooks observed. "It's also immoral. When we're hating people because of political disagreement in America, we're behaving in a way that's quite contrary to our faith. I think we can get around it and we can bring the country back together."
Because of its anonymity, social media drives much of the culture of contempt, Brooks says.
"One of the biggest problems with driving is that people are inside their cars, they don't see each other's faces, and they treat each other differently," he said. "I've always thought if you want better traffic, people should put their name on a bumper sticker, and their house of worship," he chuckled. "That'll cure some of these ills. And social media is the ultimate kind of anonymity and the ultimate way we dehumanize ourselves. So social media, the way that we talk to each other, is a real contempt machine. By which I don't mean anger, by the way. I mean treating each other as utterly worthless. Which is a terrible thing to do. It's beneath us. It's beneath our obligation, our opportunity, to love each other."
This book shows the way for a new generation of unifying leaders to harness this backlash and turn it into a force for progress and unity. The key is not bland agreement, but rather a culture of warm-heartedness toward our political foes, a vigorous – but respectful – competition of ideas, and the courage to stand up to dividers on our own side.
Deeply moral and empirically grounded, Love Your Enemies is a prediction of the future, an appeal to America's better angels, and a roadmap to political victory. Further, Brooks' work reveals in a very practical way how each of us can be a force for unity – in our families, in our communities, and in a country desperate to free itself from the culture of contempt.