The American democratic process can be stressful and confusing. However, even its midterm elections affect millions of people and history. A wise and experienced reader once gave me a list of books when I felt powerless as a citizen. She told me that every one of them focuses on responding with the same two tasks:
- Enter the political arena. You can do this in simple ways. Read. Think. Look. Look at what politicians and their followers do rather than listen to what they say they are doing, because lies are rampant. Search for integrity and fact-based information. Absolutely do not use the excuse ‘they all do it; they all are the same, both sides are alike ‘. That is an excuse to avoid the difficult task of being an informed and involved citizen, the one task required to preserve our democracy. All politicians absolutely are not all the same all the time.
- Avoid tribalism. It blinds our vision and thinking. It is critical for everyone to really listen to opinions differing from their own. Everybody benefits. Respect differing views. We all don’t have to agree but we all must really hear each other speak, respectfully. Ask where opinions come from, why they are important, and mean it. Listen. Do not limit ourselves to hearing one kind of opinion.
Jon Meachum who wrote The Soul of America adds these:
- Respect facts and deploy reason. Let that statement stand on its own.
- Keep history in mind and don’t just assume you know it. By coming to this blog, you’ve already proven your respect of the power of reading. So I consider this to be acceptable read histories of other democracies as well as America’s. All of them have valuable lessons.
So with that, here is….
Your election book list prescription:
Book Title: The Soul of America
Book Author: Jon Meachum
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 973 M
Meachum uses his book to reveal that our nation has had many scary moments. But it is positive and. pulls quotes from all over America. He pulls these from all political parties at all moments in US history. They all show where our wisdom comes from. It stands alone in this list and requires the reader to be involved in thinking. Meachum’s audience is all Americans.
Book Title: How Democracies Die
Book Author: Levitsky, Steven and Ziblatt, Daniel
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 321.8 L
This is written by two academic ‘elites’, one a specialist in European democracies and one a specialist in South American democracies. This book has charts and all connections they make to current US politics are made as clear as they could make them. That being said, it is a heavier read than others.
Book Title: Fascism: A Warning
Book Author: Albright, Madeline
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 320.533 A
Not everyone realizes Madeline Albright came to this country as a refugee. This is a personal story and easy to read history encased in partial autobiography. If somebody needs a reason to become politically engaged, Albright may be able to give it to them.
Book Title: On Tyranny
Book Author: Snyder, Timothy
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 321.9 S
This is a tiny book but a useful one. The word “tyranny” is throw around in a lot of ways. So it is useful to understand how it may be referred to in a historical context.
Book Title: A Short History of the United States
Book Author: Remini, Robert Vincent
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 973 R
The author is a historian and the writing is uncomplicated. You will not find a political agenda here. It’s purpose is to clarify the existence of multiple assaults on our democracy. They have occurred and will continue to occur. Anything of worth will always be under threat.