A book delivers a synopsis of the cleavages that divide Americans and some potential solutions.
One of the most scrupulously studied of subjects in American political discourse is citizens’ toxic divisiveness, something that could, according to Brakke (American Justice?, 2016), bring about the nation’s demise. He provides a taxonomy of the various species of disunity that plague the United States, including more obvious ones like racial and economic division, and less frequently discussed ones such as the disharmony engendered by generational and geographical differences. In the case of racial tension, the author situates the problem within its long-standing historical context, assessing the ways in which race-based enmity has been fostered since the nation’s genesis. Brakke also furnishes an analysis of the resentful tug-of war between cosmopolitan cities and the rural areas that lie beyond their perimeters. In each section, the author summarizes the problem, presenting the viewpoint from either side, and then supplies some candidate solutions. For example, within a discussion of the increasingly wide distance that separates the old and the young in the United States, Brakke suggests dispensing a tax credit to fully grown children who are willing to live with and care for their aging parents. In addition, while assessing the obstinate problem of racial tension in the country, he draws from the example of the military, which has managed to successfully combat segregation without resorting to any controversial affirmative action program. The cogent theme underlying the entire study is that while the fracturing of the nation into warring parts threatens its existence, there remains hope in the many ways those factions still depend upon one another. Brakke’s prose couldn’t be clearer—he writes with informality and intellectual temperance. In addition, it’s refreshing to see a work that addresses American divisiveness explore territory beyond race, wealth, and political affiliation. But the solutions the author offers don’t break much new ground, and can be as exasperatingly general as they are obvious. For example, as an antidote to racial tension, he counsels: “Anything that would reduce poverty in the urban ghettos would certainly help.”
A bipartisan and commonsensical study of U.S. disharmony, though somewhat lacking in originality.