My List of Books Every American Should Read

There has been a lot of ugliness going around this country.  The saddest part is that everyone only seems to see the ugliness of the other side.  The “Them” that is diametrically opposed to the “Us”.  If the country was any more polarized, we’d be fighting a second civil war.  And much like the first one, there’d be good people on both sides.  While some of this can be blamed on hypocrisy and differing moral codes, the age old enemy of the human race is also at fault.

Ignorance.

We are surrounded by information, and taught how to make use of it, yet we persist in ignorance because it’s more comfortable.  Or, we are kept in ignorance by those who claim to know what’s best for us.  Everyone who disagrees is a liar and not to be trusted.

I can’t claim to know all the answers.  I am painfully aware of how little I know.  And if more people acknowledged that, maybe we wouldn’t be in this boat.  So whether you lean right, left, or are stuck in the middle, here is a list of books, and what I learned from them, that I hope can improve the conversation.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Basic life lessons: Anyone can be racist.  Racism is caused by ignorance.  Everyone is family.  Everyone deserves a home.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Basic life lessons: Embrace differences.  Protect the weak.  Society isn’t always right.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Basic life lessons: Good ideas are easily twisted by bad people.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Basic life lessons: The ends do not justify the means.  Misunderstanding and ignorance lead to mistrust and enmity.  You will never understand a person’s motives unless you ask.  One man’s evil is sometimes another man’s glory.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Basic life lessons: A world without love is nothing.  Cruelty presented as a kindness is still cruel.  Sometimes suffering is necessary, or even beneficial.  Different does not equal weakness.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Basic life lessons: Everything isn’t always as it seems. You can’t know anyone from hearsay.  Understanding comes from putting yourself fully and completely in the other person’s place.  You have to “Climb into his skin”.

Probably the most important thing to remember is that nobody is perfect.  Many people have made decisions based on fear, justified and not, in the past year.  Nobody can blame them.  Fear is natural.  Self-preservation is one of our base instincts.  So the only way to diminish the fear is to diminish the ignorance.  Everyone.  Reach across the party lines and acknowledge the other person’s fear.  Denounce the mistakes of your side.  Refuse to continue this self-destructive cycle of action and reaction that is reflected in Washington.  Let the world know that we are more than a political dichotomy.

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