Thursday, June 3, 2021

After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made by Ben Rhodes

Like all human beings, we are fallen, able to do both good and evil. ~from After the Fall by Ben Rhodes

Ben Rhodes calls  After the Fall a book of stories, the story of his journey from idealist patriot to questioning the myths we share, from working with President Obama to seeing their legacy dismantled. 

Endeavoring to understand the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism across the world, he tells the stories of people who fight for democratic rights in increasingly authoritarian countries and how they are imprisoned, tortured, poisoned, and silenced.

And he tells the story of how America has veered from its ideals and helped to create the world we live in today: how unconstrained capitalism destroyed the global economy in 2008, eroding faith in democracy and capitalism; how 'forever wars' eroded individual rights and created ethnic hate: how love of money trumped concern for human rights; how technology impacted us for better and for worse; how a pandemic revealed "our most profound failings."
...Values like equality are no longer the business of governments around the world, they have been left to individuals to defend.~ from After the Fall by Ben Rhodes
Rhodes sees the cycle "between autocracy and democracy, the powerful and the oppressed, corrupted system and the uncorrupted masses," but holds onto the hope that, overall, the world arcs toward justice. 

We have the opportunity, he writes, to "make capitalism about something more than money, to make national security about something other than subjugation, to make technology work better as a tool for human enlightenment. To learn from others around the world instead of thinking that is is always we who have something to teach them."

I have read other books about these subjects. What sets this one apart is Rhodes' heart and passion, his openness about his journey, and his empathy for the resistance leaders he meets.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made
by Ben Rhodes
Random House Publishing Group - Random House
Pub Date June 1, 2021   
ISBN: 9781984856050
hardcover $28.00 (USD)

from the publisher

Ben Rhodes is the author of the New York Times bestseller The World as It Is, co-host of Pod Save the World, a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, and an adviser to former president Barack Obama.

Why is democracy so threatened in America and around the world? And what can we do about it? A former White House aide and close confidant to President Barack Obama—and the New York Times bestselling author of The World as It Is—travels the globe in a deeply personal, beautifully observed quest for answers.

In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they had worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in America, Rhodes decided to look outward. 

Over the next three years, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, activists, and dissidents confronting the same nationalism and authoritarianism that was tearing America apart. Along the way, a Russian opposition leader he spoke with was poisoned, the Hong Kong protesters he came to know saw their movement snuffed out, and America itself reached the precipice of losing democracy before giving itself a second chance.

Part memoir and part reportage, After the Fall is a hugely ambitious and essential work of discovery. In his travels, Rhodes comes to realize how much America’s fingerprints are on a world we helped to shape, through our post–Cold War embrace of unbridled capitalism and our post-9/11 nationalism and militarism; our mania for technology and social media; and the racism that fueled the backlash to America’s first Black president. 

At the same time, Rhodes learns from the stories of a diverse set of characters—from Barack Obama himself to Cuban rebels to a rising generation of international leaders—that looking squarely at where America has gone wrong makes clear how essential it is to fight for what America is supposed to be, for our own country and the entire world.

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