Become America, an inspiring ode by community activist Eric Liu, reflects on doing the kinds of things we don’t do much anymore, like talking to our neighbors, getting to know those who don’t look like us, or being vulnerable when it’s much easier to achieve our personal goals by putting up a front. It’s possible to increase civic virtue by simply fixing the pothole on your block with the help of neighbors. This book is an excellent follow-on to Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam’s rumination of a bygone America lacking social posterity and purpose due to the demise of community.
I was part of Eric’s experiment in Seattle to foster civic dialogue by bringing strangers together without subsuming to religious theater. Eric’s nonprofit challenged the norms in a city fully receptive to all kinds of values yet lacking the civic glue to bring people together naturally. It’s hard to unite friends, colleagues, and neighbors who don’t look and act just like us — we’ve erected a digital fence strengthening a monogamous existence when polygamous choices abound that can enhance the quality of life in population centers.
If you are tired of solo pursuits of civic grandeur, this book is for you. A country founded for “We the People” deserves more than lionizing billionaires. People are getting tired of seeking or watching personal gain at all costs. Whether it’s becoming President of the United States or getting to Mars, or simply refusing to get the vaccine, let’s throttle the narcissist culture putting individual priorities above the collective good.
I believe me-first behaviors (influenced by social media) will diminish as climate change transforms civic virtues in the next 20 years. Whether you are battling climate change or anticipating the return of Jesus Christ, the civic lessons taught in this book are worthy of your time regardless of your political affiliation. Your neighbors will matter more than you ever expected.