The vast majority of us in the United States walk a tightrope of some sort every single day. Whether it’s worrying about getting healthcare for your loved one recently diagnosed with cancer, worrying about a loved one who needs rehab, worrying about your child’s education, or worrying about living from paycheck to paycheck because you simply don’t make enough to be able to put any aside. Through the lens of a small town VERY similar to the one I grew up in, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn examine how our upward trajectory as a country faltered, then started its downhill slide to where we are right now – divided, most people struggling to make ends meet, many schools effectively segregated, serious addiction issues, and with no clear path to fixing *any* of it at this time.
The authors ably demonstrate that our country has, in large part, failed its populace. That our strongest years were when we had higher tax rates and created programs to help support the weakest of us until they were stronger and able to give back. That working class people all over the country have been lost and ignored, while the formerly-growing middle class continues to shrink. That much of this decay is due to policies enacted that were, at best, mistakes – and at worst, cruelty for the sake of it. That “personal responsibility” has a piece to play – but so does an ethos of compassion and empathy.
But all is not gloom and doom – there is also a focus on people and programs that are doing things *right*, and the differences they are making in lives and in our country. They extensively demonstrate that investing in children when they are young, focusing on treatment rather than incarceration, making sure all people have health care, and making sure that we focus on helping EVERYONE work will MORE than amply pay off for *all* of us in the long run. They highlight very specific methods that have worked, and discuss immediate solutions that could get bipartisan support.
The ironic thing as I was reading this book is that so many of those hurt most by the policies of the current administration are the ones who continue to back him. They’re not stupid people, or hateful – but they feel so left behind by the standard politicking that they felt Trump could fix things for them. Help them find a way off of the tightrope they walk every day – and watch their children and grandchildren walk as well. For any of these solutions to come into play, people need to reach out t0 them, see them for the hurting humans they are, and seriously work to address their concerns.
This book is honestly one that should be read by people on every side of every damn aisle. These issues shouldn’t be partisan problems, but people problems. There is plenty of blame to go around, but rather than looking behind us to point fingers – we should be looking forward at how we can help make sure our children and our grandchildren don’t have to walk the tightrope.