Them (Sasse) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers Talking Points to help start a discussion for THEM by Ben Sasse … then take off on your own:

1. Does it feel to you that America is coming apart—that we need a re-set? Considering the book's title, do we "hate each other"?

2. Do you agree with the premise of Ben Sasse's book: that the root of our country's divisiveness goes deeper than economics and deeper than the dysfunction in Washington—that our troubles stem from loneliness and a lack of connectedness to our local communities? Other writers, including Robert Putnam in his well-known 2000 book, Bowling Alone, have made similar observations. What do you think? Is loneliness at the heart of American anger and angst?

3. In the section called "Civics 101," Sasse writes, "Citizens in a republic must cultivate humility. It’s the only way to preserve sufficient space for true community and for meaningful, beautiful human relationships." First, define what Sasse means by humility and why it's important. In what …and where …and in whom …do we witness a lack of humility? How do we recover our individual and collective humility?

4. Sasse says that public servants "simply need to allow the space for communities of different belief and custom to flourish." What communities is he referring to? How do we ensure that different communities will indeed thrive—what steps need to be taken? What happens if those on the outside come to resent those on the inside of the communities? What protections can be offered?

5. Of our self-contained bubbles, Sasse writes that today what matters—more than actual content—is who does the reporting. "It isn’t just that living in ideological bubbles makes it harder to criticize one’s own side," Sasse writes. "It’s also that it actually becomes harder to believe credible charges against one’s own tribe." Is Sasse correct in pointing out that the messenger is more important than the message? Do you find yourself caught up in a bias bubble? Are you part of a "tribe" of like-minded thinkers? Is there a way to escape our biases, to move beyond them?

6. Sasse points to the fact that "America is being split into the "haves" and the "have-nots" and that the gap between them is growing. He admits that "it's increasingly difficult to move up" the economic ladder—"a stark departure" from the expectations of the past several generations. How important do you feel the income gap is? What solutions would go a long way toward closing the income gap?

7. Talk about the other societal ills Sasse identifies—opioid use, lower birth rate, pregnancy decoupled from marriage…. What are some others? Does Sasse's depiction of a country-in-trouble" ring true to you? Is he overly pessimistic? Is he realistic?

8. Consider Ben Sasse's background. How did it prepare him for a life in Washington and as a spokesman for the nation?

9. What do you know about Ben Sasse and his time as a U.S. Senator? As a Republican from Kansas, where do his allegiances (and votes) lie?

10. Ultimately, after reading Them, does Ben Sasse correctly diagnose the problems of this country, and does he offer us a viable solution or solutions?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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