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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
American Schism: How the Two Enlightenments Hold the Secret to Healing our Nation by Seth David Radwell is a non-fiction political book that opens up a dialogue on the massive division tearing away at the fabric of the United States, with insight on a potential path toward restoration. The book begins with a history of schisms on a global scale, addressing the time before and after enlightenment, its impact, and the first rippling of divergence. Radwell then moves forward with the United States in her infancy and as she ages, growing but severely hindered by combative ideologies without even the common ground of moralistic alignment, taking what appear to be steps forward but hardly getting anywhere at all. Finally, Radwell poses some hard-hitting questions about counter-enlightenment and the damage it has caused and the importance of getting back onto the road first paved by the Radical Enlightenment thinkers. “It is incumbent on us to stop the putrefaction and rebuild a more durable foundation for an America that lives up to the Radical Enlightenment principles that were its birthright.”
I was pretty behind the curve on understanding American politics and how they actually worked, watching with a mix of intrigue and horror from afar as the beacon of the world appeared to be in a slow, burning decline. Then, ten years ago I married an American and the veil was lifted from my sore British eyes: the United States has been at war with itself, and nobody was likely to win. American Schism dives as deep as I've read on what the root cause actually is and how the way forward begins with understanding what truly happened in the past. Seth David Radwell writes with a tight, convincing narrative that is both compelling and eerily straightforward, using a foundation of the failings of top-down governance that keeps the top up and the bottom crushed on the ground. He uses factual examples and parallels them with quotes, movements, laws, and wars. So many wars. The parts I enjoyed the most were when Radwell dispelled the blanket myths of what 'by the people, for the people' means, focusing on the necessity of equality of opportunity with an equal baseline, which has never existed and most definitely needs to. Very, very highly recommended.