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Book Review: “After the Fall” by Ben Rhoads

Review written by Miriam Stone, Director of the Oley Valley Community Library

“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 it is always we who have something to teach them.”

Ben Rhodes is a superb writer.

He has a unique perspective, access, and determination. He transports us to an inner world that may well decide the fate of democracy.

His selection of protagonists (all citizen warriors) is remarkable.

This book beautifully stitches together multiple fears, stories, and threads into a comprehensive whole. One book which gives you a complete picture of what’s at stake and what lies ahead.

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