If you are tired of Democrats and Republicans making empty promises, and their followers dogmatically choosing sides on every debate and issue so their guys can remain in power, you’re a lot like the author of this book. Tackling tough issues like the immigration debate, slavery reparations, minimum wage, taxes, college tuition, the insurance industry, business, the role of government in ordering our lives, prisons, the relationship of society to police, and many more, he proposes revolutionary solutions instead of choosing to spend 70,000 words needlessly criticizing. Coming from the view that every human is an image-bearer of God, and that all man-made structures and agendas are open for debate, he offers up solutions to some of America’s most burdensome problems which can be considered and implemented to make both sides happy. Understanding that too many people nowadays take themselves far too seriously, he also gives the reader many self-deprecating and humorous asides (something sorely lacking in political and social debate). Buy this book and join the fight against poverty; namely his poverty.
What an unexpectedly timely book!
It just so happens that Nathan Andrew Roberts’ I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend) hit the top of my reading pile at the same time as the peak of America’s chaotic situation a few weeks ago, and that means I’m posting this review in a bit of a changed world from the one that existed beforehand. I sense that feelings are still running extremely high among both Republicans and Democrats here in the USA, and that not everyone is quite ready to open their minds to entertain the many exciting and interesting thought experiments that Roberts describes in his book––but I also hope and even truly believe (by force of will, maybe) that just as many if note more people are eager to reconcile with their friends and family on the other side of the aisle, and that a book such as this one has a real and useful function as we move forward into our brave new world.
Speaking of, I find our cultural associations with that Shakespeare reference (see below) quite useful indeed. It comes from The Tempest, my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, and is spoken by a young woman named Miranda, who has been sequestered on an island since infancy. When she meets outsiders for the first time, her reaction is:
In the eons since Shakespeare penned those lines, we have also seen the reference given quite the negative connotation, thanks in no small part to the British pessimist Aldous Huxley, who published Brave New World in 1932. Both Shakespeare’s play and Huxley’s dystopic novel are replete with social commentary, particularly on the nature of different worldviews.
For my part, I’ve always been drawn to Miranda’s approach. She falls in love with everything she meets, and is willing to suspend judgment where others leap to the worst conclusions about each other around her.
Nathan Andrew Roberts’ recent book is more or less designed for us Mirandas. He asks us to suspend our judgment of each other and work toward common goals and make daring attempts to heal the breaches between our American political parties.
In his introduction, Roberts writes:
Government (including education and municipalities), business, places of worship, and other societal groupings are the pillars of society. Family is the foundation. When the foundation crumbles, so do the pillars. What I propose is drastic changes to all of these. Mind you, many of my ideas come from a morally conservative Christian viewpoint (if you can’t even bear to listen to my words past this sentence, I would be happy to provide you a refund) but I take a centrist and liberal stance on many different political and societal issues.“I‘ll Fix America Tonight” by Nathan Andrew Roberts (2020), p. iii.
Having framed his own personal stance in this way, Roberts goes on to say: “Now, there are some ideas pertaining to a lot of facets of our society contained herein.” So far, so good. But Roberts also has a request of his readers! “What I would ask of even the most unreasonable of readers is that if you detest one idea or belief of mine that you refrain from waving off all others.” He describes the book as a buffet, full of various thought experiments from which a reader can pick and choose what appeals, and leave the rest.
And wow, does he cover quite a few topics! It’s worth noting here that my family, too, is fractured between two (or three, or four, or more) radically different worldviews, and certainly represents both sides of the current political system. Running down Roberts’ table of contents is a lot like looking at a list of conversation topics we try not to bring up over the dinner table: the military, reparations, welfare, and education among them. We are not so invested in some of the other topic he covers, like foreign aid––but as this is a buffet, I didn’t feel as though I had to have a clear opinion on what the “fix” should be by the end of that chapter; I was merely curious what radical changes Roberts might suggest, and what funny anecdotes he might share. For some of the chapters that have been topics of serious disagreement among my family and friends, I found myself paying more attention to the suggested “fix” than to the humorous bits. Knowing that I had Roberts’, how shall I put this, permission to move back and forth meant that I didn’t set the book down when I disagreed with a point (or ten). I simply made a note (and probably said huh out loud) and moved on, knowing that I’m not being asked to carry the burden of forming a set opinion, just to entertain a possible future by way of thought experiment.
Roberts is, as my father would say, something of a “goofball.” He loves a good pun, cracks himself up with his own “dad jokes” and stories, and generally keeps the entire book light-hearted. (“That question isn’t rhetorical,” he writes at one point. “I want you to compose your answer in a well-worded essay and mail it to me. Route it through my temporary office at the North Pole.”) That said, he always clearly signals when he wants his readers to take him seriously. I really appreciated that. He’s seen and been through enough to more than fill out a straight memoir, but he chose to take on this project because he wants to help this country heal. I love that about this book: its intentions are so pure.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Roberts also writes well! His language is accessible, and the book has been edited well. It doesn’t dither around, but rather is nicely streamlined. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book (any book!) dealing with politics that was under 400 pages––and Nathan Andrew Roberts gets all of his work done in fewer than 300. My wrist (and attention span) are eternally grateful. And he ends the book on such a positive note: “I believe in us. Ready?” Yes, wolf pack supervisor, I am ready. Let’s build some bridges.
In a world absolutely riven with civil unrest (and sometimes, uncivil unrest), there is absolutely a need for more books like Nathan Andrew Roberts’ I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend). His goal of providing fresh ideas to address social and political inequities that all parties can agree on is a fabulous one. I personally enjoyed the thought experiments he describes in this book, but I have the feeling this will be a book that lands well among people already willing to reconcile and make compromises to improve public discourse.
WHERE TO BUY?
You can find I’ll Fix America Tonight wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.