5 September 2018
Strangers in Their Own Land – Quiz #2
Nothing drives political debate, and shapes beliefs more than emotion. Arlie Russell Hochschild’s primary objective in Strangers in their Own Land is not solely to understand the current political divide in the United States today, but to understand the emotions on either side of the American Empathy Wall. Attempting to discover the emotions behind the perspectives of each person Hochschild meets is what drives the ongoing questions in Strangers in Their Own Land, and what leads Hochschild to learn her subjects’ “deep stories”: the feeling behind their narratives. The Deep Story is what each person finds truthful about themselves and the society they live in. Learning the Deep Story is how the divide in America is going to be understood, and how opposing sides can understand and imagine the other’s perspective, consequently tearing down the Empathy Wall and building a bridge in its place. Learning about the Deep Story involves each person’s interpretation and experience with the American Dream. Hochschild’s subjects wholeheartedly pursue the promise of the American Dream: prosperity and upward social and economic mobility will follow their hard work. Hope for the American Dream is at the forefront of the minds of each personality type Hochschild describes: the Team Player, whose identity is defined by their group membership and enduring hardship for a collective greater than the individual; the Worshipper, who lives through emotional pain and has the capacity for true relinquishment; the Cowboy who values strength, honor, and individualism; and the Rebel, whose actions resonate heavily with the Team Player, but who contains traits of all the personalities. One thing all the presented personalities have in common is finding pride in surviving hardship; much like the Cowboy embraces danger as an opportunity, the Team Player carries the weight others levy on them, and the worshippers rely on their faith to refrain from solving problems.
Arlie Russell Hochschild has achieved something very few before her have by marrying her curiosity for people and their ideologies, and passion for social science and inquiry. Strangers in Their Own Land is, above all, a launchpad for the future of nonfiction narrative, and more importantly the discourse accompanying the political divide in the United States today.