Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would find reading about the 2008 financial crisis a “page-turner,” and yet, here I write before you. About to tell you what a damn page-turner it was. It took me several weeks to read President Obama’s latest tome, A Promised Land, a deep dive into his first presidential campaign and those tumultuous first few years in office. But it was worth every second.
Brian and I read simultaneously — him listening to the audiobook while he completed chores or lounged on the couch with the dog napping beside him, and me with my book light wrapped around my neck each night, hoping the weighty hardcover wouldn’t fall on my face as I began drifting.
I was able to both read and listen to the aforementioned chapter about the financial crisis, as we listened together on a car ride, shortly after I finished the chapter. I read each page as if it was all new to me. As if I didn’t know what was coming. As if I hadn’t lived the experience of the American people that Obama talks about. As if my family hadn’t lost our small business in 2008. As if I hadn’t claimed bankruptcy in 2009 to account for the debt of investing in the family business. As if I hadn’t learned very quickly that I was not the only one getting a teaching degree to weather the crisis only to realize that getting a teaching job would be damn near impossible — with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applicants for a single position in a good school district. As if I hadn’t lived on unemployment for many months after losing my first office job (almost twice as many months of unemployment than I had been employed — if you were wondering).
I read each page, and hoped for a different outcome than the one I knew, from my lived experience, would come. I couldn’t sleep until I finished that chapter. The one that sucked me in with the deepest of breaths.
It could have been…
So much worse.
One of the overarching themes of this book really resonated with me. It could have been worse. Of course, it could have been better. All of it could have been better. Most things in this world can be better. But because the president was acting in what he believed was the best interest of the American people, it could have been worse. All of it. Wars, the economy, the environment, public health. Everything.
The juxtaposition of reading this book and the first month of Biden’s presidency is jarring. Not because of the differences, but because of the similarities, particularly anything involving Mitch McConnell, who cares, not about people but, about power and money. I find comfort in knowing that Biden was there every step of the way for Obama’s journey and that he can do what it takes to avoid history repeating itself in the ways that it could have been better.
The financial crisis was merely a single chapter in a book about almost every major crisis that hit this country between 2008 and 2011. A book that shows (not tells) how a man like Donald Trump was able to come to power, and how that movement continues today. How populist rhetoric continues gaining traction around the world. And how difficult it is to maintain and propel a free and fair democratic government on a world stage.
I learned a lot from reading this book. I learned about the issues and events I was too ignorant of, too young and naive to care about. I laughed. I cried. I thought. My favorite three reactions to any books in my queue. I highly recommend this book, but let yourself take time to really absorb it because there’s a lot of meat on those bones.