Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gave Us Hope For A Divided Country, by Senator Tim Scott & Congressman Trey Gowdy
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Blog Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is among the rarest of books, and the sort of book I would like to read a lot more often, and that is a collaborative memoir about political friendship. Although the authors of this book are both successful contemporary American politicians, one of them a black Republican Senator from South Carolina and the other a white Republican Representative from South Carolina who entered Congress together as freshmen in 2010, this is not a book about politics per se but rather about the way in which people from different backgrounds can find genuine friendship even in the cutthroat world of politics in our divided country. There is no shortage of books about the racial and political divide in our country , but this book offers something striking, an attempt to see people as people and get to know them as people as a way of feeling less beleaguered and less isolated. While I have mixed feelings about that, this book is undoubtedly sincere, and that is not something one says lightly about books written by politicians these days.
The book proceeds in a generally chronological fashion although it begins in media res with a prologue about a racially motivated act of violence in Charleston, South Carolina that killed a friend of Sen. Scott. The authors begin with their initial friendship upon meeting each other in Congress (1) and then look at how that friendship was tested when the two were being pitted together in the press for an open Senate seat (2). Dealing with the threat of race war (3) and the tough assignment of leading an investigation on Bengazi (4) follow before the authors reflect on what they have in common (5). A discussion by the two on how one can create an environment where trust can grow (6) leads into a discussion by both authors on law enforcement and how the language of law and order appears to different people (7,8) before the authors reflect on the positive influences in their life (9) and the solutions to so much of what divides and isolates people here and now (10) before closing with an epilogue that refers to the hope the authors share. All told, this takes about 200 pages before an intriguing preview of the authors’ related workbook is taken into account.
In looking at this book it is pretty clear that a big reason the two authors are genuine friends is that they both seem like genuinely decent people. Both of them are humble and reflective, both of them have intriguing life stories of their upbringing, and both of them appear to be quick studies with genuine appreciation for each other. All of that matters a lot in making this a striking collaborative work where the friendship and its context is put center stage. To be sure, it is not an unmixed blessing for the American people to find out that their elected leaders are becoming friends with each other in a recognition of their common humanity, not least because we vote for political leaders in large part who will enact an agenda, not become friends with people on the other side of the aisle whose worldviews are destructive to our country’s well-being. Be that as it may, these two authors are friends and they are not wrong to believe that if someone can form a genuine friendship across racial lines in a place as hypercompetitive as Washington DC, then genuine friendship is possible in all kinds of situations. How to create a context where people can see each other as friends and not enemies is a difficult task, though.
 See, for example: