Rereading Watership Down In the Age of Terrorism and Trump

Someone once asked me, if I could force everyone on earth to read one book in order to make the world a better place, what book it would be. The answer was easy, and it’s only gotten easier with time: Watership Down, Richard Adams’ epic novel about bunny rabbits (seriously), the extravagantly tattered paperback I’ve read over and over since I was nine, following a group of rabbits as they travel to a new home and found a new society. It’s purportedly for children, though Adams makes no perceptible effort to simplify his prose for younger readers; and anyway, lately it seems like Americans could use a grade-school-level lesson in civic values. Suddenly so many of us seem willing to trade away long-standing principles of democracy in exchange for a false sense of security from terrorism, or from the imaginary Mexican rapists supposedly pouring over the border. Those principles are so interwoven in the fabric of our daily life that it’s easy to take them for granted; rereading Watership Down always reminds me what a struggle it is to shape a healthy society out of chaos.

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