Getting Along: It’s a Matter of Rolling Up Your Sleeves

October 16, 2020  • Aspen Ideas Now

Bill Bishop says there’s plenty of evidence that talking about our differences doesn’t help us understand each other, but collective action does. Simply put, “You get along with people by doing things rather than talking about them,” says Bishop. In 2004, he wrote The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded Americans Is Tearing Us Apart, a sweeping examination of demographic data and the resulting cultural trends. Bishop and James Fallows, staff writer at The Atlantic and co-author of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, discuss the geography of personal and political belief in the pandemic era. Has the shared burden of the COVID-19 brought us closer together as a country? Will we sort ourselves differently after months of working from home? Where, or how, will we ultimately find the greatest sense of community?

About the Speakers

Bill Bishop is an author and journalist. He co-wrote The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart with retired University of Texas sociologist Robert G. Cushing. Bishop has worked as a reporter at The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, KY; as a columnist at the Lexington, KY, Herald-Leader, and on the special projects staff of the Austin, TX, American-Statesman. He and his wife, Julie Ardery, owned and operated The Bastrop County Times, a weekly newspaper in Smithville, TX. They also helped found The Daily Yonder, a Web-based publication covering rural America.

James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic, which he has written for since the late 1970s. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the 2018 book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which was a national best-seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary. Fallows has reported for The Atlantic extensively from outside the United States, has written several books, and has won the National Magazine Award, American Book Award, and a New York Emmy for a documentary series on China. He also once worked for President Carter as chief speechwriter.