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To be born American in the late twentieth century was to take the fact of a particular kind of American exceptionalism as granted - a state of nature arrived at after all else had failed. In the span of just thirty years, this assumption would come crashing down.
After the fall, we must determine what it means to be American again.
In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in America, Rhodes decided to look outwards.
Over the next three years, he travelled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, activists, and dissidents confronting the same nationalism and authoritarianism that was tearing America apart. Along the way, a Russian opposition leader he spends time with is poisoned, the Hong Kong protesters he comes to know see their movement snuffed out, and America itself reaches the precipice of losing democracy before giving itself a second chance.
After the Fall is a hugely ambitious and essential work of discovery. Throughout, Rhodes comes to realize how much America's fingerprints are on a world it helped to shape: through the excesses of the post-Cold War embrace of unbridled capitalism, post-9/11 nationalism and militarism, mania for technology and social media, and the racism that shaped the backlash to the Obama presidency. At the same time, he learns from a diverse set of characters - from Obama to rebels to a rising generation of leaders - how looking squarely at where America has gone wrong only makes it more essential to fight for what America is supposed to be - for itself, and for the entire world.