For all his hard-bitten clarity, Baldwin expressed hope that America could see itself and could change “in order to deal with the untapped and dormant force of the previously subjugated, in order to survive as a human, moving, moral weight in the world.” He argued for what I think of as a sort of useful idealism, one that acknowledges reality as it is but does not accept that it has to remain so. He wagered that people could be better than they are: “We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”
How do we come to that realization? One way is through books, which can lure us to foreign lands in the first place, and can share with others the wonders and terrors we have discovered abroad. Sometimes they can be as deep of an experience as travel itself, fundamentally rearranging our perspective.