“There are few words that are harder to explain than loyalty. It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for eeach other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.” -Fredrik Backman, Beartown
This quote is so true. Backman did it again in Beartown, as he tells the story of a small hockey town in the forest.
This book weaves together the story of a group of high school hockey players, parents, coaches, former legendary players, teachers, and the effect of loyalty when in a moment a town’s hopes and dreams are dashed.
The mob mentality of us against them. Dehumanizing victims to explain away and hide the truth.
Loyalty is a slippery slope when it is valued above the truth, integrity, responsibility and ownership of one’s actions.
Loyalty can become a weapon to attack and destroy an enemy. It forces you to take sides.
Are you with us or against us?
That type of mentality lacks any rationality. It requires a follower to throw out all their own personal beliefs and convictions in favor of the group’s demands. When the leader of that group only has evil in their heart, the results are always destructive.
Backman does a masterful job taking a simple setting like a small hockey town in the woods and creates a complex web of stories that take the reader on a journey back to their own story to reflect on their own response in their isolated groups, political views, religious beliefs, favorite sports teams… In what ways can loyalty to those affiliations impact your judgment and perspective causing you to dehumanize the people in your world who are hurting and in pain?
In Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, see devotes a whole chapter this entitled, “People are hard to hate up close.” In hindsight, Beartown is like the fictional version of Braving the Wilderness.
If you don’t understand someone or can’t see their point of view, don’t turn to hate. Move closer. Move towards the other. That is how we can move away from this dangerous isolation. It is hard and it is uncmfortable, but it is totally worth it.
That is what I think Backman is saying about loyalty, and in a small part, it is a major theme, a warning of Beartown, a modern dystopian novel about a small hockey town that you can only hope to survive.