August 27, 2015


It this deeply researched book, David Cannadine takes on the task of undercutting the view that people can be singularly identified by a number of individual factors, including (as he presents them) Religion, Nation, Class, Gender, Race and Civilization. 

He sets out to make the point, and does so effectively, that there have been many instances of collaboration and working together among people who belong to different religions (e.g., Muslim and Christian), or have been in two Nations, or of different “Civilizations.”  In other words, the borders are not inextricably bound.  He very effectively identified the mistaken historical views that have identified one or more of these elements as singularly the most important in identifying collective groups.  He rakes Marx and many historians who followed him over the coals with regard to class and many historians who, in later years, have seen “Civilization” as the all-defining collective entity.

In a way, Cannadine has taken on a “red herring.”  After all, it’s inarguable that people define themselves by more than one category.  One could be a feminist and also devoted to her country.  Certainly there has been a tremendous intersection of Religion and Nation.  In fact, I would emphasize that the commitment to “Nation” itself has become something of a secular Religion.  That has been true in many ways in the United States and Russia or, before it, the U.S.S.R.

Cannadine’s discussion of “Nation” is especially insightful for me in how it makes clear that so many Nations created artificially after World War I were really not Nations at all.  They were devoid any shared sense of national unity or historic or collective identity.  Take Iraq.  It was a Nation in which Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shia had been summarily bundled together.  King Faisal, the first ruler of Iraq, was well aware of the problem as Cannadine notes:  “There is still (Faisal wrote) no Iraqi people, but unimaginable masses of human beings devoid of any patriotic idea, and viewed with religious traditions and absurdities, connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever.”

Sadly, this typified many other countries (e.g., Syria, Lebanon) with which we are now dealing since their autocratic rulers (like Saddam Hussein) have been overthrown or are on the ropes (Assad).  There is really no end to the mischief which Western powers have perpetrated, first in creating these artificial entities, and then, under the leadership, particularly of George W. Bush, coming in and peremptorily throwing out the autocratic leaders who had held them together without any decent awareness of what would be unleashed or plans to cope with it.

This same basic problem affected Africa as post-1945 the colonies too often became Nations, lacking any shared sense of history, language or identity beyond that which had been briefly superimposed by the departing colonial power, then taken up by the nationalists themselves.  Not surprisingly, providing order in these circumstances has been extremely difficult.  No countries are evidencing this more than Sudan and Nigeria.

Still, today, I believe “Nation” is that characteristic which most binds people together.  In essence, Nation is an extension of family, which is where identity is deepest.  A Frenchman, Ernest Renan, in the late 19th century did a fine job of defining what a Nation is.  He insisted that it “was, above all, a state of mind and the expression of the collective will:  drawing from the past a shared ‘store of memories,’ especially of ‘the sacrifices that have been made,’ displaying in the present ‘the agreement, the desire to continue a life in common,’ and in looking to the future, accepting and recognizing ‘the sacrifices the nation is prepared to make’ again as it has done before.”

That says it.  This defines what brings our Nation’s citizens to identify with it.  It’s what leads the citizens of Russia to do the same.  And it is what leads the members of a great organization to identify with it.

There aren’t a lot of Nations or organizations that actually have the history or the sense of purpose or worth to be a “Nation” in that respect.


Let me briefly examine two questions:

1.     What are the circumstances that have led people from different Races, Religions or Nations which have been diametrically opposed to cooperate during at least parts of their history? 

I believe it has been when people different in Race, Nationality or Religion come to work together personally against some common purpose; a common purpose not principally connected with that identity.  I’ve always argued that diversity becomes real and operational when people of different races or ethnicities come together to work on an important project and see that, by working together, they are more successful.

As Cannadine writes in describing what characterized Christians and Muslims working together, it was as:  “They encountered and engaged with each other at levels that were more usually individual (and accommodating) than collective (and conflictual), and on many matters that often had little of anything to do with faith.”

This is why I’ve always felt it important to have groups of people come from one country to another and interact with people in that country on something that will be of value to them, e.g., learning how to do business, have a more effective government, etc.

2.     The second question is:  What has been the reason for people who have learned to work together across differences breaking apart and combatting one another again, with a “we/they” frame of mind?

The answer in my experience is when the group feels threatened by the other (collectively) on its principle identity, with the risk of this being tremendously expanded when a leader is present who elevates the threat to an existential level.

A classic example which I experienced was in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Muslims and Christians had worked, lived and married together there for many years.  But, Milosevic fired up the antagonism between Muslim and Christian and what had been cooperation and collaboration became murder and genocide.

Or take more recently, the relationship between Russia and the United States.  A few years ago, 70-80% of Russians viewed the United States favorably.  Now it’s 20-25%.  Why?  Russians have been led to believe that the United States is, bluntly, out to get Russia, to punish it, to surround it.  There was evidence in the expansion of NATO to support this and other things about which I won’t get into detail here.  And all this was escalated by all-too-paranoid rhetoric by President Putin mirrored by many in the United States.  We didn’t understand each other’s situation.  And yet, even now, there are common things that we’re working on, such as the Iran nuclear treaty.

Finally, I’d simply say that Cannadine’s book does not (nor do I suggest it tries to) deny the reality that a deeply imbedded trait of human nature is to compare ourselves to others in a search for elevating our own sense of self-worth.  And that this has and will continue to result in animosity between groups defined by different Religions, Nations, Nationalities, and Race.

Our task, as I’ve often said, is to see the other person in ourselves and ourselves in them.  To understand that, while our interests and beliefs will never be totally the same, we have far more to gain by working together with respect, knowing that our commonalities (e.g., the desire for security for our family, safety, a decent level of living) are greater than our differences.


August 25, 2015

A Wonderful Homily by Paula Jackson On the Meaning of the Eucharist and of Love

Paula Jackson’s homily, on Sunday, August 23, was deeply moving. It drew together a reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians and the Gospel of John which in part, cited Jesus saying:  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Here is “The truth of the Eucharist.”

Paula’s homily also drew in the heroic life of Jonathan Daniels, a white seminarian, who went to Alabama to work for civil rights and was killed as he protected a young Ruby Sales from shots fired from a white segregationist.  Beautifully, Ruby Sales went to an Episcopal Divinity school in his place and, as Paula said, “became a non-violent warrior for justice.”  And finally, Paula cited Cornel West’s hope for the “fire of a new generation,” saying eloquently “that fire has to be lit by a deep love of the people.  And if love is not in it, then that fire doesn’t get at the moral substance and spiritual content that keeps anybody going.”

Paula concluded with what I found to be the most meaningful illumination of what the Eucharist really means.  I can’t do her words justice, but what I took away is that the Eucharist allows us to be in Christ’s presence, to become one with him.  That is what the taking of the host and the wine means.  As Paula said:  “in the Eucharist, we receive the presence of life of Jesus himself, his love even to death, empowering us with the fire of love we must have to follow him.  So we can become his presence in life, given for the world.”

Something else Paula said earlier has to be remembered--and acted on.  “We can’t just co-op a nice-sounding slogan.  We need to be prepared to take a bullet for it”, much as those brave souls on the express train in Paris were prepared to do late last week.  Doing that can only come from love.


August 16, 2015

Reflections On “Bloodlands:  Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder

I have rarely if ever read a book which brings to life man’s inhumanity to man more graphically or conclusively than “Bloodlands” by Yale’s Timothy Snyder.  It reveals the horrific killings that went on under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler between 1933 and 1995:  over 14 million people killed or dead, outside of war casualties, the major components being:  the deliberate starvation of almost three million people in the Ukraine under Stalin’s reign, the internal slaughter of Russian dissidents and simply “out of favor” people also under Stalin, the extermination through starvation and shooting of over three million Russian prisoners of war by the Germans, the liquidation of 5.7 million Jewish people, very few of them being from Germany, under Hitler, and, sadly, these are just the highlights.

While I had read many histories dealing with the key facts on this period, there were many new perspectives conveyed to me by this book:

The “manifest destiny” which drove Germany to attack the Soviet Union, following Poland, to expand to the east, having been convinced that it could not create its empire in any other way (e.g. down through India) because of the strength of British sea power.
The incredible loss of life among prisoners of war on both sides.  I find it remarkable that Russia has been able to forgive Germany to the extent they have for what Germans did to their prisoners of war.
The extent of the internal killing of leaders within the Soviet Union, e.g. about half of the generals of the Red Army were executed in the late 1930s; of 139 members of the Central Committee who took part in the Soviet Party Congress of 1934, some 98 were shot.  All in all, the purification of the Armed Forces, state institutions and the Communist party led to about 50,000 executions.
Stalin took as his challenge to defend the homeland of Socialism, the Soviet Union, against a world where both imperialism and capitalism persisted.  I do not think it unlikely that Putin would believe he has the same challenge today, defending Russia against what he sees as an expansionist, ever-intruding force led by the United States that he would describe surely as “imperial” and committed to a unilateral set of values of which capitalism reigns supreme.
The ability of the Soviet Union to fight on after a tremendously rapid advance of the Panzer force is remarkable.  By the end of 1941, no more than six months after launching its attack, the Germans had taken about three million Soviet soldiers prisoner.  About a third of them would die in captivity or in death marches.
“Nazi Germany was the state that starved by policy.”  As Snyder writes “the entire essence of German policy towards the prisoners was that they were not actually equal human beings, and thus certainly not fellow soldiers, and under no circumstances comrades”.  The guidelines of May 1941 had instructed German soldiers to remember the supposedly ‘internal brutality’ of Russians in battle.  German camp guards were informed in September that they would be punished if they used their weapons too little. Death rates in some of the prisoner of war camps reached 2% per day.  Almost 110,000 people died in a camp near Minsk.  These numbers are absolutely incredible and the way people died was inhumane.

I asked myself what did the guards who oversaw this slaughter think during the rest of their lives.  Were they so riveted by the “do or die” circumstance, the demonization of their opponents, that they accepted this as just part of their duty?  The answer for most is probably “yes.”  About half a million of the three million Soviet prisoners who died were shot; the rest died by way of starvation or mistreatment.

And the tragedy continues goes on—demonizing the “other”.

Shias sees Sunnis trying to kill them and Sunnis vice versa.  And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs no elaboration.  As Snyder says, “no major war or act of mass killing in the 20th century began without the aggressors or perpetrators first claiming innocence and victimhood.  In the 21st Century (our century), we see a second wave of aggressive wars with victim claims, in which leaders not only present their peoples as victims but make explicit reference to the mass murders of the 20th Century.  The human capacity for subjective victimhood is apparently limitless, and people who believe that they are victims can be motivated to perform acts of great violence.”

Snyder avers that the moral danger we face is that we might be a perpetrator or a bystander.  It is tempting to say that a Nazi murderer is beyond the pale of understanding.  Reaching that conclusion, Snyder says, I believe correctly, is very dangerous.  “To find other people to be inhuman, is to take a step toward, not away from, the Nazi position; to find other people incomprehensible is to abandon the search for understanding, and thus to abandon history. It is to fall into their moral trap.  The safer (and for me even more chilling) route is to realize that their motives for mass killing, however revolting to us (and in how dreadfully misguided) made sense to them.”

It was Gandhi who noted that “evil depends upon good, in the sense that those who come together to commit evil deeds must be devoted one to the other and believe in their cause.”

“Devotion and faith did not make the Germans good, but they do make them human.  Like everyone else, they had access to ethical thinking, even if they were dreadfully misguided.”

“Stalinism, too,” Schneider writes, “was a moral as well as a political system.  A young Ukrainian Communist party activist who took food from the starving was sure that he was contributing to the triumph of Socialism.”  “I believed because I wanted to believe,” his was a moral sensibility, even if a mistaken one.

The book also provides telling historical perspective on the importance of Ukraine which bears relevance to what we see today. Hitler’s focus on gaining control of Ukraine was singular. He  knew as Snyder writes that “in late 1940 and early 1941 ninety percent of the food shipments from the Soviet Union came from Soviet Ukraine. Like Stalin, Hitler tended to see Ukraine itself as a geopolitical asset, and its people as instruments who tilled the soil, tools that could be exchanged with others or discarded. The German general staff concluded in an August 1940 study that Ukraine was “agriculturally and industrially the most valuable part of the Soviet Union’. For Stalin, mastery of Ukraine was the precondition and proof of the triumph of his version of socialism. Food from Ukraine was as important to the Nazi vision of an eastern empire as it was to Stalin’s defense of the integrity of the Soviet Union


So through all of this, I ask the question” “what constitutes the compass for a correct moral sensibility? “

 I believe it starts with that simple recognition and conviction that “everyone counts.”  That we all have a right to life and that an ideology or program that denies the right to life for other people, man woman or child, is an ideology to be condemned, whether that is a religion or political system.  It requires that we be aware of our tendency to seek superiority as an individual by comparing ourselves to others invidiously or as a nation by comparing ourselves to others invidiously.  It requires that we treat other people as we would want to be treated, in a way that we would regard as fair. Surely few people today would say that our treatment of the American Indian was fair or respected them as individuals in the way we ignored treaties or did not even establish a treaty to start with.

Establishing a proper moral sensitivity and taking the right action founded on it, also requires a degree of humility, recognition that everyone in the world will not see things the same way we do, certainly not at a given point in time.  And it must recognize that we cannot change everything and that sometimes trying to do so will cause more unintended harm than any good we can do.  I think here, for example, of the harm caused by our decision to invade Iraq.  It counsels us to be mindful of history and what it has to teach about what is the likely outcome of interventions in terms of will they really help people, more people, live the life they would seek to live.

While my position is arguable, I believe that religion has an important role to play here, at least I believe it does for many.  Because I believe that a belief in God and that we human beings share God-given rights, is a compass that leads us to carry out actions within our control and live by the premise that indeed “everyone counts.”  I say the position is arguable because there are so many instances where religious beliefs have proved to be the divisive force that have led people to fight and kill one another.  That notwithstanding, I believe the most fundamental truths taught by every major religion, namely to treat our neighbor as ourselves, will in the end guide many, if not all people, to the right course of action.


The conclusion of Snyder’s book carries enormous impact for me--as he wrote, even as we talk about the numbers, the approximately 14 million people deliberately murdered by two regimes over 12 years, these numbers cannot describe “a unique life.”  We must be able not only to reckon the number of deaths but to reckon with each victim as an individual.  “The one very large number that withstands scrutiny is that of the Holocaust, with its 5.7 million Jewish dead, 5.4 million of whom were killed by the Germans.  But this number, like all the others, must be seen not as 5.7 million, which is an abstraction few of us can grasp, but it’s 5.7 million times one.  It means countless individuals whom nevertheless have to be counted in the middle of life…”

And Snyder goes on then to remind us of  “the girl in the synagogue at Kovel, and everyone with her there, and all the individual human beings who were killed as Jews at Kovel, and Ukraine in the East in Europe.”  I appreciated Snyder’s saying that it is probably easier to think of 780,863 different people at Treblinka:  where the three at the end might have been those individuals who he graphically brought to life before their death in his stunning book.  “It is for us as scholars to seek these numbers (of the total individuals murdered) and to put them into perspective.  It is for us as humanists to turn the numbers back into people.  If we cannot do that, then Hitler and Stalin have shaped not only our world, but our humanity.”




A quite remarkable story, revealing facets of Churchill’s and his administration’s leadership during World War II which I had never perceived.  I won’t try to record all the detail.  But there are some insights and lessons to be drawn from them I want to record.

1.     There was a huge debate as to whether Churchill would even take over the Prime Minister slot when Chamberlain was finally deposed. Many wanted the more “temperate” Lord Halifax.  Indeed, at one point, Churchill had recommended Halifax.  There was a lot of “in and out” fighting which finally led to Churchill ascending. 

2.     The cabinet of ministers that came together was deliberately composed of all parties, Conservative, Liberal and Labor.  The amount of back-fighting that went on among them is incredible.  Two times in 1942, there were moves (or at least strong rumors) of Stafford Cripps and William Aitken (first Baron Beaverbrook) seeking to supplant Churchill as Prime Minister.  These came at the worst moments of the military situation when the Japanese were taking Singapore, Britain was losing in the desert and London was being bombed.

With these setbacks came genuine questioning of Churchill’s leadership.  It was the darkest year of his Presidency.  Perhaps like 1861 was for President Lincoln after the defeat of the Union Army at Bull Run.  And like Lincoln that year, Churchill had moments of deep depression, even tears in his eyes, observers reported.  Yet he never let it show to the public.  And it never broke his indomitable spirit to carry on to win.

There was jostling between the ministers (Bevin and Beaverbook) as to who would have control of production as Britain built its armaments.  The temperaments of the individuals varied tremendously.  They often undercut each other and conveyed their disrespect openly.  Their diary entries conveyed even more disrespect.  At times, and I think the book may overdo this, it would seem that Churchill was spending more time trying to control disagreements among his cabinet than having to fight the war.  But, make no mistake, Churchill was focused on just one thing, and that was winning the war and rallying the spirit of the British people.

Just as Lincoln had done with his cabinet, Churchill suffered the barbs and nettlesome behavior of members of the cabinet in order to get the job done.  He sent people who were getting in his way off to other places (Halifax to the United States; Cripps to Russia).

3.     The role of First Baron Beaverbrook was very significant.  A crusty, tough, action-oriented individual, he was the perfect person to lead production.   For example, the production of fighter planes quadrupled between February and September 1940.  The total output of aircraft in Britain from almost a standing start in 1940 was twice that of Germany; yet, Beaverbrook, who owned two of the U.K.’s most important newspapers, was extremely temperamental, threatening to resign from the cabinet many times and doing it once.

4.     What is shockingly clear is that Churchill’s colleagues did not treat him with the reverence that he usually receives today.  As the author writes, “They did not know how posterity would view him.  They saw him at the time as a great and prurient man, no doubt, but also as a difficult and flawed one.”  His hours were absolutely crazy; he drank to the hilt; he ran meetings in a chaotic way.  But he knew what he was about, just as Lincoln did in saving the Union.  His commitment to that mission carried all, and the British people rallied.”

5.     I, of course, had known that Churchill and the Conservatives lost the election in summer 1945.  I had not known the venom of that campaign as the Labor party decided that it could no longer serve in a coalition government and would come out to oppose the Conservatives.  Churchill had actually moved a long way toward Labor’s position.  National health care was being promised; minimum wage and much more, including nationalization of the coal industry.  But that was not nearly enough for Labor, which wanted to go further.

If we talk about demonizing political opponents today, I have to say that the 1945 campaign in Britain showed the way.  Churchill:  “My friends, I must tell you that a Socialist policy (referring to the Labor party) is abhorrent to the British idea of freedom…Socialism is an attack upon the right of an ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clasped across their mouths and nostrils…no Socialist government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, refinely worded expressions of public intent.  They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo.”

Really, I think it’s always been the same.  Often today, we feel we have entered new ground in the polarization of our political rhetoric and, compared to some eras, I suppose we have.  But compared to most eras, we haven’t.  One only needs to go back to the attacks made on Roosevelt, that he was about to introduce a government equivalent to Communism or a Bolshevik regime, to realize that.

6.     In retrospect, this story brings home again that sometimes we are fortunate in having the right person in the right place at the right time.  That was the case with Lincoln and it was the case with Churchill during World War II.  It was also the case with Roosevelt during the Second World War.  Individuals, by no means perfect, though Lincoln comes pretty close; but right for the time.  Each is an example that progress is not made without bitter debate and sometimes bitter accusations, one person to another; yet even so, they worked together to achieve a productive end.  Life isn’t always pretty, but you have to put up with ugliness sometimes to get a big job done; and it only happens when very competent people believe in something deeply and act with all their might to make it happen.


Acknowledging Our History to Promote a Future of Mutual Respect

August 12, 2015


This is a mind-opening book which, for the first time in my life, provides me with some understanding of the complexity—and the horror—of what went on in the borderlands of the Southwest in the late 19th century following the annexation of the significant lands captured from Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase. 

The story is centered on the massacre of 140 Apache Indians in the Aravaiba Canyon on April 30, 1871 by a combined force of Americans, Mexicans (Los Vecinos) and other Indian tribes known by a variety of names, including most simply, the O’odham People.

Jacoby’s history tells the story from the vantage point of each of these four groups.  It tells the story of development of this Southwestern Territory:  the Indian tribes that were there first, hunting and trapping, sometimes fighting among themselves; their raiding south into northern Mexico for horses and other livestock; the intrusion of Mexicans into the Indian lands; the sometimes fighting and the sometimes coming together, varying over time and by individual; the incursion of the Americans very slowly but relentlessly; the entry of the Army during the Civil War period and then its withdrawal and return again; and the emerging and varying Indian policy of the federal government.

Leading up to this massacre was a “violent vortex of raids and counter-raids” between the Americans and Apaches.  There was the classic disagreement as to whether this conflict was an inevitable outgrowth of the collision between “civilization” and “savagery” or could be traced to unfortunate and ultimately avoidable misunderstandings between Americans and Apaches.

For many, probably the majority of, Americans, there was a view of the Apaches as savages, unworthy of consideration.  A writer for the Arizona Miner wrote:  “Extermination is our only hope and the sooner the better.”  Another writer:  “They must be surrounded, starved into coming in, surprised or inveigled—by white flags or any other method, human or divine—and then put to death.”

During the period of the Civil War, the primary conflict in Arizona was not the North against the South but rather of the Anglos and their Papago/the People tribes and Mexican allies against Apache peoples.  Much of the combat was prosecuted by civilian groups, sometimes working in concert with whatever Union or Confederate forces happened to be in power.  A visitor to Arizona in the early 1860s was Connecticut-born Joseph Pratt Allyn.  President Lincoln had nominated him to serve as one of the territory’s first federal judges.  Shortly after his arrival, he noted the harsh measures of Arizona’s white population toward the Apaches.  “(A) war of extermination has in fact already begun.”  A number of Anglos told Allyn how they had recently invited a group of Apaches to a party.  As the Indians were enjoying the food their host provided, the Americans each fired on a pre-selected member of the band, killing some 30 Apaches.  Some settlers contributed toward a bounty “for Indian scalps.”  The Governor of the territory, John Goodwin, who had attended Dartmouth College, ironically a school founded to educate Indian youth, assembled a group with a speech that in Allyn’s words, “took hold by storm through its powerful advocation of ‘the extermination of the Indians.’”

There were actions taken following this to move the Apaches to reservations.  That was President Grant’s policy.  But there was the proviso:  Indians who weren’t prepared to do that were subject to reprisal, clearly including as far as many Anglos were concerned, their death. 

They could find justification for this, as morally corrupt as it is in hindsight.   This became a case of “tit for tat” though nobody back then would have used those words.  Over simplified, Native Americans were being deprived of land where they had grown food and hunted livestock.  Many believed that livestock on the plains was free to all.  So they continued to claim it even as Anglos saw it as theirs. Confrontation and violence followed.  From incidents like that came the “rationalization” that the Apaches were, indeed, “savage” and that firm reprisals against them, up to and including their extermination in the name of “progress and civilization,” was justified.

The history of the massacre, as it always is, was initially written by those with social power—the Anglos. An organization (“The Pioneers”) was created among many of the Anglos who had actually participated in the massacre. It described it in all-too-predictable way:  “The Apaches had gotten what they deserved”--this even though the camp was attacked at dawn, with people asleep, and that women and children were intentionally slaughtered and some taken into captivity. 

As time went on, the true story emerged.  The history could not be hidden.  And there is a small museum that has been created to commemorate the history of the Apaches and this horrible incident.

There were some Americans who opposed this dehumanization of the Indian at the time, but they were in the distinct minority, just as was the case with blacks during the era of slavery—and after—just as was the case with Jews in Germany, Poland and many other countries where people had been dehumanized and come to be seen as the “other” to the extent that they could be exterminated without remorse.

I appreciate how Karl Jacoby ends his book.  He writes that “to collapse the stories running through the Camp Grant Massacre into a single tale of genocide possesses its own perils.  Not because such an account misstates the violence directed against the Apache, but because it risks reducing the stories about (the event) into a narrative solely about the actions and intentions of the incident’s perpetrators.  The ability of many of the Apaches to elude the exterminatory violence directed toward them from the 17th century onwards and to undertake raids, war parties and peace negotiations of their own is a no less important story—indeed for the Apache, this tale of survival is arguably the preeminent narrative to be told about their past.”  While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the ability of blacks who were brought to this country as slaves to have achieved all they have in our country, through courage and sacrifice and sheer persistence, is the uniquely “preeminent narrative to be told about their past,” it is one from which to take glory.

Hearkening to the history of slavery in our nation, I’d close with the closing words of this fine book as Jacoby writes:  “What this past asks of us is a willingness to recount ‘all’ our stories—our darkest tales as well as our most inspiring ones—and to ponder those stories that violence has silenced forever.  For until we recognize our shared capacity for inhumanity, how can we ever hope to tell stories of our mutual humanity?” 

Indeed, that is what all the peoples and nations of the world must do; be honest about its history, its dark moments and its bright moments, to recognize that no peoples or nation has been perfect; indeed, all of us are flawed by the flaws of humanity.  From this honest perspective hopefully can come the humility and the shared recognition of our common humanity that can bring us to live in accord with our better natures, helping one another, living in peace.