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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 20, 2007 / 4 Tamuz, 5767

Unchained by Idealism

By Michael Gerson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In many quarters, the role of religion in public life and foreign policy is under question as a source of hatred and extremism. But this year marks the 200th anniversary of history's strongest counterexample — the strange, irrational end of the British slave trade.


By 1820, some 2.6 million Europeans had left their homes for the Americas. And perhaps 9 million Africans had also made the journey — in chains, branded like cattle and packed like cordwood. Every slave voyage involved murder, since expected losses were more than 10 percent. Some captives died from disease; some starved themselves to death, thus willing the only form of freedom available to them.


The trade had been developed and expanded by the most enlightened and culturally progressive nations of Europe. Investors over the years included Isaac Newton, John Locke, the British royal family and the Church of England. Little stigma was attached to this mainstream form of commerce in the late 18th century. Opposition was confined to a handful of religious extremists (Quakers) and a few abolitionist societies in London, Paris and Philadelphia. Yet within a hundred years of these efforts, slavery was illegal everywhere in the Americas.


For decades, historians have attempted to give an impersonal, "structural" explanation for this change — that the end of the slave trade and slavery somehow served the interests of rising industrial capitalism for free labor. In a recent London lecture, David Brion Davis of Yale University, one of the leading historians of slavery, offered a different view. The slave trade, he says, was a "modern and economically successful system" that "fueled the first great wave of globalization." From Caribbean sugar plantations to Peruvian mines to American tobacco plantations, slavery was essential to the economic development of the New World and to the consolidation of European strategic gains against the Islamic world.


Slavery, Davis argues, "was not doomed by some implacable force of historical progress. And here I give most credit to the abolitionists, since without them I think that from the 1780s to the 1880s very little would have been done."


"The abolitionists" were actually an exceptional alliance. Some, such as the large, intense Thomas Clarkson — whom the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge described as a "moral steam engine" — were political radicals influenced by the French Revolution; forerunners of the modern human rights movement. Others, such as William Wilberforce — a charming, diminutive Tory member of parliament — were passionate evangelicals; forerunners of modern religious conservatism. Using research, lobbying, posters, petitions and boycotts, these allies invented the political pressure campaign. They also created a new way of political thinking. In their view, says Davis, "Providence could reveal itself only through a new human ability — the ability of an enlightened and righteous public to control the course of events."


Given today's rise of radical Islam, and the tendency of a few American religious leaders to attack the prophet Muhammad and advocate the assassination of foreign leaders, the role of religion in foreign policy is much debated.


The abolitionists demonstrated that religion and conscience can be a force for good in the world, that the darkest instincts and destructive interests of humanity can sometimes be overcome, and that idealism is possible and powerful. "While there is little evidence that human nature has changed for the better over the past two millennia," concludes Davis, "a few historical events, like Britain's abolition of its extremely profitable slave trade, suggest that human history has also been something more than an endless contest of greed and power."


Modern Clarksons and Wilberforces have much to occupy them. It was recently reported in Britain that brothel owners meet at a coffee shop outside Gatwick Airport to openly bid on the victims of the international sex trade — the new slaves. And I imagine the old abolitionists would react with puffing outrage to the fact that millions in Africa and elsewhere die of diseases that we could treat with our pocket change. Their example should haunt us.


But their example should also inspire us. After centuries of slavery, in which every day brought seemingly permanent brutality, another day eventually arrived — the British abolition of slavery itself, 27 years after the transatlantic trade ended. "On the last night of slavery," records historian G.M. Trevelyan, "the negroes in our West Indian islands went up on to the hill-tops to watch the sun rise, bringing them freedom as its first rays struck the waters."


It is a hopeful thing that such days are possible.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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Previously:


06/15/07: Zimbabwe's unending agony 06/13/07: Two parties fleeing the center
06/08/07: A different path in Turkey
06/06/07: An Islamic test for Turkey
06/04/07: Mass circumcise Africans?
05/30/07: A Big Enough Stick for Sudan

© 2007, WPWG

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