Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Review of Europe: Chained by History

It is only through the prism of hindsight that the anti-Semitism of the later nineteenth century or earlier twentieth century appears as a harbinger of the Hitler catastrophe.  Thoughts of eliminating the Jews had arisen among unrestrained anti-Semites long before the racial theories emerged.  The negative reaction to Jewish emancipation and progressive success in Vienna and elsewhere was underscored by a thousand years of resentment against Jews and Judaism. 
It remained a latent but mighty force that crystallized first into an idea, next a strategy, then a plan, and ultimately a stark reality: the extermination of Jews by the Nazis.~~pg. 173
--I get a lot of offers to receive free books in exchange for reviewing them.  As a result, I carefully pick the ones that I want to read.

--Since, I'm a history buff, I thought Europe: Chained by History by Larry Hilton looked like an interesting read.  I was not disappointed.

--I found it to have a lot of depth, yet, it wasn't difficult to plow through.

Part 1~The History of Vienna, Austria

--As I learned more about the history of Vienna before World War I, it helped to put into context what started the war.   It also explained how anti-Semitism was already ingrained in many of the people in Europe, which made them more than willing to go along with Hitler's plans that led to World War II.
Why should anyone care about a man(Voltaire) who died almost 250 years ago?  Many of us live in a world where we are free to worship, or not, as we wish, and to say, within reason, dumb things.

Voltaire understood that freedom of speech is the basis for all freedom--the means by which we enlighten each other.  To be happy, people must be free, and freedom depends on the rule of just law.--pg. 252

After a lifetime of dogged determination, Voltaire had cleared the ground and made it ready for the planting of the Tree of Liberty.  Whoever sits under that tree in any country, free to worship God as he will, and to think, learn, and do all that does not impede the freedom of others, is one who can progress to unrestricted heights of light and knowledge.  Those who live in such freedom should, in gratitude, remember Voltaire.--pg. 253
Part 2~Voltaire~He Prepared Us to Be Free

--I enjoyed learning about Voltaire.  Apparently, I didn't pay close enough attention in high school and/or college, because I don't remember learning that much about him.  His personal life was somewhat sordid, but the principles that he fought for were inspiring.
America is not a perfect country, and its history of slavery, racism, and prejudice against Catholics, Jews, and other ethnic groups is sad evidence of this.  But one thing that makes this country great is its persistent, if sometimes halting attempt to live up to its original ideals of equality and justice. 
Compared to many nations, America has displayed an extraordinary ability to embrace people from widely varied backgrounds and to take pride in the diversity within its borders.  Even when some states have faltered in their determination to be inclusive, America's strong federal union and national identity have helped the country to move toward compliance with its founding principles.--pgs.269-270
Part 3~Is a United States of Europe possible?

--I loved this last part of the book where Hilton makes some great points about the future of Europe and how the United States of America has been a great example of how to unify.

--The above quote about America not being perfect but great, reminded me of Condoleezza Rice's talk about her new book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom.  Rice and Hilton both make some amazing points about our country.

--Hilton's partial solution for Europe is:
If a nation values equal rights for its citizens under its laws, it must require its new immigrants to become educated about those laws and compliant with them.  Without freedom of speech, no other freedoms can be sustained.

And while people may fear voicing opposition to extremism, the desire to remain silent in the face of very real threats to security and freedom must be resisted.  If those who value freedom do not continue to speak out, only the terrorists acting in the name of religion will have the floor.
--At the conclusion of his book, I was inspired by Hilton's answer for Europe:
We can look to Voltaire and his lifelong fight for social justice and freedom of expression.  We can look to early American leaders who sought, debated, and won a way toward freedom, equality, and economic security for all.  Americans have persevered in this direction in spite of blatant and tragic steps in the opposite direction.  We can see from our own experience in the U.S. that freedom, tolerance, justice and unity are not easy to achieve and maintain.  But we can also see that they are worth any price.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Jews have been banished from 109 different countries--but it's NEVER BEEN THEIR FAULT.