In a world riven by conflict, reconciliation is not always possible -- but it offers one of the few paths to peace for a troubled nation or a troubled soul. In Bone to Pick, bestselling author and Newsweek editor Ellis Cose offers a provocative and wide-ranging discussion of the power of reconciliation, the efficacy of revenge, and the possibility of forgiveness.
People increasingly are searching for ways to put the demons of the past to rest. That search has led parents to seek out the murderers of their children and torture victims to confront their former tormentors. In a narrative drawing on the personal and dramatic stories of people from Texas to East Timor, Cose explores the limits and the promise of those encounters.
Bone to Pick is not only the story of victims who have found peace through confronting the source of their pain; it is also a profound meditation on how the past shapes the present, and how history's wounds, left unattended, can fester for generations. Time does not heal all, Cose points out. Memories and anger can linger long beyond a human lifespan. The descendants of Holocaust survivors and African slaves alike feel the effects of their forebears' pain -- and in some cases are still demanding restitution.
What is behind the movement for reparations? Why are truth-and-reconciliation commissions sprouting all over the world? Why are old wars being refought and old wounds being reopened? In Bone to Pick, Ellis Cose provides a moving and nuanced guide to such questions as he points the way toward a more harmonious world.
Newsweek contributing editor Cose (The Envy of the World) examines a broad spectrum of responses to the pain and trauma of personal violence as well as national tragedy. He visits American families victimized by crime and the World Trade Center attacks, consults a range of literature (e.g., Bernhard Schlink's The Reader and Laura Blumenfeld's Revenge) and travels around the world to see how ruptured societies cope with past human rights violations. While Cose meets several victims who agree that forgiveness helps them cope, he acknowledges that, for some, the return of normalcy and security remains a first priority. And forgiveness is not always forthcoming; Cose finds those molested by priests can forgive the molestor more easily than they can those who didn't stop him. While Cose acknowledges that some relatives and friends of homicide victims feel relief at the murder's execution, he's more inspired by those who transform wrath into "something more ennobling." He concludes that the truth and reconciliation commissions in South Africa and Peru provided more of the former than the latter; a Peruvian tells him that reconciliation must be rooted in fundamental change that has so far not been forthcoming in that country. Cose looks at reparations cases from Maori in New Zealand to Japanese-Americans interned in the U.S. during WWII. He contrasts the response to 1920s mob attacks on blacks in Tulsa, Okla., and Rosewood, Fla.; in Rosewood, unlike Tulsa, officials have supported restitution. As for reparations for American slavery (a book in itself), Cose acknowledges that the case can't be won in court, but makes it clear that the issue is still hovering and doing damage. The scope forces Cose to touch lightly and then move on, but the book gives readers a substantial nudge toward exploring the lessons of recent history.