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May 01, 2008 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-05-01

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Editorials are posted and archived on JNonline.us.

Greenberg's View

eteved0givenbei -art.com


Divest Ourselves


s we enter the spring holiday
season, our attention inevitably
turns again to Darfur, the west-
ern region of Sudan where hundreds of
thousands of people have been killed and
millions displaced while the world has fee-
bly stood by. After all, Passover marks our
liberation from Egypt, which long con-
sidered Sudan to be its territory, and Yom
HaShoah commemorates our genocide, a
crime now being committed against the
A winter that offered such promise for
Darfur has slipped into a spring of discon-
tent for those who believe in the need for
urgent action.
A little more than three months
ago, President Bush signed the Sudan
Accountability and Divestment Act, which
not only established the principle that the
U.S. government will not do business with
foreign companies that do business with
Sudan's war machine and the industries
that finance it, but also offered protec-
tion to states, municipalities and others
that opt to follow the example of targeted
Thus, when the United Nations'
Holocaust Remembrance Day came along
at the end of January, along with the

annual rallies for Darfur, activists were
optimistic that state legislatures across the
country would embrace divestment.
It hasn't happened that way.
Only Arizona has enacted a Sudan
divestment law this year. Two bills have
languished all year in the hands of
Michigan Senate committees.
Meanwhile, the eruption of the long-
stagnant issue of the oppression of Tibet
could prove to be a costly distraction for
Three months ago, there were rum-
blings of a possible boycott of the Summer
Olympics in Beijing. China is Sudan's top
supporter and oil customer, and the hope
was that a serious threat to tarnish China's
international showcase would compel
Beijing to force Khartoum to change its
evil ways.
But now all of the boycott talk revolves
around Tibet, and the focus on China's
oppressive behavior there makes it even
less likely that China will put pressure
on any other country to respect human
We can't give up the fight for Darfur, and
we hope and expect to see renewed efforts
to pass divestment laws next year. In the
meantime, each of us can play a part in







applying pressure to Sudan.
Israel's ambassador to the United States,
Sallai Meridor, pointed the way when he
addressed the Jewish Council for Public
Affairs plenum in late February. Meridor
explained that he wanted to ensure he
wasn't supporting Iran with his retirement
money, so he contacted his investment
fund manager to find out whether his
holdings included any companies doing
business in Iran. After a couple of phone
calls and several e-mail messages, his
investments were Iran-free.
We each can do the same for Darfur.
Write or call the managers of any mutual

funds you own and the customer rela-
tions departments of your banks and
credit card companies, and tell them in
no uncertain terms that they should not
invest in companies doing business in
Tell them that you and others like you
who oppose genocide will not do business
with financial companies that lack the
moral clarity to make Sudan a pariah. If
you don't get the answers you want, take
your business elsewhere.
If enough of us take a stand, divestment
will become a reality with or without our

They struggle to absorb
a block of information and
then answer questions about
it, from simply regurgitating
facts to drawing inferences
that may not actually be writ-
ten down. "Reading between
the lines:' it used to be called.
I'm not saying this is a uni-
versal phenomenon among
today's students. Significantly,
though, reading scores are
among the few areas that
have not gone up on the ACT in the last
several years. Most of these students say
they never read for pleasure.
Losing yourself in a book is one of life's
greatest joys. When I hear some dismissive
numbskull say that we are now in a post-
literate age I want to ask which planet he
Because avid readers also tend to think
and write well. They learn how to connect
their thoughts through a chain of logic,
how to choose the words that will propel

these thoughts along, how to make the
language work for them. They have a tre-
mendous advantage in so many areas of
life, from law to the sciences.
When I tutor students I can teach them
strategies for taking the test, things they
can do to help with comprehension and
maximize their scores. But I can't teach
them how to read, and that's the frustrat-
ing part. That's something they should
have learned long ago.
They learn, instead, about something
called Communication. I have no idea
what that means but it seems to involve
YouTube, Facebook and people blogging
opinions entirely divorced from fact and
written in a form of English, rich only
in invective, that would shame a third
Don't blame the kids. They'll do what's
easiest. Unfortunately, easy isn't what life
is about.

Reality Check

Ripping Yarns


n the bookshelf in my father's
house was a set of some 25
thick volumes, modestly billed
as Collected Works of the World's Greatest
There were, indeed, some members of
the literary all-star team — Shakespeare,
Dickens, Tolstoy — in that crowd. But
there were also lesser lights. Among them
was the 19th-century British novelist H.
Rider Haggard.
Haggard wrote what the Monte Python
troupe used to call Ripping Yarns. They
were amazing adventure stories set
in Africa, most of them involving the
exploits of the great white hunter Alan
I was a bit intimidated by these books.
But when I was about 12, I picked up the
Haggard volume and started reading his
classic, King Solomon's Mines. What a tale!
When I finished, I immediately wanted to
turn back to page one and start all over
Money was tight when my dad bought

these books several years before
I was born. But he felt it was
essential to have the World's
Greatest Writers in his home for
his children to read ... when-
ever they happened to come
Haggard and several of his
Victorian contemporaries, such
as A. Conan Doyle and Robert
Louis Stevenson, were gateway
authors. Their works were best-
sellers in their times, but long
afterward they remained staples of juve-
nile literature. You read them and were led
to books with deeper complications and
more adult themes, which challenged you
to develop a sense of curiosity about the
I think of Haggard whenever I tutor
students in the reading portion of the ACT.
For the most part, these are bright kids
who get solid grades in high school. But
somewhere along the line, many of them
never really learned how to read.

George Cantor's e-mail address is

May 1 • 2008


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