"I mean, we in America," Mr. Quammen opined, "how dare we turn our backs on Liberia given the fact that this is a country that was founded in the 1820s, 1830s because of American slavery. We have a responsibility to stay connected to them and help them see this through."
This may come as a shock to Mr. Quammen, but slavery was not invented in Mississippi. It is an institution that has been continuously practiced by humans for at least the last 10,000 years. It built the pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon and the Roman Coliseum. It was, until the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s, the only source of large scale wealth creation available to mankind.
Nor was it finally stamped out in 1865. The freed slaves who migrated to Liberia established their own mini-Alabama, enslaving the indigenous African population and setting up their own plantations. And as late as the eve of World War I, serfdom was still being practiced in parts of Europe. And it was not liberal mock heroics or the political posturing of nineteenth century Republicans that sounded slavery's death knell. It was steam.
Furthermore, the ex-slaves turned Liberian slave masters are all gone. After a 1980 coup and two civil wars, the former ruling class composed of the descendents of former American slaves have alll either been massacred or have fled to Europe or America. Mr. Quammen's vision of an idyllic country of emancipated Southern slaves living in harmony with nature and their fellow man does not exist. In fact, it never did.
Liberia today has reverted to the condition it enjoyed before the American ex-slaves arrived in the 1820s and "civilized" it, with 85% of the population living below the international poverty line and three out of every four women having been victimized by rape.
From a humanitarian point of view, we may indeed "owe" the Liberians assistance in their current catastrophe, but to attempt to tie that charitable responsibility back to the Al Sharpton's bugaboo of slavery is not only insulting to our intelligence, it is revealing of Mr. Quammen's lack thereof.