Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times
“Essential… a hymn to the mystery of disobedience.” -New York Times
On the Swiss border with Austria in 1938, a police captain refuses to enforce a law barring Jewish refugees from entering his country. Half a century later, a Serb from the war-blasted city of Vukovar defies his superiors in order to save the lives of Croats. At the height of the Second Intifada, a member of Israel’s most elite military unit informs his commander that he doesn’t want to serve in the occupied territories.
Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, Beautiful Souls explores the flip side of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. Through the dramatic stories of unlikely resisters who feel the flicker of conscience when thrust into morally compromising situations, Eyal Press shows that the boldest acts of dissent are often carried out not by radicals seeking to overthrow the system but by true believers who cling with unusual fierceness to their convictions. Drawing on groundbreaking research by moral psychologists and neuroscientists, Beautiful Souls culminates with the story of a financial industry whistle-blower who loses her job after refusing to sell a toxic product she rightly suspects is being misleadingly advertised. At a time of economic calamity and political unrest, this deeply reported work of narrative journalism examines the choices and dilemmas we all face when our principles collide with the loyalties we harbor and the duties we are expected to fulfill.
My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America
A Booklist Editors’ Choice of the Year
On October 23, 1998, Barnett Slepian, an abortion provider in Buffalo, New York, was killed by a sniper’s bullet. Days later, another local doctor, Shalom Press, received a threat that he was “next on the list.” Within hours, the Press family was under police protection, and America’s violent struggle over abortion had come to the blue-collar city of Buffalo. In Absolute Convictions, Press recounts his family’s experience with protesters outside his father’s clinic, patients who braved the gauntlet of demonstrators, and politicians who attempted to appease both sides. With remarkable sensitivity, Eyal Press “plunges into, and transcends, a polarized debate that makes partisans of us all” (The Nation).