While on the one hand it is indeed impossible to conceive of an "essence" that somehow captures the idea in Platonic fashion, there is one important reason to study the concept that should assist in understanding the situation that obtains today in East-Central Europe and Romania in particular. One issue that particularly vexes the newly liberated democracies is how to reconcile the concept of individual human rights with that of "ethnic collective rights." Not that the history of America has been strife-free. Certainly there have been racial, religious, and ethnic tensions. The European immigrants slaughtered much of the native Indian populations. A civil war was fought over the obscenity of slavery. It was won, however, by the side that championed extending rights to all men, irrespective of color.