For the second straight year I've had the pleasure of an extended visit with my daughter in London, and for the second year, the themes of liberty and rights–and how closely related they are to conflict and religion–have been prominent.

Last year, we saw Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral. The fact that one not-so-large sheet of parchment changed the trajectory of western civilization from despotism to liberty is powerful evidence that the pen is ultimately mightier than the sword. (Regarding Magna Carta: the way the copyist managed to write each letter and space each line with a precision indistinguishable from modern print technologies is truly incredible.)

Last week we toured Scotland, and wherever we went, we heard stories of earlier generations of Scottish freedom fighters, saw the castles (including the famous one overlooking Edinburgh from its perch on top of a volcanic upthrust) used to defend against aggressors, and relived the conflicts between different peoples and religions. Then on Memorial Day, on a day trip to Cambridge, we saw the hallowed cemetery where 3,811 of the approximately 30,000 graves of US airmen who died while flying combat missions out of England in World War II.

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