Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Centuries of the Blame Game

While driving around today I noticed a pick-up with a Confederate flag instead of a front license plate. Considering both Iowa and nearby Illinois were both free states, this was rather odd.

But it got me thinking about a cartoon I saw some years ago when Virginia wanted to hoist the Confederate flag over their state capital building. It depicted a trio of Afro-Americans looking on at a group waving the symbol of the Confederacy. One said, “I wish people would stop living in the past.” All of them were holding signs demanding reparations.

History’s useful for perspective (something we are genuinely lacking), but it’s often the target of obsession. Not only do people think things were better then, they use long-standing history to justify whatever they want and in doing so, repeat the evils they are trying to correct for. Afro-Americans used it to justify affirmative action, effectively legalizing racism. Zionists used it to justify Israel, kicking out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and igniting one of the worst continuous conflicts in human history. Palestinians are now using ancient history to justify kicking out Israelis. Of course slavery and oppression are horrible things but we can't let its past consume our future.

I have no problem in assigning compensation with regards to recent atrocities (like, say, the Holocaust), but these others conflicts are hundreds or thousands of years old. That’s simply too long to flatly blame someone’s ancestors for your problems—too many thing happen in the meantime to prove guilt. Stop living in the past!

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