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Deciding to depart the North Shore a year ago I knew the pitfalls of geographical escapes. A change in location wouldn’t mean a change in me. Same person different location. As it turns out the political atmosphere ensure a homey sense of silliness as a comfort in new surroundings. It is unexpected, though, to experience a sensation of stepping back in time to have political leaders use group blame as a high form of justice. Unexpected doesn’t mean unknown because I am familiar with a system working like this. If someone from another town did something to one of your people justice was required. Typically encouraged by girls, local boys would go cruising for justice aka payback. Everyone agreed it would be best by far to catch whoever in particular had committed the offense, but this was in no way required. Anyone of suitable age and gender from the offending town would do. Someone, almost anyone from the offending side had to feel the just infliction of shame, fear, intimidation, and incidental pain for memorable measure. When a political says everyone today has a price to pay for what others did before they were born I see the good-old past fed oxygen and steroids. I hadn’t imagined the small town reprisal system was suited to the national level. Guess I was wrong. Seems getting even via someone in a group you feel has done your wrong has life left in it and possibly a good song too.
Tricky thing, though, to hold you accountable for what a grandparent did or may have done. How do we tell for sure who did what, or do we accept wholesale justice as imprecise and be satisfied? The answer to that might depend on whether you’re driving the blamer train or ride in the blamed wagon. Anyhow, it’s a delicate business to build policy based on assumptions about actions and motives going well back in time. An argument can be made that European conquest brought the evils of war and slavery to the New World. But before European influence was here someone had pretty much done in the Maya. It wasn’t the Conquistador. On arrival they found groups at war and enslaving one another. The Aztec and Inca went down surprisingly swiftly due to the Conquistador getting help from neighbors tired of becoming slaves or human sacrifices.
If you’re going to base present day policy on what ancestors are accused of where do you start and end; along with who gets included in what. It’s complicated in a hurry when both sides were practitioners of war and slavery. Is a Portuguese slave owner more culpable than an Aztec holder of slaves? We could ask the slave if they preferred harsh labor over a good chance to be among the chosen at the next human sacrifice holy day. I may be wrong thinking it an impossibly big and fruitless bother to assess the motive of a dead Aztec in terms of contemporary suitability. No easy task looking at the lives of long-dead slaves who cannot speak for themselves. Who or what is the authentic voice of long dead villains, victims, or heroes? Maybe J. K. Raw could guide us by being so intimately familiar with wizards; not that she knows any or they’d be a help except in practical magic, huh?
Funny business this social justice based on groups made victim by groups now damned. Blanket condemnation is easiest to place but is also least just because it asserts guilt without proof other than looks. You are pulled over for looking guilty. That’s bad, but maybe worse yet if you are held guilty on that basis. Is accusation guilt? In the case of a two-year old with chocolate on the face accusation and guilt run very close together, but we’re not talking about fingerprints in the icing, are we? This is more serious and requires a steady hand. Say you accept the premise of European abuse needing to be held accountable does that excuse abuses from other geographies? In particular now, eye the southern border. Coming across unquestioned and unchallenged are an unknown number of descendants of Aztecs who wiped out other groups and sacrificed victims in bulk. If acquittal or conviction is set by color there’s a name for it. Giving advantage to or acting against people based on racial characteristics is a short definition of racism. Is this OK when applied to favor ones you like over others you don’t? A standard that pre-judges according to appearances or assumptions is a system needing a lot more work before it will represent justice no matter how much retribution or reparation are desired. Conviction minus evidence or defense is a likely injustice.
For those who want (those who need it most are often less likely to consider the need) a longer look we can examine two nations that got the ball rolling to stop enslavement. England (see Wilberforce) and America led the cause while other nations kept at it until forced. Slavery stayed legal in Arabia (for centuries a major slavery player) until the 1960’s, 100 years after the Civil War. How much credit does ending slavery get? In rousing speeches that sacrifice gets much less play than overall blame for a corrupt system. In crude terms anyone related to anyone in the US before the Civil War is for sure among the damned for having been alive during and therefore part of a corrupt privileged past. OK, that blanket covers a lot of torso, but for convenience of the accusers it reaches the fingers and toes; those not here at all. Most arrivals after the Civil War were from non-slave nations where as peasants, serfs, tenants, peons, etc. they were essentially slave labor for the landed class. To hold the late arrival guilty we need to stretch culpability to its limit and include thought crime as well. (Apply that at the south border and nobody gets in.) When genealogy becomes politics we have a problem. When accusation establishes guilt we have injustice. Policy based on race is racism. What was arguably justified as affirmative action is questionable when turned into collective judgment.