From Travis D’arby on Open.salon.com, “According to Harper’s Magazine, the United States owes African-Americans over $100 trillion in reparations, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, with a compounded interest of 6%. Is there precedent for such an action? Since 1951, Germany has paid an estimated $25 billion in reparations to Israeli Holocaust survivors.”
But reparations are not my point. My point is that America had a fairly shameful beginning when Europeans arrived here, wiped out whole nations of people, confiscated their lands, broke treaties and confined those who remained to waste lands called reservations.
As we finished with the native Americans, we were building much of this country’s economy with slave labor. We took away their names, broke up their families, kept them illiterate and dependent and mated with their women to produce children who continued to be enslaved.
And somehow we seem to ignore that history when we claim “God shed His grace” on us.
Now one might argue, we’ve redeemed ourselves by doing some wonderful things for the rest of the world. As a people, we’re been generous to a fault. We’ve even died in defense of our ally’s. But something is changing.
Today, there is a growing sickness in our society that breeds corruption and greed. Money is our highest calling and there never seems to be enough. But my most serious concern is we seem to have lost our social conscience at home and believe our actions in the world are automatically justified because we are exceptional.
I could argue that we are in denial. I could claim we have short memories. But I think the real issue is we’ve bought into an illusion, a simulation, to deflect our attention from the truth. It’s more interesting, rewarding and self-affirming than the reality from which this nation sprung.
With the complicity of our main stream media for profit, the defunding of our educational system, our religion for profit churches, our pandering for votes politicians, we’re losing our way.
It’s little wonder why the largest growing religious cohort are the “none’s”. Or that a little over half of Americans even bother to vote. Or that our Congress gets single digit approval numbers. Or that we live in the constant fear that even 300 million guns are not enough to alleviate.
Maybe it all boils down to guilt. Guilt buried deeply in the nation’s psyche. So deep that it can only emerge in other forms like our drug problems or growing poverty or failing educational achievement.
Whatever it is, we might take a lesson from South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela. Their truth and reconciliation program purged the country of years of horrendous human rights abuse.
Maybe we don’t even need to formalize it like they did. Maybe we just need to admit it. Many of our founders were slaveholders. Many of our national heroes massacred native Americans in untold numbers. Much of wealth can be traced back to their times.
Okay, no one’s perfect. And there’s not a single living person who took any of these actions directly. But like the Christian belief in original sin, to be born in America is to be born with the original sin of the people who founded this country.
A great many of our society’s current ills can be traced directly back to the sins of the past. We will never stop sinning but we can at least do an honest examination of conscience and admit who we are – not just our greatness but also our failings.
And finally, maybe we should ask forgiveness for being presumptuous enough to claim God is always on our side. If a God does exist, “It” probably has a long memory.
Robert De Filippis