I guess I should welcome such an idea since my children are mixed, being that their father is black and I am white, but something just does not feel right. I question by what moral principle can such reparations be justified? There has to be a moral justification for receiving money for the suffering of one's ancestors. What would be that justification?
I think all decisions having to do with lawsuits for money or government reimbursements have to be evaluated by the moral effect they will have on those who will benefit and on society as a whole. We know that the previous welfare system undermined the independence, ambition, and self-determination of those families who came to depend on it for many generations. We do not want to repeat the corruption of character that resulted from that faulty program.
As a society, we need to analyze the possible consequences reparations will have based upon knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. Psychologist Eric Fromm observed that people often desire to escape from the responsibilities accompanying freedom. Many times humans want to be free to do whatever they want while, at the same time, trying to avoid the responsibilities that come with freedom. If a government program encourages people to avoid responsibility through enabling dependence, that government is encouraging a slave mentality.
In the nineties, I spent two years as a foster mother to two black teenagers from East Palo Alto who had been dealing drugs since they were eleven. Their parents and grandparents had often depended upon the welfare system. They believed society owed them a living, and when it was not sufficient, these young men turned to selling drugs rather than working. They had become slaves to the welfare system. They avoided the responsibility required in a free society.
There are many kinds of slavery in this world and different degrees of enslavement. As we have seen, dependence is a form of slavery. Those who receive reparations will sacrifice personal freedom and self-sufficiency in order to receive special treatment. These reparations will postpone the movement towards independence and self-sufficiency that a portion of the black population has resisted since being cared for by Welfare.
In addition, government reimbursements will make those who receive the benefits beholden to the politicians who promote those benefits. When adults look to others to take care of them, it leaves them open to the manipulation of their minds by politicians who want to have their votes. Roman democracy was partly crushed because politicians began to provide bread and entertainment to keep the masses happy and submissive.
At this time in the United States, the minds of people can be enslaved more readily than their bodies. In fact, in the past, those in slavery kept their self-respect by retaining control over their minds. Most slaves never accepted the rightness of their enslavement. To be truly free, it is the responsibility of all citizens to retain control over their own minds as well as their bodies.
In conclusion, I would say that any program that perpetuates a victim mentality, self-pity, and dependence is destructive to the character of its recipients and to our democratic republic that depends upon responsible citizens participating in self-government. If those black Americans demanding reparations concentrate upon adapting to the mainstream culture, as have centuries of immigrants, they will achieve sufficient economic success to make it unnecessary to seek reparations for an injustice that they have never personally suffered.
It is extraordinary to see the change of sentiment in Americans following the horrific events of September 11. We went from reluctant, self-critical, hyphenated Americans to flag flying, enthusiastic patriots. There has not been this kind of massive, united pride in America since the early 1960s when John F. Kennedy stood up to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Since the late 1960s, we have been cynical and resistant to feeling any pride in our country. The disillusionment and cynicism that followed the Vietnam War led to a more critical presentation of American history and American heroes in public schools. Multicultural differences were emphasized more than the qualities that made us all Americans. Striving for world peace became a repeated theme, blocking out any belief in a truly just war.
Suddenly, bursting out of some hidden kernel of patriotism, Americans now love the very flag that has been burned in infamy more often in the last 35 years than waved in national pride. So how can we understand and interpret this phenomenon?
In those few hours on the morning of September 11, Americans discovered that there were evil people in this world. We discovered that, without any real fault or wrongdoing on our part, religious fanatics plotted to murder our citizens, assassinate our president, destroy the symbol and heart of our economic system, blow up our Capitol and the White House, and break our spirit. Americans were reminded, having forgotten the lesson learned in World War II, that human nature is not good enough to guarantee that there will never again need to be a war fought to protect justice and freedom.
The terrorists thought Americans would not support a war in which American soldiers would lose their lives. They thought we were weak, corrupt and cowardly, and that we would respond irrationally out of fear and terror. We surprised them. We felt anger more than fear, outrage more than terror, and resolve more than weakness. The majority of Americans comprehended immediately that we had to be swift yet methodical in our response because terrorists interpret mercy and pacifism as weakness, and showing weakness would lead to more assaults.
The unprecedented acts of violence against our land and citizens have jolted us into action and a willingness to sacrifice for our country. For many years now we have been misled into thinking our nation was unworthy of personal sacrifice. We lost faith in our heritage and the principles of freedom for which our Founders were willing to die. Although we are not a perfect nation or a perfect people, we are not bad or evil either. We have a heart to do what is right, and the American spirit has now been awakened to meet this challenge against evil. This test has sparked in our citizens admirable qualities long lain dormant-courage and unselfishness. We are now willing to sacrifice for a greater good.
As painful and heartbreaking as the loss of innocent, human life has been, it appears that some good will come out of it. Through the act of fighting terrorism, Americans will be able to rediscover the value and importance of living for something higher and more important than their own self-interest. Not since JFK have we been called so fervently to sacrifice ourselves for our country and for the good of others. Our national character needs a good dose of altruism and patriotism, and what better way to restore those qualities than fighting a just war which will not only benefit our nation, but may also benefit many nations throughout the world.
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