We are just a week away from the next Democrat debates — this time in Detroit. Is there any chance that CNN won’t pander to the black audience there by asking a question about slavery reparations? Of course, the candidates won’t need any help pandering. My column at Real Clear Politics this week explains just how insane the idea of reparations is. Let the Democrats self-destruct!
Reparations and the Sin of Being Human
By Frank Miele
A not very successful 1969 film called “The Magic Christian” satirized the power of money to corrupt by imagining a crazy millionaire (played by Peter Sellers) who manipulates ordinary people to prove his point that everyone has their price.
The 2020 Democrats sound as though they studied this film to develop their social-justice agenda, but if so, no one told them it is satire.
Like Democrats, Sir Guy Grand of “The Magic Christian” uses money as a means to entice people to debase themselves. In the climactic scene, he encourages people to jump into a vat of excrement to take advantage of “free money” that has been sprinkled therein.
“Free money” should be the official slogan of whatever feckless Democrat ends up as the party’s nominee against Donald Trump in 2020. Free health care, free college, free food, free immigration — all leading to a logic-free free-for-all of “what’s in it for me?”
Nothing better illustrates the magical thinking of Democratic politics than the idea of paying reparations for slavery more than 150 years after the last slave was liberated by the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
Most of the Democratic candidates for president have embraced such a proposal — at least to establish a commission to study it — but they aren’t talking about the price tag, and none of them are willing to explain how it would be possible to fairly repay hundreds of thousands of long-dead slaves for their labor and servitude while not unfairly penalizing tens of millions of non-slave-owning taxpayers alive today.
Think about it. Who should qualify for reparations? Descendants of slaves? (How would they prove it?) Anyone who claims to be black on the census? (Would we see a sudden surge in African American population?) For that matter, is being “black” enough of a criterion? Aren’t there many black people who are not descendants of slaves? Would we pay reparations to blacks whose heritage was entirely slave-free? Or whose families had been enslaved in South America or the Caribbean or even in Africa and came here years after U.S. slavery had ended? If a person were of mixed-race background, would they pay themselves reparations? If a black person’s ancestor had also been a slave owner, what then?
Next, ask yourself who should be on the hook to pick up the tab. Would it be appropriate to collect the reparations tax from recent immigrants to America? My earliest American ancestors arrived here from Italy in the 1890s, more than two decades after the end of the Civil War. By what bizarre logic would I be held responsible for the abhorrent crime against humanity committed eight generations ago by people with no connection to me?
Essentially, the Democrats are ignoring all those questions and focusing on Sir Guy Grand’s question instead — “What’s your price?” The slave reparations are baldly framed as a brute transfer of wealth from one race to another in a kind of last-gasp homage to affirmative action. It is the Democrats’ tacit admission of their failure after 50 years of “Great Society” giveaway programs. Black communities are still lagging despite decades of Democrat promises, and the best way for Democrats to avoid responsibility (and keep black votes) is a Hail Mary pass that would result in a hefty check for everyone lucky enough to be on the receiving end.
In a sense, this is the ultimate expression of “social justice.” It has nothing to do with individual liberty, individual responsibility, or individual atonement, and instead takes a nearly god-like view of generational or national guilt. Just as Jehovah might have meted out punishment unto the seventh generation, so too will the progressives take their pound of flesh out of each of us who had the misfortune to be born guilty.
In the calculus of multi-generational guilt, there are sure to be those adversely affected who had no part in the crime. Why, for example, do people who live in New England or the Midwest have to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves when the residents of those states fought and died to free the slaves in the first place? To be fair, the only states that should have to pay reparations are the former slave states. Isn’t that right? It’s certainly fairer than making the descendants of slain Union soldiers pay millions of dollars of tribute money to add to the last full measure of devotion they already paid.
But that’s only half the story. Doesn’t the equation of reparations turn even the beneficiary into a kind of victim? Don’t they lose their dignity by taking payment for that which they did not earn? The Democrats don’t seem to have ever asked themselves what kind of person would accept blood money extorted from innocent victims (the modern-day non-slave-owners) in order to enrich themselves. Ultimately, this is just an economic form of the very crime that it purports to punish. When you serve up judgment with such a terrible slow sword, the idea isn’t justice — it is retribution, and making the innocent pay is the best form of retribution of all. Just ask ISIS.
But look, if we are going to displace Jesus as the judge of the quick and the dead, we don’t really have to stop with slavery, do we? How many other historic crimes against groups of people can we catalog, starting with the Native Americans who lost the whole shebang of a continent to swindlers, soldiers, and smallpox? If African Americans have a valid claim to a portion of American wealth because of the suffering of their forefathers, then Native Americans should surely get the lion’s share.
Maybe that’s the answer to the conundrum of how to sort out who did what to whom, and who owes what reparations for which sin: Take a broad view of the problem. Guilt, after all, is not limited to one race or country. It is a universal human trait that expresses our deepest understanding of our flawed nature, and if we all accept our shared guilt perhaps we can eventually stop trying to buy each other’s love (and votes).
In most Christian churches, there is a ritual greeting called the passing of the peace in which believers reach out to each other with the words, “The peace of the Lord be with you” and hear the comforting response, “And also with you.” Perhaps in this time of shame that we have invented, and recognizing that everyone has their price, per “The Magic Christian,” we should start a new tradition of ritual reparations called “passing the buck,” because — if we are being honest — that’s the best we can do. Greet your neighbor (anyone will do) with the words, “The guilt of my fathers is upon me,” hand them a soiled dollar bill, then wait as they pass the buck back into your hand with the acknowledgment, “And also upon me.”
Let’s face it, we are all guilty of the sin of being human. If you are going to start righting wrongs by blaming someone else, there is no end in sight unless you happen to believe in the creation story of the Bible. Then you can lay the blame for everything at the feet of Eve, who started the tradition of passing the buck when she blamed the snake. Adam, of course, learned well, and blamed Eve. The rest — as they say — is history. But history and the Bible also teach us that some debts are too large to ever be repaid. Germany will owe the Jewish people for eternity. America can never pay back the debt of slavery.
The only solution for history’s wrongs is not reparations; it is forgiveness.
If you enjoy reading these daily essays, I hope you will consider purchasing one of the books of the “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy. Part 1 is subtitled “Bush’s Global Failure: Half Right.” Part 2 is “Obama’s Fundamental Transformation: Far Left.” Part 3 is “Trump’s American Vision: Just Right.” My new book is “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” They are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. Also visit Heartland Diary on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1FmrOF2TF-njRznqoU4yjA