March 29, 2002

I've commented before that you probably shouldn't be coming to me for late-breaking news or insightful political commentary. By the time I hear about something, you've all had plenty of opportunities to find out about it, so my mentioning it is not likely to change matters one way or another.

Every so often, though, I'll come across something so frighteningly stupid, or elbow-bitingly ironic, that NOT mentioning it in a humor-oriented entry would be as unthinkable as Sarah Brady buying a firearm for someone else, or as Michael Moore turning out to be an elitist hypocrite.

I'm speaking, of course, of the lawsuit against corporations that profited from slave labor in the 19th century. If the attorneys responsible for this clear violation of the old 'ex-post-facto' principle are reading this (a situation to which I assign the same statistical likelihood as, say, all the molecules making up my as-yet-unpassed feces simultaneously tunneling four feet to the left and reassembling themselves as a flying monkey), I have two words for you. One of them is "shut." The other one is a preposition. Feel free to use these two words to bracket your favorite colloquial epithet, if you please. Just don't waste any more of America's time, money, or oxygen.

Is slavery bad? Yes. It's reprehensible. It's unconscionable. And I'm ashamed to admit that during most of the 19th century, it was LEGAL in the United States. This sanctioned racism was such a blight on our nation's otherwise reasonably moral approach to legislatively-protected human rights that we fought a war over it--a war in which we killed over half a million WHITE people (not that the color of their skin makes them inherently more or less valuable, mind you. It simply illustrates who was paying the price for ending this practice). Anyone who thinks that suing a few corporations (all of whom are required by law to base their hiring and compensation on matters OTHER than skin color) is going to somehow benefit African-Americans needs to wake up and smell the Indian Reservation.

"Indian reservation?" you ask. "What's that got to do with anything?"

I've lived on two different indian reservations during my life. Granted, I was little more than a tourist, spending less than a year on both the Omaha/Winnebago and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservations put together, but I was THERE. I saw first-hand what happens to a people who decide that reparations are their ticket to a better life. Their lives become short tributes to the destructive power of the dole, alchoholism, and violent crime - in that order. THAT is the road you're walking down when you ask to be 'repaid' for the crimes committed to your ancestors.

I'm sure that if things were to come to this kind of extreme conclusion, America could economically afford to pay a stipend to every African American descended from a 19th-century slave. We're a rich country, and African Americans only make up about 15% of the population (note: I pulled this number out of my butt. Please don't blame me if it turns into a flying monkey). It would be the equivalent of a horrid new income-tax, but we could survive it. African Americans, however, could not. The lesson of the Indian reservation is a simple one. Racial dole will kill your race. You will wither as a people to the point that you are non-players in every possible arena, and the only successful members of your race will be those who refuse the dole and succeed on their own merits.

America has been fighting racism since at least the 1860's (some of us on the wrong side, I'll grant that), and Martin Luther King Junior's 'dream' is closer to being realized here and now than it ever has before. There are things we can do to improve, but suing each other for something we've already KILLED each other for over a hundred and thirty years ago is not one of them.