Contribution: We Must Pay Reparations Before Change Will Occur

Don't shoot the messenger.
Don’t shoot the messenger.

Violations by police occur. I encountered this article via Facebook, and upon reading it, deeply resonated with its content, a content that strongly identifies what I am also wanting to identify as the malaise of our society. As a Canadian, I am not in any way wanting to point fingers at Americans; I believe the thoughts expressed are simply the tip of the iceberg that is our Western society. I have Larry’s permission to copy it here, and thank him for his contribution.

For me, the basic message is two-fold:

  • address the systemic issues. That is where the major difficulties of our culture exists; the individual examples that distress us are simply and mainly examples of how the system works.
  • don’t shoot the messenger. Don’t tolerate violations by the messenger, but don’t shoot the messenger. He or she is simply doing the dictates of the system.

We Must Pay Reparations Before Change Will Occur

Larry Winters, 2016 July 16

What do Americans want?

As a Vietnam Combat veteran I’ve asked this question since 1967. I did my duty in an unjust and immoral war and then came home to find my country directing their rage at me and my fellow veterans, not at the people who engineered and underwrote the war.

Fifty years later, this generational schism has never closed. There is a similar split opening now between the public and the police. We are living through very dangerous times and, of course, Americans want protection from crime and violence by having our police step between us and the perpetrators. But once again we are unable to separate our anger at the root causes from the people and agencies charged with protecting us. And today each mistake a police officer makes becomes a bullhorn for the anguish of living in a dangerous world.

Like American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, our police work and live on the front lines. They do not make the rules of engagement. They simply serve the power structure of this country: the politicians, the generals, the congress, the Supreme Court. In turn, the people in those positions are controlled by big business interests, and they are the ones who then determine how well funded troops and police will be in the wars and street battles.

As a result, our country’s policing infrastructure is underfunded, and our police officers are underpaid, undereducated, and inadequately supported by the government and public. Just like Americas veterans. And if our politicians don’t acknowledge this chasm between our public and its protectors, it’s clear we shall step further into pandemonium.

So maybe the question is not what do Americans want, but what do they need? We need to face who we are. Our ancestors have committed courageous acts. They have also participated in holocausts starting with the native peoples of America and continuing on through the promotion of slavery, bigotry, and all the unjust and immoral wars right up to this very day. When we look honestly at how our past and present remain connected, we see a vast moral and financial debt that has never been paid. Years of politicians feeding the public the American dream has lead us to the current capitalist nightmare. The unpaid reparations for our present and historical deeds are nothing more than institutionalized moral corruption.

Instead of owning our past, and attending to social amends necessary for recovering moral balance we continue the legacy that every American has an equal chance at prosperity and safety. Instead of confronting leadership on taking moral responsibility the public and media focuses on the mechanics of our dilemmas, where the burden of change is on the men and women on the front lines. The leadership believes fixing the police, repairs the historical race issues. This over used myopic focus has provided no substantive changes. Only when we begin to pay long owed historical reparations of respect, truthful dialogue, and moral and financial recompense for the human rights we’ve ignored and continue to ignore, will we stop our focus on what Americans want, and consider what Americans need.

Larry is a retired psychotherapist, an ex-combat Marine, and the author of two books: The Making and Unmaking of a Marine and Brotherkeeper.

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