The Slavery of Eternal Guilt
Q: Should Americans feel responsible for what occurred in the past, such as the seizure of native land?
A: Some Americans can apparently be made to feel guilty about anything. If your propaganda machine is big enough, such guilt inducement is certainly possible. Some small fraction of the internet (millions of computers) does exactly that job.
Fortunately, we have the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. You may be familiar with its well understood position on double jeopardy. Even if you yourself personally committed a crime, if a jury does not convict you in a court of law, you cannot be tried again for that crime. So not only could you get away with it, it would be unconstitutional for anyone to punish you for it.
Now if I didn’t do something, how the hell should I feel guilty for it when I have constitutional protection even if I *did* do it?
I understand that this is a question of *should* but the principle involved in the development of the 6th Amendment is absolutely vital to the question of justice in the civilized world. We know that people who have been wronged need repair of two sorts. Healing and curing. Curing means what is stolen is returned, what’s broken is fixed. Healing means your peace of mind has been restored to normal. (Healing, Curing & Hate Crimes)
Asking people to feel guilty might add in healing, on the other hand it might not. But guilty feelings are never going to cure. Aside from that, what if guilty feelings inspire people to take action? If you decide that it’s right for somebody to feel guilty (but not *be* guilty) how long will a lack of healing push you to determine that they *are* guilty? When healing is accomplished, an apology is all that is ever needed. When healing is not accomplished, no amount of apology can ever be satisfactory, and people then (being people) start to say that it is an injustice. They therefore invoke these guilty feelings as justification to involve the force of law in punishing. Your example – seizure of native land, is excellent. Because some people have decided that they cannot be healed, they have not been cured and that somebody must be held accountable, essentially forever.
Do you see the problem here? Do you understand how the 6th Amendment stops this endless cycle of recrimination?
So really the *should* question boils down to a question of whether or not we should have a 6th Amendment. I say absolutely we should and we do. And quite frankly I don’t care what anybody *feels* about that. I am not subject to other people’s feelings. In that direction lies eternal slavery.