Ger­many’s in­tegrity vs. Amer­ica’s de­nial

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - PERSPECTIV­E -

As re­ported in the Chicago Tri­bune on Dec. 8 (“In 1st Auschwitz visit, Merkel voices Ger­many’s ‘deep shame’ ”), speak­ing for Ger­many, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel just do­nated $66.6 mil­lion to the long-term up­keep of the World War II Nazi work camp of Auschwitz-Birke­nau. The camp is known for the in­fa­mous sign at its en­trance, “Ar­beit Macht Frei” (“Work will set you free”).

Said Merkel, now 74 years af­ter the end of WWII: The atroc­i­ties “are and will re­main part of Ger­man his­tory and this his­tory must be told over and over again.” In short, it is a moral debt Ger­many owns and em­braces for­ever. This, in case any­one missed it, is in ad­di­tion to the mil­lions of dol­lars Ger­many has paid in repa­ra­tions to Is­rael to atone for Nazi harm done specif­i­cally to Europe’s Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in gen­eral. Not to men­tion strict Ger­man post­war laws against re­viv­ing Nazism.

is what moral in­tegrity looks like.

Com­pare that to the pos­ture taken so far by Amer­ica’s politi­cians who have de­nied own­er­ship of this na­tion’s moral debt for es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing the in­sti­tu­tion of chat­tel slav­ery from 1619 to 1865, 246 years, the prof­its from which, through agri­cul­ture, laid the eco­nomic foun­da­tion of this na­tion’s wealth, pois­ing it to make the most of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, which, along with our nat­u­ral re­sources, has en­abled the U.S. to be­come the world’s lead­ing power. Hardly any as­pect of our eco­nomic sys­tem, in­clud­ing banks and the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, failed to ben­e­fit di­rectly or in­di­rectly from the prof­its of slav­ery.

All this on the backs, toil, pain and tears of kid­napped peo­ple, whose de­scen­dants are re­peat­edly told that, de­spite the ac­cu­mu­lated col­lec­tive wealth they were in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing, that there is no ba­sis for repa­ra­tions of any kind for this theft of per­son and la­bor. In our schools, Amer­i­can his­tory text­books like­wise de­lib­er­ately fudge, omit and gloss over the naked bru­tal­ity of slav­ery, mise­d­u­cat­ing our youths, gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion.

This is what col­lec­tive, in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized de­nial looks like. — Ted Z. Manuel, Chicago

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