Are You Responsible For Other People's Actions?

Posted Sep 29, 2010

Imagine that someone you don't know, never even heard of and have no connection to whatsoever committed armed robbery and even killed people. To make it even better, let's say this person committed their crimes over 200 years ago, and thus, are clearly no longer alive.

Now, along comes someone who claims that you personally are deemed responsible for those crimes, and you will be punished for them.

What is their reasoning for this, you ask? Simple: You and the criminal both have the same kind of hair.

Would you consider this fair?

If not, would you be shocked to learn that many, many humans across the world consider this type of justice completely fair?

In America, this type of "retroactive justice" most often comes under the heading of Reparation. Some definitions of reparation reads as thus:

  1. the making of amends for wrong or injury done: reparation for an injustice.
  2. Usually, reparations. compensation in money, material, labor, etc., payable by a defeated country to another country or to an individual for loss suffered during or as a result of war.

Somewhere along the way, this concept came to mean paying back to people who were never victims of the crime by people who never committed the crime. People who were never involved in the original crime are either found guilty or given payments they don't deserve.

However, this concept isn't so strange once you consider the story of Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3 and more specifically, verses 22-24) In the understanding of most Jews and Christians (who both hold this story as part of their religion) most believe that all the children of Adam & Eve, meaning essentially the entire human race, according to their beliefs, are all banished. In other words, we're all being punished due to the actions of two people.

So is it so hard to believe that some Americans believe reparations should be given to and paid for by people who were never involved?

American Indians want money from me personally in compensation for what happened to their ancestors over 200 years ago. Well, not me personally. They want some of the money the US government has taken from me (and others) that was supposedly earmarked for other things to go to them instead.

There's just one slight problem with this: My ancestors were never even on this continent until over 100 years after those horrible things occurred.

My Jewish grand-parents fled their homes and came to America during World War II. I have absolutely zero connection to the tragic circumstances that befell the Indians here.

However, I fall into that one inescapable group: the white male American. Therefore I seem to be guilty of things done by other people I never knew and have no connection to.

Since I come from a Jewish lineage, perhaps I should be forever angry at all Germans and German Americans. I should ignore the fact that the vast majority of them weren't even alive back then and that even less of them were actually involved in killing Jews who may, or may not have had any connection with my family at all. I should demand they feel guilty and give me money. And then my children can demand the same thing from their children.

Absolutely stupid.

What happened to the Jews in WWII sucked bad, but I can't blame others who had no involvement whatsoever, just because they share some tiny detail in common. And I can't feel anything is owed to me just because I share something in common with the victims. By that line of reasoning, I should be compensated every time any American is killed or abused since they are my fellow countrymen.

And to think, this concept isn't even relegated to the USA.

The Muslims and Jews have been fighting for so long, most often talking about things that occurred generations ago. But what makes their problem worse is that their fighting never stopped, so every generation is actually involved in both offensive and defensive actions. And they will never stop until they understand that each person is and can only be responsible for his or her own actions. That the idea of making person X guilty due to person Y's actions is a concept that is filled with stupidity.

And many more forces in the world are at odds with each other over things that they personally never did. China/Korea/Japan are in a three-way hate-fest, and many more groups are at each others throats for things they may not have personally done or experienced.

My first experience with this "guilt by disassociation" came early in life. When I was about 10 (in 5th grade) some kid was being very mean to me. I didn't know why, so I asked him. His answer: Some other Jewish kid was mean to him, so now he's gonna be mean to me.

Insert jaw-dropping icon here.

Someone else that I never met or even knew existed seemed to share the same religion I had, so I was forced to undergo punishment.

I remember asking him, did this kid and I have the same hair color? Were our eyes the same color? He got mad at me for my response, but I believe in the long run he finally understood. I can't be responsible for someone else's actions simply because we might share some small detail in common. It was dumb as a child. It's dumb as an adult.

I refuse to accept any guilt or blame for the actions of other people, and I will try all my life to not hold person A's actions against Person B's. Hopefully if we can all do the same, we can get rid of a lot of useless hatred.

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