Jay Lenkersdorfer

Some years ago, while returning from visiting our girlfriends in Ogden, Utah, one of my friends and I had an experience we would not soon forget. It was sometime after 1 a.m. and we were weary from travel and wanting to get some sleep. I was driving my 1970 Dodge Challenger and was only ten minutes from home when I realized there were about twenty dairy cows immediately in front of me on the divided highway.

Having little interest in hitting them head on where they had the potential to get launched into the front seat with us, I cranked the wheel to the right and we did a nice power slide where I hoped we would clear the herd. To my dismay, at just the very last instant, my rear quarter panel above the back tire smacked the dairy cow in the rear end, collapsing the side of my car.

My first emotion was fear, but it quickly changed to anger as I surveyed the damage to the back of my car. Seeing the cow casually walk off the road without a single injury made matters worse. Even if I repaired the dent myself I was looking at upwards of $600 in materials and all that extra time doing the repairs. Coming to my senses, I realized that my car was still pointing in the wrong direction on the highway and those few cars that were on the road at the time gave me a quizzical glance as they steered around my dented car. The cows had long since walked off the road surface and were nowhere to be seen.

I’m sure that you would agree with me that since I was emotionally and financially impacted by these dairy cows damage to my evening, I should be entitled to reparations from all of the dairymen in Cache Valley. Even if the cows I encountered were owned by just one dairyman, each of the dairymen should be willing to make things right for me.

It’s at this part of the story that you must be thinking that I am a lunatic. If just one person’s cows were responsible for the damage to my car, why in the hell would every cow owner be obligated to cover my emotional, physical and financial damages? Of course, the example is nothing compared to the impacts that slavery had on tens of thousands of individuals over the early history of our country, but the general idea is applicable.

Right now, there is a renewed effort being pushed forward from the majority in Congress that suggests one group of people now living in the United States of America are entitled to monetary damages that they never incurred. Many elected officials are not only supporting this madness, they are pushing it forward as something that needs to happen.

This week in Evanston, Indiana, the city fathers voted to use taxpayer dollars to compensate residents of their city who have been damaged by the injustices of poverty, discrimination, and economic disparity. The details are still a little sketchy, but the principle has been agreed to and will be implemented as soon as the program can be finalized.

Thankfully, only those living in Evanston will be subjected to this ridiculous idea, but if it can gain traction in the Midwest it can certainly take root in other parts of the country.

One could spend a lifetime chronicling the injustices that have occurred since the foundation of our nation. Nearly every step forward has had an impact on someone somewhere. If we look at the march across America you will see that no group of people were more greatly discriminated against than the American Indian. They had a great thing going before the white man showed up and kicked them onto reservations. Sure, they have been “compensated” over the years with funding from the government, but I can guarantee they would give every bit of it back if doing so would kick the rest of us back to the European continent.

Religious groups are often persecuted because their beliefs aren’t mainstream enough or differ from everyone else’s view. My great grandfather immigrated from England and found that his religious beliefs differed enough to get him kicked out of Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa before finally landing in Oxford Idaho. I never knew the man, but I highly doubt that were he alive today that he would expect you and I to pay him for the hard times he endured. Had he not persevered and moved forward, I would not be here to write this column today.

This topic is so vast and complicated it is impossible to balance the score in the 1063 words I have today. What is sure is this: The debate about who owes how much to each group is so complicated that it will never be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. I could assert that with hardship comes strength, and those who were discriminated against in the past have prospered today because their experiences gave them the strength to endure. Those who believe things are unfair and have done nothing to improve their station in life simply pass on their negativity to the next generation of people complaining about things not being fair.

If my great grandfather had been ripped from one continent in the year 1821 and was involuntarily relocated to North America, I think I could guarantee that my life would be far better in 2021 than it would have been had he stayed where he was? I firmly believe that this one issue – that of reparations – is the one issue that if pursued will lead to the collapse of our nation. Some wrongs can never be corrected because the people they happened to are dead. Giving a man’s great grandson a pile of cash does nothing to compensate him for the inhumane treatment he experienced as a slave. A windfall paid to someone today does nothing to restore the wrong.

Let’s do everything possible to find a way forward. If you think climate change is controversial, try balancing an account that in my mind is impossible to balance and will have no winners. I love this country and want a future for my posterity and I’m sure you do too.

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