TNT, I THINK I understand what you are saying, but there is also the issue of personal suffering and personal guilt. Members of my family in what was then Poland and Russia were murdered in the Holocaust, but I, personally, did not suffer, and I don't deserve any reparations. And the Germans, Russians and Poles of my age did not commit any of the crimes of the Holocaust, so why should I hold it against them?
I approve of the fact that the US govt. paid reparations to those Japanese-Americans who were actually sent to the camps during WWII, but NOT to their descendants.
I feel no responsibility for pre-Civil War slavery, nor the dispossession of Native Americans, because *I* didn't do it. I'm willing to take responsibility for my own acts, but not for the acts of others over which I had no control, and no say.
So... if the person 'deserving' reparation is alive, we should pursue the perpetrators, no matter how much farther in the future, but if the person 'deserving' the reparation is no longer living... the crime should be forgotten?
From my standpoint, if someone harmed my parents, of course I pursue, if someone harmed my grandparents, it's not worth pursuing? Ok... let's take this example: my grandparents were deprived of their lands/businesses by war crimes... these would have eventually been passed down to me, so it is 'my' loss. Crimes affect much more than the original sufferer...
In the case of North America's indigenous peoples, they spent 100 years in residential schools being literally 'fucked up the ass' by religious 'caregivers' and 'educators'. These people were messed up, they had children who ended up being messed up, who had children who were messed up. Messed up people make bad parents. The losses to indigenous peoples were not individual losses, they were losses to entire cultures, to nations. These are not war losses, they are crimes, in every sense of the word.
So yes, we can say "fuck it, it's not my problem", which means our contemporaries will also get away with that kind of shit if they can beat the system for a sufficient number of years. It the one of the common games our legal systems play... slow down justice to a point where people conveniently say... "oh, it's in the past now, lets forget it"... :(
Justice simply cannot exist if time erases crime.
Addendum: Another option to push this example of the passing of time to the extreme... what if... sensing that one's death is imminent, one chose cryogenics or life support in order to extend life in order to be able to achieve justice, knowing that if we're no longer alive, perps get away with crimes... Maybe it's the difference between leaving your children the family home and not...
It doesn't depend on whether the victim of the crime has passed away, but rather whether the perpetrator of the crime has passed away. My great grandfather in Lithuania was a landowner who had a lot of timberland. He sent his daughter to the US to get an education. While she was here, some kind of revolutionaries (the family story is fuzzy) killed him and stole his land. My grandmother was left in the US, alone and impoverished. So do *I* have a right to reparations from the Lithuanian govt.? Ain't gonna happen, even if I did think I had a right, which I don't.
And yes, the Germans did destroy the thriving Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe. So what are you going to do about it? Should every living German live in shame because of it? I deeply regret that it is gone, because I would have liked to visit my relatives and partake of their cultural richness, but who, exactly, should be punished for it?
I'm not saying that Native Americans and blacks haven't suffered, nor that they shouldn't be helped, but not from the perspective that WE did anything to them, but from the perspective that anyone in need should be helped, regardless of race or origin.
I never say that "we" (me, us) 'did' anything. But I do perceive that a contract (or a crime) is binding through time, and it is the responsibility of future generations to uphold contracts, and punish past crimes.
As for that lost land in Lithuania... well... it's rightfully yours if it was stolen from your family, so why not fight for it? Of course you may consider that a waste of time, but it does not change the fact that you 'could' claim it. I know if it was me I would.
So it begs the question... would you flat out refute my wish to reclaim my own family land?
Well, now you've triggered my reflex, LOL!! In the year 70 CE, the Romans, having gotten sick of the constant Jewish uprisings in (then) Judea, sent in a huge army, and decimated the population, and carried the survivors off into slavery. There are even coins and monuments showing the Romans carrying off the Menorah and stomping on Jews, saying Iudaea Capta Est. But the Jewish people and their descendants and THEIR descendants never stopped longing for Jerusalem. It was never practicable for them to return until the end of the 19th century, when the Zionist movement arose.
Meanwhile, the proto-Palestinians moved into the land that had been left war-torn and essentially empty, and to them, it's THEIR land. And when they either fled or were expelled in 1948, they never integrated into the lands where they ended up (mostly because of govt. policy in those countries), and they did exactly what the Jews had done -- taught children who had never seen the land that it was theirs.
Do you see where I'm going with this? The anti-Israel folks certainly don't want to punish the Romans for the crime of their ancestors, and don't want Jews to have any reparation for the first Holocaust that was perpetrated on them (Hitler's was the second), and they think that later Palestinian claims supercede earlier Jewish claims (quite adequately proven by archaeology, but which many if not most Palestinians simply don't accept).
So where does this lead? At the moment, to an intractable dispute. So I guess my argument is that I CAN'T change history, I can only deal with the here and now. I don't have the time or money or inclination to pursue historical claims, and I'd rather do my best to get the most out of my life as it is, by my own devices.