One of the upcoming California ballot initiatives asks whether Indian casinos should be required to pay taxes. Thus far, this extremely profitable $6 billion industry (and that’s just here in California) has operated tax-free.
I’ve come to the conclusion that native American casinos should pay taxes.
Those who argue the other side of the issue usually do so because of the treatment native Americans received by the United States in the past. This leaves me wondering what one has to do with the other.
Someone at Tenth Muse brought up the fact that the current generation of native Americans was not the victim of smallpox or wars against the U.S. It’s a critical point. As a Jewish person, I don’t hold any post-war Germans responsible for WWII atrocities. By the same token, I don’t want to be treated punitively for slavery. If today’s generation is punished for the sins of previous ones, where does it end?
It doesn’t. And that’s a problem.
Taken to the extreme, consider Muslims in the Middle East who still hold 21st century Christians responsible for inhumane acts committed during the time of the Crusades. That was eight hundred years ago. (I don’t mean to pick on Muslims — it’s just an example that came to mind.)
In a “fair” world the native Americans would own the land here and all the Europeans would still be in Europe. But life is not fair, and in this case an attempt to make it so punishes people who have done nothing wrong. This breeds resentment and keeps the cycle going.
In the “real” world each generation starts over with whatever they’ve got and tries to make the best of it. Some are better off than others. And they should be held responsible for their own actions. But to make them pay for sins of their forebearers is to invite the kind of long term hatred and inter-generational conflict that is far more costly and enduring.
Whether you’re Jewish, native American, African, Italian, or anything in between, someone out there has done your people wrong in the past. We can look back a dozen generations, point fingers and demand reparations. Or we can take each person we encounter today at their own merits, working to build a world where the past doesn’t repeat itself.
Which is it gonna be?