A Woman in Gold (2015) and the American Holocaust

I watched A Woman in Gold (2015), the story of Maria Altman and her court case against the Austrian government to recover the paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis in Austria during WWII.  Then, I read the comparison between the movie and the factual account.  I think it was a pretty good translation/transition.

Aside from the truly moving characters and story, a real question is addressed:  How far can we be expected to go to redress injustices committed by our families, communities or countries?

The WWII Holocaust has faded from common memory as the survivors and their families die and are dispursed.  (I cannot believe Holocaust deniers even exist!  It is on a par with claiming the Earth is flat.)  The sad truth is that Nazi treatment of the Jews and other "undesireables" isn't the only holocaust though.  Indigenous peoples around the world suffered similar treatment and near genocide at the hands of Europeans "discovering" new worlds.  I am not as familiar with South and Central America or Canada as I an with Australia and the United States and their blatant abuses.

Sadly, the United States government plays the Austrian role for Native American peoples.  We wrote and broke treaty after treaty, stole their lands and their livelihoods, rounded them up into concentratio camps (we just called them reservations), starved and massacred them, disbursed them through disceptive land polices and "integration," and did our very best to turn them into stereotypes and forget them.

And how do we want to recompense them?  By giving them money for the sacred Black Hills, by letting them open casinos, by keeping their land rents and other income in trusts (as they are too childlike to manage their money), and justifying it all by the predictable (and manageable) disruptions and the length of years stretching between then and now.

I'm pretty sure they'd all be willing to use those unwanted monies to compensate the people illegally occupying their properties … probably even offering some the same arrangement as we do in national parks:  you may keep the cabin on protected property until no heirs remain or the heirs voluntarily relinquish it when it reverts to the rightful owner.

Affirmative action can be mitigating, especially for women and people of color, but it doesn't address the underlying issue of justice, both individual and cultural.

What do you think?

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