As the US Congress and a number of state jurisdictions fumble with discussing reparations for wrongs committed in the past, Down Under Australia has determined that it will give one-off cash payments to Indigenous “Stolen Generations” survivors who were forcibly removed from their families as children to assimilate them into White communities, a practice that lasted for decades before finally ending in the 1970s.
A payment of $55,000 is planned “in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal” of indigenous children. The decision is part of a larger government effort called Closing the Gap initiated in 2008 to improve the quality of life of indigenous Australians.
The Dutch were the first recorded European visitors and settlers to Australia in 1609. In 1788, Britain dispatched a fleet of several ships for purposes of establishing a penal colony and in the following years established several other settlements, displacing the native Australians.
The debate in the United States concerning reparations is generally met with a hollow argument that questions why reparations should be paid by a contemporary population for wrongs committed by others many years prior. The antithesis continues by complaining that identifying who is to receive reparations is not possible.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his nation’s rationale: “This plan is about real reconciliation, how we get there, and making sure all governments are held to account – state and federal.”
Imagine that as US national policy.
The US shares more than a presence on the North American continent with a common border with Mexico. Often, exports are traded, both legally and illegally, from one nation to another, which fuel problems that portray the relationship in a negative light. Gang and cartel violence in Mexico receives an inordinate amount of media coverage in the US, along with migration and immigration matters, mostly critical toward Mexico.
In a risky and unusual move, Mexico has sued US arms manufacturers, alleging that, following a series of recent deadly incidents, their negligence caused deaths and damages in Mexico.
An NPR news article reported, “The Mexican government wants to put arms trafficking at the center of the conversation with the United States,” says Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, the head of security research programs at the University of California, San Diego’s, Center for US-Mexico Studies. “They’re saying, ‘You’re concerned about drug trafficking, well we’re just as concerned about firearms trafficking.'”
Unlike the present virtually unrestricted access to firearms and ammunition in the US, it is next to impossible for Mexican citizens to purchase weapons or ammunition; yet, in 2020, there were over 24,000 firearm-related homicides south of the border. Estimates indicate that more than 200,000 weapons are illegally trafficked into Mexico each year from the US.
A trade association for US gun manufacturers responded by turning responsibility for the problem onto Mexico:
“The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders. It is these cartels that criminally misuse firearms illegally imported into Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement. Rather than seeking to scapegoat law-abiding American businesses, Mexican authorities must focus their efforts on bringing the cartels to justice.”
The tete-a-tete between the continental neighbors threatens border security policy on both sides, requiring diplomatic and commercial attention to mutual interests.
It’s almost as though the construction of wall at national borders has become a fad among nations. Apparently history is to be ignored in this renewal of barriers.
In 122 AD, the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast across England, approximately 73 miles, to “keep intact” the empire in Britannia. In the 7th century BC, Chinese emperors constructed the Great Wall to defend against marauding nomadic hordes from the Eurasian steppes. That barrier is measured as about 13,170 miles in length. Recently, Greece completed a 25-mile-long wall at its border with Turkey to brace against possible Afghan migration.
Now, it is Poland’s turn to consider a wall on its border with Belarus as a bulwark along the 248-mile dividing line. Poland’s announcement has been joined by Lithuania and Latvia as Belarus has been accused of forcibly diverting refugee immigrants to the borders of its neighbors.
According to the complaint, Belarus has taken this tactic in response to sanctions against it for the airport arrest of a dissident journalist in June, when a plane was forced to land in Minsk, followed by repression of peaceful protests. In a joint statement, the three nations alleged migrants were being abused in an effort to challenge the sanctions.
It may well be that wall-building is a far less conflicted situation than nation-building.