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The Lunchbox and the Bomb

Each anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminds us that memory is not morally neutral. It leans towards good or evil, and four main perspectives powerfully shape every historical account: the benefactor or his beneficiary, and the malefactor or his victim.

To be the beneficiary of an action is less glorious than to be the benefactor, because it hints at powerlessness and dependence. But to be the victim of a crime is obviously more respectable than being a criminal. And while no one wants to be a victim, many people nowadays want to have been a victim: they aspire to victim status .

Victimhood confers a right to complain, protest, and demand. It is in your best interest to retain the role of the victim, rather than receive reparation. Instead of a one-time satisfaction, you retain a permanent privilege.

What is true about individuals is even truer of groups. If it can be convincingly shown that a group has been the victim of a past injustice, the group in question obtains a bottomless line of moral credit. The greater the crime in the past, the more compelling the rights in the present -- which are gained merely through membership in the wronged group.