The “Statute of Limitations,” and “Bills of Attainder,” are two long- established legal concepts which appear to be imminently capable of instructive use, in their analogic reference in our subject area of human behavior.
The term, “Statute of Limitations,” refers to the maximum allotted period of time, as legislated, within which a lawsuit may be commenced, or a crime prosecuted, or an indebtedness enforced. This classic, legal precept, was created to delay the prosecution of stale claims to a time when witnesses or evidentiary material, necessary to their defense, were no longer available.
“Bills of Attainder,” (outlawed by Art.1, sec, 10, U.S. Const.) were a class of crimes, created by the English Parliament, in which groups of associated people could be prosecuted; relatives of the accused would, additionally, lose their inheritance rights under a Parliamentary theory, called, “Corruption of the Blood.” As indicated, this archaic, unjust conceit has long been outlawed. The fairness and justice, created by the creation of the concept of the Statute of Limitations, and, as well, the outlawing of the harshly unfair Bill of Attainder (the latter, at the inauguration of the U.S. Constitution) were, inarguably, two vitally significant acts of justice and legislative rectitude.
One often hears defensive explanations, or rationalizations, regarding certain, less than acceptable behavior, unwise statements or revealed personality traits, to the effect that they are, excusably, attributable to the person’s purported upbringing, or his parent’s perceived inclinations. How often have you encountered, the defensive assertions such as, “If you think that was an obnoxious statement, you should have heard his father” or,”She is stingy, just like her family.” The purported blame for, lack of empathy, for constant anxiety, for inability to trust, for lack of capacity for intimacy, and so on, is defensively, cast upon one’s parents, one’s upbringing or previous life experiences.
We should state, at this juncture, that we are familiar with the long-standing, academic bi-furcation and on- going debate, concerning the competing concepts of “nature v. nurture.” We concede the fact, that while much biological phenomena are, in fact, inherited, some personal inclinations have, also, been thought to be natural, or, perhaps, socially heritable. Nonetheless, it seems to us to be defensively neurotic, after attaining adult maturity, to eternally blame, or conveniently attribute, our less than desirable traits or inclinations, to our parents and our upbringing. At some point, we, as adults, will have had sufficient life and interactive experience, requisite to the development of our own persona and our own self- image, to be enabled to personally admit blame, or take credit. It is more than tiresome to attend to long explanatory, subjective diatribes, attributing insecurity, or lack of generosity, or other self- confessed inabilities, to one’s past upbringing or family life.
It may, be observed, as necessary, that all parents, eternally, had parents, and that if such defensive attribution were, acceptable, applicable blame might be properly retroactive to mythical, Eve, herself.
There is a healthy and responsible need for all mature adults, to maturely recognize a personal Statute of Limitations, and to decree a cancellation of their familial Bill of Attainder-like ascription, of all that is felt to be unsatisfactory, to perceived, past family nuance; and to increase their mature, and self- respecting perspective in the recognition and significance of individual, personal responsibility.