“The more powerful one is, the less meaningful his apology is.”
Apology means one regrets his action, pays for the damage as much as he can, and takes concrete steps to prevent future mistakes.
Individuals and entities such as companies say sorry all the time and often pay restitution voluntarily or as ordered by courts. But the situation is entirely different when it comes to governments and governmental agencies such as the military.
Nobody can deny that government actions have inflicted the most damage to humanity in the past 300 years, perhaps longer. This is because power has been vastly concentrated since the Industrial Revolution. The ability to kill and destroy by direct and indirect means has also skyrocketed. The trend shows no signs of abating, neither does the insatiable viciousness of the governments and elites.
federal government as an example. It has
good (e.g., WWII) and bad records. When
it does something wrong, we expect it to say sorry. Indeed many time it did, but to what effect? US
In most if not all cases, we will see that the apology comes very late, bears little substance, or offers no guarantee against future offenses. So if an easy statement is all about us feeling good and washing dirt off ourselves, then why not?
Like apology for slavery. Slavery was practiced for 400 years before being abolished officially in the
following the Civil War. Only in recent
years did the Congress issue a few pieces of paper (e.g., http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/31/race.usa
that apologized for slavery minus any true consequences such as reparation. Practical concerns aside (like who will get
paid what), it is curious how the always self-righteous gentlemen forgot to
apologize when everybody was still alive. US
Another example is the Chinese Exclusion Act from 1882. Anybody who arrived at the
shore automatically became a US
citizen then, just not Chinese, who if present in the suffered
many forms of racial discriminations by the Act as well. It was repealed in 1943 only after US China and the became WWII allies. On June 18, 2012, the Congress passed a
statement of "regret".
Needlessly to say, it is pure words.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. For the Japanese interned in the
a resolution apologized for it over 40 years later, and a puny $1.6 billion
was paid. Same with the US Tuskegee
and Guatemala syphilis
experiments by the . One must note that these horrendous acts
paled in comparison in brutality to many other atrocities by the US governments,
such as many past and present wars. US
Enough about the history, how about now? The
is actively engaged in multiple wars and
sanctions around the globe.
Most notably, in US ,
killing is a daily occurrence. A routine
after 10 years of fighting is well-known: First, the Afghanistan reports an air strike or night
raid kills a number of militants. The
local people say a number of civilians instead including women and children are
dead. The US denies it. Pictures show the bodies. For the one thousandth time the US
President demands US stop. The Afghanistan admits
“collateral damage” and apologizes and pays $2000 per death. Then the US reports an air strike or night
raid kills a number of militants…. According
to NYT the US
military is getting better at apologizing to the Afghans; but when apologizing
is a game, it becomes a joke. US
One can bet that the
government will continue to offer
apologies for the many wrong things it did and do, including violating the
civil rights of US citizens, but only at a safe distance many years later. US
The above characterizations are not intended to apply exclusively to the
government, as any government will do. Only
that the US government is one of the most powerful ones in the past 200 years,
the most powerful the last 100 years, and the unchallenged one the last 30
years. With a docile citizenry subdued
by fear and propaganda, the US
government has an unchecked power as it can be. US
Any explanation for the disconnect between governmental apology and reality? The usual legalese cover is that government has too many considerations. Like, who the victims are, how much to pay, what will follow, etc. As one ponders and time goes by, one has less urgency and incentive to apologize. The public is not enthusiastic about apologizing to a segment of the population, much less to foreigners, in protection of the country’s image and own tax money. The primary factor, however, is that the government is not compelled to do so, unlike a loser in a war being dictated by the winner. The only constrain is one’s own conscience, which means little for politicians.
So far what has been written is not really a commandment, which is what one should do in spite. Forget about demanding empty regrets from the governments. The citizenry needs to know what the government does. Clearly the less need for apologizing, the better. Next, follow up with any governmental regret. What does it mean, does it have teeth, does any one get punished? Don’t let apologizing become a game that sheds real responsibilities by the rich and powerful.