Magazine article Insight on the News

Apologizing for Sins of Our Forefathers

Magazine article Insight on the News

Apologizing for Sins of Our Forefathers

Article excerpt

First off, an apology is due on behalf of all Americans past and present for the inadequacies of our national apologies past and present. It behooves a great nation --and we apologize if any other nations consider "great" to be a denigration of their national history past and present--to be utterly contrite for sins of commission and omission, inadvertent or otherwise.

It has been a matter of national embarrassment that the president of the United States failed in his initial efforts to placate the People's Republic of China for the accidental bombing of its Belgrade embassy. It should not have required five (or was it six?) attempts for President Clinton to formulate an acceptable grovel.

Had he quickly dispatched the vice president or secretary of state, or both, to prostrate themselves in Tiananmen Square, the United States might have been spared the humiliation of the Red Big Enchilada's refusal to take Clinton's telephone calls of atonement--and never mind that the Chinese autocrats had a high old time cranking up public indignation.

We hope on behalf of American citizens that our current national leadership has mastered the technique of thorough and unctuous kowtowing when first issuing an apology for U.S. actions. National self-abasement requires practice, we concede, and there is reason to believe America is rapidly ascending the learning curve of breast beating. (We can learn from our friends, to be sure: The Brits have apologized to the Irish; the French have apologized for the Dreyfuss Affair; the Australians have declared a special day of atonement for treatment of aborigines.)

However, it might be well for the United States to begin at the beginning and offer a litany of apologies as a template for future mea culpas.

We would have to start, of course, with the Indians--and we apologize for not using the fashionable label of "native Americans," wholly imprecise as it is. The Pilgrims, those voyagers from the Old World who came ashore here, were beastly to the Pequot tribe. We sincerely apologize that our Puritan founders did not convene a conflict-resolution seminar. Indeed, the Puritans and those who came after were at fault grievously for intruding into space otherwise occupied. Terribly thoughtless.

Apologies also must go to the other tribes whose cultures were too fragile to resist the establishment of a continental sovereignty. …

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