by Bill Krumbein, Santa Rosa, CA
Dear Mr. Future President-elect:
May I suggest that your first item of action as President of the United States be addressed in your acceptance speech – specifically in the form of an apology to our nation and the world – an apology for the U.S. government’s transgressions over the past eight years.
Making apologies is not something to be taken lightly. As our leader, it would take courage and boldness to publicly admit our nation’s mistakes.
Other contemporary world leaders recognized the importance and necessity of apology.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, June 08, apologized for the longtime government policy that forcibly removed native people’s children from their homes to attend state-funded schools designed to assimilate them. The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said ‘the apology will go a long way toward repairing the relationship between aboriginals and the rest of Canada.’
Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Feb.08, gave a live broadcast apologizing for policies that degraded its indigenous people: “We apologize for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the third speech ever delivered in German to the Israeli parliament, used “Shoah”, the Hebrew word for Holocaust: “The Shoah fills us Germans with shame. I bow before the victims. I bow before the survivors and before all those who helped them survive.”
A sincere apology lies at the core beliefs of most cultures as a way of making things right, or at least striving in that direction.
· The Tao Te Ching (500? B.C.E.). “A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it.”
· The Bible, Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.”
· The Quran, The Counsel [42.40], “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. For Allah loveth not those who do wrong.”
· “Jewish tradition holds that ‘Teshuvah’ consists of several stages: the sinner must recognize his sin, feel sincere remorse, undo any damage he has done and pacify the victim of his offense, and resolve never to commit the sin again.” “Jewish Literacy” (1991), page 542 by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.
What will you be apologizing for? The Bush-Cheney government has placed a higher value on corporate welfare than it has on its peoples’ welfare. The Preamble to the Constitution begins “We the people …” It does not say “We the corporations …”. Corporations are not people. Our own government is the cause of a damaged economy, damaged social programs, a crumbling infrastructure, overstressed military, threatened environment and an appalling healthcare system.
Instead of contributing to our health, safety and wise stewardship of our natural resources, government managers, scientists and other professionals were told to manipulate and withhold data only to serve ideology and special interest groups.
The damage doesn’t stop at our borders. This same government caused economic, human and environmental suffering throughout the world. What is called free trade for one nation often translates into the exploitation of workers in other nations.
George McGovern writes: “Bush and Cheney … have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world… their policies – especially the war in Iraq --- have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States.” Washingtonpost.com, January 6, 2008
And there’s more! Coming from a surprising source, Newt Gingrich has a related suggestion that dovetails perfectly with your apology and will enhance its effectiveness. He proposed in Foreign Policy (Jan./Feb. 2008) that the new president-elect should take a pre-inauguration tour of the world, not to talk, but to listen to world leaders of all kinds, not just the friendly ones. Gingrich writes, “This simple exercise of asking for advice and listening carefully and sympathetically will, in almost every part of the world, lead to dramatically improved relations and perceptions.”
Mr. President-elect, your acceptance speech is a perfect opportunity to apologize for our nation’s past behavior. First, I’d like to hear you tell us you’re sorry for all these horrible deeds; second, as our President, to take responsibility for these matters; and third, tell us how you and your administration will make things right – right for us, right for other countries, and right for the world.
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