Should the Present Apologize for the Past?

That’s a question state legislators are going to have to deal with. Right now it is about apologizing for eugenics. Next, I’m sure, will be slavery. After that, what? Global Warming hysteria?

Do we really want to get in a habit of the present apologizing for the past? If we apologize, should we then pay restitution?


  1. Mike Hauncho says:

    Mistakes were made but what does an apology do to make up for any of it? This whole push by the media and everyone to get people to apologize is ridiculous. Let’s start working to solve problems and coming up with ideas on how not to make mistakes in the future and worry less about the negatives of the past.

  2. john.d says:

    Its fair to admit what circumstances make us who we are. But that goes for everyone – including decedents of those effected.

    Not sure if an apology is necessary.

  3. grabbingsand says:

    In certain cases, these apologies can be a remarkably good step in the right direction. Though the elected officials themselves have changed, the actual governmental body can be a constant entity over many, many years. And if that body was complicit in a past wrong, an apology can put to rest some of the darker moments of our history.

    In 1996, the United Methodist Church apologized formally for an American Indian massacre in 1864. The way the apology is worded brings the matter into focus:

    “Whereas, Chief Black Kettle had been told that if he flew this flag, his village would be protected from any American aggression because Americans would not fire on anyone under the protection of the U.S. flag; and

    Whereas, the First Colorado Cavalry, a unit of Colorado volunteers under the command of Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist lay preacher, led a pre-dawn attack on Black Kettle’s village, killing and then mutilating many Cheyenne, mostly helpless and unarmed women and children; and

    Whereas, this atrocity, had it been committed in 1995, would have been condemned by all the nations of the world, and those responsible would have been branded and tried as war criminals …

    Whereas, the people called Methodists have never apologized to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people for the atrocities committed at Sand Creek, Colorado, by one of their own clergy members, who, although commissioned as an officer of war, was commissioned by the Church as an officer to bring peace and reconciliation to all of God’s people …

    Therefore, be it resolved, that this body of the 1996 General Conference extend to all Cheyenne and Arapaho a hand of reconciliation and ask forgiveness for the death of over 200 persons, mostly women and children, who died in this state where this great conference is being held.”*

    In other words, it is a way of saying that the actions that were condoned by the church then would never be condoned now.

  4. Nicki says:

    Yes and no. Yes to apologie. They are harmless to the apologizer, and sometimes significant to the apologizee. No to reparations — the transaction is meaningless since the affected parties are not available to either be punished or paid, and the amounts generated to the beneficiaries are paltry.

  5. mercergirl says:

    Yeah but once you apologize it’s like you are opening the door to reparations- “hey you apologized so even though you didn’t do it you are taking responsibility for it- so write me a check”

    Speaking of, Shelby Steele was on CNN last night addressing this issue on Glenn Beck’s show (he’s my new favorite alternative to Hannity and Colmes). I thought he did a good job expressing “white guilt” from a black mans point of view.

  6. ColinATL says:

    mercergirl, your slippery slope argument is not accurate. If the legislature feels sorry and is apologetic that eugenics were ever officially endorsed, then an apology is totally appropriate. But reparations are truly a different argument, with so much more entering into the legislative equation, not the least of which is whether they can afford it.

    My point is the legislature can simply say no to reparations and be done with it. No doors are opened by the apology.

  7. Mad Dog says:

    The question as asked, Should the present apologize for the Past? is not the best form.

    Would the present exist without the past?

    Having properly asked the question, the answer becomes more difficult, not more simple.

    Had their been reparations, as some suggest, 40 acres and a mule, what present value would those have?

    To suggest that every mule given away in 1865 would have survived the first winter would be far from rational.

    Or, to suggest every hard scramble 40 acre plot would now be a wealthy ranch would be just as empty of reason.

    How do we ‘reason’ for the economic collapses like 1893 or 1929?

    We have no time machines to jump either forward or backwards and get a firm answer.

    What do we know?

    Millions of lives were changed by slavery. Millions died within the institution and hundreds of thousands died to end the institution.

    The United States encapsulates the net, the plus or minus, benefit from the experiment in massive, government sanctioned racism.

    No one mechanism will capture the negatives or the positives remaining today. Nor will one mechanism educate the living to the lives lost and won by the complexities of hunting, capturing, and breeding humans as if they were animals.

    Was human misery under slavery a positive or a negative to our development?

    If a negative, then apologize for the negatives.

    If a positive, then attempt reparations to redistribute institutionalized wealth.

    You will find that neither is a solution.

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