Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sorry ... Not Sorry

I’m sorry. 7 letters that form 2 words with 1 apostrophe. It's an expression that  is a powerful communications tool and is laced with passion. I say it often – as much because I’ve flubbed something up and need to remedy things as to also defuse emotional situations. Acknowledging an upset through contrition is an incredible way to open up dialogue about other matters – whether they be with interpersonal relations or international relations. Is one apology enough? When is enough contrition justification to stop apologizing? If it’s not clear in our personal lives so it’s no surprise in world affairs that the art of the apology is as much about diplomacy as remorse.

Pope Francis has apologized for a wide range of issues including to the victims of sexual abuse by priests, for the oppression of Latin America during the colonial era, for persecution of Pentecostals. He also apologized for 'grave sins' against native people of America. While it took 350 years, eventually the Vatican did apologize for the persecution of the Italian astronomer Galileo.

Popes Benedict and John Paul II also apologized to the victims of sexual abuse.  Pope John Paul II also apologized to Muslims killed by crusaders and to Jews for the Vatican’s inaction on the Holocaust.

The Second World War has a lot of regret being expressed. The British government tried to make good for prosecuting a World War II hero and Nazi code breaker, Alan Turing, for the crime of being gay in its apology.

For generations Japan would apology for its role in the war. Japan’s remembrance of the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II has its Prime Minister “express[ing] "profound grief" for the millions killed in World War II and remorse for his country's participation, but [he] said that future Japanese generations shouldn't need to keep apologizing.” In their case 70 years is enough time to say they're sorry.

In the war against gays, from 1993 to 2011 13,650 Americans were discharged from serving in the U.S. military under President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Most (exact figures not known) were given less than honorable discharges. In addition to the base inequality of the policy it's important to remember that for more than half of the time the law was in place highly skilled and qualified patriots were being fired from protecting the US during the “War on Terror.” By not receiving “honorable” discharges the benefits afforded to other veterans aren't available – just because they’re LGBT.

There is a movement on to change the dismissal records from “less than honorable” to “honorable” in order to remedy the continued inequity. Hilary Clinton, wife of the President who created and signed the legislation and candidate for President has listed the upgrade in paperwork as part of her 10 promises to LGBT Americans if she’s elected.

Mrs. Clinton is now putting LGBT rights as the “pillar” of her 2016 campaign. This is on the heels of the disclosure of an email discussing the decision to change passport applications from “mother/father” to “parent 1” and “parent 2.”  Slate reports on the email from the former Secretary of State: “Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was furious. In a recently released email, Clinton proclaimed that she would not defend the decision, “which I disagree w and knew nothing about, in front of this Congress.” She then wrote that she “could live w letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father.” Failure to act immediately, she fretted, would lead to “a huge Fox-generated media storm led by Palin et al.” (The department quickly reversed the decision, apparently appeasing the secretary.)” 

Mrs. Clinton's commitment to the LGBT community isn't quite solid after all having not supported Marriage Equality and instead championed with her husband the Defense of Marriage Act along with DADT. Yes, she gave one good speech on human rights as Secretary of State, but her actions (per the email above) shows it's all talk.

Being sorry is difficult for some. Mrs. Clinton has had a particular challenge in expressing remorse – especially related to the email situation, but there are twenty years of other examples. As she re-introduces herself as a LGBT supporter, perhaps she could simply apologize for her and her husband’s role in their shameful part of American history first? 

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