Saturday, September 1, 2012

What's So Wrong About Apologizing?

By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work)
 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney said a lot of things, mostly benign, a times nice, and occasionally utterly terrifying.1 Some were also lies. This, of course, surprises no one. Politicians lie, we know that. I want to talk about one lie in particular, the claim that Obama began his Presidency with "an apology tour." As the Washington Post has pointed out, this isn't true at all.

What I want to talk about here, however, is not so much the lying, but the nature of the accusation itself. Let's imagine it was true that Obama apologized because "America ...had dictated to other nations." I ask, what would be wrong with this? Is it not part of being a mature, adult human being that when you think you've done something wrong, you approach the wronged parties and apologize, ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation? Imagine knowing someone who had continually acted in a selfish manner, and had, to top it all off, refused to ever admit wrong, always blaming others and pridefully boasting of his actions? What would you call such a person? Manchild comes to mind.

Now, America may not be like the selfish person described above. I actually do believe that, most of the time, the cases in recent memory where America really screwed up (i.e. Iraq) were still entered into with the best of intentions. Nevertheless, if you act with the best of intentions and you mess up, you apologize. Of course, it's another question entirely whether America did mess up, but if that's your point of contention, Mr. Romney, then say that. It's perfectly reasonable to say, "Mr. President, you apologized for dictating to other nations, but you shouldn't have apologized because we were right in taking those actions." To get upset merely over the fact of any sort of apology ever being made for anything, though, is backwards. Somehow though, it's gotten into the understanding of some Americans that any sort of admission of weakness is anti-American, a failure of patriotism.2 That's silly. America is not the Kingdom of Heaven, but a human nation. Human nations err.

I sincerely hope that Romney, should he become president, can find a place in his heart that will be okay with apologizing if the country, under his leadership, makes mistakes. I find it hard to imagine he will though, since doing so would mean admitting that America isn't always "the greatest country in the history of the world."3
1. However politically calculated, it's still nice hear a conservative emphasize the rights of women to have a political voice. On the other hand, calling optimism uniquely American is annoying, and promising to build up a military so powerful no one would ever dare to question us is horrifying.

2. Moreover, I think this emphasizes just how thoroughly not Christian the American nation is. To recognize wrong, address it and seek forgiveness is a central part of the lived Christian faith, but to apologize for American misdoings is, apparently, anti-American.

3. Quotes taken from NPR's transcript of Romney's speech.