Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Saturday, January 28, 2017

apology or consolation ?

 I saw a brief segment in the news the other day. It was the Chief of Police for some town in Georgia making an apology. It just caught my attention for an instant. I don't know all the details but the apology was for something that took place in 1940. A young African American man had been killed. The case had not been investigated back then and swept under the carpet. A tragic event from the distant past and one I am certain we all agree should never have taken place. I don't believe anyone needs to be told that is was wrong. So, what struck me about this press conference was the public apology this Police chief was giving. I wonder if it serves any purpose at all. The incident took place before the man was ever born. I admit I can't say whether any of the descendants of that young man were in attendance. If they were perhaps it did offer them some solace. I just can't help but wonder though, does it serve any purpose to acknowledge the obvious ? Especially so when the obvious happened two or three generations back. Are we obligated to apologize for the actions of those born before us ?
 Now I know some folks will tell me it is because I am a white male in America. I enjoy special class and privilege just by virtue of those attributes. I understand that and can see the validity of the statement. It is true I haven't experienced any real discrimination. I'm equally as certain I could find ancestors of mine that did. But they would be just that, ancestors. I have no desire to go in search of that however. I can't see why I should, to what end ? To demand an apology from whom ? Another person that had nothing to do with whatever transpired sixty years ago or more ? It is something I don't understand. To have someone apologize to me for an event I didn't witness or experience will not give me any satisfaction. Why should I feel some sense of vindication ?
 I think what I'm asking is, are we responsible for the actions of our ancestors ? My Bible says this ; " Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the inequity of the father, nor the father suffer for the inequity of the son, the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself and wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. " It seems clear then that I am not being held responsible for any of that by my God. But, of course, we talking about society, not God. Specifically  American society. That leads to another question, is God an integral part of America ? If so, then we really do not need to apologize for the " sins " of our fathers do we ? As long as we do not perpetuate the wrongful actions of that past, we are good to go. Benjamin Franklin said " never ruin an apology with an excuse. " I think that is a very wise saying. Providing an excuse only means that you will do it again. If you never committed the crime in the first place how can a sincere apology be given ? I'd say it can't and then only serves as a consolation. But just who are we consoling ? Is it the party injured in the past, or those who perceive to be injured today ?   
 We can't change the past. When we no longer commit the offenses of the past we will have apologized in the most sincere fashion.  Only in the realization and acceptance of that wrong can it be eradicated. A continual apology will not accomplish that. That action has to take place in the heart of man. Does apologizing for the past accomplish anything ? Or does it simply serve as an empowerment for those whose ancestors were wronged ? Does that somehow entitle them to something more ? I can only trust what my Bible tells me in that regard. It says, I'm not accountable for what anyone else has done. True apologies must be offered by the one that committed the crime.  Conversely an apology can not be accepted, then subsequently used as an excuse. Apologies offered by those not committing the offense are really consolations.
 I would add that all this is not to say we should or should not offer apologies or consolation. I just think the two are getting confused. Or is it condolences ? Condolence is usually associated with a death. Can you really apologize or console the dead ? In the case of our ancestors can we receive those things for them ? I don't think so. The best we can do is not repeat the past.