Apologies and Americans

Americans are loathe  to apologize for anything, even though there is a lot we need to apologize for. I suppose it’s because we view apologies as a sign of weakness. And, of course, all human beings hate to admit they’ve done anything wrong. Remember all the non-apology apologies you’ve heard over the years? Things like “I’m so sorry I’m late, but this meeting you set up has destroyed my schedule for the day”. Or, “I really didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Maybe you shouldn’t be so sensitive.” Don’t you just love those?

The funny thing is, even though we hate to apologize for anything, we’re not shy about expecting others to apologize when we feel wronged. Some people go so far as to demand an apology, but I’ve never understood that. If I have make you apologize for something, it’s probably not going to be very heart-felt, so what’s the point? No, for an apology to be worthwhile, it has to come from the heart, you have to mean it and it can’t have any qualifiers (see the two examples in the previous paragraph). Otherwise, it’s just words; worthless words at that. But, a sincere, heartfelt apology can make a huge difference in the lives of all concerned. The aggrieved party feels vindicated, the offending party assuages their guilt and both are able to let go of destructive emotions that can poison relationships and make life miserable for everyone around them. And, that’s a good thing. Isn’t it?

Not according to some people. At the beginning of this bit of fluff, there is a picture with the inscription “I will never apologize for being an American”. That’s actually a bit of straw man; the rest of the world doesn’t really expect us to apologize for being Americans. They do expect us to apologize for meddling in their affairs, disrespecting their culture, killing their citizens and all the other shitty things we’ve done over the years. There are a lot of people who think we have done nothing to apologize for, that all we’ve done is “defend our freedom”. That’s another straw man, one so patently obvious that it almost doesn’t bear discussion. Suffice it to say, there hasn’t been a serious threat to American freedom in 200 years. But, under the banner of freedom, we’ve tortured people, burned holy books and engaged in behavior so shameful I wouldn’t have thought Americans would be capable of it. The bottom line is whether we think an apology is in order or not, others do. And, if sacrificing a little pride and offering one would save lives and improve our standing in the world, I don’t have a bit of trouble with that.