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Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

“I will be true to my family, to my faith and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America.”

~Mitt Romney, TV campaign ad.

If we’re good parents, we teach our children to express regret to those they’ve wronged.  “I’m sorry.  I made a mistake,” we say when we, ourselves, are in error, not only setting an example but, also, acknowledging that we’ve broken The Golden Rule.  This is responsible behavior.

I decided to “search” for presidential apologies and found a post by someone who derided Barack Obama for an “apology tour,” during which the president made a “deep bow” to Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. The author, also, wrote that the “first breach of protocol occurred in April, 2009 when Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.”

I remember the president’s 2009 Cairo speech, delivering anticipation to the Islamic world. Obama referred to “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”  He called for an end to a “cycle of suspicion and discord.”  And he orated:  “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”  Continuing the hope, he said, “There is so much fear, so much mistrust.  But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward.”

Speaking to Palestinians, Obama said:

Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.

These words are vivid and vibrant with full-bodied hypocrisy.  Yes, “violence is a dead end.” Definitely, terminal. Especially for recipients of US militarism.

Some progressives still believe that Obama eventually will fulfill the campaign promises he made to reverse the Bush/Cheney reign of terror.  But the president has out-neoconned his predecessor, droning a murderous path in even more countries and bringing heavier shame to those who accept the words of John Donne:  “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

American exceptionalism means never having to say you’re sorry and being insincere when contrivances compel you to speechify remorse. Even to families of dead US troops when emphasis is placed on duty, honor, and sacrifice, the loss magnified as more important than the deaths of “The Other”—those who live in countries devastated by empire.

Mitt Romney’s ad with his eye on the presidency prize has multiple intentions.  One is to compare his devotion to his wife with Newt Gingrich’s numerous marital transgressions.  Then, there’s the obsequious pimping to the religious right with his allegiance to faith.  And it, also, condemns Obama’s apologizing “for the United States of America.” Despite the hollowness of those apologies. Despite the truth—that we have so much for which to apologize, our hubristic and greedy foot and fingerprints reaching into the lives of human beings, manipulating life and death, degrading and humiliating, destroying ecosystems as we claim superiority while pillaging resources. And knowing that our Wall Street controlled “leaders” will continue to rape the environment and violate lives until there is little left to ravage.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. She can be reached at: missybeat@gmail.com 

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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