"The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African-Americans." The Washington Post, June 14, 2005.
"There may be no other injustice in American history for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility." Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
Are Americans going to read about this apology, slap their foreheads and exclaim "Gee, until now I had no idea America had mistreated African-Americans"? Besides, does the United States Senate have an immortal soul? Does it, as a body, have a conscience? Of course not. Only individuals can be held responsible for their actions. They and only they are guilty or innocent. The Senate might as well apologize for the Alien and Sedition Acts, or the Mexican-American War, or the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. Oh, hold on, the Senate did apologize to the native Hawaiians in 1993. Well, in that spirit, I confess that my grandfather once threw my grandmother's new hat into the ocean. I humbly apologize to her.
The Senate wants you to know how terribly, sincerely sorry they are even though not a single member of today's Senate was even in office the last time America saw a lynching. Some were not even born. But that's the way we prefer our apologies in American politics. We don't apologize for our own sins. Bill Clinton never apologized for turning the White House into an auction house, nor for his provocative weakness in the face of bin Laden's attacks. That wouldn't do. Those were his own sins. Clinton did apologize for the Tuskegee experiment -- because he had nothing whatever to do with it. (He did also apologize for that other business, but that was poll dictated.)
Eighty of the 100 senators signed on as co-sponsors of this apology. But Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is unsatisfied. "The Senate has never issued an official apology for slavery and has never gone on the record condemning slavery. The U.S. government needs to apologize for the whole system of slavery. Lynching was just a part of it."
After the bloodiest conflict in American history, a century and a half of struggle, billions of dollars in government redistribution of wealth including affirmative action, education, set asides, quotas, job training programs, urban renewal and outreach efforts; hundreds of plays and movies; thousands of television programs, millions of newspaper and magazine articles, operas, novels, music, ballets, Black History Month, and so on, Mr. Lewis thinks we need an "official" condemnation of slavery? Integrity leaves off where pointless posturing begins.
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