To My Darling Children
This country has a shameful past, a past that too many Americans willingly or blindly ignore - the forced migration and genocide of Native Americans and the capture and enslavement of African-Americans. These are hard facts, painful to accept, but necessary to recognize.
One cannot love one's country without admitting to its sins.
I think it is time for a government sponsored Truth and Reconciliation Commission to codify past injustices and officially apologize to the ancestors of those wronged by this country.
President Clinton took a step in that direction in 1997 when he apologized on behalf of the United States for the immoral Tuskegee Experiment that deliberately let 399 African-American men go untreated with syphilis. Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama and New Jersey have apologized for slavery. And the Congress apologized in 1988 for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
But, it is long past time for the nation to officially atone for its crimes.
There is some movement in the Congress this year to apologize for slavery.
And there is Joint Resolution H.J.RES.3 in Congress - 'To acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States.'
Of course, the argument against official apologies is the high cost of reparations. I won't entertain the merits of that debate here. Suffice it to say that wrongs should be remedied and justice should take its due course. It is a cop-out to say, 'Well, it wasn't me' and sweep the dastardly governmental acts of those that came before us under the rug.
This government, like all governments, is capable of unthinkable acts against its citizenry and its enemies. It is up to each and every member of society to stand guard against immoral acts taken in the name of the electorate by the ruling government. That goes too for the waging of immoral and illegal wars, and for the abolition or restriction of inherent human rights.
These outrages are not just historical artifacts. One only has to look at the sanctioned abuses at U.S. detention centers at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to see that 'crimes against humanity' are alive and well.
Now, in America, we are witnessing the nascent, ill-informed and hateful intolerance against Muslims and those that practice the faith of Islam.
A sad truth is that many Americans can't distinguish between Sunnis and Shias and Arabs and Persians and Muslims and Islamists. They don't know the differences between an ethnicity, a culture or a religion. Too many are quick to suspect that those who are 'other' than themselves are 'islamofacists' or 'terrorists'.
And so, there is the so-called USA Patriot Act - 'To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes' - which is being used by the Bush administration to circumvent protections in the Constitution against spying on Americans and to justify torture against anyone they designate an 'enemy combatant'.
Intolerance is rife in the land. We must be diligent in admitting to the errors of our ways and guarding against their repetitions, especially under the imprimatur of our government.
Painting: 'Trail of Tears' by Robert Lindneux