But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

As Editor-in-Chief, I have the option of selecting the topic for my editorial, and when the occasion arises, I've deferred from the usual topics, and shared my thoughts on non-technical issues. So with your permission…

There's been a lot of talk lately about having the U.S. Government making apologies to African Americans for subjecting them to slavery in the early days of our country's existence. While there is no argument that this chapter of the American story is wrought with injustice, I think the President and the Congress should consider the limited scope of such a move before saying they're “sorry” for anything.

In a move to bind the wounds of racial disparity, it is equally important to weight the potential consequences of such an act. No, I'm not talking about the black and white issues here, I'm talking about the all-encompassing issues of right and wrong. If the government sees fit to say “I'm sorry” for slavery, it had better be prepared to say “I'm sorry” to everyone else in this country, because at one time or another every racial/ethnic group in America has also suffered at the hands of our elected officials - both past and present.

But before I elaborate on the obvious inconsistencies in the government's proposal, let me assure you that my thoughts on the matter are unbiased and objective. There is no personal agenda here, only my feelings about doing what is right versus doing what is wrong. I think the government should issue a formal apology to African Americans, but it shouldn't stop there.

Although not an exhaustive list by any means, there are a few other groups of people in this country that certainly deserve the courtesy of an apology from Uncle Sam. Japanese Americans were subjected to terrible treatment at the outbreak of World War II. Not only were they forced into internment camps, but also lost most if not all of their property and holdings. Immigrant Americans, Jewish and otherwise, were treated with contempt when Washington turned a blind eye on the genocide taking place in the Nazi concentration camps of Europe. Citizens as well as military personnel were unknowingly used as guinea pigs to test the effects of nuclear radiation in the late 1940's and 1950's. American participants of the Vietnam conflict were placed in harms way without the support of a government that had the determination to win a war in Southeast Asia. And last, but certainly not least, the unconscionable treatment of Native Americans has gone criminally unanswered by a government founded in the precepts of freedom and democracy.

If the day should ever come where our illustrious leaders and elected officials decide that it truly is time to wipe the slate clean, and make a concerted effort to right the wrongs of the past, then let that effort reflect an ethic of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people of these United States. Most importantly, let's all understand that forgiving the past is only the first step in the equation. The responsibilities that go along with an apology as serious as the one we're talking about go far beyond the words “I'm sorry”. The true test for all of us is what will follow in the days ahead. Satisfying the errors of yesterday brings with it the greater challenges of tomorrow. The task of eliminating ethnic divisiveness in a nation with a legacy of self-interest and political righteousness is mind-boggling to say the least. But without a genuine effort on the part of all of us, the day will surely come where yet another round of apologies is forthcoming. We've all questioned the actions and motives of the government at one time or another. And many of us choose to go with the flow because we're either not effected directly, or we just don't want to get involved. Yet the sad fact of the matter is that we are all effected by these things, and we're ultimately to blame for our complacency.

Should the government make its amends to “we the people”? Absolutely. Can we as a nation accept the responsibility for our past misgivings? I believe we not only can, but we must because there is much more at stake here than we might realize. Do we have the resolve to accept the challenge of uniting as Americans, and nurturing the incredible wealth of our differences? One can only hope that we do. And if we choose to let history repeat itself, just how many of us think we would really be satisfied with just an apology… even one from the President of the United States? For myself, I would have to look Mr. Clinton in the eye and tell him to his face; “I'm sorry Mr. President, but an apology just isn't good enough.”

Alan Sadowsky