Can You Apologize for Someone Else’s Mistake?

ApologyThere was an interesting article in the news which was put, mistakenly in my opinion, in the science section and thus I stumbled across it.

The nation of Cameroon issued an apology for their ancestor’s involvement in trading slaves to Europeans thus beginning the long chain that brought those slaves to plantations in the southern United States. The apology was issued specifically to genetically identified relatives of those still living in Cameroon but was extended to include anyone affected by the policies.

The genetic tracing part of the story is why it ended up in the science section I suspect. In any case, as I was perusing the comments I noted that there was a fairly heavy leaning towards the idea that it was wrong to apologize for something for which you are not responsible.

Clearly the people in power in Cameroon today had nothing to do with the slave trade of past centuries. The argument suggested that it was ridiculous to make the apology. That it was meaningless. That a the best remedy was to act with ethics and morality in the future.

I’m not unsympathetic to this point of view. I do think the apology is being made by people who did nothing wrong in the first place. That it doesn’t help those directly or indirectly effected by those misdeeds. It can even be said that such apologies can be used to excuse bad behavior.

On the other hand I do think an apology has the ability to heal hurt feelings. While apologies are just words that do not affect any physical change they can set the path towards a better future. It is probably true that an apology, even when for something you personally did, doesn’t really do anything to redress the original harm. It is merely an indication of your acknowledgement of wrong-doing. Of your intention to do better in the future.

Slavery was wrong. My ancestors weren’t even in the United States during slavery so should I apologize for it? What’s my responsibility?

Slavery wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to promote its cause. If I don’t want to apologize for the actions of people who died long before I was born then I have no obligation to do so. However, I am more than willing to denounce slavery. To admit that the United States, my country, engaged in this despicable practice for generations. I’m sorry that it happened. I’m sorry my country did such a thing.

Let’s dial it down a notch. Let’s say I’m at an event and one of my friends does something boorish. Gets drunk and makes inappropriate comments.

I can handle it by talking to my friend and trying to get him to restrain himself. I can handle it by watching it happen and then apologizing to people later. I can do neither or I can do both.

In the end, I guess I’m a proponent of both. It doesn’t hurt to apologize for my friend’s behavior. It’s better that I try to stop it before anything else happens. That I take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But, why not all of the above? Everyone knows I didn’t do it but they appreciate my apology nonetheless.

Must you apologize for someone else’s behavior? No.

Should you? It’s up to you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

Rock Chalk vs M – I – Z

Missouri - Kansas RivalryThe sports rivalry between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri will take a big hit when the Tigers officially move to the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 1012. Prior to that the two school met annually on the various playing fields starting in 1891.

I’d like to examine the origins the rivalry and then talk about whether or not I hope that it will continue. So, my loyal followers, put on your time travel caps and get ready for a journey back to a time when the issue of slavery was the dominant question in the United States.

Starting around 1854 the territory of Kansas was preparing to enter the Union of States and the burning issue was if it would be a slave state or a free state. There was a tremendous amount at stake in this decision because the concept of popular sovereignty was sweeping through the country. The idea was that each state would determine its own status as slave owning or not rather than the federal government assigning a status. The slave states desperately wanted Kansas to come in as one of their own because as free states joined the union the institution of slavery became more likely to be outlawed nationally. The free states and Republican Party, formed largely to stamp out the spread of slavery, wanted the opposite.

As Kansas got closer to being a state people from both sides of the slavery issue began to move into the territory hoping to swing the vote one way or the other. Many of the pro-slavery group came from the slave state of Missouri and dubbed themselves Blue Lodges. On the other side a group calling themselves Jayhawkers, formed largely of abolitionists, began to gather to swing the vote against slavery.

From there things got ugly. In the referendum deciding the slavery issue less than half of all voters were actually from the Kansas Territory and slavery won out in a largely illegal vote. The fallout from this rigged vote was that the newly created legislature actually moved from Kansas to Missouri to enact their legislation. Anti-slavery forces formed their own government in Topeka and began to pass their own legislation. President Pierce called this group revolutionary and sided with the pro-slavery forces.

The weakness displayed by Pierce in this time led directly to the Civil War and he is rightly, in my opinion, considered one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

Violence ensued with John Brown leading the anti-slavery forces. The violence was not limited to the region as Senator Preston Smith Brooks of South Carolina bludgeoned Senator Charles Sumner while a colleague kept other senators at bay with a pistol. Immediately after this incident, Brown led his group against slavery forces hacking five men to death while raiding their home. Violence continued on both sides.

Eventually, after several fraudulent votes, Kansas entered the Union as a free state thanks to the Wyandotte Constitution.

Violence continued between both sides until the end of the Civil War. During the war atrocities occurred with Quantrill’s Raiders being one of the most galvanizing forces. The anti-slavery Jayhawkers and Redlegs were largely based in abolitionist Lawrence, Kansas and used it as a base to stage their raids on pro-slavery Missouri. Quantrill led an attack on Lawrence in 1862 in which his men burned the town and killed many men and boys.

The conclusion of the Civil War and the banning of slavery put an end to the question but bad blood still exists between the two states.

And thus ends our history lesson but now I want to talk about how important is sport in our way of life. Sports provides us with a peaceful outlet for our rivalries. When Kansas and Missouri started their athletic rivalry there were the sons of men who killed each other on the teams. They fought on the field of play and shook hands after the game. That’s an improvement if you ask me.

My hatred of the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs, and the Detroit Red Wings stems from sports rivalries with my hometown teams. Go Rams, Cards, and Blues! However; I have no interest in killing the fans of the other teams – misguided as their loyalty might be. 🙂

Sport is a good thing and I hope that the athletic directors of Kansas and Missouri can overcome their momentary anger and remember that Missouri leaving the Big 12 is not nearly as horrible as what happened prior to and during the Civil War. The fact that the two schools have become peaceful rivals gives me hope that all antagonistic forces can one day put down their weapons and take their fight to the field of play. Even the radical elements of Islam and the western world.

Isn’t a good game, win or lose, better than killing each other?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist