Thursday, May 31, 2007

Being American Means Always Having to Say Your'e Sorry

Tennessee’s Rep. Steve Cohen, who last week successfully exposed how Monica Goodling was only the tip of the iceberg in a Justice Department literally stinking with confessing Christians ("Anti-Religious Bias in the House") ,this week is getting noticed for his plan to have the US House of Representatives formally apologize for slavery. (“House push grows for slavery apology”).

I couldn’t find a copy of the resolution on Cohen's website, so it’s unclear to me whether his proposed apology to slaves also includes a clause expressing the House's profound sorrow for allowing blacks in America to be evangelized into Christianity. One can only hope so.

Cohen earlier in the year thought he could achieve honorary black status by becoming the first white member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But the CBC refused on the basis that its historical mission to combat the evils of discrimination and segregation demanded that the Caucus remain “exclusively African-American.” ("Congressional Black Caucus vows to remain racially segregated").

In a letter sent out to obtain support for the apology, Cohen writes, "Slavery and Jim Crow laws were able to survive in our country because they were protected by the actions and acquiescence of the United States government, including Congress; we are still fighting their enduring legacies to this day."

Cohen has a point that slavery and Jim Crow were protected by government acquiescence, including in the Congress, but he may have wanted to mention the key and leading role played in both those institutions just by his own Democratic Party (“The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow”).

At least one proponent of the reparations movement out there gets this. (“Inner City Minister Sues Democratic Party for Reparations”). In 2004 the plaintiff in that suit, the Rev. Wayne Perryman, argued how

“in an effort to impede and or deny African Americans the same constitutional rights afforded to all American citizens, the Democratic Party established a pattern of (sic) practice by promoting, supporting, sponsoring and financing racially bias (sic) entertainment, education, legislation, litigations, and terrorist organizations from 1792 to 1962 and continued certain practices up to 2002.”

Perhaps if Cohen is unable to win an apology from the entire House, he can get an apology from just the Democratic Caucus, which would at least make some historical sense.

In any event, I think the logic of Cohen’s apology plan is pretty well contradicted by the truism, current among all grief counselors, that once someone has passed on it is too late to apologize.

In this vein, the News article does report that not all of Cohen’s constituents think the apology plan is such a great idea, either: “Fred Lincoln, a retiree outside Memphis, Tenn., said that it doesn't even make sense.

"’There are no slaves left and there are no slaveholders, so this is silly,’ he said.”

The aptly named Mr. Lincoln shows a lot more sense than Cohen, especially in his shrewd observation that neither party to the wrong are still around. But Lincoln clearly lacks appreciation for the Democratic Party’s ability to apportion blame without regard to rigid conventions about the actual relationships between parties, let along quaint notions of personal guilt—in other words, he has no idea that Democrats have never hesitated to adopt ideas merely because they’re silly.

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