The Game of Sorry

The Game of Sorry

Adrienne BoettingerFriday,13 May 2016

Soon President Obama will become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, one of two Japanese cities the United States dropped nuclear bombs on at the end of World War II. Mr. Obama had said for several years that he would like to visit the city and with his upcoming trip to the G7 meeting the last time he’ll visit Japan while in office, the time is right.

Or is it? For some, President Obama’s choice foreshadows an apology for America’s decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan. The White House, ever cognizant of its opponents’ hatred of anything resembling an apology for something America did, has gone out of its way to say that the President will not apologize for the decision President Truman made 70 years ago. Of course that isn’t enough for the staunchest of the Obama haters.

There is a sizeable and vocal group of ‘Muricans who think the U.S. should never apologize for anything we have or haven’t done. They see it as a sign of weakness and a move that will erode American power.

To which I must respectfully say, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Do you honestly think that a) we’ve never done anything wrong in the history of our existence or b) even if we had done something wrong we should never admit to any fault? Do you think the rest of the world consists solely of idiots? There is no way to deny that we have done some very terrible things. Pretty much every government in the history of time has done truly awful things — some worse than others. Pretending that we are blameless doesn’t make us look strong. It makes us look like clueless idiots or egoistical maniacs.

Admitting you’ve done something wrong, that you’re flawed, that your actions have had negative consequences for someone else — sometimes that is the only thing you can do to move forward. The other party can’t trust you if you act like you’re blameless. And you’ll have learned nothing and possibly do the same terrible thing that you did before because you convinced yourself that you’re above everyone else.

Does that mean I think President Obama should apologize for Hiroshima? I honestly don’t know. As other Presidents and leaders before him, he has indicated that he won’t second-guess the decision President Truman made; he hasn’t been in the position Truman was in and he doesn’t know what he would do if he were. That makes some sense. But that doesn’t mean America didn’t decide to end the lives of over 140,000 Japanese civilians. Going to Hiroshima and experiencing it firsthand doesn’t cede some position of U.S. authority. It doesn’t make up for the loss of life. It doesn’t negate the hideous acts the Japanese government perpetrated against American soldiers, Chinese civilians and countless others.

What it does is recognize the human cost of the decisions that were made and what was unleashed on the world with the creation of atomic weapons. President Obama’s trip to Japan and the times he has sincerely and soberly spoken of the negative role America has played on the global stage don’t make America weak. They show our strength, the courage of our convictions, how we can be an honest broker for democracy, and our humanity. We are human, we are flawed. To pretend otherwise with grandiose bravado, as some would have us do, would be the real weakness.

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Image Credit: IIP Photo Archive on Flickr

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