The Deeper Meaning Of An Apology
by Bob Smith, April, 2001
The government of China recently demanded an apology from President Bush for an incident where a U.S. spy plane allegedly crashed into a Chinese fighter jet causing the death of the fighter pilot. While the U.S. Government refused to issue an apology to the Chinese government, China did receive a "statement of regret."
While a formal Presidential apology carries more weight and has more meaning then a "statement of regret," an apology is issued for something that you caused and have taken responsibility for. A "statement of regret" relates to something that happened to the other person or group that you did not cause. It is offered so as to comfort, much in the same way words of condolence are offered for the death of a relative. This is not to say that regret means "too bad" or "we're sorry." Instead, regret relates more to a feeling of remorse due to an "incident."
Presidential apologies have been given to other governments and to U.S. citizens. Recent examples are the apologies to Japanese Americans for internment camps coupled with $1.5 million in reparations for the theft of their property during WWII and to African Americans for slavery and the Tuskegee medical experiments.
America's second class citizens, the Indians, have long asked for a Presidential apology for the 1890 massacre of over 300 American Indian prisoners of war at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Instead, what wa given was a 1990 statement of "deep regret" for the massacre.
From a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs dated April 12,1920, three star General Nelson A. Miles (who was in command of the 500 soldiers that massacred the POWs) I quote:
"The present seems to me of imperative importance and justice, namely, to atone in part for the cruel and unjustifiable massacre of Indian men, and innocent women and children at Wounded Knee on the Red Cloud Reservation."
Later in the letter he stated, "I earnestly request that these measures be urged upon the action of the Congress."
Instead of an apology to the Sioux, the U.S. Government:
Awarded 20 Congressional Medals of Honor to those soldiers that participated in this wholesale slaughter
Erected a monument to the few soldiers that died at Wounded Knee at Ft. Riley, Kansas
Attached a battle streamer to flags on display in the White House, Pentagon, West Point and Army bases through out the world.
Incredibly, the Wounded Knee Massacre is listed in the Army record as the "Battle of Wounded Knee." And, it is a further travesty to have the 29 names of American Indians that have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to be listed on the same roll with the 20 heroes of Wounded Knee.
The United State Congress passed Concurrent Resolution #153 in October, 1990 to recognize Wounded Knee as a massacre and issued a statement of deep regret.
How can the Chinese Government expect the United States Congress and President to act with honor when we cannot even act with honor toward the American Indians?