Merely saying “I’m sorry” or apologizing for wrongdoing is only the first step towards change, restoration, and justice. Often when people apologize, they do it under compulsion. They have no real remorse, sorrow, or shame. The “words” they offer are empty and merely a “performance” of apology or contrition lacking any reality or authenticity. Being unwilling to acknowledge our mistakes, missteps, and the harm and/or pain that we have caused another individual, group or community is a form of oppression and comes with the certitude that the initial wrong and harm caused will continue “as is” or transform itself into more harmful and intentional behaviors.
Acknowledgement of wrong is the first step towards the healing of hurt, trauma, and harm caused to individuals and communities. An apology is empty without acknowledgement. And acknowledgement is the beginning of accountability. This is a process that takes both time and intentionality. The time it takes varies. It can be a very long time due to the long history of trauma and harm that have impacted many communities and individuals within those communities. But the process cannot begin without the acknowledgement of the harm caused, the acceptance of responsibility for the part you played and a commitment to the process of restoration of the individuals and/or communities that have been victimized by your actions. Although the steps appear to be simple and straightforward, they could be characterized as the most difficult thing for people to do whether individually or collectively. Acknowledging that we are wrong, and that what we did or participated in whether intentional or not, hurt or harmed someone or entire groups of people and communities takes maturity and real commitment towards accountability and restoration.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of “Instagram”, quick fixes, and whataboutisms. When confronted with a history that has inflicted enormous harm on many communities of people, this nation has been big on a type of collective amnesia. We want to forget our history when it’s convenient. We continue to deny that we are unhealthy as a nation and that the threads of the democracy that knit us together are unraveling because we refuse to acknowledge that beneath the surface, the United States of America is infected with a sickness of denial, mythmaking, and a lack of maturity or courage to face the truth about our national health. Instead, Americans LIE to themselves and to one another and pretend that we live in a nation of laws that apply equally to all. We pretend that the justice system is “Just” and that the founding principles of our government are working for “We the People”. Most of us close our eyes and hope for the best but deep down we know that unless we face the truth about where we are as a nation the unraveling will continue and we will sink deeper into the divisions that we all feel and eventually we will lose the Dream of the America that our predecessors proclaimed, and the nation that so many have fought and died to preserve.
We cannot allow the insidious lie that continues to undermine the faith we must have in our democratic process to continue. The truth must continue to be told. The outcome of a free and fair election must not be undermined. And the denial of the TRUTH cannot be allowed to be the basis for an insurrection without the appropriate punishment for the participants whether they are ordinary citizens or the most recognized leaders in our government. All the gaslighting, denials, false equivalencies, and made-up justifications MUST be confronted for what they are. If there is NO accountability at the very top, this system of democracy, justice, and equality for ALL will have failed. If that happens the unraveling will be complete and the promise of America, we all believed in will no longer be possible. This is our opportunity to grow-up as a nation and be accountable.