In this great age of atonement, in a mere two or three days the world has been reminded that (1) the U.S. has been arrogant; (2) dismissive and derisive to Europe; (3) was a slave-owning society; (4) practiced genocide against native Americans; (5) did not let blacks vote; (6) was the only nation to have used nuclear weapons; (7) embraced torture; (8) alienated the world under Bush, and on and on. The subtext has been that those of a different race, of a different era, or under a different president have done terrible things, which I, from my own moral Olympus, must now apologize for.
A modest suggestion: from now on, every president who wishes to go abroad and review all his lesser citizens’ collective past and present sins, with accompanying apologies — to applause from foreigners — must first, in the spirit of New Testament atonement, review his own regrettable transgressions. It would go something like this:
“Today we witness a global financial meltdown — a result of a dangerous nexus between lax politicians and unethical high finance. I know this well, and wish to apologize for taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the now-bankrupt AIG financial firm, which sought to escape proper regulation by offering campaign contributions to politicians like myself, who unilaterally renounced the three-decade tradition of public campaign finance.”
“Smoking is a great plague on the world, killing millions each year and giving great profits to modern merchants of death. I, President Obama, as a long smoker, know that temptation well and the global health problems entailed with tobacco addiction. We all also most avoid the perils of drug usage, a plague on all our nations. I can attest that as a youth I used cocaine, not only endangering my health, but doing my small part to send profits back to drug cartels abroad that cause so much death and destruction.”
“Racism is an insidious pathology that reaches even into the pulpit; it is a human sin that no one race has a monopoly on. I am well aware of the havoc it causes the innocent — after failing to say “No! Stop!” to my own Rev. Wright as he caricatured in my church whites, Jews, Italians, and almost anyone else who does not look like himself and our congregation. Likewise, class prejudice and stereotyping are often at the heart of much of the world’s problems; I too have engaged in such hurtful condemnations when just recently I labeled, in blanket fashion, the working class of rural Pennsylvania as xenophobes, fundamentalists, and nativists.”
“We need to adopt a new attitude toward the mentally and physically challenged; too often we flippantly make fun of the disabled, as I did, when I unthinkingly made a joke in front of a national television audience at the expense of those who participate in the Special Olympics.”
“Now turning to my country’s own regrettable past, let me begin with an apology for its . . .”