We’re Sorry–What Else Do You Want?

As a society, we’re not always very good at caring for people who have been victims of injustice.

The latest example for me is the difficulty that some former service personnel–who were discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell–are encountering when they try to re-enlist in the armed forces of our nation. Of course, they have to be in the right age range, properly fit and able to perform, and without any other disqualification–but if they are, should they not be given some special consideration?

The law was unjust, it has been repealed. One way to heal the error of our ways is to make amends where possible. So far, the Pentagon is not budging–probably afraid Congress will scream.

And the military brass are not alone. When we release prisoners who have been incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, most jurisdictions simply send them out on the street, perhaps with a pair of pants and a shirt and cash for a bus ride somewhere. The legal system, acting on our behalf, made a mistake–often a really big one. But I doubt there is even a formal apology, let alone help to get started on a new life.

Virginia is doing the right thing, by making education available to those harmed by Massive Resistance in the 1950s, but that took 50 years. Fortunately, some were young enough at the time of this horror to be able to claim benefit now.

But so many oppose affirmative action, claiming it is favoring one group at the expense of another. Another way to see it is that those who have been the victims of oppression need a hand up to get started on the road of success. But, to do that requires that we admit as a nation that we held people down long after we were supposed to know better.

When we do wrong, an apology is a good place to start. And when the apology is coupled with actions to make amends, it begins to feel real.

Something about a golden rule applies here, I think.

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