The first time I saw this week’s crapdate, I thought, “Well, that’s just silly. Why would somebody make a picture proclaiming that they won’t apologize for something they have no control over?” I can’t imagine making a poster saying, “I WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR GROWING UP IN KANSAS.” Or “I WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR SPEAKING ENGLISH NATIVELY.” What a colossal waste of time.
Although, to be fair, the picture probably took about 15 seconds to make, so I guess it’s not a colossal waste of time. That honor goes to the text that accompanies the picture:
“Here is the deal Obama….WE WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING AMERICAN
Being American is the greatest gift God could ever bless someone with. Our record of freedom, of prosperity, of coming to the aid of those in distress and oppression. It is plain and simple, nothing will ever alter that. It is simple, it is absolute! It is a shame that you don’t share the same resolve.
Click like if you WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING AMERICAN!!! EVER.”
And then I realized. This is about Obama’s apology for the Korans that were burned. As a refresher, “The president wrote to Karzai to apologize after Afghan workers found charred copies of the Muslim holy book at the base near Kabul. Muslims view the Koran as the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.”
Of course, there are those in the media (ahem, Fox News, I’m looking at you), who have taken this apology for an action that occurred and turning it into an apology for being an American. Sean Hannity has called it another “apology tour,” and said that, “We have a serial apologist in the White House.” Then he turned it into, “The president’s apologizing because extremists were passing notes and desecrating and writing in the Koran.”
The president’s apology was for the burned books. Which was, by all accounts, accidental. Which is why you apologize for things, when something has been done by accident. Which has been done before, by George W. Bush, so there is even Republican precedence.
But that’s how politics seem to work in America, so it’s no big deal. Until the general public takes what has been made absurd and ups the ante. Times one million.
“Being American is the greatest gift God could ever bless someone with.” Actually, God’s chosen land is generally seen as Israel, so if God really loved you, you’d probably be born there. You could possibly be an Israeli-born citizen who migrated to America, and that was God’s greatest gift (a green card), although the person who posted this on my wall is anti-immigrant, so I don’t think that’s what he was going for.
“Our record of freedom, of prosperity, of coming to the aid of those in distress and oppression” is not even a sentence. I’m guessing that the crapdate poster wants to point out that WE ARE NUMBER 1! And “our record” shows that. Our record is 238 years old. Let’s compare our record to some of the other countries in the world, like:
San Marino (301 AD)
France (486 AD)
Bulgaria (632 AD)
Denmark (950 AD)
Portugal (1143 AD)
Andorra (1278 AD)
Switzerland (1291 AD)
Comparing “our record” to those of countries that are literally ten times our age is ridiculous. But let’s do it anyway. I wasn’t exactly sure what the vague references to freedom and prosperity were, but here are some statistics about our standing in the world:
USA Ranking on Adult Literacy Scale: #9 (#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
USA Ranking on Healthcare Quality Index: #37 (#1 France and #2 Italy)- World Health Organization 2003
USA Ranking on Women’s Rights Scale: #17 (#1 Sweden and #2 Norway)- World Economic Forum Report
USA Ranking on Life Expectancy: #29 (#1 Japan and #2 Hong Kong)- UN Human Development Report 2005
USA Ranking on Journalistic Press Freedom Index: #32 (#1 Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands tied)- Reporters Without Borders2005
USA Ranking on Political Corruption Index: #17 (#1 Iceland and #2 Finland)- Transparency International 2005
USA Ranking on Quality of Life Survey: #13 (#1 Ireland and #2 Switzerland)- The Economist Magazine
USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability Index: #45 (#1 Finland and #2 Norway)- Yale University ESI 2005
USA Ranking on Overall Currency Strength: #3 (U.S. Dollar) (#1 UK pound sterling and #2 European Union euro)- FTSE 2006.
USA Ranking on Infant Mortality Rate: #32 (#1 Sweden and #2 Finland)- Save the Children Report 2006
USA Ranking on Human Development Index (GDP, education, etc.): #10 (#1 Norway and #2 Iceland)- UN Human Development Report 2005
And our aid to those in distress and oppression? “Denmark gives the most amount of its GDP (1.01%) to developing countries; Norway gives 0.91%; the Netherlands give 0.79% and so on until the end of list, where the USA sits. Yes, America ranks DEAD LAST in foreign aid at a pathetic 0.1% of its GDP, compared to the other 21 nations listed as developed nations. The idea that the U.S. government is a heroic bunch that runs around the world helping the poor and the disempowered is not backed up by the evidence.”
Here’s a handy graphic, courtesy of Awesome.good.is.
The crapdate continues, “It is plain and simple, nothing will ever alter that.” Nothing, that is, except statistics.
“It is simple, it is absolute! It is a shame that you don’t share the same resolve.” Presumably this resolve is to ignore facts. I’m glad that we have a president who doesn’t share that resolve, personally.
Beyond the partisan nature of the “apology tour,” beyond the silly font that is all stonewashed and worn in, beyond the facts that clearly refute the text, the sentiment is very troubling.
Nobody is beyond apology, and nobody is perfect. Somebody who believes that they (or their country) is 100% absolutely right has no ability to think critically, and will never be able to move their country forward. Slavery was wrong. Forced sterilization was wrong. Concentration camps were wrong. Forced assimilation of Native Americans was wrong. A ban on interracial marriages was wrong. Bans on gay marriage are wrong. Taking a stand against apology is dangerous in and of itself. A person, or a country, who will never apologize is, by its very nature, unable to strive for greatness. At the same time, it is giving leaders of the country a powerful license to do whatever they want to whomever they want, because their followers have said they will never apologize.
This is why infallibility is one of the hallmarks of totalitarianism.
Apology is good. Apology shows strength and an ability to think critically about your actions, and admit your shortcomings. It is only through apology that we can move forward as a country, and as a world. You don’t have to apologize for being an American, you really have no control over where you were born. To suggest that a president is an embarrassment for admitting mistakes, though, is wrong, and dangerous. Even if you type it in stonewashed font on top of an American flag.