Who's Sorry Now?

Contrition seems to be universally fashionable these days. Look at all the statespeople who have apologized for the misdeeds of their nations. President Bill Clinton said sorry to the victims of Tuskegee. British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted regret for LondonÆs role in the Irish potato famine. French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged French assistance to Germany in World War II. Former South African President Frederick W. de Klerk apologized for apartheid (well, sort of). And, at the urging of a group of bipartisan white lawmakers, President Clinton is considering whether to issue an apology to African Americans for slavery.

But one leader has refused to capitulate to the trend. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has declared that he will not apologize to the "Stolen Generation"—as many as 100,000 Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families between 1910 and 1970, a removal sanctioned by law. European colonizers declared Australia Terra Nullius—"empty land." Aboriginal Australians were treated as part of the flora and fauna of the continent. Restrictive policies were employed to rigidly control every aspect of their lives.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1997
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