“I guess there’s no room for redemption in your worldview,” a friend said, angrily signing off Messenger. I’d just spent hours explaining redemption. Starting with “apology.”
I generally refrain from tearing most writing to shreds in public. It’s tacky and hurtful, and it doesn’t lead to better writing. What I will do is dissect the hell out of a public apology. Especially an apology that’s as ineffective, insincere, pouty, and full of dogwhistles as the one my unaffected friend wanted to accept wholeheartedly on behalf of the people actually hurt.
If you want a thorough background, read this article. Everyone else, here’s the TL;dr.
Some people who like to do this and this:
Estrella War 2005, photo by author
Both of these kids are at least in high school now and I am old. Photo by author.
Are upset that a guy who looks like this:
photo from facebook, photographer unknown
A semi-accurate reproduction of the Snartemo V band
And these people thought it would be cool to wear it in public while in a position of power:
TxRM’s Athanaric and Sigriðr of Caid
As context, Lady-on-the-Right was spoken to years ago by someone who pointed out that this other thing she likes to wear a reproduction of:
You can find this by googling “3d CE swastika” or “horse swastika” or “Roman swastika”
kiiiiind of, from a few feet away, looks like a
…”fylfot.” That’s what you say when you don’t want to say “swastika.” Well, one thing led to another…
Sometimes you get so exited[sic] about something you downplay or ignore the negatives. In this case we have done so and have hurt some members of the populace. We got very exited[sic] about a piece of very complex historical art and making an extremely accurate presentation and felt the differences to modern interpretations would be sufficient and that everyone would agree with us. We were wrong. For this we apologize. Know that no offense was intended, no hidden message to interpret, and no hate to be displayed. For any communities hurt we are sorry to have caused you pain. The art created will not be further displayed upon the throne.
Why was it hard to believe this? Obviously they had no idea that anyone would consider the trim anything other than a historical reproduction, right?
Public commentary on Facebook. The last comment is by the weaver of the trim. It reads “Rainbow sun wheels for when you want to commit the most fabulous genocide.”
Here’s the thing about a sincere apology. It cannot start with a lie. They knew more than a few people would see “a swastika.” Lots of swastikas. So “felt… that everyone would agree with us” is disingenuous at best and malicious at worst. It also raises an interesting question: Did they take a poll, and if so, what is it about the group they polled that makes it self-select to “people who are totally not bothered by swastikas?”
I’ll wait while you come up with your own answer.
Another thing about a sincere apology is that it should focus on the person injured, not on you or what’s “in your heart.” If you step on someone’s foot, you say “I’m sorry I broke your foot” not “I definitely stepped on your foot, wow, do you know how to get blood out of leather? These were really expensive boots.” This apology is all me, me, me, identify with me instead of the people I harmed.
Let’s repeat that: it targets people who identify with the aggressor, not the victims.
And then, of course, “accuracy.” You can do some research on the original band, but let’s just say it’s a lot narrower and not quite so Third Reichey in color theme around the fylfots.
Still not great, though.
Finally, if you know the four-part apology framework, you know saying “I won’t” allows the wrongdoer to draw the smallest possible circle around the infraction. “The art created will not be further displayed upon the throne.” So… you’re still planning to run around in it? Display it everywhere else?
But, you know, props, they recognized that the original nonpology was insufficient and came back with a second one. As did the guy with the Richard Spencer haircut.
And yeah, I still don’t think this is satisfactory.
One of the things my friend in Paragraph 1 asked for was empathy. Someone comes up to you and says “Hey, [reader], you look like a Nazi in that swastika.” Empathetically, what’s the first thing you want to say?
“I’m not a Nazi.”
Go read through all the apologies, and look for that phrase. It’s not there. Other words that neither apology contains: “swastika.”
There’s no sense of taking ownership in these “apologies.” Hell, there isn’t even an acknowledgment of the wrongdoing, in the words the injured people used to describe the injury. Just a lot of “you should understand what’s in our hearts.”
Pretty sure I do. And until that changes, no, I’m not here for your redemption cycle.