Accountability, Atonement, and Forgiveness: The Search is On


Some Important, Long Standing Wrongs Are Getting Justice. Can We Get This Right?

Some Days It Is Hard to Look in the Mirror, America

This is a blog posting I was not keen on writing. So much is at play around issues involving racism and sexual misconduct. Nothing seems easy to address. A lot of wrongs got a pass for way too long from way too many people. Too many of us live in blissful ignorance of what it is like to be a woman in Hollywood or a black man walking down a street. Too many people have lived in fear, in unfairness, and without voice. Those conditions continue for many today.

Black Lives Matter and #MeToo provide painful but necessary openings for us to deal with such things. Like many others who have never suffered such life burdens, my initial reactions included wondering if things were being overstated by the voices of protest. I was, of course, wrong, with little understanding of  how little I knew. I am still learning today.

Say It Isn’t So, Virginia

The ongoing drama of the Virginia governor, et al, has given new rise to voices of anger, hurt, and disappointment. But it has also led to some interesting dialogue about how we deal with such matters as a country. How do we speak for justice and what capacity should we have for forgiveness? What expectations should we have for atonement and accountability?

Resignation seems the only course that makes sense now for Northam. It might not have been so, but Northam’s conduct in the first days of this have been odd and disconnected. The press conference he held last weekend was bizarre. That only his wife’s forbearance seemed to spare us a moon walking demonstration was surreal. Someday it would be interesting to know what reporter thought that was a useful question to ask, but the response was illuminating, to say the least.

I regret, in some ways, that this is where Northam ended. I cannot claim to know the man. I have met him, and watched him campaign when he was running for lieutenant governor. He seemed a decent guy, had an impressive record. He was right in my view on most issues and had the ability to talk to both sides of the aisle. But his conduct since this matter began makes all that largely irrelevant.

There is more than enough being written about this case specifically. I shall not add more to that growing amount of text.

Some People I Am Reading – You Should Be, Too

The original draft of this blog post was quite a bit longer, as I endeavored to articulate our concerns and hopes. But I have found a number of excellent, articulate writings by others that I would like to share. They expressed it articulately. Rather than adding to the pile, I am glad to provide the links. I know I felt more focused and inclined to deal with all this after reading these. I think you will too.

There are six links for short articles listed below. It will not take you 20-30 minutes to read them all. I encourage you to do so.  My thanks to friends and people I don’t actually know who passed on a couple of these in social media exchanges. (How about that, something good about social media!)

The first two are, in my view, exceptional and worthy of praise.

Brookings –

The Weekly Sift –

The next three are helpful and thoughtful as well.

Washington Post ––and-all-the-others/2019/02/06/8148cc1a-2a62-11e9-b2fc-721718903bfc_story.html?utm_term=.2790d0782a60

Chicago Tribune –

New York Times –

The last one I find I have some disagreements ith in more than a few areas, but it is a useful part of the discussion we should have.

The Contrarian –

Can We Do This? Can We Fix Any of This?

We have an opportunity here for meaningful national discussion. I am not hopeful that we will seize it, but fingers are crossed. The last time we really tried a national level discussion on something was health care in the first Clinton administration. That did not exactly go well. Of course, there were a lot of commercial and political opponents to any solution that helped poison that discussion.

This new discussion, if it happens, might not do any better. If anything, we are more inclined to go to the barricades and fight right off the bat these days. Social media is the weapon of choice, rather than our tool for dialogue.

We are dealing here with issues that neither Black America nor White America can solve alone. We are in this boat together, even though the voyages have been very different for each of us. Somewhere between every shortfall is fatal and pretending that such offenses were of a different time and we should move on, should be a path of progress and reconciliation that we can find. I sure hope so.

On a brief political note, it is ironic to say the least that Democrats seem constantly in turmoil and apology on such matters, while the party of Trump and Rep. King ignore it all internally and enjoy condemning any Democratic sins. Until the Republicans actually take a stand beyond the occasional wrist slap, they have not earned the right to have a voice in this round.

By the way, this gets even more challenging when dealing with historical figures.

Many of our early presidents were slave holders. Thomas Jefferson was the brilliant author of the Declaration of Independence. Yet, he owned many slaves all his life. The story of Sally Hemmings is, finally, well known.

Christopher Columbus was an explorer the likes of which we rarely see. Yet, we seem to blame him for all that was wrong with the colonization that followed. Many no longer recognize the extraordinary nature of what he did accomplish. We only recognize the evils that followed. It’s a more complex story than that.

Where Do We Go from Here?

I suppose in the end, what I am asking for is to recognize the nature of humanity when we can. Call out evil AND look for redemption. For too long, we overlooked much evil. We still do. Finally, we are beginning the painful process of facing up to that.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to provide a small forum for reasoned discussion of the issues that challenge and bedevil us. Today’s column is an example of such matters. I encourage you – do the brief reading herein and share with us your thoughts. Be a part of that dialogue we so much need. As always, you may put PRIVATE at the end of your comments and I will assure you are anonymous. But join in and let us talk.

Good luck to us all, America.

   Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. Especially on this topic.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts. Let’s grow our circle.

2 replies to Accountability, Atonement, and Forgiveness: The Search is On

  1. If this conversation is supposed to be larger than Northam, then your choices of articles are, well, a bit limited. If nothing else, you should have found articles written by African American writers–and perhaps led people toward literature that could help them learn more about their own embedded racism that comes not from them being a “bad person,” but from being American. Perhaps an article reporting on Spike Lee’s views (Spike Lee On Gov. Ralph Northam, Or Anyone Else, In Blackface: ‘Hell To The Naw’). Or how about books written by white people FOR what people, like “White Fragility” by Robin diAngelo, or “Waking Up White” by Debbie Irving? By reading with an open mind (along with their rather gentle prodding), both of these have helped me considerably in understanding systemic racism.

    • Yes, the list was actually intended to focus on just the Northam experience with the idea of looking at one such matter as a first step in a broader process I hope many of us go through. Your points are well taken, though, and I really appreciate your sharing recommended sources with us all. Exactly the kind of exchange needed. Thank you.

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