California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks in Sacramento, Calif., on April 23, 2021. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)
Who benefits from repetitive apology virtue signaling? California Attorney General Rob Bonta recently expressed regrets
to Japanese Americans on the 35th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act (Aug. 10, 1988). This Act had bipartisan support in Congress and was signed during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
The Act granted $20,000 in the form of reparations to living Japanese American citizens and permanent residents who had been incarcerated in government internment camps in a few Western states from 1942–1946. At the time, California Attorney General Earl Warren supported Executive Order 9066, which was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. It authorized the U.S. military to administer “relocation” camps that housed more than 120,000 Japanese Americans.
These internees had their businesses, homes, and land taken from them, because some officials in government feared that they might not be loyal Americans. It was an injustice and a black mark on our history, because many of these traumatized folks never had their possessions returned to them after WW II.
Officials at the Japanese American National Museum noted
that the Civil Liberties Act “was the first and only time that the U.S. government publicly apologized for a mistake acknowledging that the forced removal and unconstitutional incarceration was caused by a failure of political leadership, wartime hysteria, and racism.”
While it’s appropriate to study prior injustices and learn from historical mistakes, do repeated apology tours benefit anyone? They might make apology issuers feel good about virtue signaling, but are they necessary? Every time you turn around, a government official is offering regrets regarding the Asian Exclusion Acts, mistreatment of native tribes, and the atrocity of slavery. Instead of fixating on the past, perhaps they could focus on the progress our society has made in racial relations over many decades.
As military police stand guard, people of Japanese descent wait at a transport center for relocation to an internment center, in San Francisco on April 6, 1942. (AP Photo)
One can understand apologies issued during or shortly after injustices are committed, but to continually litigate misdeeds committed scores and scores of years ago dilutes the authenticity of apologetic contrition. Historical mistakes cannot be undone, but current and future generations can strive to respect Americans from all cultural backgrounds. It is highly worthwhile to educate ourselves regarding the highs and lows of American history while treating others as you want to be treated in daily life.
In contrast to feeling the urge to offer mea culpas for prior injustices, government officials in California could apologize for current policies that jeopardize the quality of life for most Californians. First, Gov. Newsom could apologize for the devastating pandemic mandates that generated mental suffering on mostly healthy citizens for two years. Businesses and schools were unnecessarily shuttered although the lockdowns and experimental vaccines were ineffective in stopping the virus. Moreover, many officials failed to adhere to their own edicts.
Next, some city, county, and state officials could apologize for defunding the police in major cities, which encouraged ascending rates of crime and homelessness. This lawlessness subtracts from business productivity, erodes personal security, and infringes on the rights of law-abiding folks. Shortsighted policies chip away at public order, and officials tend to pivot in a different direction only when elections are on the horizon or public fury is unleashed. Why can’t the Democrats fund law enforcement because it’s the right thing to do?
Third, Sacramento politicians could apologize for the excessive taxes and regulations that hinder economic prosperity and force Californians to flee the state. They could learn lessons from states that incentivize business growth with less government intervention. They could also explain why a large budget surplus evaporated
into a $30 billion plus deficit for fiscal year 2024.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom leaves the stage after delivering his budget proposal in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2023. (José Luis Villegas/AP Photo)
Fourth, the state Board of Education and Supt. of Public Instruction could stop making excuses for public schools’ poor annual test scores despite boatloads of money being tossed at school districts. Discipline standards and a rigorous curriculum must replace Marxist indoctrination as well as cotton candy/cream puff/Mickey Mouse courses. To succeed, students should learn how to think rather than be told what to think and embrace a solid work ethic.
School choice and education vouchers would pressure the public school system to compete and improve. Schools need less micromanagement and more opportunities for self-governance, which translates into a reduction in redundant government spending.
Politicians could finally admit prior mistakes and promise to fund law enforcement along with arm-twisting the homeless to take responsibility for their future. Instead of advising folks to refrain from intervening when a flash mob burglary hits their business, why not advise greater security, self-defense training, and the use of mace? Moreover, start prosecuting smash and grab theft rings to make other criminals think twice about looting.
Gov. Newsom could also focus on vital infrastructure repairs such as aqueducts, bridges, reservoirs, and roads, in partnership with private sector construction firms. Stop wasting tax dollars on high-speed rail. Finally, sincere apologies for harmful policies could lead to the passage of commonsense legislation that will enhance liberty, law and order, and security for all Californians.