There will be no apology, nor will you hear even the hint of a regret.
And if you want vindication, you will have to wait until history renders its judgement. Of course, history takes its damn time, and you will likely be waiting for decades or even centuries to hear, “Yes, you were right.”
You see, progressives have this masochistic habit of expecting conservatives to acknowledge how catastrophically wrong they are. In the interim, liberals go ahead and forgive conservatives for little transgressions like, for example, enforcing segregation or trying to murder Congress. We progressives are all about making nice and striving for a more perfect union and insisting that love will save the day.
Conservatives, however, see this as a sign of weakness. They don’t accept olive branches unless it’s politically convenient, and even then, they brush aside their horrendous offenses that caused so much agony in the first place.
And yet liberals go on explaining and being respectful and hoping that conservatives will accept progressive values. This wishful thinking presupposes three things:
First, that people who have embraced delusional fears and bizarre conspiracy theories—while rejecting science, facts, and critical thinking—will somehow say, “What a keen logical point you just made! I’m convinced!”
Second, that people who have demonstrated zero capacity for shame or empathy will somehow become all introspective and say, “I guess I was wrong.”
And third, that people who prize “owning the libs” over their very lives will somehow say, “I’ve come around to your way of thinking, you wacky progressive.”
Holding out hope for any of these three, much less a combo of all of them, is not just a political dead end. It is pathetic and potentially dangerous.
Yes, we all felt pretty good hearing about those QAnon fanatics who renounced their faith and said they felt silly for believing that Biden would execute every Republican. Of course, they didn’t actually apologize for wanting all Democrats to be executed, but hey, all is forgiven, right? Except that most QAnon supporters still believe some form of their wacked-out theory. It’s just morphed into a less exotic version of racism, paranoia, and straight-up Nazi worship. But that part didn’t fit into the narrative that right-wingers had learned the error of their ways.
More impressively, we all remember that Republicans were deeply embarrassed by the January 6 riots… for about a week. Today, those supposedly chastened conservatives are holding rallies for the protesting “martyrs” and proclaiming the riots were patriotic acts and implying they will soon do it again. Now, if the sight of your comrades storming the Capitol and bludgeoning police does not convince you that you have picked the wrong side, then nothing will.
And nothing will.
Consider that so far this century, Republicans have brought us two of the worst presidents in history, multiple recessions, a botched war, and the worst plague in a century. With a track record like that, one would think they would finally listen to the opinion of liberals. But the right-wing mindset allows no room for remorse, no space for reexamination. And it’s been this way for generations.
Is Lindsay Graham humbled for his support of Trump? You might as well ask if Dick Cheney is sorry about the Iraq War, or if Oliver North ever blushed over Iran-Contra.
But why stop there? We see that decades ago, “rather than being chastised by Watergate and the political fallout from it, a faction of Republicans continued to support the idea that Nixon had done nothing wrong” because in the GOP mind, they “were justified in undercutting Democrats, who were somehow anti-American, even if it meant breaking laws.”
And we can go all the way back to the original battle between red states and blue states. After the Civil War, the victorious North reasoned that “being lenient with former Confederates, rather than punishing any of them for their attempt to destroy American democracy, would make them loyal to the Union and willing to embrace the new conditions of Black freedom.”
It didn’t quite work out that way, as the subsequent century of Jim Crow and hundreds of Confederate monuments—that exist to this day—prove that people who attack the government view forgiveness “as proof that they… had been right,” and that “their conviction that some men were better than others, and that hierarchies should be written into American law” is still a noble cause.
Or consider all those screaming White people captured in 1950s photographs, directing their eye-popping rage at Black kids who dared to integrate schools. Generations later, some of them apologized for their bigotry, and Americans responded by doing what we always do, i.e., insisting that Black people be gracious and accept the half-assed apology. But many of those 1950s segregationists were never interested in true reconciliation or being honest about the pain they caused, despite widespread photographic proof of being as wrong as one could possibly be.
Similarly, the vast majority of Trump supporters will go to their graves convinced that we should have built that wall and that BLM is a terrorist organization and that stuffing kids into cages is a virtue.
And progressives will say, “That’s ok,” and hope that the next generation of right-wingers will be more reasonable. But they will not be.
In truth, “forgive and forget” is great advice for one’s personal life, but for a country, it can be suicidal.
Featured image: “Inside the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington DC” by o palsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0