Short post, today. Just wanted to share this thought before going back to work...
I am preparing a presentation for this Genocide conference and just got to the part about the apology. These survivors of the French WWII deportations keep saying they want an apology from the train company for deporting them and/or their families to the German border where they were then taken to Auschwitz by German train drivers.
Of course we can understand they want an apology. But many have refused the apology when it is made. Some first refused the apology because it was only given in English, then it was refused because the survivors claimed it was only given to serve the company's greater business interests.
This has caused me to think and read more about apology in general. What are we looking for? Have you ever received an apology and it did not feel as good or cathartic as you had hoped? A hoped-for apology, once given, rarely seems to have the effect we suppose.
I think this might be because we do not want the words "I'm sorry," we might want the person or company to fully share our understanding of the world and our experience of it! Impossible. No one knows what it was like to lose your parents in the WWII deportations. Even others who lost their parents had different experiences. I discovered this talking to survivors. One told me that she felt so close to her mother and could always feel her after she was gone. The other has little recollection of her mother.
So we can never really understand. So why do we apologize? To say that we care?
The work then goes to the victim..not to forgive, necessarily, but to let go of the hope that the other will ever understand the loss or the experience. And to let go of the idea that we will ever be at the same levels of spiritual development or that the other person is who we want them to be. They may apologize but never change. That's the pain. Now, in the case of the train company, yes they changed, of course. After the war, no more deportations. In interpersonal conflict, however, I think what we hope for is not an apology perhaps but for the evolution of the other.
I think the act of the apology is so interesting because it highlights our fundamental separation -- I am not you and you are not me We feel the gap in these moments.
Yes, the Buddhists and Levinas fans are yapping in my ear saying that we are all ONE and some native american tribes telling me when one is wounded the community is wounded.
But I find, in the moment of apology, the reminder how little we can see and experience this oneness. The separation feels most palpable when we work to try to close the gap.