Apology Ethics: Jane Fonda Is Not The United States Of America

Maybe John Nolte of Breitbart had the best of intentions, but his essay “We Should Accept Jane Fonda’s Apology About Vietnam” is an ethics mess.

To begin with, the title is deliberately misleading: his real point has nothing to do with Jane Fonda. He begins with Jane to set up an analogy that doesn’t even work. “After 35 years of apologies, isn’t it time to forgive and move on? Should someone who has repeatedly apologized over four decades still be called on the carpet and asked to continue to explain herself?,” Nolte asks, referring to Fonda’s self-created infamy when she went to North Vietnam and praised Ho Chi Minh while condemning American GIs who were fighting and dying in combat with his army. Who is Nolte talking about? Most American under the age of 60 don’t know anything about Fonda’s war protest activities. “Move on” to what? Fonda hasn’t suffered any horrible fate because of her betrayal. Nobody “canceled” her. OK, the woman is nearly 90 and regrets some of her past decisions. What old lady doesn’t? I believe she’s sorry; her anti-American rhetoric probably cost her some work-out video income. It sure didn’t cost her any roles or party invites in Hollywood. She’s also probably sorry that she did the Atlanta Braves “tomahawk chop” when she was Ted Turner’s trophy wife, too. So what? If a 75-year-old Vietnam vet chooses not to forgive Jane Fonda for aiding and providing comfort to the enemy who was trying to kill him in the jungles of Vietnam, who is Nolte to say he has to?

I confess, I am pre-conditioned not to take anything published on Breitbart as persuasive; it has been on the Ethics Alarms banned list for many years and will remains so. Nolte also loses credibility with me when he gushes that Jane “is one of the greatest actresses who has ever lived.” He needs to apologize for that, and the apology needs to be addressed to Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Glenn Close, Vanessa Redgrave, Greer Garson [I left Garson out when this was first posted: unforgivable.], Maggie Smith, Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Ellen Burstyn, Geraldine Page, Nicole Kidman, Glenda Jackson, Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Norma Shearer, Greer Garson, Ingrid Bergman, Judi Dench, Judith Anderson and Ann Bancroft, among others. Fonda has been a capable actress in a narrow range for a long time. She was better than her brother and not as good as her father. But one of the greatest of all time?

Stay in your lane, John.

But I digress. Fonda was disingenuously used by Nolte to tee up a terrible analogy. He writes,

All of America’s manufactured racial problems come down to a group of leftists (of all colors) who refuse to forgive and move on when it comes to slavery and Jim Crow. It’s not enough that hundreds of thousands of white Americans died to settle the matter of slavery. It’s not enough that after 5,000 generations where slavery was accepted as normal, it was Western Civilization that put an end to it. It’s not enough that two Constitutional amendments were passed to end American discrimination or that a black president was elected and re-elected, or that no American living today has ever owned or been a slave.

Why is it not enough?

Because with these race hustlers, fascists, and crybabies, it can never be enough. By not accepting America’s countless apologies and countless attempts to atone, they keep us divided, at each other’s throats, angry, and unable to heal.

You see, that’s the whole thing: If you don’t want a relationship to heal, you refuse to accept the apology and move on. That’s the secret to destroying a friendship or a marriage… No matter how sorry and contrite the offender is, you can destroy the relationship by constantly throwing whatever this person did in their face. And that’s what the left is doing to America and to millions of Americans…

I don’t disagree with Nolte that the Left, race-hustlers and the rest want to hold slavery, Jim Crow and any other race-related offenses real and imagined over America’s head forever, and that this is divisive, destructive, and threatens the nation itself. Apologies, however, have nothing to do with it. By making the tortured comparison between Jane Fonda and the nation itself (and white citizens), Nolte is actually strengthening the metaphorical hand of the activists and anti-white racists he’s condemning.

Fonda is an individual, and her apologies for her personal conduct to the people she harmed are appropriate, whether they are deemed sufficient or not. The United States of America, however, should not be constantly apologizing to its critics for policies, decisions, actions and non-actions taken long ago, under different leaders and different cultural norms and assumptions while being made, however mistakenly, in good faith and the sincere belief that they were responsible and right. It particularly should not apologize to people who were not directly harmed by the policies and conduct. Such apologies are cheap virtue-signaling by the apologists (See: Obama, Barack) and gifts of increased political leverage, influence and control to those receiving the mea culpas.

When the government finds that a policy or official conduct was wrong and harmful it should change the policy and conduct, learn, and do better. That is what the government has done regarding slavery and institutionalized racism. In the case of individuals, I disagree with Capt. Nathan Brittles’ (John Wayne) motto of “Never apologize…It’s a sign of weakness” in the 1949 film “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” Regarding the United States, the Duke was right. It’s not only a sign of weakness, it weakens the country, harming everyone.

Where should the apologies stop? Surely women deserve an official apology. The Native Americans have as great a grievance against the U.S. as any group. Gays certainly were treated horribly in the US with full knowledge and concurrence of the government. What about the Hawaiians, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain…should we apologize for Hiroshima? The firebombing of Dresden? What about the horrific treatment of the Irish when the first wave of immigrants arrived? How about the Jews, including the families of the Jews who died in the death camps while State Department officials deliberately ignored their plight? Should the US apologize to Vietnam?

The constant call for the U.S. to apologize for its policies and decisions throughout history is a cynical power strategy, and Nolte is facilitating it. Jane Fonda has apologized for herself. When the United States apologizes, its citizens are implicated as well. I do not accept responsibility for slavery and Jim Crow, the taking of Native American lands, the Trail of Tears, and so much more.

One of Thomas Sowell’s better quotes is germane:

It is self-destructive for any society to create a situation where a baby who is born into the world today automatically has pre-existing grievances against another baby born at the same time, because of what their ancestors did centuries ago. It is hard enough to solve our own problems, without trying to solve our ancestors’ problems.

Today, long after those harmed by mistaken policies have passed away and those who devised the policies as well, the time for meaningful and productive apologies has past.


Pointer: Other Bill

2 thoughts on “Apology Ethics: Jane Fonda Is Not The United States Of America

  1. I am “a 75-year-old Vietnam vet who chooses not to forgive Jane Fonda for aiding and providing comfort to the enemy who was trying to kill me in the jungles of Vietnam.”

    I also believe that she should have been brought up on charges of treason, for the sake of justice. However, I know that justice delayed is justice denied, so we the vets of Vietnam have been denied justice.

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