The power of apology

To: Jacinda Ardern’s Opposite

The last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing an uptick in typos in the WP. I noted the issue about a year ago when there was a flurry of them and then they went away (at least in the articles I read), but they’re back. Here’s this morning’s example:

“Ardern acknowledged this and other findings, including that weak firearms regulations allowed the gunman to require weapons with ease.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/jacinda-ardern-new-zealand-christchurch-attacks/2020/12/08/a5f4b074-38fc-11eb-aad9-8959227280c4_story.html)

Maybe as things in the world (or maybe just on the domestic front) heat-up and there’s too much to track, more mistakes slip in. It’s also possible that they’re breaking in a new copy editor and that person isn’t super attentive. Whatever the cause (or causes), this is an especially unfortunate slip since “require weapons” is a very bad idea, indeed.

The article itself, though, caught my eye because it reports that New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, publicly apologized to the people of NZ, and in particular to NZ’s Muslim community, for her government’s over-scrutiny of that community and under-scrutiny of people expressing (non-Islamist) extremist ideologies. The official report regarding the Christchurch massacre found that there was likely little that could have been done to prevent that particular tragedy. The gun laws were found to be somewhat too lax, but that the shooter likely would have been able to legally access the weapons he used even if they’d been tighter and because he acted alone and didn’t presage the attacks, there was nothing law enforcement could have picked up ahead of time.

And yet and still, PM Ardern apologized. Publicly. She could easily have shined it on and focused on the overall non-findings, spared herself and her government the embarrassment of a public apology. You would have done that – or worse. Actually, you would have found some way to blame the people in the mosques or Christchurch’s Muslim community for what happened or at the very least insinuated that the terrorist attack on them wouldn’t have happened if they’d just….. done or been this or that.

The fact of the apology is what caught my eye. The refreshing, real, human and humane gesture of an apology and an admission that her government had been over-surveilling the Muslim community in a biased, prejudicial manner and at the same time were giving the rightwing factions in the White community far too much of a pass. I’m guessing the apology also served to put other rightwing would-be domestic terrorists on notice that they aren’t going to skate under the radar any longer. I’m also guessing that the apology is a public affirmation that the stricter gun laws that were put in place immediately after the massacre are going to stay in place.

In other words, PM Ardern gave a master class on true leadership, demonstrating that true leaders steps up and take responsibility for the failings on their watch, take real steps to correct things that are adversely affecting their country, and have genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of those they serve. Now of course the PM’s apology could have been a calculated CYA move that was devoid of any real feeling or concern, but I’ve watched her remarks (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-08/new-zealand-tables-christchurch-attack-royal-commission-report/12956870) and I don’t think she was putting on a show and even if she was, she said what needed to be heard. She notes at the end of the recording that an apology would be hollow without corrective steps and that instead, she is agreeing to all 44 recommendations contained in the report.

This sort of response from a leader shouldn’t be remarkable or be considered especially admirable, but I’ll tell you what – the contrast between Ardern and you couldn’t be more stark. Fortunately, I think Ardern and Biden are peas in a pod and we’ll soon be in better hands.

May we be safe from leaders whose vocabularies and ethoses are devoid of apologies.
May we insist on leaders willing to take responsibility and to make corrections.
May we recognize the strength it takes to be such a leader.
May we never again accept a leader whose only reflex is to blame others.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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