Faculty Writing: Public Apology and Memorializing “Truth”

For Harper’s After Trump roundup, Liane Carlson mediates on the complexity of apologies as expiation rituals and the limitations of “forgiveness culture.” In a note on the aftermath of the Trump administration, she writes: “Nothing that has happened in the past four years precludes the possibility of individual forgiveness. Nothing prevents a politician from stepping up to a flag-draped stage with his wife at his side and speeding through every cliché he can think of. But Trump’s brazen refusal to apologize, and the utter lack of consequences for it, created a space where a man like Kavanaugh could refuse to apologize and ugly-cry his way through his confirmation hearing to a Supreme Court seat for life. That opening was not a small one. Public apologies may have been rote, but they were at least a capitulation to a shared set of facts and customs. In this, as with everything else, Trump showed us that seemingly inviolable norms are optional. And he has proved the stupendous power of shamelessness at a moment when there has never been more reason to feel ashamed.”

For Monument Lab, Shimrit Lee historicizes monuments in all their constructed-ness, advocating for the counter-monument and anti-monument as alternative means for publicizing “truth” without relaying a false sense of historical closure. She writes: “As the Trump administration and its allies scramble to preserve the neoclassical grandeur of a mythological past, demonstrators across the world are transforming immortal monuments to white supremacy by applying graffiti, light projections, or by removing them altogether. By doing so, they are asserting themselves into a telling of history that is far from determined. Our future monuments must recognize this struggle, and above all remain self-conscious in the stories they tell and the truths they honor.”

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