A very good read indeed. Nice article and to the point.
The politics of regret
By Beverly Darling
It is only human and natural to feel regret.
That is why I was surprised to learn what US First Lady Laura Bush said when asked how her husband had dealt with the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Bush claimed that neither she nor her husband "has any regrets about their response to the attacks ... It's a philosophy of no regrets; in one sense, whatever happens happens, and you have to keep moving on and do the best you can with whatever it is."
After reading what Bush said next, "He [President George W Bush] never looks back because he is a realist," I decided to find out how Webster's Dictionary defines "regret"
. It is the ability to feel sorry or distressed about something or someone, to mourn for having done the wrong thing. It includes wishing things could be different and the ability to remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow. Such qualities as humility, sympathy and introspection are also associated with regret.
It is no surprise, then, that US history is filled with individuals and presidents who had private and public regrets.
Theodore Roosevelt regretted making a statement that he would not run for office in 1908. Woodrow Wilson was disappointed that the US Senate did not pass the League of Nations Treaty. Herbert Hoover had misgivings about not responding adequately to the Great Depression. Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Dwight Eisenhower regretted the loss of lives during World War II and the Korean War. John F Kennedy regretted ordering the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and even appeared on national television apologizing to the American people.
Lyndon B Johnson deeply agonized over the Vietnam conflict. His wife, Lady Bird Johnson, later said that seeing young Americans return in body bags deeply affected and troubled him. Richard M Nixon regretted the Watergate scandal and for "giving his enemies a sword to fall upon". Jimmy Carter felt distress each day the US/Iran hostage crisis was prolonged. Ronald Reagan was sorrowful over Contragate, while George H W Bush regretted having to raise taxes after he promised he would not. Even Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War patriot and hanged spy, said before his death, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Psychologist Jeanna Bryner claims researchers have located an area in the brain that immediately alerts us of an impending mistake so we do not repeat it. In fact, the brain reacts to mistakes even before they get processed consciously. Roy Baumeister, a sociologist, has completed an interesting study and has discovered that when a person is the victim of a wrongful act, he or she describes it as inexplicable, senseless and immoral, and causing lasting damage. However, if the same person is a perpetrator of similar acts, he or she views it as causing only brief pain and justifiable or something that could not be avoided.
In saying all of this, can regret be a positive virtue, and is it needful in relating to others and making correct decisions? Regret reminds us that we are human and our decisions finite and sometimes incorrect. Regret enables us to adjust to tragedy and change course when mistakes have occurred. It is the opposite of self-righteousness and moral superiority, which prevents us from sympathizing with others. It can also help us make meaning out of the present and identify past mistakes so we do not repeat them in the future.
I sometimes wonder if our narcissistic and highly self-centered collective political culture has diminished or can make someone unlearn a virtue like regret.
Remember when a reporter asked President Bush to recall his biggest mistake?
He replied, "I hope I - I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." Later when asked about mistakes over weapons of mass destruction, postwar planning in Iraq, and warding off September 11, he blamed the country for not being on a war footing and him listening to General Tommy Franks.
If regret is a learned behavior, here are some events that Bush may want to reflect upon
Ordering the US invasion and occupation of Iraq before United Nations weapons inspectors could complete their job, and then calling the war a "crusade", which was offensive to most Muslims. The thousands of Iraqis who have been killed and the 2 million Iraqi refugees. Saying "mission accomplished", and then watching 3,600 US troops die. Saying that 30,000 Iraqis, more or less, had been killed and then calling on Iraq - a Muslim country - to pattern its government after Israel - a Jewish nation. After six years, finally trying to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli issue.
Being at a Republican fundraiser while dead bodies were floating in New Orleans. Saying that health insurance is no big deal and people have health care in the US by just going to an emergency room. An endless amount of troop surges, the increase in civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the strengthening of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Failing to capture Osama bin Laden.
But unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Bush are not alone in saying they have no regrets.
The United States, with its preoccupation of self and overly narcissistic culture, has created an entire government and society that appear to be suffering from a lack of remorse. Just as some believe they are above the rule of law, others feel they are beyond regret. They know no boundaries to, nor have any regrets about, their dominant ideologies and their effects. Maybe this explains the inability of us Americans to deal with and work with other nations and cultures in bringing about peace with justice.
When Lyndon B Johnson was sworn into office aboard Air Force One en route to Washington, DC, from Dallas after John F Kennedy's assassination, he said, "Our institutions cannot be interrupted by an assassin's bullet." No, but they can be interrupted and destroyed by a president, a congress, and a nation that has not learned the politics of regret. Perhaps this is the kind of reality we desperately need.
Beverly Darling received her master's degree in theology and her bachelor's degree in history and philosophy. She currently teaches US and world history and works with at-risk youth. She also served in a Guatemalan refugee camp and has traveled throughout Mexico, Panama and Canada. For several years she ministered to the urban poor and rural populations of the US.
(Copyright 2007 WorldNews.com.)