The Complexity of an Apology

In her essay, “The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?””, Beverly Daniel Tatum discusses the concept of identity and explains what one’s identity is shaped by. She identifies shaping factors of identity as one’s individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors (Tatum). In Layli Long Soldier’s poem, “Whereas”, she incorporates these factors of her own identity in a response to the Congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans, which former President Obama signed in obscurity in 2009.

"Can I apologize for the apology?"

As an illustration of these aforementioned factors, Long Soldier lays out the realities of certain aspects of identity in everyday life. These aspects include her roles as an Oglala Lakota, poet, mother, and daughter. She utilizes the literary device of anaphora, placing the word “Whereas” at the beginning of each successive statement (“Whereas”). Long Soldier portrays a sense of restraint that she’s felt in certain aspects of her life by recalling things she wanted to do, yet didn’t, and things she thought, but never said. The most prominent aspect of her poem which contrasts beautifully with the Apology Resolution is when Long Soldier speaks of the way in which her own father apologized to her for not being a part of her childhood.

With this in mind, amid both her father and the Federal Government’s apologies, both perpetrators offer recognition for their actions, yet only one actually accepts responsibility for them. This can be seen in the language that each apology utilizes. For example, in the apology given by Long Soldier’s father, there is a sense of sincerity and humanity, “I have come now. I am seated across from a Whereas smile” (“Whereas”). The simple structure of the phrase “I have come now” sounds reassuring and even relieving when it is read, and the word “smile” has a positive connotation, and encompasses emotions of happiness and joy (“Whereas”). Her father not only offers recognition for his actions and past wrong doings, but he also accepts responsibility for them.

The apology made by Long Soldier’s father contrasts with the Congressional apology to Native Americans. This apology is faulty in itself as no Native Americans were present to receive the apology. In the apology, it is written, “The United States…apologizes…for the…violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States” (S.J. Res. 14). However, how is it possible for an apology to even be received when it is included in legal document and is not formally presented to who it is directed towards?

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Works Cited

Soldier, Layli Long. “From WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry           Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91697/from-whereas.

Tatum, Beverly D. “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I?” Scribd,           www.scribd.com/doc/47686971/Who-Am-I-Tatum.

The Library of Congress, “Bill Text: 111th Congress (2009-2010) S.J. Res. 14.IS,” www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text.

Ms. Liberties Mixed Messages

One of the earliest memories I have is of box from when my family moved in first grade. This was a tiny move, I stayed in the same neighborhood, saw the same stores change into new ones and was honestly too young to even remember my old apartment. Moving is always challenging no matter how far the distance.  I cannot begin to relate or even imagine the hardships, pain or excitement that an immigrant must feel moving across oceans, often to America. Emma Lazarus’ 19th century poem “The New Colossus” portrays the timely message of the American Dream fostered by acceptance. In the mid 1800’s America was able to provide a home for those who were escaping disastrous or bad living conditions, but sadly the feeling of homesickness, longing for a home or a culture is simply not left behind.

Lazarus’ use of a metaphor emphasizes the savior that America provides for those who must leave their home. In the last two lines of her poem she writes, “Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (13-14) she compares immigrants to those who have experienced a tempest. This shines a positive light on America and what it as a country can provide for people. The acceptance and wiliness to take anyone in no matter the experiences, or storm like a tempest they have previously gone through. By comparing immigrants experience to a type of storm Lazarus provides a type of relatability for Americans andAmerican immigrants, as no matter where you are in the world there are always storms.

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The relatability of a storm creates a bride between immigrants and nonimmigrants, because they cannot relate on many levels. American Immigrants and Americans are inherently different. There is an overall sense of welcoming, relatability and acceptance for immigrants thought out “The New Colossus” and in American morals but this isn’t always the case. By assuming that immigrants have gone through a storm American are almost assuming that America is just better. This sets a foundation of pride in America has that tends to subdue or disrespect other cultures. Immigrants of the late 1800’s may have not wanted to come to America or may have been facing other personal hardships that America as a whole failed to recognize.

Now, prepositioned at the base of the Statue of Liberty this poem still rings true today. The message of acceptance and the American dream remains hopeful and uplifting, but there are certain changes the need to be put in place to make sure that as an American society we are living up to all the poems aspirations.

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Lazarus. Emma. “The New Colossus,” 1883.

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