When are national apologies a good idea?
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, noting that lately Mexico has been demanding an apology from Spain for colonialism. Here is one bit:
Some features of good apologies are sincerity, overall compatibility with what the apologizer now stands for in other contexts, and a broad social willingness to accept that something indeed has been settled for the better.
OK, so how about Spain and Mexico? I am skeptical of this proposed apology, partly because it seems like a political maneuver by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to garner political support and distract from his likely failure to successfully reform Mexico’s economy. The current Spanish government also is not a close descendant of the conquistadors, as it is a full-blown democracy and the conquest was almost 500 years ago. One can acknowledge the massive injustices of the history without thinking that current Spanish citizens necessarily should feel so guilty. And (until recently) Spain-Mexico relations have not been problematic, so it is not clear exactly what problem this apology is supposed to solve.
The current demand for an apology is a distraction from the enduring injustice of Mexico’s segregation. If Spaniards found their own reasons for wishing to apologize, that would be a good result. But on this demand, they are correct to give it a pass.
I also consider the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Rwanda.