Dear Mr President


A reader writes:

I read your Oct 2009 "Dear President Bush" piece in the Atlantic online today, and just wanted to write to say what an eloquent and persuasive piece it is. It was FWD'd to me by a close friend who used to be a Republican. I used to be a moderate independent.

The Bush years and the changes in the American political landscape have pushed us both far to the left... or rather, I think we each believe now in the things that we believed in a decade ago, but the political landscape has changed so much that, without having moved much, we're both somehow standing in a completely different place. It reminds me of an anecdote told by a man from the former Soviet Union; his family lived in the exact same house for 60 years in the 20th century, during which time the house was in five different countries.

While reading your article, I was thinking about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (upon which I gather the Rwandan T&R Commission is based, though I know less about how the Rwandan one functions).

It was a structure set up to examine crimes similar to the ones discussed in your article, and which the perpetrators committed at home, on their fellow citizens and most often against civilians, including women and children. Utterly horrific crimes. But the perpetrator's punishment at a Commission hearing was not imprisonment or execution; it was to be confronted by witnesses, survivors, and mourners, and then to publicly accept responsibility for his actions and apologize to those whom he had harmed. The Commission was in keeping with tribal tradition about what a community needs to do to normalize and move on; it's necessary to air grievances, discuss injuries, accept responsibility, apologize, and forgive.

I really don't know if could ever forgive former President Bush and his associates for what they did to this country, to our Constitution, and to others. But their acknowledging wrongs, accepting responsibility, and apologizing would indeed be a big step toward reconciliation in OUR society--and perhaps toward the reconciliation we must achieve with the Islamic world if we're not to spend the next century in another Cold War.

Thanks for writing a thoughtful, intelligent piece amidst all the irrational screaming and hysterical name-calling. I hope it gets noticed.