Totalitarian regimes are rather famous for their use of coerced apologies. In particular, communist governments in China and the Soviet Union often carted some poor, offending soul out in front of crowd or camera to confess his terrible offenses against the sensibilities of the state. More recently, ISIS and North Korea have used this practice against their own people and foreigners they manage to capture.
While progressive American demands for apologies do not involve the use of physical force, as we see with McAdams they can come with considerable cost to those who refuse. They also almost always shut down important dialogue.
It should come as no surprise in an age where parents see their children being told to confess the privilege (read: sin) of being white, or male, or able-bodied, or the gender they were born as, that Trump’s refusals to apologize resonated so much. People are sick of it. Apologies do nothing to change the past and in many cases seem to promise more harm than good for the future.
Let’s stop demanding all these apologies. Let Stephen Colbert say crude things, let people have disagreements about what constitutes gender, let schools teach in an atmosphere of honest and open inquiry. And when people try to shut down those kinds of free speech, let’s stand up and utter a strong, stern “No.”