Thursday, April 22, 2010

Forgive and Forget

I am more of a pessimist then Card. I believe that forgiveness and guilt is more like a debt system. Saying “You are forgiven” wont erase the past. Card seems to think that it is possible to Forgive someone of the evils they did without forgetting about those evils the committed. Can you really forgive someone for something they did when what they did is still on the top of your mind? You might publicly say they are forgiven; however deep down there is not such a thing. You still feel like they are indebted to you in some way. The only way to truly and honestly forgive someone is to forget about the offense that they did. Deep down they will still resent what had happened to them. If someone murdered your family even if you say they are forgiven, there will still be resentment deep down in your soul. If however you have forgotten about the act, its like it never happened to you. Since this is the case, even if the victim forgives the perpetrator, the perpetrator may still feel bound to the victim. How many of you had done something bad to someone else and had been forgiven, only to have that same act you committed brought up again in a later argument? This works the other way around as well though. Even if someone forgives you verbally, people often still feel indebted. The punishment they receive is usually not enough. They still feel like they are indebted to the victim. The only way to get around this guilt is to hopefully forget about it. The perpetrator is never able to be released from the victim until the victim and perpetrator completely forgets about the whole thing. A jail cell doesn’t release people from their guilt, but time hopefully will. The only way to escape the debt someone owes to the victim is to hope the victim gets amnesia, or wait until enough time has passed. The forgetting of the offense is what makes it seem like it never happened. Reparations and Jail time does not mean anything unless it somehow makes the victim able to live with themselves in a way that they can forget the whole event. That is why people are unsatisfied even after the person that killed one of their loved ones is punished is because they haven’t forgotten about it. The victims are reminded everyday of their loss, and nothing can be done to make the perpetrator completely forgiven. Words do not erase what happened, only reparations to the point that the victim is able to forget the whole incident can. This is why i think Card fails, and these amnesty conferences on Genocide are mere optimism. She says forgiving is a virtue, however this cannot be the case if we still remember what was done to us.


  1. I'm going to completely disagree with you and say that reconciliation, not forgetting, is the best way to overcome an injustice. You are correct that simply saying you forgive someone does not release the feelings of resentment, but material reparations is not the answer either. Through interpersonal dialogue, both parties can understand the other and come to terms with the effects of the injustice. I'm not saying this approach always works, because both victim and perpetrator must be open to it and willing to work for it, but it certainly does more to heal emotional wounds than reparations or simply forgetting the incident ever could.

  2. Forgetting about the bad things in life never made anyone better off. What if we forgot about the hangings of African Americans without trial in our country's history? What if we forgot about the Rwandan genocide? Forgetting the bad events in life cannot alleviate the injustice and internalized hatred that cause them, especially at the individual level. Remembering these things, in fact, is exactly what has allowed us to create some sense of peace and mutual understanding that wasn't there before. Card suggests forgiveness (and the refusal of forgiveness) as a way to begin conversation and healing, because silence does nothing. I can see where you get frustrated with forgiveness as a solution, but I see Card's analysis more as a beginning for discourse (the only way we as humans have successfully created peace) rather than the end result.


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