In order to apologize and reconcile, it helps to acknowledge your past transgressions before you atone.
In that spirit, Navy officials from the United States and Great Britain had to talk about the animosity that predated their current friendship. And, of course, that animosity involved huge fires and lost lives.
Speaking at Fort McHenry in a ceremony to commemorate the 200th anniversary of when President James Madison signed the declaration that launched the War of 1812, those awkward moments created by history had to be brought up.
“In all my Pentagon meetings with the First Sea Lord of Britain, Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope, including one last week, he ruefully points out that when he’s in the office of the American Secretary of the Navy he’s surrounded by paintings of burning British ships,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said. “And he is.”
It’s not like British warships were the only government property to go ablaze in the war.
“Now it’s true that our shared history had a turbulent beginning. Indeed, visiting the White House earlier this year, I was a little embarrassed to confess that two centuries before my ancestors had managed to burn the place down,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Now doesn’t everybody feel better with that out in the open? Apparently so. A few minutes later Mabus, as well as the British and Canadian ambassadors to the United States signed away any sort of lingering animosity caused by burning presidential residences and ships and reaffirmed their longstanding commitment to each other.