Apologies are so difficult that some people manage to go pretty much their whole lives without ever offering them.
But when you're a government and you need popular opinion on your side, a good apology can pay off in spades. But since most governments are also douchebags, they never want to apologize too much. So there's kind of a delicate balance there that almost always yields thoroughly ridiculous results.
#5. America Apologizes for Japanese Internment, Barely
Two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 forcing every single one of the more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast of the United States into internment camps. Officially they were called "Assembly Centers," which sounds a little more fun, sort of like Field Day.
The winner gets a writ of Habeas corpus!
More than two thirds of the people interned were full-fledged U.S. citizens, ripped from their jobs and their homes and forced to leave virtually everything they owned behind.
Then they were transported to hastily renovated racetracks and fairgrounds for the remainder of the war, where hundreds died from inadequate medical care and "bullet in the neck" syndrome.
Basically, they were involuntarily turned into carnival workers, without the dignity.
How'd They Make it All Better?
After the war ended the government reacted shockingly quick, and in 1948 Congress allowed every citizen that was held in the camps to claim compensation for what they had lost. Of course, this offer wasn't made until after the IRS had destroyed most of the detainees' tax returns from the decade before, making it virtually impossible to prove a loss of any kind. This is sort of like stealing somebody's wallet, then saying you'll be happy to return it as soon as they prove their identity with a valid driver's license.
Pictured: 1948 Congressional Policy.
In 1976, after three decades of organized efforts by those affected by the internment and other concerned activists, President Gerald Ford went on record declaring that the ripping of loyal tax-paying American citizens from their homes was "wrong."
This clearly called for swift, decisive action. So, in 1980, the government set up a committee to decide if President Ford's harsh condemnation had gone too far. Then, after only three years of research, they decided the internment camps were "unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity." Finally! Now we can get on with that swift, decisive action!
The system works!
After another decade of fierce deliberation, those citizens that had been affected by the camps received $20,000 compensation for their suffering--which is the equivalent of a whopping $0.96 (or four Chicken McNuggets) a day for the 57 years since they lost everything and were forced into imprisonment.
#4. Australia Establishes "Sorry Day"
Starting in 1869, the British and Australian governments had a policy of abducting Aboriginal children from their homes, ostensibly to remove them from unsafe households where they were being abused or neglected. In reality, they were stealing mixed race children (or "half-caste" children, in 19th century kidnap-speak) and bringing them to live in white society in the hopes that their ethnicity would eventually be bred out of them.
Some children were even snatched from the hospitals they were born in.
But 1869 was a different time, and surely this policy didn't continue into the 20th century. Wait, it totally did. Until the 1970s.
The reasons to hate 1970s Australia: Now there are two.
How'd They Make it All Better?
In 1997, a human rights inquiry concluded that kidnapping children to try and breed them into whiteness was a pretty big violation of every single moral principle in the history of the world. In response to this discovery, Australia's sitting Prime Minister gallantly stood before the world and declared "Australians of this generation should not be required to accept guilt and blame for past actions and policies." You know, those past actions that ended a whopping 20 years before.
The crimes of the father...
Even so, in 1998 the Australian government instituted an official day to atone for the victims of the kidnappings called National Sorry Day. Yes, that is actually what they called it.
"We need a name that conveys the deep remorse we're supposed to be feeling."
On National Sorry Day, participants sign "Sorry Books" (presumably because no one in the country owns a thesaurus) and walk across bridges en masse, and then eat barbecue. Without a doubt, this is a touching way to repair the damage done by decades of a government sanctioned initiative to completely annihilate an entire culture.
#3. America Apologizes for Experimenting on Blacks... 25 Years Later
In 1932, a government program was begun in Tuskegee, Alabama to study the effects of syphilis if left untreated.
Spoiler Alert: It fucks you up.
Doctors assembled a pool of hundreds of black men with the disease and told them they were being used to test some experimental new treatments, but injected them with placebos instead. The subjects involved were never told they had syphilis, leaving them free to infect their wives and any subsequent children.
After four decades of skullduggery, information about the study was finally leaked to the press in 1972, forcing the government to stop the experiment in light of the fact that it was pure fucking evil.
How'd They Make it All Better?
After nearly half a century of destroying families by using bogus health care to subject them to a terrible disease, the U. S. government was prepared to offer some serious compensation to the victims in the form of... more health care, free for life (which realistically wouldn't be for very long considering all of them were carrying an untreated lethal disease thanks to free health care). To silence any doubters, the government pinky-swore that this free heath care was totally on the level.
As you may have guessed, this generous token wasn't quite enough to satisfy the unwitting participants of the longest non-therapeutic experiment on human beings in the history of medicine. They deserved a formal apology, which the government was only too happy to deliver.
Twenty-five years later. After virtually all of them had died.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton invited the remaining survivors to the White House, all of whom were between 90- and 100-years old. By the way, when we say "all" of the surviving victims, we're talking about eight people.
There were more people in the Waltons household.
Of course, Clinton couldn't be bothered to hop a flight down South for the day like the survivors asked him to do, and asked the elderly survivors hop on a plane and come to Washington instead. Only six managed to make it, but the President made it totally worth their time by making fun of how old they were and posing for some stock publicity photos. Because nothing says "I'm sorry" like letting everyone in the world know that you're 95 and have syphilis.
"STDelightful! But seriously, I'm not standing any closer to you."