Editor: I, like many others, repudiate the yearbook photos and the self-refuted apology from our governor. I support the justified outrage from citizens, clergy, politicians and I have resisted the urge to respond until now.
As an elected member of the Leesburg Town Council, member of the Loudoun County NAACP, executive director of the Loudoun Freedom Center and member of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries, International, my obligations to my community and organizations I represent would have me to pray and fully consider all actions that could be taken as to the matter of the consequences of a resignation by Governor Ralph Northam.
I believe that the governor should resign, but resignation alone will not have the effect of healing, reconciliation and providing instruction for how we move forward from an ugly, painful past and implications of the history that is present and sure to surface again.
Resignation satisfies an immediate need for justice but does not heal our wounds.
Resignation is politically correct but does not create a political obligation for the other party or any individual to do the same under the same conditions.
Resignation is morally correct but relies on the strength and courage of the offender to see the greater good and accept the consequences.
Resignation alone is not atonement and our political parties are not the vehicles to take us to higher ground.
We face a difficult challenge at this moment and if we would just pause to consider the obstacles and hurdles around the real issues of race, we might also consider the actions that could move us as a commonwealth towards a true path to reconcile our past with our present. Resignation alone is not that path.
So, when does a resignation become an atonement?
The dictionary defines atonement as a reparation for an offense or injury.
In Christian theology it means the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ.
Other religions and faith practices see atonement as an act of making up for wrongdoings in order to be in harmony with a higher power.
In the Islamic tradition atonement is to turn away from past sinful and evil activities and to firmly resolve abstaining from them in the future.
The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur is the most solemn and important holy day of the Jewish calendar where the act of atonement by the high priest on behalf of the people brought reconciliation between the people and God.
Atonement is not a penalty or a punishment. Atonement is a path to justice and presents opportunities for healing the damages caused.
If you do something as an atonement you do it to show that you are not only sorry but that you are helping to undo the damage you caused.
The resignation of the governor of Virginia alone will not create a path for others to come forward and reveal their sins or resolve issues created by the hateful past of slavery and slave owners. A resignation without any other conditions will allow for new leadership but not provide a path for the parties to work together to repudiate all hate and rid our commonwealth of all the vestiges of slavery.
If the governor resigns and his resignation is to be meaningful it must come with conditions of atonement otherwise it’s just another temporary meaningless political gesture.
The final and most compassionate element of atonement is forgiveness. Forgiveness allows for healing and moving past the pain.
The act of resignation by Governor Northam could be a great act of leadership and set the commonwealth on a path of reconciliation, forgiveness and atonement.
Resignation alone is simply symbolic and there is a great opportunity to ask and get more.
Ron Campbell, Leesburg