uk apologizes for treatment of gay war hero, alan turing

Fifty-five years after Alan Turing committed suicide, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for Britain’s treatment of him. Turing was a mathematical genius, who broke Hitler’s code in World War II, unscrambling thousands of messages with military secrets and aiding the Allied efforts enormously. Turing was also homosexual, and in 1952 he was convicted of gross indecency for having consensual sex with another man. Faced with a choice between imprisonment and chemical castration, Turing chose the latter. He killed himself two years later.

“The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely,” Brown said. “We’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

3 thoughts on “uk apologizes for treatment of gay war hero, alan turing”

  1. I saw this on BBC. I always wonder what reactions are to these type of apologies. I suppose it’s always nice to know that the current government recognizes the maltreatment in the past. Perhaps it also indicates that the current government is responsible for the legacy of the past — which is promising to admit. I try to imagine how I would feel if, let’s say, the government came out and apologized for the mistreatment of women in society. I imagine I would think, “well, that’s all to the good, but really what does that DO for me? Are they going to change the way things currently are with this apology?” I guess I would want something more than the apology. I would want new policy that addresses the current issues that are a result of the legacy for which they are apologizing.

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  2. Apologies are not the last step, but they are the first. I’m thinking not so much about this single example, but about all the cases where people still bear the scars and disabilities of the past harms, and the rhetoric of “look forward not back” is used to paper over the ongoing disadvantages and pain people still carry from the past. I’m thinking about truth and reconciliation, in which first you tell the truth, and then you reconcile. I’m thinking that you get more real work on current issues if you acknowledge the past that created them. So, with gender, there was certainly a lot of need in universities in the 1970s do deal with people who had been placed in disadvantaged positions as a direct consequence of sex discrimination.

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