I’m normally not one to slap a “one size fits all” label on an entire year, but I think 2009 is an easy contender for Year of the Apology. Seems like every few weeks, someone was in the news and/or TV apologizing for something.
Often, it was an apology for some personal transgression. Such as an elected official or other “celebrity” apologizing for frolicking with “escorts” or maybe just having a good old-fashioned extra-marital affair. Or smacking up their girlfriend. Or being a jerk during a televised music award presentation. In other words, behaving badly towards women.
My reaction to every one of these mea culpas was two-fold: first, why?; and second, so what? As in, why are you making a public apology and so what if you are?
For the most part, these the transgressions were private matters having absolutely nothing to do with me. The only exception might be for politicians who asked for our vote because they stood for “family values.” Because then they were just being liars and/or hypocrites. But that’s SOP for politicians so it begs the question, doesn’t it?
Plus, I certainly have never voted, and will never vote, for someone because they stand for “family values.” I guess I’m strange because I’m more interested in someone who won’t get us stuck in sorry 😉 situations like Iraq and Afghanistan for longer than it took to win World War II against real armies. And if this country’s so-called “leaders” can keep our military at home, then I sure won’t begrudge them if they can’t keep their penises at home instead of in afternoon delights with someone not their spouse. That’s not my business.
So with the possible exception of the “family values” politicians, why are all these other folks apologizing? Why do they feel the need for public forgiveness for private transgressions?
Have these folks bought into the arrogance that they’re “role models” and so must apologize for not being perfect? For letting the public down?
I object to the very concept of “role model.” My only role model is….me. Because I do not want to be “like” anyone else. I only want to be me.
American culture is purportedly fixated on “individualism” but I say that’s just a popular myth because it seems so many folks want to be someone else. They want to be Tiger, they want to be Madonna, they want to be Chef Ramsey (or Rachel Ray, depending on gender).
But why should anyone be surprised to learn that, regardless of who it is, their “role model” is not a paradigm of perfection? All any role model will do is disappoint when their imperfection breaks through the façade. A façade often foisted on the role model by a public apparently desperately seeking heroes when each of us should be our own hero.
Those of us who have shared life with another person for many years know that you either accept a person as they are or you do not. You cannot pick and choose which parts to accept. Those looking for the “perfect” (as in flawless) partner will die alone because they cannot accept their own faults. There is a significant truth to the saying: “love is blind.”
The obvious answer to public apologies to for private transgressions is often “money.” These folks’ real concern is the money they’ll be out if the public abandons them. Look at how many endorsement deals “Cheetah” has already lost.
(Sidebar: What baffles me is why folks will buy something endorsed by a celebrity. I sure don’t base my purchase decisions on endorsements. I don’t care how many times I see Sally Field on TV saying that she uses Boniva because she has just her one body and one life, Susie is going to stay with a generic osteoporosis medication. My contrarian nature presumes the endorsement is just driving up the price of the product (or service) and so I need to avoid it for an “equivalent” which avoids the extra endorsement expense.)
While I have a bemused, benign attitude to apologies for private transgressions, I’m completely unsympathetic to apologies made by folks in a courtroom who are about to be sentenced. Whether they’re white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff, or violent criminal, all these folks are crying crocodile tears because that’s what their attorney told them to do.
Except for those instances when the criminal had no prior history and committed a crime in a moment of passion, the only things these folks are sorry about is (a) being caught and (b) being convicted. An apology should never be the basis for any sort of reduced sentence.
I saw Madoff apologize on TV before being sentenced. He had the honesty to preface his apology by saying he knew that it wasn’t “worth much.” He exaggerated: his apology wasn’t worth anything. Zilch! How can anyone believe that an apology can mean anything to someone whose life has been destroyed?
I also saw the father behind the “balloon boy” hoax apologize before being sentenced. What a hoax that apology was. When I see these courtroom apologies, I can’t help but shout at the TV the famous words of a South Carolinian: “You lie!”
The bottom line: these folks apologizing publicly aren’t really remorseful. They’re just, as we say in the South… “sorry.” Real sorry. And that’s no lie!
Vote in my poll for the “Most Worthless Apology” There’s a blank space for you to add a “write-in vote.