"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Will Smith And The Charade Of Shameless Apologies–Cynical, Self-Serving, And Fooling No One

The actor Will Smith is tripping over himself to apologize for his behavior on the stage of the recent (2022) Academy Awards.  I should never have resorted to violence. It is not who I am.  I am better than that.  I can do better.  In an endless litany of meaningless, self-serving apologies, he echoed the meme of hundreds of televangelists, politicians, and movies stars before him.  

Shameless, transparent nonsense.  He owes an apology to no-one, not even to the man he slapped.  Smith acted in anger, umbrage, and violence because that is who he is; and in fact most men have that nasty streak.  Who among them has not had the impulsive desire to smack someone? 

It is hard these days to avoid hearing apologies. Politicians have the most smarmy and indefensible affairs and when finally outed simply apologize.  “I am sorry that my actions have caused so much hurt and pain to my family, friends and colleagues”, they say, careful never to say they are sorry for the act itself. They are adept at twisting apologies for their own ends.   I didn’t do anything wrong, said Newt Gingrich after admitting infidelities while his wife was being treated for cancer:

Let's remember, Newt famously dumped wife #1 for wife #2 while wife #1 was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. As in literally went to the hospital to present her with divorce papers while she was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer.

He eventually dumped wife #2 for wife #3 shortly after wife #2 was diagnosed with MS back in 1999. And he was having the affair on wife #2 with wife #3 while he was turning the country upside down trying to drive Bill Clinton from office over his affair with Monica Lewinsky (Josh Marshall, New York Magazine 3.9.11)

Newt Gingrich

Senator John Edwards was no different:

When Edwards first admitted to the affair, he stated that Elizabeth was in remission from breast cancer. However, it became clear that the affair was still ongoing, even after he and his wife made a joint announcement that her cancer had returned and was found to be incurable. Elizabeth Edwards died on December 7, 2010. (Wikipedia)

Yes, he was philandering while his wife was dying.  Yes, he lied to her; and yes, he bribed an underling to say he was the father of Edwards’ illegitimate child; but he never apologized for wrong-doing, just for the hurt that he caused:

Edwards wrote in a statement, “It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me….To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.” (Keith Huffman, Washington POST, 1.22.10)

Image result for images john edwards

Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who lied to everyone about his affair and told the press that he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail when he actually was headed to Buenos Aires to be with his firecracker, is now back in office as a Representative to the Congress of the United States. He apologized - abject apologies not for his dereliction of office, cheating on his wife, or for blatant lies, but for causing hurt and pain.

Jimmy Swaggart, popular televangelist blubbered on the air, begging for forgiveness and the mercy of God.  Jim Bakker tearfully admitted his transgressions and vowed to lead a penitential, Christian life.  No one but the most besotted, gullible, and wistful of their followers believed this absolute nonsense.

It is not surprising then that in this day of insincere apologies that whole countries feel the need to apologize.  Poor Queen Elizabeth was forced into apologizing for British atrocities in Kenya, convinced by her Prime Minister that such an apology for alleged murders of Mau Mau ‘freedom fighters’ would tighten the bond between the two countries.

The apology must have really stuck in the craw of the Queen, old enough to remember the glory days of Empire, when Kenya was the jewel in crown of British Africa, when her forbearers had brought civilization to the natives and prosperity to the land.  Her advisors of course had to tell her of the even more savage brutality of the Mau Mau who reputedly chopped up British soldiers and grilled them over charcoal in the Great Rift Valley.  The Queen must have had to practice her apology speech very hard indeed and muster all her English self-control to utter it.

The British don’t have to go back very far in history to find other events to apologize for -  the massacres of the Boer War, the Sepoy Rebellion, and Amritsar are just a few.  In keeping with the protocol of this Age of Apology, David Cameron, British Prime Minister, did offer an apology for Amritsar, but stopped short of making it official.  As he explained to reporters in Amritsar, history is history, after all, and you can’t change it.  So in proper British fashion he said ‘Sorry’ without really meaning it.

Amritsar Massacre

Many are still waiting for the Mongolians to apologize for the outrages of Genghis Khan who killed at least 40 million people in his rampages out of the steppes to Europe and the Far East.

Image result for images genghis khan

African Americans are still demanding reparations from the United States for slavery, but to no avail.  Recently Congress did pass a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow, but were careful to avoid any legal missteps and never waded into human rights territory.  No one voted ‘Nay’ and so Congress granted us all absolution for the past. We didn’t have to get fussed over nothing.

“I’m sorry” is like no-fault car insurance.  Something happened, both parties regret that it happened – in fact are sorry that it did – and can go back home without having to feel irresponsible, guilty, or reckless.  It is simply an expedient way to go about business. The apologies of Newt, John Edwards, Cameron, and the Queen of England relieve them of the onus of serious reflection – considering the moral and ethical implications of lying, cheating, philandering; or enforcing discipline and order through the force of arms.

Image result for images queen elizabeth young

In fact it would have been far better if Cameron and the Queen had not apologized and admitted that history was savage, brutal, and uncompromising. Expecting the worst from your adversary contributes to stalemate and standoff.  Apologizing is simply admitting weakness. 

Insincere apologies are more than just self-serving, bald, lies to remake a public images.   They are indicative of a seemingly universal moral evasiveness.  It says a lot about our gullibility and endless belief in redemption. A simple act of contrition removes all sin. Finally it says something about our cynicism.  Since it is so easy to fool a public ready to believe anything, why not do it?  Not a pretty picture.

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