Sunday, August 21, 2016
– Ben Franklin
They say Americans are willing to forgive the repentant, particularly those who reference a re-commitment/commitment to fundamental, usually only Christian, values. I don’t think a repentant atheist or Muslim will garner much leeway, however, and I doubt Jewish repentance remotely carries enough weight in this country. Lots of Evangelicals, harsh in their judgment of others and highly committed to some pretty fundamental interpretations of scripture, are particularly given to forgiving their own and harboring never-ending hatred of those offenders outside their view of their “correct beliefs.”
Of course, there are lots of truly wonderful Evangelicals who really do adhere to Biblical admonitions, practicing love and brotherhood as it was intended. But there are also too many “menu” Christians (the dreaded “H” word: hypocrite) – across all sects – who pick and choose which Biblical dictates they like and which they would prefer to ignore. They sit in haughty judgment of others, do not remotely comprehend that “love thy neighbor” does not refer simply to their immediate neighborhood, generalize, reject and denigrate racial, ethnic, gender and religious minorities, deny man-induced global warming which even Evangelicals in other countries accept (not to mention the Pope himself), find many strange justifications to using a gun to kill without even thinking about the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment, see no conflict from their New Testament mandates between their desire to ban abortions and their virulent commitment to maintain a serious flawed death penalty… and they evidence a significant void in that “forgiveness” department.
Given the current presidential campaign, you’d think forgiveness/repentence would be a hot topic among the American body politic. You’ve got a Democratic candidate, stubborn in her defense of an illegal and risky practice of using her private email server for sensitive classified communications, unrepentant in her paid speeches before Wall Street ultra-insiders and side-stepping some not-so-comfortable ties between those donors currying favor to get better consideration by the government and a private foundation that has actually done a lot of good.
And there’s the Republican “mouth” who enjoys making totally fabricated statements without the slightest basis in fact, is compelled for reasons unknown to insult an extremely reputable, US-born judge because of his ethnicity, slams a fallen American hero, a former POW and even a disabled journalist… before taking on insulting entire countries (from Mexico to China) and religions (Islam).
What HRC and the Donald share is a personality trait that makes it exceptional difficult to say they screwed up, they’re sorry that they screwed up and they hope that both those they wrongfully offended as well as the American public will forgive their transgressions by actually asking for that forgiveness. Sincerely! They often double down on their missteps or try and explain them away.
White Evangelicals still cling to their Trump commitments, a playboy billionaire who has lived what most consider to have been a sybaritic lifestyle… with many hot sexual partners and several hot wives (throw in a little nude modeling along the way)… which you’d think would turn them off in droves. They hate Hillary, even though she has been married just once – facing and working through her husband’s rather shamefully public infidelity for which she is now blamed – and many of that ilk make it clear that if she is elected, they will never acknowledge that she could ever really be president… and will act accordingly.
Meanwhile, back at the Olympics, a multiple gold medal-winner, Ryan Lochte (with a couple of friends), made up (embellished?) a fantastic “robbed at gunpoint by false cops” story, embarrassing beyond words to the local Brazilian Olympic hosts, to cover up their “doin’ stuff” they shouldn’t have done, being where they shouldn’t have been at a time when they should have been elsewhere. And then Ryan joined Donald Trump in expressing some sort of public pseudo-apology.
“In less than 24 hours, two of the biggest stories in the world involved some kind of ‘apology’ for offensive behavior and/or lying. Last night [8/18] in Charlotte, North Carolina, the notoriously unrepentant Donald Trump shocked observers by expressing ‘regret’ for words that ‘may have caused personal pain.’ And this morning [8/19] Ryan Lochte issued a widely criticized apology for ‘not being more careful’ with how he described an incident in which he lied about being held up at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro.” FastCompany.com, August 19th.
These weren’t heartfelt repentant expressions. They were pretty vague statements of regret (often with an explanation), uncomfortably spoken, using catch-words that were far less than a sincere apology. Lochte also tried to get back to warm and fuzzy with an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, saying “I’m taking full responsibility for it… I over-exaggerated that story. If I’d never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess…. It was my immature behavior.” The Donald even had to read his, a speech written for him but definitely not by him, off of a teleprompter, something he does not like to do. And Hillary continues to “explain” her serious email gaffe.
But what is a viable apology, really? “A proper apology is ‘an exercise in honesty, accountability, and compassion,’ says interfaith minister Lauren Bloom, the author of . Of course, it's difficult and nerve-wracking and fraught with tension. But it's the right thing to do. So above all, be sincere: ‘It's the essence of an apology.’
“And maybe even offer some humility and self-awareness, as exemplified in one of the best examples of an apology in modern history. Several months after Jesse Jackson referred to Jews as ‘Hymies’ and New York City as ‘Hymietown’ during his presidential run in 1988, he gave a speech at the Democratic convention that moved the audience with its sincerity and spiritual depth (h/t ):
If, in my low moments, in word, deed or attitude, through some error of temper, taste, or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain, or revived someone's fears, that was not my truest self. If there were occasions when my grape turned into a raisin and my joy bell lost its resonance, please forgive me. Charge it to my head and not to my heart. My head—so limited in its finitude; my heart, which is boundless in its love for the human family. I am not a perfect servant. I am a public servant doing my best against the odds. As I develop and serve, be patient: God is not finished with me yet.
“That's a high bar and no one's expecting poetry out of Trump and Lochte. But they should man up and try to give a proper apology—one that hasn't been crafted by a campaign strategist or lawyer.” FastCompany.
How can you tell if a politician is lying?, the old joke goes. His/her lips are moving. A savvy politician, choosing to maintain anonymity, once said, “Voters want to be lied to.” Not exactly. Personally, I think that it’s more that they want to hear that they are right even when they are not… that they will prosper under their current practices even when they will not… and that they do not have to change to make it better. Unfortunately, those who utter that palliatives are, of necessity, lying. And for those who believe that lying is a necessary part of their job description, asking for forgiveness for doing what voters already expect makes repentance that much more difficult.
I’m Peter Dekom, and at the heart of expecting politicians and celebrities to lie is a deep and abiding fear that the inevitable changes around us must be denied… even if they cannot be stopped.