As I write about apologies this week, I am including two posts on not apologizing. The first, Sweet Madeleine, appeared yesterday when I commented on former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times that has been reported as an apology for her assigning to a special place in hell women who do not vote for women. In the post, I observe that Secretary Albright is a brilliant, highly educated, experienced negotiator and diplomat. I am confident that she knows how to apologize. She did not apologize in her op-ed piece, nor does she need to do so.
On the other hand, there are those bad boys who need to apologize and are not doing so.
We can start with Donald Trump. The Donald needs to apologize for sucking money from working people by appealing to their greed and for pretending his success is built on hard work instead of aggressive back room deals. I know I won’t get an apology for The Apprentice, but I can dream. While speech therapists around the US have bemoaned the prevalence of vocal fry and uptalk in American speech (a pattern launched in the San Fernando Valley in the ’80s), I am increasingly concerned with the puckery fish lips assumed by some young men saying snarky and hateful things with an expectation of applause a la The Donald. It is bad enough that he is actually running for the presidency, but young people thinking his behavior is acceptable? Outlandish! Now the nation is breathlessly awaiting the day when Schwarzenegger puckers up as the new boardroom boss to say, “Weed mah wips!”
Then there are Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. I have written before about Reagan, so I will let him off the hook today. Bill Clinton? Where do I start! Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Defense of Marriage Act, Monica, Jennifer, World Trade Agreement — the list goes on and on. George W. Bush? Petulance and bravado and weapons of mass destruction and torture! We will be digging out of these issues for decades. The legacy of these men is certainly mixed, but they negatively shaped the image of our nation abroad and at home in ways that cannot be overestimated. We looked in fascination at the Arab Spring a few years ago. Unless Black Lives Matters increasingly takes hold, I am left wondering when is our spring going to arrive?
Oh, let me not neglect Pope Francis and scores of cardinals and bishops. While Francis has been shielding pedophiles from prosecution and the Vatican and diocese vaults from paying out compensation awards, he has been becoming more outspoken in his attacks on gay people and their rights. He could apologize for these egregious attacks on humans as well as for his being so public with his hypocracy which, among Catholics, is like a crime enhancement, adding an element of scandal to the sins of pride and dishonesty.
David Mixner, David Geffen, Tim Gill, and guys at the helm of the Human Rights Campaign for the past several decades all have (had) cause for apologizing, too. To be clear, I believe that huge props are due them for the advancement of some rights of LGBT people. They deserve to be applauded now and for decades to come. So why apologize? Hubris, pure and simple. In the pursuit of our rights they have repeatedly ignored our liberation. David Mixner was a good man and apparently generous with the time he devoted to LGBT rights. Some have said he was self-less in his pursuit of big issues. His own descriptions of his work, however, show little interest in determining what was actually important to LGBT people. Many of us wanted to scream over the endless DADT crap that went on for months and months. How was this a priority 20 years ago? Why was this delivered to the Clinton administration as an issue when there were larger health issues, mental health concerns, and community violence problems that we are still facing today. The tens of thousands of LGBT people fighting for our liberation have been largely ignored by these men who are confident that they know better.
HRC social media sites repeatedly showcase images of our President and other politicians whom they endorse. They can and do appropriately toot their own horns over their healthcare and workplace indexes. People’s lives are better because of their work. But, their hubris in believing hoi polloi have little to contribute besides money has left hundreds of important LGBT efforts in all states with limited funds because HRC has syphoned them off for other opaque initiatives too lofty for mere mortal queers in every city but Washington to understand.
Unlike Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, these men in politics, religion, and gay rights respond to the need to apologize with defensiveness, failed accountability, and – at least in the case of Donald Trump — hostility. Since none of them is likely to call Secretary Albright anytime soon for lessons, perhaps we should call their parents to be sure they get some lessons on acknowledging their errors with regret so they can learn from them.