Monday, January 08, 2007

Gone to the Dogs

When my son was around seven, he was told to apologize to his sister for some transgression.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was wrong, but it was your fault."
With that early potential, and without a lot of parental intervention . . . who knows . . . he may have grown up to be a reporter for the NYT, a talking head with his own "legal issues" show, the editor of The Durham Herald-Sun, or the President of Duke University. I guess my husband and I didn't realize he was on track to greatness, when we stifled his first instincts to "quibble" (as my husband calls it), and required that he be accountable for how his words and actions affected others. When you are wrong, you say you are wrong . . . simple as that. It used to be called "accountability" . . . a quality not much in vogue these days. Obfuscation or better yet, avoidance . . . represent the current "Repentance du Jour."

My own father had an additional take on "accountability." He believed that true contrition carried its own power. When I once complained . . . in words similar to those I would hear from my child many years later, . . . he explained, "You're not apologizing for her. You're apologizing for YOU." It took me years and some maturity to understand that. A true, sincere, and unencumbered apology not only embraces the recipient, but also enhances the giver. It conveys a kind of moral stature - that this individual, flawed as we all are, has the courage to make a public and ethical course correction. This kind to courage . . . to self-monitor, to self-examine, and to reveal one's strength by admitting one's weakness . . . is rare. Sadly, the Art of the Apology is not in much evidence today. Maybe, we need to add it to our children's general curriculum, or at the very least, insist it be a required class in every journalism or law school.

My father believed the venue for an apology needed to match the venue of the offense. No private apology was acceptable for some transgression witnessed by others. Instead, you offered your Mea Culpa over the meat and potatoes, while the rest of the family looked on. Once learned, this technique had its own absolution. I always left the dinner table feeling, not demeaned, but delighted that my parents were now proud of me once more. To this day, a mistake I make in a meeting, I feel obligated to correct in a meeting. I will apologize to my children in front of their friends. The Art of the Apology has served me well. I am rarely burdened with old regrets. M. R. Vincent sums the concept up in this quote:

"Mere sorrow, which weeps and sits still, is not repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted into action; into a movement toward a new and better life. "

The Editors at the Asheville Citizen-Times took action this weekend and issued an apology. They say,

"Letter writers have called for an apology, and one is due. We apologize for assuming there was an attack."

This editorial is entitled "An Apology For Assumptions and Being Played Like A Fiddle." Care to wager when Editor Ashley of the Herald-Sun will have the moral courage to write something similar? I believe he is still pining for a trial, only because, despite the tremendous emotional and financial burden to these beleaguered families, Ole Bob wants to give the falsely accused a chance to "prove their innocence." That kind of faulty logic apparently plays well in certain parts of Durham, but I fear it may hold up Ashley's MENSA application.

Nancy Grace has taken a new approach to the bombshell developments in the case - feigned amnesia. "Duke Lacrosse Case??? Is there a Duke Lacrosse Case???" She never mentions it anymore. Grace devoted a whole hour to "Animal Rescuers" the other night (No, I didn't watch . . . bite your tongue), but nary an update about rescuing three innocent young men from North Carolina's infamous rogue prosecutor Michael B. Nifong. The only way she'll be back in Durham is if some "Hero Dog" drags her down there by her hair. Nancy Grace, YOU are "in contempt!"

The NY Times would rather talk about dogs now too. On its Editorial Page today, we find:

"The Imperial Presidency 2.0

The administration’s assault on some of the nation’s founding principles continues unabated."

"Bipartisanship as the First Resort?

If Democratic candidates were smart enough during the campaign to realize that the voters demand bipartisanship, they should be quick enough to try it from the start."

"Editorial Observer: Looking Down the Road That Leads Across the U.S.A. By VERLYN KLINKENBORG"

Here's Veralyn's first paragraph.

"Sooner or later the pickup will be packed and the dogs loaded. We’ll roll down the driveway and around the corner and onto the highway. With any luck it will still be early in the morning. The horses will be standing over a bale of hay, and the chickens and geese and ducks will be wondering why they weren’t let out of the poultry yard. The dogs, too, will have some questions, especially as the day of driving grows longer and longer and we don’t seem to be getting to the vet or the dog sitter’s house."

I am not making this up. From Los Angeles to Washington D.C. to Cleveland,Ohio . . . Editorial Boards are uniformly bellowing for an end to this Hoax. Yet, The New York Times is wasting space and waxing eloquent on a dog trip.

So while the MSM Dog and Pony Shows may give the Hoax enablers momentary cover . . . in the long run . . . The Unrepentant will continue to wear the stain of their moral ambiguity. If the Herald-Sun and the New York Times and the "Nancy Graces "of our day cannot apologize, cannot self-correct, cannot admit error . . . then they can never again have credibility. They cannot have our trust. Everything they report or regale or renounce to us . . . must be tempered by our knowledge of their unsavory behavior in the Duke Lacrosse Hoax. Why should we believe them ever again? Why should we credit their opinions or reporting? Their cowardice and blatant bias in this case has so obviously crippled and diminished them! No, I would rather read the Asheville Citizen Times, where . . . at least . . . it is apparent that accuracy trumps any agenda, and folks can admit an error. This stubbornness, or cowardice or agenda clouded rigidity we see elsewhere, can and must resonate into future consequences. For those who have followed this case, it will be folly not to remember.

"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." - Sidney J. Harris

or articulated another way:

"You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog and you ain't no friend of mine." - Elvis Presley

So, for now The Unrepentant are silent, and "dog-gone" if they'll admit any mistakes. So be it then. Hopefully, the end of this exercise in injustice is near. Soon it will be too late for apologies or explanations or recriminations or the like. And catching the canine spirit, any post dismissal "mea culpa" from any of them should be met by us with that down-home timeless country retort . . . "Sorry," we'll say. "That dog won't hunt."
Joan Foster
LieStoppers Attack Poet
Blog Hooligan


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Over the last decade it seems that nobody apologizes anymore for anything. Maybe it's the fear of lawsuits because to apologize is to accept that you are at fault or the transgressor. And in politics, forget about it. Politicians who commit a gaff would rather stiffen their necks and deny that they even said what the whole world heard them say. (See John Kerry and the "if you don't get an education then you end up in Iraq" idiocy.) The non-apology apology is also very much en vogue. "If what you think that you heard me say may have possibly offended you in some way, then please accept my apology."

Anonymous said...

Dear joan,
Powerful and pertinent

Anonymous said...

On the MSM, I remember a reporter from a local paper visiting the cafeteria and sitting at my table while I was in college. This was during the first Iraq war when the possibility of a draft came up. Every one of us said we didn't think there'd be a draft. The reporter insisted we address his "what if" scenario. So we did. The paper comes out: "[insert name] had his birthday today, but he didn't have much to be happy about." Then the article went on to take all our hypothetical responses and turn them into the "reality" of how we were feeling. That's the last time I trusted anything the MSM had to say. My very first response to the Duke case was: "she could be lying."

On the lack of apologizing today, I'd say it's partly come into vogue as a result of our lawsuit happy culture. Admit you're wrong and you provide evidence of slander and you get yourself sued.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing about Nancy (Dis)Grace. I think I will email her show and ask for a Duke "update" and I encourage others to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Given Brodhead's letter to the Duke community today, this post has turned out to be prophetic. Talk about an inability to apologize.

Nigel Watt said...

I want to thank the folks who write this blog for having the balls to do it.

Anonymous said...

"attack poet"

I love it!

Mr X

Anonymous said...

Hey, justice58, how about you clue us in on how you were like CGM?

Was it your penchent for pole dancing? Or maybe your predeliction for lying, or perhaps it's that you were a prostitute?

Do tell.

Anonymous said...

Justice58--- in earlier posts you were crowing about Susan Filan being on "your side" you had better get your reading glasses on!

gs said...

After the NewsWeek "What if I told you, a date rape drug was used", NewsWeek knew about Nifong's lack of character and ethics.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but from the Citizen-Times "apology":

This one blew up on Duke, and it may have been made much worse for political reasons. But if the students had known the university would punish them by kicking them off the lacrosse team or by suspending them for underage drinking or for hiring a stripper to perform at a party, they might not have been vulnerable to such a situation in the first place.

Once again, an backhanded apology.

I'm sorry, but you brought it on yourself?????

Sorry - the apology started strong, and then degenerated to "they brought it on themselves." If it had ended a couple paragraphs earlier....

Anonymous said...

General Assembly could get involved with Duke lacrosse case

They could call it the Nifong Law.
To rein in out of control DAs.

Anonymous said...

General Assembly could get involved with Duke lacrosse case

Anonymous said...

Liestoppers Attack Poet
Blog Hooligan

Our Joan!

january said...

Totally agree with 5:27. The AC-T "apology" was mealy-mouthed at best. My husband wrote them a strong letter, which will be published on Monday. I'd have written myself, but they already published my letter asking for the apology in the first place.