Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Public Apology Insults Me and I Don't Want To Hear It

Kazuhito Tadano was young and needed the money.

Later on, after he'd signed a minor league contract to pitch in the Cleveland Indians organization, word got out that back in Japan, when he was young and needed the money, he'd appeared in a gay porn video. Within minutes, Indians officials had swung him in front of a podium to deliver a public apology.

As an Indians fan, I followed this story, and as an Indians fan, I was one of the folks to whom Tadano apologized. At the time — this was back in 2004 — I couldn't quite put my finger on why all this orchestrated penitence troubled me.

Six years and dozens of public apologies later — and with the Mother of All Public Displays of Humility due from Tiger Woods any minute now — I think I've finally sorted through my feelings on this: I don't think I'm owed an apology by Tiger Woods, and it insults me that he thinks I am.

Now let's put aside questions about whether anything Tiger says today will be sincere and from the heart, and whether he, and not a team of attorneys and PR consultants, actually wrote a word of it. A public apology from Tiger Woods presupposes that we all go around relying on Tiger Woods to be faithful to his wife, such that when he didn't, we all suffered some grievous personal harm. I can't speak for the entirety of the public — boy, do I wish I could, but I can't — but for me, this is emphatically not the case. There may be folks out there in the general public whose hearts were just torn to bits upon reading the tawdry revelations about Tiger's sex life in the press. But if you're one of those people, you don't need an apology. You need what we here at Feigned Outrage call perspective in life.

Has anyone else noticed that as often as we're subjected to these apologies for the personal failures of public figures, they never actually apologize for the aspects of their carrying-on that do cause public harm? Consider all the politicians who grandstand about immoral sexual practices while at the same time engaging in them. I'm thinking of you, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig, David Vitter. That's hypocrisy — and at times even bigotry: consider Craig's condemnation of homosexuality, even as he "cruised" sporting goods stores in Boise and did the Solicitation Soft Shoe in men's rooms. We ought to be entitled to apologies for the hypocrisy, but we never get those. We don't hear "I'm sorry for telling you all how to behave, when I can't myself adhere to those standards." We don't even hear "I'm sorry for diverting public funds to my personal long-distance relationship with my mistress." At best we get an acknowledgment of the error and a summary reimbursement, alongside "I'm sorry that all of you put so much faith in me, and I let you down."

Let's out this sort of apology for what it is. It's an apology that means to repedestal the fallen man, to reexalt the speaker over the listener. The news crews are here to see me. You care about me. My conduct, which has nothing to do with you, nonetheless wounds you, because I'm special.

I want a personal exemption from Tiger Woods's apology to the general public, and if I don't get one, I'll be requiring Tiger to deliver an apology for the apology at a press briefing, no later than tomorrow. My people will be in touch with your people, Tiger, about the script.

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