From Ben Carson to Alfred Blue to brand new President-elect of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes; the art of the public non-apology is alive and well in the world. These are only a few of the most recent public non-apologies and the thing they have in common beyond that is the subject of the so-called apology. Each person apologized about saying something offensive about gay people.
Ben Carson said "Marriage is between a man and a woman, it's a well-established pillar of society, and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition." His apology was, "Although I do believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, there are much less offensive ways to make that point. I hope all will look at a lifetime of service over some poorly chosen words."
Alfred Blue, an LSU football player said of the ultra-macho and aggressive sport of football, “Ain’t no little boys out here between them lines. So if you gay, we look at you as a sissy. You know? Like, how you going to say you can do what we do and you want a man?” His apology started off with this remark: “I understand that my comments may have sounded insensitive to those who read the Reveille article on Friday."
And then we come to President-elect Cartes, who said he would shoot himself in the testicles if his son wanted to marry a man. Cartes apologized by saying "I feel no shame in apologizing to those who felt offended for an expression of mine in respect to same-sex marriage."
I'm sure it is entirely accurate for President-elect Cartes so say that he feels no shame. I think even a cursory glance at that apology would indicate that Cartes isn't in any way apologetic for his comments. He's sorry that people are unhappy about what he said. Though, when I say sorry, I seriously doubt that he's feeling contrite, more that it's a nuisance. These are the sort of apologies that public figures routinely give out. They're sorry if you're offended. They're sorry if your feelings were hurt. They're sure you just misunderstood what they said. If only you'd give them a second chance to rephrase, everything would be fine.
What these things amount to is in no way an apology. In a way, it's an accusation. You didn't get it. You were offended. They didn't do anything wrong. You just failed to understand. It's not that these people have heinous and backwards opinions, not at all.
Alfred Blue understands that his comments may have sounded offensive, but clearly doesn't grasp that they were, beyond being offensive, factually incorrect. A person's sexual orientation or gender identity has no bearing whatever on their ability to throw and catch and run into someone. Meanwhile Ben Carson thinks that what he's guilty of is "poorly chosen words". What he's guilty of, among other things, is the same old conservative line that lumps homosexuality in with things like pedophilia. Of course, the most colorful language comes from President-elect Cartes, who would go so far as to physically harm himself if his son were gay.
Public apologies are part of being a public figure, but what I'd like to know, is when public figures are going to figure out that insincere apologies are worse than no apology at all. We're all fully capable of reading between the lines of their awful apologies and so I wanted to give public figures a few lines to avoid...
Things You Should Never Say While Apologizing:
- "I'm sorry if what I said was misconstrued..."
- "I apologize if people were offended by what I said..."
- "I understand that I what I said may have sounded hurtful..."
- "I'm sorry that my words were so poorly and hastily chosen..."
- "I apologize to the Jews, they're good small businessmen as well." (Okay, that one's pretty specific.)
Let me tell you, public figures, the same thing I tell my son: apologies are great, but they're just words. In other words, don't tell me you're sorry, show me.