Saturday, May 24, 2008

How to Apologize

During an interview Friday with the editorial board of a South Dakota newspaper, Hillary Clinton justified staying in the race because “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

One of Clinton's rationales for remaining in the race has been that Obama might make a colossal mistake or something might happen. I guess we know now what she unconsciously wishes to happen. Or, maybe not so unconsciously.

When she became aware of the outrage being expressed on websites across the internet as well as by some pundits, she "apologized", saying, in part, "And I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever."

You do not begin an apology with "if". When people are expressing outrage about something you've said, it is obvious that they are offended. And saying your intention was not to hurt anyone is not taking responsibility for what you said.

But, in general, people seem to feel that if they did not intend to hurt someone, then they didn't. But someone was hurt, and it is that hurt that should be addressed, not the intention. Sometimes being so clueless that you don't stop and think that what you're about to say or just said hurt someone is worse than intentionally inflicting a hurt.

But Hillary Clinton is incapable of taking responsibility for anything, it seems. We know that if Barack Obama had made the same statement, she would be screaming that he was unfit to be president of the United States and would be rallying her supporters to demand that he drop out of the race.

If she understood what it means to apologize she would have said something like this: "I am very, very sorry for my remark. It was wrong; it was beyond insensitive. Those people who are outraged by my remark are justified in their outrage. Regardless of my intention in making an analogy, my reference to the assassination of Robert Kennedy was wrong and could only evoke painful memories for the Kennedy family and all Americans who lived through that tragedy. My reference to his assassination could only evoke fears in all Americans regarding the safety of Senator Obama, as well as anyone who seeks high office, including Senator McCain and myself. I have no explanation for why I said what I did. I can only ask that people forgive me. I am deeply ashamed. I am going to suspend my campaign and take this holiday weekend to make a decision about the future."

To apologize is to take responsibility for having hurt another, regardless of intention. To apologize is to feel the hurt you've caused another and make that hurt a part of yourself. Apologies on this level are difficult to offer because to apologize is to acknowledge that I was wrong, and no one likes to be in the wrong. But all of us are from time to time.

This is one bruzzle Clinton cannot overcome.

©2008 by Julius Lester


Bruzzle: To make a great ado, or stir.


Anonymous said...

I admired her so much once. Her total implosion has been extremely painful to watch. I actually paused in the act of eatinga gluten free bagel when I got to the reference to Bobby Kennedy. I could not *believe* anyone would actually imply that they were waiting for their opponent to be assassinated.

Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.