COLUMN: When saying sorry goes south

Perhaps we can be forgiven for unleashing our inner child at self-serving public apologies, writes Peace Arch News editor Lance Peverley.

Have you noticed how a defiant child apologizes?

Watch. Listen. It can be almost amusing, as the reluctant offender twists body language and words when prodded to say ‘I’m sorry.’

Adults, with years of experience, are more skilled at contrition; the physical and verbal reaches undetectable, the offended party placated.

That is why it can be so compelling when an apology goes south.

Last week, foodies and fans watched as one of their own, Paula Deen, defended herself against accusations of allowing shockingly unsavoury conditions for employees at her family’s restaurant in Savannah, Ga.

Testifying in court, the TV chef was asked if she’d ever used a particular racial epithet – a heinous word once widespread well beyond her neck of the woods, but viewed today as inexcusable for all but hipster filmmakers and hip-hoppers who’ve misguidedly reclaimed it as their own.

Deen, 66, testified she had indeed used the racist word, citing a specific example 30 years ago when she was robbed at gunpoint by a black man.

It’s likely she assumed this would gain sympathy as a crime victim. For many, it was viewed as selective memory, cited to avoid perjuring herself.

Her tearful explanations since have added division to an already-segregated country, with retailers dropping the Deen name, her online sales skyrocketing, and detractors and defenders – both – using colourful language of their own.

Other apologies closer to home in recent weeks might not have been as ridiculously insensitive, but they’ve been no less galling.

In a debate prior to B.C.’s May 14 election, the NDP’s man-who-woulda-coulda-been-premier reemphasized he embraced ownership of a past shame, in which he, as a previous premier’s chief of staff, inexcusably back-dated a memo to protect his then-leader from conflict-of-interest charges.

If only Adrian Dix’s regret stopped there.

Instead, he noted, he was a mere 35 at the time.

Thirty-five? Are 35-year-olds under-developed, or just untrustworthy? And does this mean we can take Dix at his word now, at the tender age of 49?

Not to be outdone, Premier Christy Clark stopped lampooning Dix’s age-inappropriate explanation just long enough to defend her own chief of staff, who took the fall over a leaked BC Liberal plan to spend our money to woo the ethnic vote.

Kim Haakstad was “about 35” when she erred, explained away our premier.

Again with that number. Is 35 the new 14?

Surely 35 isn’t too young to take on some responsibility. Napoleon was proclaimed emperor at that age. The Queen had reigned 10 years; the Dalai Lama, 20. Should North Korea’s Kim Jong Un be granted wriggle room, as he’s a still-formative 29½?

Of course, this wasn’t the premier’s only apology. In the days since Clark won the legislature but lost her seat – before her MLAs were even sworn in she quietly gave raises to political staff. Then recanted… a bit… after this was made public.

“Although the original change would have meant we were underspending the budget by $100,000, I’ve heard loud and clear that people didn’t like it,” the premier tutted.

Yes. Because coming in under budget is the goal – not spending wisely.

Naturally, the premier allowed her new deputy chief of staff – by coincidence, her party’s deputy campaign manager – to keep the higher $195,148 salary, because operations and policy roles were formerly done by two people.

Sure. Just like the real world. Where corporate downsizing means massive raises for those left behind to pick up the slack.

Considering all these youthful indiscretions, obstinate justifications and regretful pleas for clemency that you and I have had to endure from public figures in recent times – from sorrowful politicians, to desperate CEOs, to devil-made-me-do-it evangelists – perhaps we can be forgiven for thumbing our noses.

Or would that be childish?

Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.

 

Just Posted

William Henry Rawlison was last seen on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Contributed photo)
Police looking for missing White Rock senior

William Rawlison, last seen on June 20, may be driving to Kamloops

Natalie Brown and Colten Wilke star in the feature film Thunderbird, co-produced by South Surrey-raised Michael Morrison and released this month in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey-raised producer helps bring ‘Thunderbird’ to the screen

Michael Morrison guides B.C.-shot thriller with First Nations connection

File photo
Surrey Board of Trade vows ‘a lot of noise’ will be made about tax increases

Huberman calls for comprehensive tax review at all levels of government

2019 Red Serge Gala guests try their luck at roulette. (Simon Lau photo)
High hopes for in-person Red Serge Gala on Semiahmoo Peninsula

28th fundraiser for community safety programs set for Oct. 23 return

TEASER PHOTO ONLY - Hillcrest Drive-In's sign at the end its run in Surrey, in a photo uploaded to cinematreasures.org by hermangotlieb.
SURREY NOW & THEN: The city’s last drive-in, Hillcrest showed movies for 50 years on site turned shopping mall

‘It was a good memory, being the last drive-in in the Lower Mainland, at the time,’ says former operator Jay Daulat

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read