Death of the Apology

I think at one time, when people made an apology for something, it actually meant they were sorry.  No, really… I think it meant that at one time.  Now?  I can’t say I’m always entirely sure.  What caused this shift in thought on the seemingly humble act saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it?

I’m sure there are plenty of theories to go around, but I think social media has a little something to do with it.  I don’t mean that to say social media is causing us to be insincere… quite the contrary.  I think social media is allowing for some very rapid and open forms of dialogue between people who may have never interacted with each other in any other context.  The problem is that people… and especially famous ones… don’t seem to give much thought to the fact that when they blog, post something on Facebook or fire out a tweet, they reach a lot of people… potentially millions… in the blink of an eye.

Perfect example that just came to light: Cappie Poindexter of the New York Liberty in the WNBA.  Granted, before this story came out, I had no clue who she was, but believe me… I do now.  So what, pray tell, did Ms. Poindexter do?  Well, like so many others, she tweeted on the devastation in Japan… umm… except it looked like this, according to ESPN:

On Saturday, Pondexter tweeted: “What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes.”

She later tweeted: “u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less.”

Pondexter also used used the racially derogatory term “jap,” when referring to someone who was offended by her comments.

Umm… what???  And thanks to ESPN for listing all of that in the article because, lo and behold, all that is removed from Ms. Poindexter’s Twitter feed.  Ahh, but that is just the beginning.  The “apology” is really where the rubber hits the road in the story.  This is her apology (which is still on Twitter):

I WANNA APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE I MAY HURT OR OFFENDED DURING THIS TRAGIC TIME. I DIDNT REALIZE THAT MY WORDS COULD BE INTERPRETED IN THE MANNER WHICH THEY WERE.

*sigh*  You didn’t realize people would think that your comments would say exactly what they do say?  That maybe God was punishing them for something?  Like Pearl Harbor?

It’s just really an example of apologizing for getting into trouble, not the actual comment in the first place.  There’s nothing in the apology that states remorse that the actions were wrong in any way, just that people were offended or that the public misinterpreted the comment.  Funny apology, don’t you think?  I’m not sure how I would feel about an apology where the person making it is almost saying it’s my fault for not knowing what she meant.

I do realize this is but one example and it’s not meant to extrapolate this to the entire world… but I do find it interesting that this seems to be typical of public figures these days and that makes me wonder how much this filters down to the rest of us.  If there is one thing I’ve come to learn over time, it’s that people will tend to model what’s acceptable based on what their leaders do.  Public figures are not always leaders, per se, but they are better able to shape the context of the public discourse better than your average citizen simply because they attract more eyeballs and ears than anyone else.

It just would be nice to see a little more authenticity, in the end, when it comes to these matters.  We may all be imperfectly-crafted and fallible human beings, but I like to think we should set our sights a little higher… and then really come clean when we screw up.

UPDATE:

It’s as if the sports world has collectively decided to make my point for me.  Jim Tressel, head coach of the Ohio State football team, also completely whiffs on a real apology.  A sample:

I sincerely apologize for what we’ve been through. I apologize for the fact I wasn’t able to find the ones to partner with to handle our difficult and complex situation.

I think that’s a funny way to apologize for lying to investigators, but hey… maybe I’m kooky like that.

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