Our 3½ year old is just beginning to internalize what it means to be sorry. Still deep in the egocentrism stage, he’s slowly but surely inching his way towards perspective thinking. Thanks to the help of his nursery school teachers—patron saints indeed, the cheeky and oftentimes penitent Thomas the Tank Engine, Shane’s Kindergarten Countdown, and my better-half and me, N. is learning not to throw sand, not to demolish his classmates’ building blocks projects; and not to push O. whose father is a good colleague of mine, twice my size, and could easily send me into the ICU just by sitting on me. In short, N. is not just saying “he’s sorry,” he means it.
Pardon me: we Americans have a strange understanding of what it means to be sorry, what it means to forgive, and whom should be forgiven and/or pardoned and why. Perhaps we need to revisit the learning lessons of toddlers, past history, and/or great works of literature—something. Because more so than the much-ado-‘bout-nothing “morals and values” narrative assigned to the right in the wake of the 2004 election, this past week’s news showed a different story. While the MSM has indulged the hard right with their pontificating about all the ills and vices of Americans, the hard right has shown America that hypocrisy is no different today than when Chaucer wrote “The Pardoner’s Tale” in the 14th century.
Just take the I. Scooter Libby trial this week; check out David Corn’s analysis for The Nation. No sooner had the jury rendered its verdict then the right came “out” for Libby’s pardon in grand National Review fashion; never mind that the verdict was more about the illegal prosecution of the Iraq war than the Fitzgerald prosecution of Libby. Interestingly, some of these “pardoner” folks were the same people who raised holy hell against Bill Clinton when Monica’s genetically stained dress came out of its closet. Interestingly, these are the same people who’ve come out again and again sometimes on TV, sometimes in speeches, and sometimes in sermons about morals, values, and how to lead a “right” life amidst the sinners in the hands of angry mainstream America.
Most interestingly, what did “come out” this week from the hermetically sealed, right- wing closet was pretty amazing. In a mea culpa moment, Newt Gingrich did confess that he was having an extra-marital affair while he and his cohorts tattooed Bill Clinton with a scarlet letter M. Hey, give the guy a break: it’s Lent and some Republican candidates are tanking. And Mann Coulter, who in a speech called John Edwards a “faggot” and whose last book Godless criticized the religion of liberals among other things, was actually seen with a “closeted” gay Republican male—there’s a shocker—whose alter ego is better known as gay porn star Rod Majors. Now if only Rod were to check out if Mann had a “rod” then we (and my favorite radio personality Randi Rhodes) would all have clarity—once and for all—on why Mann makes fun of gay people on a regular basis. For more on Mann’s hypocrisy and the media’s enabling of it, be sure to check out Savoir Faire Scribneoir’s meditations in WTF!
Pardon me: in these desperate times, what will it take to move our culture away from egocentrism towards perspective thinking? Do we all need a dose now and again of Thomas the Tank Engine and the lessons we learn in nursery school? Can we ever pardon the sins of the past and the present to forge some kind of better tomorrow?