There are apologies and then there are apologies.
Some are spoken in anger, before the true cool down has taken place. ”Well, I said I’m sorry!” Reflection had yet to take place. The words ring hollow.
A favorite among politicos, actors, and other public figures is the now-famous Non-Apology Apology. The typical NAA takes the form of “I’m sorry if my actions (or speech) offended anyone.” The action or speech is not repudiated nor is remorse expressed. In effect, the apologizer is saying that the offense is the other person’s problem.
Then there’s the Passive Voice Apology. The best example of this is, “Mistakes were made,” a line made famous by President Ronald Reagan and his administration during the Irangate affair in the late 80s. Wikipedia lumps the phrase in with NAAs, but I think it deserves its own category. It takes the NAA a step further by eliminating any semblance of responsibility on the part of the speaker, thanks to the passive voice. Furthermore, it blanches the transgression entirely with the amorphous “mistakes.” Remorse? Responsibility? What’s that?
Another pet favorite apology is the Endora Apology, named for the character Endora, Samantha’s mother from “Bewitched.” In a way, the Endora Apology is the godfather of the NAA. A typical “Bewitched” plot line has Endora getting cross at Darrin about something and so she casts a spell on him either turning him into something or altering his behavior. Samantha eventually figures it out and forces her mother to undo the spell. In particularly egregious cases, Samantha or Darrin might even get an apology out of Endora. It typically took the form of, “I regret my transgression of a moment ago, no matter how well deserved.” In one sense, you could say that the Endora Apology is a thoroughly naked Non-Apology Apology, stripped of any patina of sincerity. It does not merely hint that the “transgression” was Darrin’s fault, it bluntly states that it is; and it further declares that Darrin deserved the spell placed upon him. Confused? So was Darrin, who in one episode asked his wife if that really was an apology. ”For Mother it is,” Sam replied.
Having reviewed a few of the major types of apologies that exist, what are we to make of this:
“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.”
- George Zimmerman, as reported by the Washington Post
At the very least, it can be said that George Zimmerman has finally acknowledged that someone’s son was killed that night in February. Previous bloviating by Mr. Zimmerman and his supporters have tended to omit this detail. But what are we to make of this expression of regret? At first blush, it appears to have Endora tendencies. ”I did not know if he was armed or not.” The only weapon to make an appearance during their fateful meeting was Mr. Zimmerman’s gun. Had Trayvon Martin been armed, it would be logical to assume that his weapon also would have been drawn during their tense exchange.
Jenée Desmond-Harris at The Root wonders if Mr. Zimmerman perjured himself. She cites a video mashup by Kollege Kidd which calls into question Mr. Zimmerman’s claim that “I did not know how old he was.” The first part of the video shows Mr. Zimmerman in court making the statement quoted above. In the second part of the video, we hear part of the 9-1-1 tape where Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that the “suspect” he was following was in his “late teens.” Oops. Also, as quoted above, he thought Trayvon was just a few years younger than he. He’s 28. Eleven years is not “a bit younger,” unless one uses Jack Benny’s math, a peculiar mathematical process which enabled him to stay 39 years old for over forty years.
Unfortunately, verisimilitude continues to be an issue for Mr. Zimmerman and his statement in court falls in line with others made by his supporters. They have said on more than one occasion that if only Trayvon had identified himself (read: had done something, anything, to prove that he belonged in the area and was not just a scary looking black man in a hoodie), that none of this would have happened. That smacks of Endora-ism.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.