The buck doesn’t even slow down these days

How is it that we have all these apologies floating around and not so much as a hint of actual repentance?

I hate it when a public official is forced to confront a scandal and says something like “I claim full responsibility” or “The buck stops here”. Much as I hate it when a celebrity faux-apologizes, a defendant reads off a lawyer-written bullet-list of regrets, anything that uses the rhetoric of apology to try to cap the well after a crime or misdeed, to “move on”.

“Boy, I’m glad that’s over.” Um, no, actually, it isn’t:

“Claiming full responsibility” should be a lifelong sentence. Not to wear a sackcloth and ashes or a scarlet letter, not to stand abashed before a hostile crowd repeating a memorized confession under the watchful eyes of minders. It should be a sentence to work tirelessly to make it right, and never give up until it is.

The worst thing about a society that has fully monetized liability is not that people lawyer up and withhold apologies until the attorneys have worked out just how much cash the guilty party owes. The worst thing is that we’ve amputated everything else from the idea of responsibility.

As though all aspects of guilt could be washed away by the writing of a sufficiently-large check.

At the link, Professor Burke suggests appropriate forms of penance for certain contemporary miscreants, including, yes, those two jerks who tormented Tyler Clementi.





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