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Letter: Real apologies vs. lip service

CP photo  — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes residential school survivor Toby Obed to the stage on Friday after delivering an apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to former students of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes residential school survivor Toby Obed to the stage Nov. 24 after delivering an apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to former students of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. — CP file photo

Apologies are flying fast these days, more frequent and more varied than I can remember having heard for years. It seems one half of the film industry is apologizing to the other half, and the rest of us are trying to gauge the genuineness or falsity of each apology.

The same may be said, more or less, for the political industry. Men who crave the self-validation of election to political office can be just as prone to assuming that they are “God’s gift to women” as can Hollywood producers.

Most apologies are being offered in response to accusations of sexual assault and harassment. Some of the apologies are patently false, whilst others have an air of truth about them, as if the apologizer felt real remorse and was going to change his ways. Only time will tell whether any of these “firm purposes of amendment,” (as the catechism used to say, and possibly still does), do, indeed, result in a more respectful attitude toward women and girls. We can only hope for a complete reinvention of male/female interactions.

I hope I would have had the courage to weep openly, had I been hearing the apology in a public place.

There are still people who honestly believe the human male is inherently superior to the female, or that one cultural group is superior to all others — “I have a penis and you don’t, therefore I’m better than you”; or “I’m white and you’re some other colour, therefore I’m a higher form of life than you”; or “I’m Christian and you’re Muslim, therefore you are of lesser value.” There is no end to our need to feel superior to others, and there is no logic whatsoever in any of our comparisons. A philosopher would tell us we are proposing invalid syllogisms or fallacies. Yet we cling to them desperately, needing to validate our own high opinion of ourselves.

The celebrity rapists are being accused of making false assumptions about male/female relationships. Many so-called apologies emerge as suggestions that the offended person is weak, or dishonest, for demanding an apology.

After all, what teenaged girl could possibly complain about being stalked by a good Christian like Judge Roy Moore? What woman could object to being “grabbed” by a Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein? Shouldn’t they feel privileged? This seems to be the attitude, and it’s probably useless to expect a genuine apology from such a self-serving egotist.

I think Justin Trudeau’s apology to residential school survivors was genuine. I watched it on TV, and was convinced by his emotional speech. There can be little doubt that Toby Obed also was wholly genuine in his response. Obed’s people, especially the children, were subjected to a form of cultural genocide, (“having the native beaten out of them”), yet they had the generosity to accept the Canadian apology with grace and dignity.

And anybody who finds public weeping by males to be shameful is putting up a barrier to real reconciliation. Trudeau wept, Obed wept, most of those gathered to hear our apology wept, and even I, in the safety and comfort of my own home, wept. I hope I would have had the courage to weep openly, had I been hearing the apology in a public place.

Celebrity rapists could learn a few lessons from our PM, if they had the humility to recognize their own need for rehabilitation.

 

Ed Healy

Marystown

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