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Heartfelt Personal Apology

Tiger Woods doesn't owe me an apology. Nothing that he has ever done has cost me a dime nor an hour of sleep. This is not a plea to be "nonjudgmental." I am very judgmental about all sorts of things, including Tiger Woods' bad behavior. But that is very different from saying that he somehow owes me an apology.

For all I know, my neighbors may be judgmental when I drive out of my driveway in a 15-year-old car. But they have never said anything to me about it, and I have never offered them an apology. This is not equating driving a 15-year-old car with what Tiger Woods did. But the point is that any apology he might make should be made to his family, who were hurt, not to the public, who might be disappointed in him, but not really hurt.

Public apologies to people who are not owed any apology have become one of the many signs of the mushy thinking of our times. So are apologies for things that somebody else did. Among the most absurd apologies have been apologies for slavery by politicians. For one thing, slavery is not something you can apologize for, any more than you can apologize for murder.

If someone says to you that he murdered someone near and dear to you, what are you supposed to say? "No problem, we all make mistakes"? Not bloody likely! Slavery is too serious for an apology and somebody else being a slaveowner is not something for you to apologize for. When somebody who has never owned a slave apologizes for slavery to somebody who has never been a slave, then what began as mushy thinking has degenerated into theatrical absurdity - or, worse yet, politics.

Slavery has existed all over the planet for thousands of years, with black, white, yellow and other races being both slaves and enslavers. Does that mean that everybody ought to apologize to everybody else for what their ancestors did? Or are the only people who are supposed to feel guilty the ones who have money that others want to talk them out of?

This craze for aimless apologies is part of a general loss of a sense of personal responsibility. We are supposed to feel guilty for what other people did, but there are a thousand copouts for what we ourselves did to those we did it to. Back in the 1960s, when so many foolish ideas flourished simply because they were new, a New York Times columnist tried to make the case that we were all somehow responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That was considered to be Deep Stuff. It made you one of the special folks when you believed that, instead of one of the rest of us poor dumb slobs who believed that the man who shot him was responsible.

For more than a century, the intelligentsia have been trying to get us to focus on the "root causes" of crime - supposedly created by "society" - instead of locking up thieves or executing murderers. If some people don't have the money or the achievements of others, that too is society's fault, in the eyes of those for whom personal responsibility is an outmoded idea. Personal responsibility is a real problem for those who want to collectivize society and take away our power to make our own decisions, transferring that power to third parties like themselves, who imagine themselves to be so much wiser and nobler than the rest of us.

The police cannot possibly maintain law and order by themselves. Millions of people can monitor their own behavior better than any third parties can. Cops can cope with that segment of society who have no sense of personal responsibility, but not if that segment becomes a large part of the whole population. Yet increasing numbers of educators and the intelligentsia seem to have devoted themselves to undermining or destroying a sense of personal responsibility and making "society" responsible instead. Aimless apologies are just one small symptom of this larger and more dangerous attitude. Thomas Sowell, February 27, 2010

If you're a professional athlete, entertainer or whatever the hell Spencer Pratt is, odds are you're gonna have to apologize publicly for something you did at some point. Oftentimes these apologies ring true, but more often than not, you make yourself look like an even bigger tool. The all-time hit leader denied betting on baseball for years. Then, in 2004, Pete Rose finally admitted it in his autobiography. Like we didn't know. And he's since offered a public apology to any of his fans.

Tiger Woods and the rambling mea culpa heard 'round the world. Sincere or not sincere? That was the question on the minds of everyone from golf fans to fellow sex addicts to that bum who lives down by the river after Tiger Woods' yawn-inducing, 14-minute press conference. Though he had plenty of apologies to offer, a surprisingly emotion-less Woods stuck to the playbook, pausing at all the right moments, hugging his mom, and delivering clichéd lines in a nearly robotic manner. This wasn't the Droid we were looking for.

Soon after the Taylor Swift incident, Kanye West found himself back at his crib, trying to write an apology letter with the all-caps button jammed on his keyboard. Using a little-known bipolar writing style, Kanye goes from sincere apology to subtle insult, back to apology and so on. No surprise that the letter was pulled from his site soon after.

Much has been made of the South Carolina governor's long, rambling owning-up speech where he revealed more dirty laundry than anyone asked for. But by the time Mark Sanford gets around to the actual apologizing, he starts with his mistress! Followed by the people of S.C., and then his wife and kids. And it should be a rule that any apology is null when "y'all" is used this flagrantly.

It's bad enough that it took Chris Brown so long to finally issue an apology for beating his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. (Five months? Why bother?) Kicking things off by trotting out the tired "My lawyer advised me..." excuse is a surefire way to elicit sneers. Adding insult to injury? The bizarre "Sgt. Pepper"-meets-"Double Dare" attire he chose to wear. At least put a tie on, kid.

After being cold-busted for using banned substances, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez's frequent admissions that it was such a different culture waaaaaay back in 2001 never exactly rang true. Plus, when he seemingly has a senior moment - or just forgot the coaching he'd received beforehand, he makes some ridiculous faces that belie his "sorrow" in the whole affair.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the former Bill Clinton's "my bad" is the time it takes for him to actually utter the word "sorry." He never does! He's crafty about it, though, accepting responsibilities for his actions and admitting to pissing off his wife somethin' fierce. When he says "I deeply regret that," you can tell he may have the bruises to back it up.

Jesse James' heartfelt personal apology...uh, to People Magazine. So you've been busted with a big-boobed, tattooed, biker-lovin' chick, and now you need to make amends to your wife and kids with a sincere, personal and heartfelt apology. How do you do it? Why, you e-mail it to People magazine, of course. Make sure to mention that the "majority of the allegations are untrue" and that you'll not comment any further. But then follow it with two more paragraphs commenting on it.

Yeah, it's bad enough Kobe Bryant cheated on his wife, but to drag her out to a press conference and make her awkwardly sit there while he licks his lips and talks about her being "the air that you breath" after hooking up with some other chick...well, that's worse. (Fast-forward to the 4:45 minute mark.)

During his 2006 DUI arrest, Mel Gibson let fly a slew of anti-Semitic remarks. In response, he did the only thing he could - he sat down with Diane Sawyer. During the interview he managed to completely overshadow the incident and his apology, of sorts, by showing us that he's, uh, out of his effin' mind.

If you're a Bible-thumping televangelist who gets busted with a New Orleans prostitute, you best break out the tears when you appear before your massive congregation. Jimmy Swaggart didn't disappoint back in 1988, with his oft-quoted utterance of "Ah have sinned against you, my Lord!" His congregation stood behind him ... and then he was busted with another lady of ill repute in '91. As Ozzy once sang, "No more tears."

Ashlee Simpson totally got busted lip synching on SNL. Instead of fessing up to her antics, she points the finger elsewhere - her band, who she strangely blames for "playing the wrong song" and follows with "I'm sorry, live TV." Maybe the band and live TV made her dance that jig too.

Richard McVey and Jesse Thompson. 12 Crappiest Public Apologies. Maxim [Print + Kindle] . March 2010.

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