Note: This post is a follow-up to my piece on Lloyd Irvin student rape case, but in order to make this post both relevant and accessible to a larger audience, I decided to address the broader issues. (For a line-by-line response, check out Georgette’s post.)
After reading a certain open letter, a friend of mine sent me a her thoughts. I’d like to share the steps here, though the author wishes to remain anonymous.
The Art of Apologizing Without Apologizing
1. Set up a connection between the people who are criticizing you and a negative behavior that readers won’t want to be associated with, such as attacking innocent family members, not being serious about preventing violence against women, etc.
2. Apologize for an aspect of the situation that you’re obviously not actually responsible for.
3. Talk about how you feel responsible for it, despite the fact that everyone else keeps telling you that it couldn’t possibly be your fault.
4. Deny anything that would actually make you look bad.
5. Make people feel bad about doubting you. Suggest that by doing so they’re hurting innocents (your family, friends, associates, even the victims). Question their motives, and hint that they’re just interested in petty point scoring, while you’re busy addressing the real issues here.
5. If you have to, apologize for “bad judgement,” but emphasize that what you did was with the best of intentions. “Protecting your family” is always a good one.
6. Emphasize what a great guy you really are and how much you care. Launching a crusade is a great way to turn things around. Remember – no publicity is bad publicity!
I’d like to really look beyond this one non-apology to address the bigger issue of creating systemic cultural change.
Change requires people to really take a look at themselves closely; not just the words spoken in a statement but one’s overall actions.
I believe it’s important to discuss accountability.
If someone is in a room where something unimaginably horrible happens to another person (including but not limited to gang rape), and they do not either do something to stop it or call the police who will come in and stop it, are they responsible?
I believe they are.
Dostoevsky says that “each of us is responsible for everything and to every human being.”
Sartre states that man is not solely responsible for his own individuality, but for all men.
And, of course, many have agreed that silence is complicity.
While we can’t change the actions (or inactions) of others, we can ask ourselves to do better; to speak out in the face of violence or injustice, to hold others to higher standards than simply creating a reasonable doubt among a jury because one was physically incapable of participating in a crime (despite wanting to.) It’s worth noting that being acquitted of a crime does not equal innocence.
We can ask more of ourselves.
We can ask ourselves, should we find ourselves in these types of situations, what the victim would want us to do.
Would the victim of a crime think that being 20 excuses unethical behavior? The law draws the distinction at the age of 18, but I’ve seen 15-year-olds act with more courage and integrity than many adults.
Would the victim of a crime-in-progress be satisfied with a man skirting away unscathed in a court of law? Or would she want someone to step in, to intervene, to end a horrible situation, to have the fortitude of character to say or do whatever is necessary to end it?
Evil does not stop until it is stopped. What are YOU training for?