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by Miles Mathis

It is now all apologies, all the time. Round-the-clock coverage of people begging our forgiveness for their sins. Today it was Tiger Woods and Scotty Lago, yesterday it was John Mayer. Before that it was David Letterman or Mel Gibson or Michael Richards or Michael Phelps or Michael Vick or Cobe Bryant or Martha Stewart. Tomorrow it will be Charlie Sheen or the wife of Joe Stack. When these sinners take a break for a moment from their contriteness and groveling for our renewed good graces, it will only be to shuttle the microphone over to the shocked and saddened who are demanding apologies from Bernie Madoff or Hugo Chavez or the mistress of Kermit the Frog.

But you know what, I don't require apologies from anyone. Not because I don't believe their sincerity (though I don't). Not because I don't give a damn (though in this case I don't).

No, it is because I do not see myself as an amateur confessor.

It is because I do not believe in my own powers to grant absolution.

It is because I do not think I can change your opinion by feverishly demanding that you change your opinion. Coercion is the surest form of failure, and the first sign of it. Opinions can be changed by logic, reason, charm, humor, charisma, desire, and many other methods, but never by force or duress.

It is because I do not see my enemies as potential allies. You do not ask a rushing stream to apologize. You either wade it or you fall in.

It is because I recognize that politics by apology is pathological. Apologies are schoolyard tactics, impressive to some impressionable five-year-olds, maybe, but unworthy of adults. Politicians that make use of apologies simply reveal their disrespect for their audience. Voters that weren't stalled in adolescence would never believe that public policy was crafted with a series of sorry slurs, rebuttals, and retractions, but the contemporary voter is misdirected with so little effort. They see a playground fight and immediately peg the two bullies as class leaders. Meanwhile, the real class eggheads are building their ghoulish tomorrows behind the curtain.

I grieve for a culture that has nothing better to do than police itself and propel itself in such a childish, pathetic, and frankly ineffective manner. I cringe to imagine future historians reading our headlines, wondering what chemical inhibitors had made it into our water supply.

Let me break it down for you. Number one, apologies from public figures are less than meaningless. A demand for an apology from a public figure is just an invitation to a further lie. These people already lie for a living, so in asking for an apology you are just asking an actor to practice his craft on you. You are asking a magician to put on his black hat and white gloves and pull a ball from behind your gullible ear. People who are impressed by the sincerity of public apologies are also impressed by the sincerity of actors and magicians: “Oooh, he sawed that lady in half with such sincerity!”

Two, an apology, public or not, is always just words. Words don't mean a damn thing in cases like this. This person, by his or her actions, has already done the deed. It cannot be undone by the apology. It cannot even be undone by future deeds. Words can be impressive, but only when they are joined to action. Leonardo talking about art is only impressive because his art is impressive. Madame Curie talking about her experiments is impressive only because her experiments are impressive. Tiger Woods talking about his (future) sexual discipline is not impressive because he has no sexual discipline. If he had any real desire for it, he would have had it already. He has plenty of discipline when he wants it, so we may assume he was doing what he chose to do.

Three, even if you believe in apologies (and I don't), an apology after a demand is worthless. Only an unasked-for apology could carry any weight, because in that case it might come from a nascent self-awareness. An apology after a demand for an apology is just a move in a game. It is strategic.

Four, apologies are the right size for small transgressions, but just look like propaganda with anything really important. Does anyone really care if Bush or Cheney or Bernie Madoff apologizes? Would you care if Hitler or Attila the Hun apologized, or Ted Bundy? I wouldn't. I don't want Bernie Madoff to apologize anymore than I want Wall Street to apologize, or the SEC. What I want is for the Glass-Steagall Act to be re-authorized, the SEC to be un-bought, the Federal Reserve to be demolished, and for all the bankers and Congresspeople and CFR bastards to be tossing eachother's salads in Rikers Island.

Was anyone impressed when Clinton apologized for slavery or when Germany apologized for the Holocaust? I wasn't. Clinton is not a slave owner and modern Germany did not kill all those people, but even if he were and they did, apologies are insignificant. If Clinton had apologized for slavery and then given Mississippi and Alabama to former slave families to do with as they would, I might have been impressed. If Clinton had apologized to Native Americans and then given them Montana and the Dakotas as a gift (while freeing Leonard Peltier), I might have been impressed. As it is, all we ever get is empty talk.

I am not interested in seeing our leaders give speeches or hold hands on the Capitol steps and sing God Bless America or appear on Jay Leno or shoot hoops or pose for public announcements or talk to soldiers in Iraq or give or receive tearful apologies for sleeping with men or muppets or marionettes. I am interested in seeing them spend taxdollars on something besides the military and the CIA and NSA and the TSA and passing some legislation other than Patriot Acts and bankster bailouts and pre-disaster mitigation and telecom immunity and suspicionless checkpoints.

Five, it is none of your business what anyone does in bed, including Tiger Woods. If you judge a golfer on what he does in bed, you are a prude, a prig, and probably a hypocrite. If you aren't doing what he did, you either have a low libido or you can't get away with it. And if you choose to be monogamous, fine, it may be the best thing for you; but it doesn't automatically make you superior to Tiger Woods. Most of the high-profile people who preach and have preached monogamy, all the way back to St. Augustine, have not been monogamous. How many loud-mouthed preachers do we have to catch in bed with hookers and catamites and catamounts and kittens and hamsters before we lose interest in all such speeches?

You will say that if Woods wanted to be a swinging bachelor he shouldn't have married a wife who demanded he be faithful. He should have remained single or found a French wife. True enough: he set himself up for all this. Still, that's his business. We all make mistakes and get ourselves in jams. Those with bigger opportunities tend to get in bigger jams. But he doesn't have to justify himself to me. Why should he justify himself to you? I am neither the judge nor the policeman of his life, and have no desire to be. Why does anyone else have the desire to be? Tiger Woods' sexual choices affect me no more and no less than the sexual choices of Captain Crunch.

Many will say that Tiger Woods is a role model, but if either you or your kids are using famous people as role models, you deserve what you get. Tiger Woods must be thinking, “What kind of idiots take a professional golfer as a role model, sexual or otherwise?” And you know what, he is right. You might as well pattern your life after Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk.

Or how about John Mayer, and his tearful apology for using a forbidden word? I didn't think less of John for saying “nigger,” since I happen to believe in free speech. I also believe that the dictionary is an open source, that words cannot be forbidden, and that “words will never hurt me.” But I do think less of John for apologizing for using a forbidden word. Next he will be apologizing to Barbara Walters for dreaming of Jennifer Aniston's tits or apologizing to Glenn Beck for wondering if 911 was an inside job. I don't think less of people for making mistakes, but I do think less of people for caving into political correctness. I do think less of John for becoming the latest poster boy for pussy-whipping and cultural contrition. He will no doubt be on Letterman next week in his hairshirt and crown of thorns, confessing his latest thought-crime or speech-crime or his latest leaving-up of the toilet seat.

When did the superego take over culture? When did every last man, woman and child turn into the Church Lady? My dear modern media-muddler, what kind of small, pinched, righteous, vulgar person have you become that you are entertained by public apologies? You may need to ask yourself this: would you be more or less entertained by public beheadings? Would you prefer to see Woods peering out from beneath the guillotine? Would you prefer to see Mayer with his head in the stocks? Would you like a tomato or a head of cabbage?

I think the country may need to take this opportunity, now that Oprah is quitting (possibly to run for Queen of the World), to turn off the talk shows and other public gossip mills, and let the golfers play golf, the musicians sing, the comedians pull faces, and the magicians fondle rabbits. Go back to your billion pornsite hits a day and just try to enjoy yourself.

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