I’m sorry dear readers, I must confess something: I am apologetic.
If I dial the wrong number, I apologize. If I let the door go at the mall, not realizing someone is walking behind me, I apologize. If you were to run over my foot with your cart at the grocery store, I would most likely be the one to apologize. Yup. Even if you were lost in space, zigzagging through the aisle, head spun around like Linda Blair looking everywhere but where you need to be… I would say “I’m sorry”. (But that one would be difficult.) And if I’m wrong in my actions or words, I apologize.
I know some of you will have the urge to criticize me for this “character flaw”, and that’s okay. (Don’t be surprised if you apologize for it later.) But I will save you the trouble now and reply, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I regret that it is too difficult to teach this old dog new tricks, and I hope you will excuse me.”
Never underestimate the power of a sincere “I’m sorry”. Two words that many have forgotten how to say, along with another forgotten word: accountability. It’s never anybody’s fault anymore. Fingers fly in each direction, and nobody will take responsibility and say, “I was wrong.”
Three recent, very disappointing incidents in London, Ontario demonstrate this, two of which have made national news.
The first incident took place at a local weekend market, Trails End. Three transgendered individuals, who were working at a booth selling candles, were told by the market owner that they were not welcome. The owner cited concerns as to which washroom the transgendered individuals would use, and the attention they drew from customers as his reasons for asking them not to return. It wasn’t anything they said or did, it was just simply that “they” were “them”; discrimination due to lack of education. A petition in protest of the market owner’s decision has collected more than 2100 signatures in a little over a day. This is absolutely a case where an apology could go far; saving not only the owner’s reputation, but also the reputations of the market vendors who rent space from him.
The second incident occurred yesterday afternoon when a 17 year old was subdued with a taser – partially in the head – by police during a fist fight with another young man. I invite you to watch the video and decide for yourself if the officer was justified in his use of the taser or not. My opinion is unimportant and still forming. What is important is the fact that nobody has taken accountability for it. The young men who were fighting have not said, “I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have been fighting, and this wouldn’t have happened.” They are the victims of their own actions, and they should accept responsibility as such.
Public response to the incident is divided as to whether or not the officer was justified in his use of the taser, and appears to lean slightly more heavily on the side of it being an excessive use of force. The Chief contends the officer was justified due to the threat of harm the young man posed by wielding a chair. However, the fact that he shot the young man in the head, which provincial guidelines advise against, and did not give him any sort of warning take the attention away from any justification he may have. Case #2 where an apology on the part of the officer for bad aim and failing to warn the kid could work wonders to quell public anger.
The third and final incident has been discussed around the world today and occurred last night when the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers played an exhibition hockey game at the John Labatt Centre. An unidentified attendee is accused of throwing a banana (or two, by some accounts) at player, Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds is one of very few black players in the NHL.
Those who were at the game and witnessed what happened were appalled, and news of it quickly spread through social media and across the sports stations. Many argue that without a statement from the alleged banana tosser, the media and public are being too hasty to condemn this as a racially motivated act. While true, this is case #3 where an apology would be very welcome right about now. Whether racially motivated or not, it was unnecessary and has been upsetting to many people. If it was a misunderstanding, an apology should not be so difficult to give. A simple, “I’m sorry.” would go a long, long way. And it shouldn’t have to come from us.
London residents should not have to feel apologetic for the incidents we had no hand in last night, yesterday or last week, but we do. We feel embarrassed and ashamed by it and we make apologies to the world; begging forgiveness from many for the actions of few. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. After all, I apologize for everything even if it isn’t my fault, right? (Again, sorry ’bout that.) But it’s time we start demanding society return to individual accountability, from ourselves and from others. Let’s bring back the value of a few small words because honestly, I don’t know what’s so wrong with saying, “I’m sorry”.