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PRUDEN: ‘Tis the season for apologies

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

If Barack Obama wants a worthy legacy, now that he is well on his way to wrecking the health care system, he should establish a Cabinet-level department to make sure that every American gets all the apologies he deserves.

Demanding apologies has become the national pastime. The apologies don't have to be authentic, and in fact few of them are. The most often heard apology, usually offered by a politician, is something like "I sincerely apologize to anyone who might have been offended for anything I said." Translated from the corporate vernacular, that's "if I said anything to hurt your feelings, tough."

Nevertheless, millions of Americans never get even that much because they didn't know they were being offended. With thousands of inspectors general ranging across the land, looking for offenders to match with offendees, supply would catch up with demand. Offenders would be supplied with a pad of blank forms — each form an Official U.S. Government Approved Apology — to be dispensed to all. With that and $3.50, the offendee could get an extra-hot decaf latte at Starbucks.

Many offendees need no help in taking offense, which makes the pain more exquisite for those who do.

An Englishman was barred from Facebook because he put up the usual Facebook triviality, this one about his love for a favorite pub lunch of meatballs, with green peas and roast potatoes, which the English have called "faggots" for centuries. "I like faggots," he tweeted, and this was taken as a homophobic slur, though Robert Wilkes, 54, hardly knew why. "It may have a different meaning in America," he said, "but I used it in a food context. Facebook allows beheading videos, cruelty to animals, stabbing and terrible swearwords," he protested, "but not this."

It's true that "faggot" is an ancient word, coined long before someone invented GLBTQ, but this man is not properly repentant. But ignorance of the gallows excuses neither rape nor mopery. He should choke on his next plate of peas and faggots.

Facebook's pain was nothing like the agony suffered by a University of West Florida student when he stepped up for his plane in Pensacola, bound for his home in Albany, N.Y. He was aghast when he looked at his boarding pass. "At first, I didn't think I was reading it right," he said. But there it was, his passenger code in bold black ink: H8GAY. "If I were a gay male, I might have thought that a Delta worker purposely gave me that code." The official apologizer for Delta Air Lines came through with corporate regrets, but the computer that generated the code, which may or may not have a lecherous eye on that cute little printer nearby, is still working for Delta.

Sometimes, this still being America, a suspect invokes his First Amendment right to say what he thinks and makes no apology. Phil Robertson, the bearded star of a reality-TV show called "Duck Dynasty," about a Louisiana family that gets rich and famous making duck calls, was suspended from the A&E cable network for saying his Christian faith teaches that practicing homosexuality is a sin. A&E is always on the lookout for offenses (depending on the offendee). The network once asked Papa Duck to omit Jesus from a prayer to avoid the offending Muslims.

Since race and sex are the most dangerous topics in America, it's important that everybody talk about nothing else, and carefully. Not the budget, immigration, guns, abortion, whether to bomb Iran or the church on the corner. Megyn Kelly, the hot, hot Fox News correspondent, tried to have a grown-up conversation the other day with Aisha Harris, a black commentator, about the commercial depiction of Santa Claus. "A fat, old white man who is melanin-deficient made me feel ashamed as a child," the latter said, and urged that the Santa Claus image be made over.

Miss Kelly observed that Mr. Claus, though not actually real, was originally St. Nicholas, a kindly and generous saint who was real, venerated by Catholics and honored by Protestants. He was indeed melanin-deficient, though as a Greek he was not particularly fair or blue-eyed. Using St. Nicholas as a model, Santa Claus was extruded in the early 19th century as a symbol of Christmas giving at a time when Dec. 25 was just another day in America. Marketing did the rest.

But grown-up conversations are not fashionable in the early 21st century, and a stake was prepared for the lady's burning. Rant and rave is the order of the day. Many people are offended, some who may not even know it. Another oppressive government bureaucracy to collect offenses would make a nifty Christmas present for everyone.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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