Maybe it’s because we have a president who lies as reflexively as the way the rest of us breathe. Maybe it’s because there are so many Democratic presidential candidates launching simultaneous campaign swings and apology tours. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading too much lately about cultural appropriation, a concept I thought I understood. But all of these events are conspiring to me make me feel very, very sorry for nearly everything I — and others — have ever done.
I apologize for our president, who would never deign to utter the words “I’m sorry” — unless they were immediately followed by the phrase “for myself.” I’m sorry our air, water, planet and worldwide reputation are going down the toilet. I’m sorry we’ve unilaterally backed out of long-standing treaties and agreements that would address climate change or the ubiquity of weapons of mass destruction. I’m sorry we tear immigrant families apart and then lose their children. I’m very sorry. (And I’m not kidding about this.)
Then there’s the current crop of Democrats eyeing the White House. Any of them with any legislative history are now trying to explain why they weren’t more enlightened 20 or 30 years ago about the consequences of being tough on crime, or why they failed to predict the 2008 economic crisis, or why they didn’t (fill in the blank) when they should have. They’re very sorry. So am I.
Of course, some of them do have a lot of explaining to do, and I’m not advocating we let them off with a free pass. But some actions have always been wrong. Other actions go in and out of fashion.
I’m particularly struck by the case of Joe Biden. Yes, he failed to protect Anita Hill, who I believed then, and who I believe now. But he had plenty of company in that regard, and he did not vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I do not say this to make light of his conduct during that whole sordid affair. But that’s not what he’s taking heat for.
No, much of the recent criticism of Biden is his longtime style of relating to people, behavior that was once common and is now verboten. No one has called him out for grabbing them by the gentalia — like a certain other candidate in the 2020 presidential race — but he has caught a lot of flak for hugging people; a lot of people, a lot of the time. And I feel genuinely sorry for him if only because we share that attribute. We’re both kind of touchy-feely.
So now I feel like I should apologize to everyone I’ve ever worked with. I apologize to everyone whose shirt tags I tucked back into their collars without asking. I apologize to all the reporters I draped myself over. Well, I didn’t exactly drape myself over them, but I certainly did spend a lot of time hovering behind them with one hand on their shoulder and another pointing to their computer screen to show them the errors of their ways. I tried not to smother them with my boobs — I did know that was a definite no-no. But I certainly came close.
I’m also sorry that I recklessly promised scores of coworkers that I would kiss them on the lips if they filed their stories on time, if they contacted a source, volunteered for a meeting that otherwise would go unstaffed, or offered to bring me coffee during a grueling shift. It worked out to be a case of reverse psychology. The more I promised, the faster they worked to ensure that I would NOT kiss them on the lips. Go figure. But I’m sorry anyway.
And, awash in these regrets, I made the mistake of recently reading a column by a New York Times fashion critic about cultural appropriation. (Don’t ask me why I read this. Anyone who has ever seen me knows I’m one of the most fashion-challenged women to ever walk the earth.) The author decried the use of traditional African weaving and fabric in Western haute couture. Imitation is no longer the sincerest form of flattery. Now it’s a rip-off of oppressed indigenous people and we have no business admiring their stuff.
I know, that’s a simplistic response to cultural appropriation. But the columnist actually made me feel guilty. It’s not like I dismantled the Great Pyramid and reconstructed it in my backyard. But was I a bad person for loving my Japanese kimono so much that it wasn’t even fit to dust the furniture with once I was done with it? Should I not be wearing the Indian pashmina a dear friend brought me back from India? Am I not permitted to enjoy the Chinese painting of a hummingbird that I inherited from my mother? Do I have to prove solid scholarship in the culture and history of Mexico in order to enjoy a quesadilla?
Do I need to apologize? I feel like I do but, honestly, I’d rather just go out and enjoy some Thai food.