September 18, 2006
I remember my grammar professor talking about an interesting facet of the English language. We have two meanings behind the words "I'm sorry": one is in the sense of "this was my fault" and the other is "I am sympathetic that this happened to you." That is how your friend can tell you his house burned down and you say "I'm sorry" while obviously not being guilty. It is my understanding -- based on my limited experience with foreign languages -- that this distinction is more clear in other languages, usually with two different phrases to express the different meanings. For example, in Swedish you can say "Förlåt mig", which means "forgive me" when it's your fault, but you'd say something more like "Det är trakigt" for sympathy, which loosely can translate as "that sucks". I used to try to say "Jag är ledsen" for "I'm sorry", but my friend said I was always using it wrong because it never carried quite the meaning I was striving for when I tried to use it for sympathy. (Maybe Amritas can shed more light on the topic, especially if I'm misinformed.)
Anyway, as my professor explained to us, this is how we can apologize without apologizing. The Pope can say he's sorry (that Muslims are reacting in such a violent way) without saying he's sorry (that he quoted Manuel II Paleologos in a long speech about rationality in religion).
There are two "I'm sorry"s in English, and apparently the Muslims know the difference. Because they're still ticked, which is why they say things like
We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen.
Goddamit, maybe it's time they apologize to us. To the Pope. And for the nun they shot in the back. And the churches they burned down.
I am so f-ing sick of the Muslim world.
I don't know Webb from shinola, but I think this whole thing is weird. He wrote something in 1979 that might not have been that shocking given our military norms at the time. Since then, he has grown with the times and altered his position a little. Apparently he's since apologized for any difficulties women might've faced at the Naval Academy in light of his words. He also is apparently "'completely comfortable' with women's roles in today's military." So the short story is that his view of women has changed a bit since 1979. Pardon me if I don't think we should stop the presses.
Here's what I don't get, why I'm bothering to blog this. I wish I had recorded the reporter's exact wording of this story, but he said something to the effect that people were pressing Webb to retract his 1979 statement. They want him to publicly state that he doesn't believe what he wrote then. And it seems to me that he's doing just enough to hedge his statements so that it would appear that he still holds the same view to a certain extent but doesn't want to seem anti-woman or even anti-women in the military. He thinks they're fine in certain leadership positions but not leading men in combat. (I hope I'm not putting words in his mouth here, but this is just what I'm surmising by reading between the lines.)
So reporters are clamoring for him to retract his previous beliefs, even though they seem to still be his beliefs. That is to say, they want him to lie. They want him to come out and say that he doesn't believe all that malarky he thought back in the 70s, heavens no, women are fabulous. Why do they want him to say this? Why do they want him to lie?
Let's leave aside the fact that they're the Media and he's a Democrat, OK?
Don't we want politicians who tell the truth? I know every politician will gloss over things and sugarcoat stuff and hand us rose-colored glasses to look through. We all know this. But we don't want them to flat out lie and say that they believe in something when they truly don't. If Webb holds a belief that's unpopular or not P.C., the voters have a right to make a choice based on what the man believes. The media shouldn't hound him to apologize for something he's not actually sorry about just to make himself look better.
Why do we want all these people to apologize all the time? This comes while I'm still festering over the hubbub the Pope has caused. The Pope doesn't need to apologize for quoting some medieval text that's actually right on the money. As one Turkish columnist said, "You would think that the Pope had spent his whole speech attacking Islam. The Pope is the Pope. We didnt expect him to praise Islam." So he can apologize for hurting people's feelings -- as Webb did -- but why this rush to get him to retract, to take it all back, to act like he never actually believed the thing he said? He's the freaking Pope! He's the head of a completely different religion; why on earth should he be expected to be nicey-nice with a religion that's *not true* according to the beliefs of his religion? Lord knows the imams say far worse things about Jews and Christians every single day.
But you know what? If you don't like what the Pope said, or what Webb said, then talk about it on your blog or in your Bible study or at your dinner party. But would it really make us feel better for them to lie to us and say they never meant to say these things? That's ridiculous.
You can't take it back and you shouldn't have to. Don't say something controversial and then just cave when people call you on it. It doesn't really help; just ask Lawrence Summers. And the media, or American society, or whomever we want to blame this on needs to lay off and stop calling for people to freaking apologize. We need for more people to tell the truth and say it like it is in this ridiculous world of ours, not be afraid that they might bring the house down with their words. We need to stop stifling people from saying what they really believe!
You don't like what Webb said? Don't vote for him. It's that simple.
(Actually, just don't vote for him: he's a Democrat. Heh.)
MORE TO GROK:
More on apologies here.
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