The Split Second

I don’t know about where you live, but lately around here there seems to have been an increase in the number of child-related tragedies.

I won’t rehash them one by one.  They were depressing enough the first time around. Suffice it to say that some terrible, strange accidents have happened to some small children around the state.

Accidents aren’t really what this post is about, though.  What got me thinking was looking at and listening to some of the comments that people make about these tragic accidents.  Without fail, the parenting abilities of the parents involved with these accidents are always called into questions.  Sometimes people are downright cruel, saying that some people shouldn’t have children and that how idiots should be sterilized so they can’t reproduce.  You hear such mature, helpful advice as “hang them” and “arrest them for neglect.”

I have no doubt that some of the horrible things that happen to children are the result of bad parenting.  But then, these things aren’t really accidents, are they? What about the horrible things that happen that really are accidents? We are so quick to judge, so quick to pass sentence and shake our heads at these poor, foolish parents.

Haven’t we all been that foolish parent?

Nobody wants to admit it, but we have all had our less-than-stellar parenting moments.  The difference between me and the woman whose son died in a tragic accident is little more than pure luck.

Children are fast, and I don’t think any human on Earth can honestly say they are prepared for every possible danger scenario in the life of their child.  We try.  God knows we do.  We baby-proof and use car seats and door latches and we hover and wring our hands.  But sometimes stuff still happens, doesn’t it?

I know as the mother of two I’ve had some close calls.  One that stands out in my mind is the time my then two-year-old son found the switch that operated the automatic door we had so my sister could go in and out in her wheelchair.  The house was baby-proof.  But I noticed I didn’t hear my son, and when I went in search of him, I found him standing on the back porch looking through the door which had closed just as easily as it had opened.  He was so shocked that he had just stood there, and in reality, no more than a minute could have gone by, but what could have happened? What if, instead of stopping and looking back through the door, he had kept on trucking and went out to the road? Or down in the woods? Or, or, or, if, if, if.  I was lucky.  I grabbed him and mentally calculated the number of years that had been shaved off of my life, but that was it.  We were fine.

Another time, we were in DC seeing the sights.  We got on the elevator to go down to the Metro.  We were packed on there, and somehow I got shuffled behind my sister’s wheelchair.  My son was in front of her chair.  The door opened, and he stepped off.  For some reason, everyone else just sort of stood there.  The door started to slide shut, with me inside and my four-year-old son standing on the platform by himself.  I literally climbed over the back of my sister’s chair and hit the “door open” button.  Everyone shuffled off then, and I joined my child on the platform.  Yet another year or two off of the span of my life.  It could have gone down very differently, and been much worse.  Or, or, or, if, if, if.

So, what about you? Have you had those life-shortening, sphincter-tightening moments of parenthood? I know you have.  We all have. Go ahead, tell me about it.

I won’t judge.

 

 

 

(not so) Sorry

Apologies are funny things.

 

 

 

 

 

Remember this guy? This was Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful apology for his prostitute habit.  He was so sad.  He was so sorry.

Right.

As a result of the mild backlash from her insensitive remarks, Margaret Cho has written a heart-felt apology on her blog.  I encourage you to hop on over there and read it, and be sure to read the comments.  They make excellent food for thought.

I don’t really care all that much about the apology itself.  I mean, I don’t know Cho, she doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t owe me any apology.  She can be a jerk if she wants, and I can slam her for it if I want. (Freedom of speech, baby!)  The thing that rubs me wrong is how typical this “heart-felt” apology is.  Some celebrity is guilty of a fantastic boob, then they issue a sappy, crappy, “oh-I-didn’t-mean-to-hurt-anyone” apology.

Whatever.

I always wonder about apologies.  I sometimes ask my son, when he gets in trouble, if he is really sorry for what he did, or if he’s just sorry he got caught.  The phrase that comes to mind is “damage control.”

A lot of the comments on Cho’s blog suggest that people are just looking to be offended, and that it isn’t that big of a deal.  I guess, from a certain perspective, that right.  Ultimately, what a minor celebrity says during a cable television interview isn’t all that important, compared to, say, the President, the Pope, or Stephen King.  People say jerky things all the time.  The world is consumed by jerkiness.  Bygones.

But here’s the thing–Cho promotes herself as a great human rights activist, standing up for minorities of all kinds.  More than that, while it may not make any difference about what a person says, it certainly reveals their character, doesn’t it?

Take those comments–a lot of the commentators remarked that it was an “accident,” or that Cho “slipped up.”  “Humans make errors.”  Hey, you don’t have to tell me that.  I’ve made enough mistakes in my time to fill this blog and ten more.  You know what though?  I have never called anyone a retard.  Ever.  I’m sure I’ve hurt people along the way, but there are no excuses, and no apologies.  Those people can hate me, and rightly so.

And while I’m at it, that whole “accident” and “slip-up” thing really got me thinking.  An accident is when you step on someone’s toe, then say, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  Or maybe when you back your car into a parking meter. (Just an example.)  Those are accidents.  You might even “accidentally” hurt someone’s feelings by something you say.  I personally am very familiar with the taste of my foot.

However, when you set out to do or say something that you know is going to be hurtful and hateful, well, that’s not an accident.  That’s not a slip-up.  Cho was giving a little comedy routine right there on live television.  She’s promoting her new comedy tour, and she was giving everyone a preview.  Part of her repertoire is being crude and pushing the envelope.   That’s who she is.  No sense in apologizing for it now, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong–I do believe in apologizing when you hurt someone. Here’s the catch–being sorry for something doesn’t fix it.  Apologies aren’t a license to do or say anything you want.  Everyone would do well to remember that they while they absolutely do have the freedom to say what they want, others also have the freedom to react.  People who were Margaret Cho fans before probably still are.  I would go so far as to say that a lot of people she offended had never even heard of her until now.

(Can you say, “publicity?”)

One last thing–it is possible to be funny and racy and edgy without tearing others down.  You can even poke fun at others without hurting them.  There is a line there, and when you cross it, don’t be surprised by the consequences, and screw your apologies.

Oh, and make sure you have a good publicist.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

 

 

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