Bob Franken


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Is it me, or has anyone else noticed that when someone is exposed for wrongdoing, the responses all seem similar? No matter whether someone is overheard saying something racist, credibly accused of sexual harassment or caught in some incredibly egregious act, if the person decides that it’s futile to dispute the charge, his (or her) apology looks like it came from the same mea culpa template.
Somewhere in each one, there will be words to the effect that he or she has had a lapse in judgement, is sorry that he or she caused harm or distress and, this is my favorite of all, “This is not the person I am.” It’s not just individuals who eat the very same humble pie, but corporations, too, when they’re caught in some awful act.
Let’s take a certain hospital in Baltimore, the University of Maryland Medical Center, which on a very cold night was taped “patient dumping.” A passer-by shot video of an incoherent woman being taken out by security guards, wearing only a flimsy convalescent gown, and abandoned at a bus stop. Had the guy not interceded, there’s every reason to believe that she would have frozen to death. Sure enough, when the facilities administrator realized that the inhumane treatment had been inescapably proven, he had no choice but to face a news conference. And what did he say? You guessed it: “We firmly believe what occurred Tuesday night does not reflect who we are.”
I’m left with the impression that when someone uses the “not who I am” phrase, that’s exactly who he or she is. All the person is trying to do is wriggle out of the mess. And that explains why everyone’s grovels all resemble each other. Many, if they can afford it, quickly go out and hire a crisis manager. That’s a glorified PR person who has contrived a specialty in Crisis Response Altering Perceptions. (I’ll let you figure out what the acronym is.) Their loads of Crisis Response Altering Perceptions all sound the same. For that they get big bucks.

Then we have those who never say they’re sorry. They have decided never to show any remorse about their disgusting comments or conduct. I’m thinking, of course, of a certain president of the United States, whose constant repugnant stream of unconsciousness reveals a really creepy individual. He has concluded that even hinting at second thoughts, or first thoughts, for that matter, shows weakness, and from a tactical point of view, he’s usually right. So when he states something that’s blatantly racist, he can swat the outrage away by denying he ever said what he said, even when there are witnesses. “I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.” Yup, he’s said that. And his base laps it up.
The most ardent supporters argue that Trump is simply being straightforward. Forgetting for a moment his and their bigotry, they do have a point. Our language is corrupted these days by those who find polite ways to justify their injustice. Making the wealthy wealthier through tax cuts becomes “job building.” Xenophobia is “protecting the nation’s safety.” A return to Jim Crow discrimination is merely a quest to “Make America Great Again.”
Then you have the accessories before and after the fact, accomplices who filter their every utterance through their ambition. They are the ones who curry favor with the current president because they’ve calculated that it will be in their self-interest. First, two GOP senators who were in the room — Tom Cotton and David Perdue — had Sudden Hearing Impairment Trauma (again, you can figure out this acronym), insisting they “do not recall the president saying those comments specifically.” Now Perdue has gotten braver, declaring that Trump didn’t say “sh**hole”; it was a “gross misrepresentation.” Apparently, he heard “sh**house” not “sh**hole.” How absurd is that?
Our social and political discourse has gotten that moronic. Polite or impolite, it’s still pathetic.

© 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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