Friday, January 13, 2006

You take that back!

If the neighborhood where you grew up was at all like mine, then you were occasionally denied your American right to say whatever you wanted, without repercussions. An older sibling, the neighborhood bully, or a friend who took umbrage sometimes changed your mind. You saw your buddy in fifth grade walk a whole block after school with a girl, for example.

“Tommy’s got a girl friend; Tommy’s got a girl friend,” you chanted as an American free to say what you thought. Until Tommy grabbed you, shoved you to the ground, twisted your arm behind your back and demanded, “Take that back!”

So you did. “Ow! Ow! O.K, I take it back!” Tommy let you up, and you skipped away from his grasp, laughed, and said, “No I don’t!” And you ran.

Well, of course you didn’t “take it back.” Neither Tommy nor anyone else ever thought that you really meant it when you “took back” the words, whether you accused him of having a girl friend, being a “cry-baby” a “tattle-tale,” or having a mother who wore army boots! You simply claimed to take it back, and then laughed. The rest of us laughed, too.

These days Pat Robertson regularly spouts juvenile nonsense that he seems to believe passes for religious thought. The Uber Christian recently implied that Israel Prime Minister Sharon suffered a stroke as divine retribution for returning land to the Palestinians. After several days of rebukes from Israel, from evangelical leaders, and from members of the mainstream media, Robertson has apologized. He “takes it back.” So are we to believe that he no longer holds the ignorant ideas he voiced a week earlier? Or is he just sorry he said them so publicly?

A second example: The overall World Cup champion downhill skier, American Bode Miller, was asked on camera about his party ways and the effects of drinking on his skiing. Miller admitted to having skied while “wasted.” A large portion of the world was outraged. So Miller has said he regrets the “confusion and pain” he has caused. “The most important thing,” he said, “is that I wanted to come straight out and apologize to mostly my family, friends.”

Everyone who believes that is truly the most important “thing,” stick your finger in your eye. What is Miller actually sorry about? His behavior, which he will now change? “Yes, of course, I take it all back, really.” Or is he simply sorry for having admitting skiing while wasted?

Since we all know that bending someone’s arm behind him until he “takes it back” is nonsense, why do we seem to put so much stock in wrenching apologetic words from people who say stupid things that they really mean? Why don’t we adopt the code of childhood and just laugh them out of their standing in the neighborhood?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a point. Does anyone take Robertson seriously? Then let's laugh him off the planet.

1/14/2006 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like it. If we laugh loud enough, the rest of the world may realize how little we care about Robertson's views and whether a skier is drunk, sober, or on skates.

1/16/2006 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, laugh at the fools who supposedly "take it back" but learn not to believe anything they say in the future. In fact, why even listen to them?

1/16/2006 8:19 PM  
Anonymous tomtomtommy said...

I like your style. Start the laughter. Let's hear it out there!

1/18/2006 1:44 PM  
Blogger Tennessee Bard said...

That's very interesting. And what's more, it all amounts to some form of politics. If one speaks or acts in any way perceived as taboo by the public, he or she will invariably be ostracized. It's that simple. And of course, the political reaction would be to retract the statement, beg for forgiveness for the public sin, etc., that outraged that segment of the population claiming to have been violated. Do they actually mean what they say? No. You're right on the money there. Nobody turns a 180 at the drop of a hat in his or her mind or heart. It's just human nature to cover our asses...all while concealing what we truly believe.

1/21/2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Your thoughts on "taking it back" reminds me of when people ask how you are doing. Most people say "good (well is the grammatically correct term)" or "fine" even if they are in horrible shape; we don't want to bother people with our problems. It is a culturally ingrained way of showing courtesy. I guess "taking it back" when we really don't mean it is another way of showing courtesy. We meant what we did, but at least we acknowledge the fact that others disagree with what we did. We may not acknowledge that we could have acted incorrectly, but the mere fact that we display awareness of others' contradictory feelings is something.

1/23/2006 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suppose Ann Coulter will "take back" her poisonous remarks? Or is she smart enough to know how offensive she is?

1/28/2006 1:52 PM  
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