Calling all Mama Grizzlies!
I hate fake apologies. Grown-ups demand them from kids all the time. It’s the price they have to pay to get out of the dog house. “You can’t come out of your room until you say you’re sorry.” The kid eventually obliges, but the apology is anything but sincere. The kid isn’t really sorry, he just knows he has to apologize in order to come out of his room.
When they’re little, the insincerity is broadcast through the tone of voice. There’s a disconnect between the words the kid is saying and the smarty-pants, put-out tone. When my daughter Hannah was a few years younger, she was the master of this. My boyfriend Clint still does a dead-on imitation of her “SawREEEE!” whenever he wants a guaranteed laugh from me.
When kids get older, the insincerity is communicated by riddling the apology with qualifications: “I’m sorry if it hurt your feelings when I accidentally forgot to invite you to my birthday party.” The subtext of these apologies is the person doing the apologizing certainly didn’t do anything wrong on purpose — if he even did anything wrong at all — and you are being overly sensitive if your feelings were even the teeniest bit hurt. In other words, it’s really all your fault. Anybody who’s been on the receiving end of one of these knows there’s little comfort in this type of apology.
The most famous recent example of the fake apology was earlier this week when Rush Limbaugh fake apologized to Sandra Fluke for repeatedly attacking her over the course of several days on his nationally syndicated radio show. Limbaugh made a litany of disparaging, demeaning and disturbing remarks about Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, who testified on February 23 before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
When faced with a flood of criticism and his high dollar sponsorships began evaporating, Rush thought it prudent to fake apologize. So, out of all the toxic spew that came out of his mouth over his days-long verbal assault on this young law student, he felt it sufficient to apologize for just two words. Those two words — slut and prostitute — were doozies, but in his fake apology he explained that one of the reasons he regretted saying those two words was that they distracted from the bigger point he was actually trying to make.
To steal a phrase from Amy Poehler, “Really?!?”
So, just to be clear, he’s not apologizing to her for saying that Fluke wants to be paid to have sex.
Or for saying she is having so much sex she’s going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them for her.
Or for claiming that the government is footing the bill for contraceptives that are covered by women’s health insurance plans.
Or for stating that we the people are picking up the tab for birth control covered by other people’s health insurance plans.
Or for falsely implying that the total annual cost for contraceptives was somehow tied to how often a woman is having sex.
Or for saying that women who use birth control that is covered by their insurance plans should video tape themselves having sex and post the videos on line so he and everyone else can watch.
No. These were all presumably the bigger points he was trying to make. And the words “slut” and “prostitute”? Well, they ruined everything by distracting us from all of those brilliant insights. So, he’s really sorry about that. Or as a seven year old might put it, "SawREEE!"
If there were an Oscar for fake apologizing, I think Rush has more than earned it. (I’m grateful there isn’t, though, or he might want to give an acceptance speech. And frankly, I’ve heard more than enough out of him.)
Fluke deserves a real apology. And I’m going to try my best to give her one. So, here it goes:
I am the mother of a twenty-seven year old law student myself. And to quote Sarah Palin from her June 23, 2010 SarahPAC video, “Moms kind of just know when something’s wrong.” She's right, you know. And there’s definitely something wrong when an intelligent, poised law student is maliciously attacked rather than applauded for having the courage to speak before a congressional committee on an important issue.
Sarah Palin further says in this inspirational video, “Mama grizzly bears…rise up on their hind legs when someone is coming to attack their cubs.” So true. You, Sandra, are one of my generation’s cubs. And over the last few weeks, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly attacked you. You can count on the other members of my generation to come to your defense when one of our own — a man who is old enough (in terms of years, not maturity level) to be your dad — attacks you.
Sarah Palin also said, “All across this country women are standing up and speaking out…They are saying, ‘This isn’t right for our kids.’” These words describe my sentiments about this situation exactly. As a woman, I find it outrageous that you, a conscientious young woman, were disparaged, called derogatory names and had your words twisted around, all for doing something for which you should have been commended.
So, as a mom, as an individual old enough to be your parent, and as woman, I apologize for Rush Limbaugh’s behavior. His personal attacks were completely uncalled for and represent a failure of our generation to adhere to standards of decency, honesty and civility in public discourse.
As for Limbaugh’s gross (in more ways than one) misunderstandings about sex, birth control, health insurance and who pays for what, I apologize for those, too. They are as misguided as they are misogynistic, and represent the ignorance that is borne of the marriage between ideological bigotry and “abstinence only” sex education. The existence of people like Limbaugh serves as a sobering reminder of exactly why it is so important that birth control be readily available.
So, Sandra, I’m sorry for what you’ve been through over the past few weeks. But know that most of my generation would like to thank you for your strength, intelligence and composure. You make us proud.