My nephew is 19 months old. Most of the time he speaks his own language. "BERohfh a oekgh," he'll tell the Ernie doll sitting next to him. "Xouru ruffsot, outside?"
Despite his lack of English vocabulary, it's very clear when he's sorry for, say, grabbing a handful of potting soil or pulling 30 books off the bottom shelf and trampling them. In response to the evil eye and "strong voice" of Grandma Ye Ye, he puts his back into sorry. He falls out. He moans. He mixes tears, snot and sweat into a contrition paste that somehow ends up in his hair.
I know of at least two adults who could learn a lot from my nephew.
First there's Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who just did a 20-minute interview with France's TF1 about his alleged sexual assault of hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. According to a Reuters translation, the married former French presidential contender considers his predatory behavior a "moral error":
"What happened? What happened did not include violence, force, aggression nor any unlawful act. It is the prosecutor who says this; not me. What happened was not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that, an error. ... Was it weakness? I think it was more than weakness. I think it was a moral error and I'm not proud of it and I regret it immensely. I have regretted every day during those four months and I don't think I'm about to stop regretting it."
Strauss-Kahn, who is still facing Diallo's civil suit and criminal charges for the attempted sexual assault of a young French writer, doesn't get specific about the "moral error" that resulted in still-undisputed physical evidence. But he's downright dramatic when condemning the U.S. legal system. From an AP translation:
"When you are snatched up by the jaws of that machine, you have the impression that it can crush you. I felt that I was trampled on, humiliated, even before I had the chance to say a word.
It is very possible that something has been lost in translation. But to my eyes and ears, the DSK is the video above doesn't seem anything but angry about what he's "been through."
Former Psychology Today blogger and London School of Economics (LSE) instructor Satoshi Kanazawa is similarly sorry-challenged. Late last week LSE concluded its investigation into the scientific racist's infamous "Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?" post, and suspended him from teaching core courses for a year. A telling excerpt of Kanazawa's apology to LSE director professor Judith Rees:
I am writing to express my sincere apology for the controversial post on my Psychology Today blog and the damage it has caused to the reputation of the School. I regret that the controversy surrounding its publication has offended and hurt the feelings of so many both inside and outside the School. The blog post in question was motivated entirely by my scientific curiosity and my desire to solve an empirical puzzle. It was not at all motivated by a desire to seek or cause controversy and I deeply regret the unintended consequences that its publication nevertheless had because of my error in judgment. I accept I made an error in publishing the blog post.
In retrospect, I should have been more careful in selecting the title of the blog post and the language that I used to express my ideas. In the aftermath of its publication, and from all the criticisms that I have received, I have learned that some of my arguments may have been flawed and not supported by the available evidence. ...The past three months have been most difficult for all concerned, and I would never want to relive the experience.
Like Strauss-Kahn's, Kanazawa's apology is heavy on self defense. He also describes what he did as an error, calls the ensuing months difficult and uses self reflection as a stand-in for real empathy for the women of color he violated. Neither man seems to realize that an apology consists of specifics--that you lay out what you did, apologize to the people hurt by your actions, and go sit down somewhere.
Even my nephew knows this. Since the evil eye and strong voice incident, he seems to have learned that books are our friends, that you don't pull them off the shelf and trample them. Or maybe he just hates being yelled at. Either way, Grandma Ye Ye's and Grandbaba's home library is safe.
Based on their track records and non-apologies, I suspect Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Satoshi Kanazawa aren't finished committing "errors" involving women of color. So we'll be right there, armed with strong voice and evil eyes until these sick fools finally listen.