To make a real apology has always been hard. Our forebears in the garden, when confronted with their wrongdoing, passed the blame to others. Adam had the gumption to blame God as well as “the woman whom you gave to be with me.” Eve blamed the serpent.
Celebrities of late have been imitating our biblical ancestors. Comic Michael Richards responded to being caught on tape delivering a racist tirade by apologizing profusely and seeking therapy. But he insisted to David Letterman: “I’m not racist—that’s what’s so insane about this.” Some months ago Mel Gibson offered up an anti-Semitic rant, and then said: “Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite.” Evangelical leader Ted Haggard also found a way to say it wasn’t the real him who was meeting with a male prostitute and snorting meth: “There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark.”
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).