As many of you have no doubt learned, the New York Times has dismissed another respected columnist for committing an unpardonable offense. In keeping with my longstanding principle, I will not here mention the name of the individual nor describe his precise misconduct, but I will have my grandson embed it for your convenience (since that does not violate my principle).
Suffice it to say, I applaud this brave decision by the New York Times. It is very important that we as a society enforce unreachable standards of decency. For instance, can you just imagine how you would feel if someone used the F-word in your presence? It is such an ugly word. It degrades human beings to the level of animals. It’s hard to believe that even in 2021, people still treat the F-word as if it's okay. It's not. Nor is using the A-word, the B-word, the P-word, the S-word, the two kinds of C-words, or the two kinds of D-words.
I have never uttered such words – never once in my life – and certainly would never use them to spice up a column just because I’m a lazy writer. But there is a particular incident that I can no longer conceal. It has come to my attention that the Flappr Company has learned of a certain “regrettable moment” in my past. This is a painful memory to relate, but I must, for the sake of the victims, be fully and completely transparent.
When I was eight-years old, I crapped my pants in school.
It was a big one. I mean, really big. We’re talking meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes-the-night-before big. But the worst part is that I have never been called to account for this obscene act until now. I haven’t fully come to grips with the harm and violence this incident inflicted upon others.
I never formally apologized to little Susie Wilkins, seated just next to me, for the pain and agony caused by so sudden an outburst of noxious vapors - significant quantities of which were exposed to her nose, mouth, and lungs. I literally put her life in danger, and for that I’m sorry. I never apologized to Sister Agatha who lost complete control of the classroom for the ensuing fifteen minutes, putting even more lives in danger. I never apologized to Mr. Jankowski, the school janitor, who literally had to clean my seat (and the floor beneath my desk) with a bucket and a rag. It was so much worse because Mr. Jankowski was an immigrant, who had already endured so many squalid indignities in life. To you both, from the bottom of my heart, I am truly deeply sorry.
I thought that maybe if I clenched the necessary muscles, I could've held back the flood. But I was wrong. So, so wrong.
I should've immediately raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom, but I didn't - undoubtedly a manifestation of my growing toxic masculinity. I know now I need to be better. I must be better.
For full disclosure, I was never punished for my outrageous behavior. In fact, I remember uncontrollably sobbing in Sister Josephine's office while she held my hand and patted me on the shoulder, telling me that “These things happen” and “Your mother’s coming with a change of clothes”. I now believe this to be a sign of my privilege. It is painfully obvious to me that if I were neither white nor an eight year-old boy, I would’ve been brutally beaten for my transgression. And in retrospect, I wish I had been.
I wish I could say that was the only time I disgraced myself, but that would be untrue. There have been other incidents – most of which occurred in private – but which now I feel obligated to confess. When I was seventeen, driving home from my summer job, I committed the unspeakable act in my father’s Buick. I never told him. I thought I could get away with it by opening all the windows and driving for an hour or so on the highway. I can scarcely believe how deeply insensitive I was to his needs, his values, and his possessions.
When I was twenty-five, on vacation in upstate New York, I had another close call running for the bathroom at our lodge. I may not have actually done the deed - and I destroyed the evidence soon after - but my cover-up made me temporarily unavailable for the start of Gladys' parcheesi game. Again, I offended my wife, my wife's friends, and my own sense of personal dignity. Still, there were other moments.
Actually, for the sake of brevity, allow me to do a quick rundown:
1936-1939 – Newborn/toddler (multiple instances)
1944 – Sister Agatha’s homeroom (full)
1953 – On Route 80, between Curing Cross Road and Sunflower Road (full)
1961 – Lake Placid Lodge, bathroom next to the buffet (partial)
1972 – Goldman’s Cinema, watching The Godfather, right after Sonny gets shot (partial)
1985 – At home, watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports (partial)
1999 – AMC Cinema (formerly Goldman’s Cinema), watching The Matrix, right after Morpheus is rescued (partial)
2012 – At home, watching Packers at Vikings and eating Swedish meatballs (full)
2020 – On Route 22, driving back from Taco Bell (full)
These are all the occasions – that I can remember – in which I have dishonored myself in the aforementioned fashion. I know simply saying sorry is not enough. I know I need to be better. Therefore, even though it won’t make a scrap of difference in the real world, I’ve resolved to spend the rest of my life educating myself on this important issue.
I used to think that under certain circumstances this particular act can seem almost innocent. Humorous even. However, this opinion is not only wrong, but dangerous. I understand now that “context” can never be “taken into account” since that would negate the lived reality of so many people who cannot bear to be in the same room when such “accidents” occur. There is simply no excuse. None. Zero. I understand that now. And I am sorry.
But my apology must be broader than that. I must apologize to the Flappr Company for involving them in my shameful misconduct. I must apologize to you, dear reader, for presenting myself as someone I’m not, for concealing this hideous lapse in judgement, and for living my life as a hypocrite. I must also apologize to the billions of people around the world who have never heard of me (or who would care about this incident in the slightest) but whom I have deeply and irrevocably hurt. Again, I'm sorry. I personally let each and every one of you down.
Furthermore, I affirm this apology is 110% sincere and not coerced in any way. While I hope to retain my post here at the Flappr Company – an institution which I have come to love with all my heart – that is not why I am making this apology. This is about justice. This is about moving forward. Although I can never (and should never) be forgiven for what I have done, I vow to repeat this apology again and again upon request. Thousands of times, if necessary. And when I die, I place the responsibility for making continued apologies upon my children, and when they die, upon their children, and so on and so forth, until the end of time.
That’s how sorry I am. I fully expect none of you will ever forgive me. In fact, I hope you never do. After all, everybody knows that forgiveness is a sign of moral weakness these days. Tolerance and mercy just have no place in our society today - not if we want to be better, not if we want to move forward. And I, for one, am ever so grateful to live in such just and enlightened times.
P.S. Depending on whether my relationship with this internet publication survives, I have been working on a round of GTBT lectures. I hope to make them available soon.
P.P.S. Also, sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.