Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Wendy Harmer, Azaria Chamberlain and unconditional apologies

Lately I've seen two very impressive unconditional apologies and it has really made me think how infrequently we say sorry without a qualification at the end.

No really, think about it ... how often do you find yourself saying "sorry, but ..."

And then offering an excuse or a qualification that makes the apology less than absolute.

I know I do it.

One of the apologies was Jason Alexander's apology to the homosexual community for calling cricket 'gay'. And it was absolute. He explained why he had done it but also categorically said that having a reason didn't make it OK.

And yesterday, a little closer to home, Wendy Harmer posted a heartfelt and unqualified apology to Lindy Chamberlain for her part in the vilification and ridicule that the Chamberlains faced when their baby daughter, Azaria, was killed by a dingo 32 years ago.

Again, there was an explanation of the context of Harmer's comments but also a complete rejection of the idea that context is an excuse.

To quote Harmer; 'In pursuit of a laugh, I too carried a burning stick. What was I thinking?'

I really admire both of them for the way they said sorry. It's really hard to acknowledge that something you have done has hurt another person without also trying to defend yourself.

And while we're on the topic I'd also like to apologies to the Chamberlain family (I'm thinking that most Australian's probably need to).
I was only two when Azaria was killed so I was oblivious to the craziness that ensued.

BUT not that long ago I wrote a blog about a family camping trip (including my four month old baby) to a camp site that had a huge goanna. I called it 'A goanna ate my baby ..." (don't bother looking, I've changed the tasteless title).

The stupidest thing is that I wasn't intending to take a stab at the Chamberlain family. It was just that that phrase has become so much part of the Australian vernacular that I used it without thinking. But that doesn't excuse it and I should have been much more thoughtful of a family's terrible heartache.

And I am truly really sorry.

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