Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Economics of Apologies; or Karma's Gonna Get You

Is there a new sense of appreciation for manners these days? Politeness is not passé after all? After years of line cutting, closing the door in someone's face, or cutting people off on the highway, are people learning some manners? I wonder this as I hear yet another apology from a public figure, whose offensive comments did not go unmissed. Don Imus was the most recent offender, who called some of the women of the Rutgers basketball team ". . . nappy-headed hos. . ." In the past year I have also heard apologies from Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and Tim Hardaway. All insulted others because of faith, race, or sexuality, and then apologized in the media. All must feel the impact of their comments on their careers. It makes me wonder though, if these apologies would have been made 10-15 years ago? We don't tolerate it now, and I don't think it's because of extreme political correctness. I think people cannot financially afford to degrade others anymore and think their comments will be accepted and applauded. This handful of men apologized, doing the right thing. We all can judge their sincerity by choosing to listen to their radio show, watch their films, and support their teams, or we can choose not to. We hold the economic power.

But what happens when women are the offenders? Barbara Bush toured the Houston Astrodome in September of 2005, walking amongst the evacuees of hurricane Katrina. She was quoted as saying:

Almost everyone I've talked to says we're going to move to
Houston. . .What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.

Bush's comments and the lack of public outrage over them says this to me: You can expect to be held accountable and quite possibly ruin your career for your offensive comments if you are male and insult Jews, African-Americans, and homosexuals, but rude comments made by a woman that offend the poor only stirs a small ripple. If you are a wealthy, privileged woman, then your words won't be held against you. There are no financial implications to someone to whom money is not an issue.

I applaud a new sense of propriety, a return to manners, these days. We live in a time where people are aware of others around them. I like it when drivers motion for me to pull ahead at intersections, say thank you when I help them at work, and hold the door for me as I struggle with bags when leaving a store. But I think Americans need to remember that in one of the wealthiest countries of the world, the poor continue to remain poor. We should be embarrassed and apologetic about this, but we are not. It goes beyond chivalry. It's just people helping other people, without worry of how it will affect us financially.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here, here!