By Gallagher & Schleicher
Research from the University of Queensland in Australia puts data behind what many of us have observed: People who identify as conservative are less likely to make or accept apologies than those who consider themselves liberal.
This could be for an obvious reason: Maybe conservatives have less to apologize for in the first place. Nobody said Making America Great Again would be easy, and every proverbial omelette requires a few broken eggs — or detention camps, treaty breaches and porn-star payoffs, as the case may be. “Suck it up, snowflakes,” as our Facebook friends fondly urge.
Or, as the researchers hypothesize, it may be because conservatives are more likely to engage in “hierarchical thinking,” which translates to a perceived loss of power over others if they make an apology. Only losers apologize, in other words. Sounds familiar.
While the Australian researchers looked broadly at conservative and liberal perspectives across several countries, the question becomes acutely relevant in the Age of Trump. So we self-identified liberals have another theory, and we know a thing or two about saying we’re sorry.
After all, for years we’ve been apologizing for all kinds of transgressions, large (slavery, sexism, homophobia) and otherwise (leaving the toilet seat up, failing to have non-dairy coffee creamers on hand, ordering a Negroni when a kale-quinoa smoothie was on the menu).
What if conservatives, or at least those of the Trump variety, simply don’t know how to apologize? This is not an academic question. While it’s too early to say how 2018 will be remembered – the Year of the Dossier, or annus kompromatis, maybe – it’s not premature to guess how 2019 might develop: Year of the Apology.
One way or another, the truth will emerge about the nature and cause of our now fundamental disagreements, and there will be no middle ground or gray area between the light of the right and darkness of the wrong. The facts of the Trump candidacy-presidency and a conspicuously complicit Republican Party are bearing down on us like a Mueller-fueled freight train, laden with corroborating details and verifiable sources to confirm a story we’ll either hate or accept but can no longer seriously debate.
Some of us will be right, some of us will be wrong, and this will necessitate a national apology — neighbor-to-neighbor, across communities and around the world. To prepare, we’ve looked into the structure of a proper apology, and it’s pretty straightforward: a statement of regret; an explanation of what went wrong; an acknowledgement of responsibility; a declaration of repentance; an offer of repair; and a request for forgiveness.
Yes, it may be we critics of the president and the system around him who need to apologize. It’s not impossible the “witch hunt” will come up empty, at least so far as Mr. Trump and his contemporaneous complicity is concerned. Kellyanne-Giuliani prophecies could prove prescient. The myriad ethical and criminal investigations into The Donald’s administration, business dealings, mountebank children and campaign-funded mistresses may simply fade away into nothing-burgers.
In this event, our apologies will be sincere, public and personal. In fact, we’ll schedule a time when we two Davids will stand side by side and offer an eye-to-eye “I’m sorry,” with a firm but respectful handshake to any and all we have offended, shocked or simply bored with our feeble editorial efforts on these pages.
This Great Apology Tour will start in Waco, near the banks of the Brazos River, in the shadows of the Magnolia Silos. Next stop will be London, ‘neath the shadow of the Quantum Cloud along the banks of the Thames. We’ll concede it was our fault alone for questioning Trump’s honesty and express real regret for addressing it through the villainy of satire. There will be Dr Pepper (Waco) and tea (London) on hand for all and we’ll promise never, ever to do it again, if only we can be forgiven.
And should the light shine the other way, illuminating some combination of criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice, financial corruption, with perhaps a whiff of treason, we’ll of course accept your statements of contrition in whatever form seems fitting, although we’re very fond of breakfast tacos. Half-hearted apologies (as with half-eaten taquitos) will be returned to sender.
Till then, we wish you a healthy and happy new year.
This piece originally ran in the January 1, 2019 Waco Tribune Herald. David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, working in London and tweeting @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher blogs at TheContranymTimes.com when not practicing law in Waco, D.C. or Houston.