Standing on the sunny, well-guarded streets of Manhattan yesterday, basking in the communal joy of spring, watching the Pope's limo whiz up tulip-lined Park Avenue, I had time to appreciate the papal apology.
I'm not a Catholic or a formerly fondled altar boy, but the Pope's apology for demonic priestly behavior struck me as a good step in the direction of setting the world a little bit back to rights.
It also got me thinking how sad it is that so many of the institutions that sustained our foremothers and forefathers have been laid low in my lifetime, and how nice it would be if the various miscreants or their proxies would have the guts to simply stand up and apologize.
Apologies may not repair literal damage, but they have a strange talismanic power to heal. I once reported a story on medical malpractice, in which I learned that it is a statistical fact that when doctors apologize for, say, cutting off the wrong breast or sewing a sponge into the abdomen, they are actually less likely to be sued.
An expression of regret can begin the process of re-constructing trust in the once mighty man-made institutions that have been brought low by individual men (and women).
Without further ado, some apologies I'd like to hear today:
President Bush to the Iraqi people: "I am sorry I started a war that killed a million of you for no good reason."
President Bush to the American military and families: "I am sorry I sent you into harm's way for the personal folly of proving to my dad that I am tough enough to be called commander in chief."
President Bush to the American people: "I am sorry I squandered your hard-earned tax dollars in a win-less war, and presided over the grounding of your economy into the dirt."
Vice President Dick Cheney: "I am sorry I used foul language on the Senate floor. And, more importantly, I am sorry I sullied the American electoral system with my malignant presence."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "I am sorry I never allowed Congress to open impeachment proceedings, thereby failing to allow Congress to act as a check on a criminal regime."
Supreme Court Justices who participated in the 2000 election decision: "We are truly sorry we did not allow the recount to proceed."
Rupert Murdoch: "I am sorry I let my major news network act as a lapdog for the Bush administration, instead of practicing responsible, civic-minded journalism that might have informed the American people."
Former President Clinton: "I am sorry I had sex with an intern called Monica Lewinsky, and I am sorry I called her 'that woman.' I will spend the rest of my life silently repenting."
Monica Lewinsky: "I am sorry I flashed a thong at my boss and let it be said that I was a victim of sexual harassment, thereby allowing a legal concept intended for genuinely victimized women to be twisted into a distraction from things that really mattered, like education and health care."
Bank honcho (pick one): "On behalf of my fellow billionaires, I am sorry we got rich off your debt, middle America, instead of behaving like responsible bankers, and that you now have to pay us anyway."
President of major American car-maker: "I am sorry we kept making gas-sucking giant vehicles for years after we knew better and could have put our best engineering minds to work on conservation."
Republican presidential voter, circa 2004: "I am sorry I cast a ballot that put us four more years behind the rest of the developed world in terms of education, health care, environment and contributed to the ruination of our national economy. I will try not to base my next vote on the groundless fear of terrorism personally affecting me and my family living in Topeka (or X remote American location) this year."
There. Close your eyes and imagine all these apologies have just been issued. Now don't you feel better already?