At our house, we've tried to instill in our kids an understanding of the power of apologies. Each of our three kids has wound up in "time out" not for whatever the action was but for the refusal to apologize.
Apologies come in all different forms but typically the best apologies involve the words "I made a mistake" or "I'm sorry" with no 'but' following the phrase. Apologies like "I'm sorry if you think I was a big jerk" don't cut it.
At our house, if you apologize and it's clean and simple and sounds genuine, you score points. If you then share your dump truck after apologizing to your sister for slugging her with the shovel, you score more points. If you ruin your sister's organized closet as you rummage for the cool sweater you want to borrow and apologize later, you score a few points. If you offer to let her wear your favorite sweater of hers that you never let her borrow, you score big points. That's just how it works.
It does not seem to work that way in the world outside our house.
Eliot Spitzer and Isaiah Washington have something in common. Both of these men did stupid things. Spitzer allowed staff members to attempt to dig up dirt on a political colleague with whom he has been having a bit of a feud. Isaiah said something stupid and offensive.
Eliot Spitzer apologized. Quite publicly in fact. In Sunday's New York Times. He apologized, dealt a swift blow to those involved and promised to move on.
Isaiah Washington apologized. Quite publicly in fact. He went on to create a powerful PSA about homophobia. He participated in training to educate himself about the impact of his words. Now there is buzz on the blogosphere that fair minded folks should consider boycotting the new NBC show Bionic Woman because Washington has joined the cast. There are those who wonder how Ben Silverman, NBC's new co-chairman, could have made such a decision.
There is also buzz that Joseph Bruno will use Spitzer's transgression to make an even more public stink in an effort to chip away at Spitzer's credibility.
The gay and lesbian community does not seem to want to accept Washington's apology. Now, I'll admit - his suggestion that racism played a role in his demise on Grey's Anatomy felt like a ridiculous stretch. But what do the gays want? He has done more penance than countless others and yet he is being held to a different standard? Will people not be happy unless he shrivels up only to show up on Celebrity Fit Club a decade from now.
Joseph Bruno and NY State Republicans are not interested in Spitzer's apology. He used the words "apology" and "apologize" numerous times in his op ed, many, many more times than a certain other Republican with a much bigger job (and many more reasons to apologize).
So in fact, Eliot and Isaiah have two things in common. They have both apologized. And both of them deserve the opportunity to illustrate that they mean it.
But as I think about it, it also seems that New York State Republican leadership and certain members of the gay community have something in common as well. Go figure. Both benefit from their "apology not accepted" position. In keeping the Isaiah Washington story alive, the gay community continues to shine a light on homophobia. In keeping the Spitzer transgression story on the front page, Republicans continue to shine a light on themselves.
Neither of these guys had to spend any time in 'time out.' They were called out, they got it. They apologized. Both of them deserve the opportunity to get on about their business.