A reader writes:
I can’t believe intelligent people still use the “I have a (insert minority) friend, therefore I can’t be a bigot” argument, and yet your reader used it repeatedly as the core of his or her defense. Being a bigot doesn’t mean you can’t stand to be around or even enjoy the company of a suspect class, but rather that you consign the minority to some special assessment of inferiority. Hell, most misogynists marry women. And so what if a cadre of female Hollywood elite stand by the man? My god look how many of the same class still rush to the defense of Roman Polanski. Does the presense of HIS defenders magically remove a rape conviction?
Another broadens the discussion:
Did you see this video of Robert Downey Jr. (whose work I really like) asking us all to forgive his good friend, Mel Fucking Gibson? It’s a very pleasant and funny speech, which is a shame, given that it’s totally wasted on this horrid person. But what intrigued me about the speech was the issue of when we are required to forgive someone, whether they are a public figure or not, after they have screwed up.
Downey seems to imply that Gibson is entitled to our forgiveness just because Gibson has personally embraced his own mistakes – and found religion. I think more is required. Doesn’t the sinner have to publicly apologize, publicly recognize that he did a bad thing, and ask for our forgiveness? I don’t recall that Gibson has done any of this. Maybe this is a theological discussion, but I think the standard for a public figure in our culture is pretty clear, regardless of any particular religious tradition.
For a Catholic, absolution is dependent on a sincere and expressed commitment to reconcile oneself with God again in the sacrament of reconciliation. For Christians, forgiveness is integral to our faith – and letting go of resentment is the crucial part. For the sinner in public life in a public capacity – a history of vile slurs against minorities, physical and emotional abuse of the mother of his child, etc. – I do think some level of sincere public apology is a reasonable civic request. I asked it of George W. Bush, as a fellow Christian, with respect to torture. No apology came. I did my duty as a civic voice; as a Christian, my imperative is to forgive regardless.