This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness. Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
Do you know what odd thing I've come to really dislike?
Yes, I really am coming to hate the word "sorry."
It's assumed to have these epic amazing powers. Sorry and all the damage is fixed. Sorry and the people you've hurt are no longer hurt.
And we value this word so much we demand it. We demand an apology. We demand that word. We don't demand education, we don't demand people learn, we don't demand they fix what they've broken, we don't demand they make amends or make it up or try to correct the bad wrongness.
We demand a word. We don't even demand they know what that word means or why they're saying it - or at least not fully. We certainly don't demand they actually mean it (and even then, it sticks in the craw and people can't even give a real apology - we get "sorry you're offended" or "sorry you feel that way." They can't even give an empty word. And we're satisfied with an empty word?
But it has power.
After all, if they apologize, that's all you can ask of them, right?
It's churlish, rude - MEAN - to keep pressing after they've given you an apology, right? We need to shut up now. Be silent now. Be satisfied now. Drop it now.
Never mind if it's ongoing. Never mind if you're still hurting. Never mind the damage it did, the impact it had. Never mind that nothing has been learned, nothing has been fixed - even nothing retracted. They said sorry. It's over.
Because that's the power of the word. It has the power to make a critic silent, the power to turn the victim into the victimiser if they have the audacity to not be satisfied with a word. It glosses over anything done or said - no matter how ridiculous claims of ignorance are, no matter how easily avoidable, no matter how blatantly intentional it was, no matter how many times they have done exactly the same thing before - they have said sorry. It is settled, the word has been said! Let the bells ring out and there by joy everywhere - they have said sorry!
And it vexes me, it does. I am tired of people doing and saying shit they KNOW is wrong and they know they'll be criticized for - then saying sorry and acting like it never happened.
I'm tired of people claiming ignorance when anyone with an ounce of sense should have known better - or could easily have learned better - then saying sorry like it covers it
I'm tired of people pulling crap then doing the exact same crap AGAIN and it all being forgotten because the magic word has been said.
I'm tired of being forced to drop a topic because an apology has been issued, despite nothing being learned and nothing changing - and no attempt to fix the damage being done.
And I'm tired of having to swallow pain, offense and even triggers because the person who just rand roughshod over me in spiked shoes has just apologized - especially when he's sharpening his spikes and backing up for another run.
And I don't always agree, when confronted with an ism or general fail, that we should turn round and demand an apology. If an apology means nothing to the person giving it then it means nothing at all. At very least demand an admission of fault, demand a recognition of fault, demand a change, a retraction, an improvement - demand something. But an apology? Maybe it's my cynical self, but it feels like demanding they tell you to shut up - albeit politely.
If you hurt someone, offend them, trigger them, spork them or throw a double handful of isms at them, then apologize, they're not obliged to accept it. They're not obliged to to forget the offense. They're not obliged to drop the topic. They're not obliged to "let it go". They're not obliged to stop criticizing. They're not obliged to pretend it never happened. They're not obliged to "suck it up and deal."
And they most certainly are not obliged to be silent.
And if the person hurt refuses to do any of these things doesn't make them mean, or petty or bitter or whiney. It means they are hurt - it means they have a right to be hurt and offended and upset - and they have a right not to have that dismissed.
Forgiveness is something the hurt person gives, not something that can be demanded of them - and my forgiveness certainly cannot be bought with a word.