Insofar as contrition is an act involving an injurer-agent and a being injured—insofar as it recognizes that wrongs are particular enactments needing discrete rectifying—the public apology exists only as a bait-and-switch, a broadcast that supplants the receding ‘guilty’ aspect of self with a bolstered, emergent, good-as-new one. An apology that announces itself to parties outside a specific injury can never fully reckon with the injury made, because:
(i) Real penitence involves shame, and shame brooks no company—in the case of the public apology, a nascent or undeveloped shame is pre-empted and shunted into either hangdog prostration or a mock-heroic ‘renewal’ in the act of wagging one’s remorse about; and
(ii) ‘Communities’ cannot be injured, nor healed, except in an abstract way. Real pain is always point-precise or person-precise.
Therefore one sees in Alissa Nutting’s “An Apology to the Trans Community” a kind of apology-performance that cannot be taken seriously as contrition, however sincerely sorry Nutting may be.
Simply review the valorizing-of-self masquerading as good, honest regret, how every step backward in the essay is undergirded by the power of authorial and social position to make things publicly ‘right’: ‘I failed our community,’ Nutting says, ‘when I misguidedly published a short story [. . .]’ (the speaker is to be simultaneously understood as ‘one of us,’ the derided, the susceptible, but also ‘one of them,’ the published); ‘I hope to use whatever visibility and influence I might have to showcase another author who is far more able [. . .]’ (best understood as ‘Listen, people know me, but I’m still humble, I’ll use my good taste to lift some alt- author into the litbiz light’); then the excruciating, excruciating maths of commercial reparation, as Nutting assures a third of capital here, a third there, ‘I would like to sponsor a contest,’ ‘rights,’ ‘compensation,’ ‘royalties,’ ‘judges,’ ‘screeners,’ ‘celebratory donation.’
Celebratory donation. Really.
It seems to me that quiet reflection or a quiet meeting with an individual done injury by her type of writerly mistake would have been preferable to this fast dance.
It’s rather likely that Alissa Nutting feels she’s made a grievous error in the story she mentions; I’ve not read it, and haven’t the slightest inclination to do so, especially considering the snippets she provides. But I’d suggest that, if a sincere apology is to be made to anyone for any slight, it needs to be accompanied by the courage to apologize to a face, to get a bit dirty, to do better than, in this case, announcing a version of LGBT volunteer rehab. And, further, that commerce and publicity have no power to right wrongs inflicted on the heart.
One response to “What is a Public Apology?”
“Wagging one’s remorse about”. THAT WILL BE ALL.