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To Apologize, or Not to Apologize?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

How do you know whether it is appropriate to apologize?

It seems that the word “apologize” has become verboten in today’s political discourse. This issue has become even more pronounced with the rise of cancel culture. Whether someone makes a legitimately offensive or questionable statement or whether they may an innocuous remark that is twisted by the opposition, the question becomes: Should they apologize or double down?

On Friday, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) issued a public apology to Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) for joking about Omar being mistaken for a radical Islamic terrorist. On Twitter, Boebert wrote:

I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.

The outrage started after Boebert spoke at an event over the Thanksgiving break discussed a “jihad squad” moment at the U.S. Capitol. She said:

So I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers. You know, we’re leaving the Capitol and we’re going back to my office, and we get an elevator and I see a Capitol police officer running to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he’s reaching, and the door’s shutting, like I can’t open it, like what’s happening. I look to my left, and there she is. Ilhan Omar.

“And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine,'” she quipped.

“We only had one floor to go,” Boebert continued. “I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.'”

Many on the right have criticized Boebert for apologizing. Indeed, the idea that one should not apologize if one makes controversial remarks has become the usual modus operandi on the right since former President Donald Trump came on the scene. But she’s not the only one to take fire for walking back her remarks.

Radio talk show host Erick Erickson also received criticism lately when he apologized for joining the crowd of people criticizing left-wing media activist Molly Jong-Fast for making a joke about calling the FBI on her relatives during Thanksgiving.

Several friends tell me @MollyJongFast’s newsletter really was not meant in the spirit in which I read it and so I feel the need to apologize for joining the mob against what she wrote.

Erickson summed up how these situations typically go when it’s acknowledged that both sides are flawed in their approach to apologies. He wrote:

On Twitter, when you apologize for something, half of Twitter thinks you’re insincere.  The other half thinks you shouldn’t have apologized.  There’s no winning on Twitter.

Erickson’s assessment is apt. In this world, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The Cancel Culture Community™ has rendered apologies all but moot. They have created a bait-and-switch scenario in which they will condemn anyone who violates the precepts of the wokeism religion until they are pressured into capitulating. But even after they apologize, the zealots will continue to try ruining their lives because they are disingenuous bad actors.

On the other hand, the right has become so fed up with how the left operates in bad faith that they have begun behaving similarly, and when a conservative issues an apology for a statement they have made, they are criticized for doing so. It has created quite a predicament for those deciding whether to walk back remarks that offended others.

But there is a way out of this quandary, and it is quite easy.

The answer is to stop giving a rip about what either side thinks. Anyone who sincerely feels they made a comment they should not have made should refuse to listen to those who would tell him not to make an apology. Conversely, the individual who made controversial remarks, and stands by them, should not issue a false apology to appease the masses.

To put it simply, people should stand on their own convictions rather than listening to the peanut gallery on either side of the issue.

Will they get criticized? Of course, but they will be pilloried either way, so it makes more sense for them to follow their conscience rather than letting their actions be dictated by people who don’t even care about them. You can’t please everyone all the time, right?