New York Times
March 21, 2012
Please Stop Apologizing
By BILL MAHER
THIS week, Robert De Niro made a joke about first ladies, and Newt Gingrich said it was â€œinexcusable and the president should apologize for him.â€ Of course, if something is â€œinexcusable,â€ an apology doesnâ€™t make any difference, but then again, neither does Newt Gingrich.
Mr. De Niro was speaking at a fund-raiser with the first lady, Michelle Obama. Hereâ€™s the joke: â€œCallista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?â€
The first ladyâ€™s press secretary declared the joke â€œinappropriate,â€ and Mr. De Niro said his remarks were â€œnot meant to offend.â€ So, as these things go, even if the terrible damage can never be undone, at least the healing can begin. And we can move on to the next time we choose sides and pretend to be outraged about nothing.
When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we donâ€™t like? In the last year, weâ€™ve been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong clichÃ© for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?
This week, President Obamaâ€™s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, described Mitt Romneyâ€™s constant advertising barrage in Illinois as a â€œMittzkrieg,â€ and instantly the Republican Jewish Coalition was outraged and called out Mr. Axelrodâ€™s â€œHolocaust and Nazi imageryâ€ as â€œdisturbing.â€ Because the message of â€œMittzkriegâ€ was clear: Kill all the Jews. Then the coalition demanded not only that Mr. Axelrod apologize immediately but also that Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz â€œpublicly rebukeâ€ him. For a pun! For punning against humanity!
The right side of America is mad at President Obama because he hugged Derrick Bell, a law professor who believed we live in a racist country, 22 years ago; the left side of America is mad at Rush Limbaugh for seemingly proving him right.
If it werenâ€™t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldnâ€™t get any exercise at all.
I have a better idea. Letâ€™s have an amnesty â€” from the left and the right â€” on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Letâ€™s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.
If that doesnâ€™t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you donâ€™t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.
The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not â€œmake them go away forever.â€ We need to learn to coexist, and itâ€™s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but Iâ€™ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when Iâ€™m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.
When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you donâ€™t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You donâ€™t declare a holy war on ham.
I donâ€™t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. Thatâ€™s why we have Canada. Thatâ€™s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, weâ€™ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, weâ€™ll get Mitt Romney.
Bill Maher is host of â€œReal Time With Bill Maherâ€ on HBO.