Real, honest apologies are the glue that hold society together. They’re a trademark of adultness. The apologizer gives notice s/he is aware of something more in this life than her/his own needs and wants.
Me? I’ve had plenty of reasons to apologize to various people in my life over the years and have done so. A heartfelt apology accomplishes what the Catholic Church is aiming for in its Confession sacrament. It’s a cleansing, a new start, an act of love for another. Hell, the fact that the Catholics elevate it to sacrament-hood illustrates how important the act is both for the giver and the receiver.
That said, the 21st Cent. trend toward people in the public spotlight apologizing every 33 seconds for every burp, belch, and spittle-fleck is cheapening the act. A lot of the public confessionals are conditional: If I offended…. Just as many others are tantamount to copping a plea. A few more years of this and the apology will become meaningless.
Case in point: That baseball player who made racist gestures and comments the other day apologized almost before he was finished insulting the object of his puerility. The details: Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros hit a home run off Yu Darvish of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series Friday. When he returned to the dugout after circling the bases, he sat back on the bench and made slant-eyes with his fingertips and referred to his opponent on the mound as a chinito.
[Image: Vidcap From Fox Sports]
Darvish was born Farid Yu Darvishsefat in Habikino, Japan. His mother is Japanese and his father is Iranian. Yulieski Gurriel Castillo was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba and defected to the United States in 2016 so he could play Major League Baseball.
The term chinito (m.) or chinita (f.) is a Spanish slur for someone who comes from certain parts of Asia and could be classified, using archaic terminology, as part of the Mongoloid race. Those of us who read books recognize that race classifications are valueless and have zero scientific basis. Those to whom books are novelties, by and large, are thrilled to pieces to use racial descriptors as a way of establishing otherness. Those folks fixate, for example, on Asians’ epicanthic (or epicanthal) folds. Ergo, Gurriel’s slant-eyed gag.
Gurriel’s chinito slur is doubly insulting because Darvish is not Chinese. But that kind of silly detail means nothing to slurrers. To Gurriel, Darvish is somehow different, ergo, less than human. That’s a way of thinking that goes back a thousand generations. Early civilizations commonly referred to themselves as The People or The Men or even The Human Beings in whatever their language. Those who lived on the other side of the mountain or across the sea were not people, men, or human beings at all.
Today, we’re smarter. Well, some of us.
After Astros’ management apparently had their way with him, Gurriel issued an apology. Among the things he said were these:
In Cuba and in other places, we call all Asian people Chinese. But I played in Japan, and I know [that is] offensive, so I apologize for that.
I didn’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to offend him or anybody in Japan. I have a lot of respect. I played in Japan.
His apology was less than real or honest. In fact, it implies that he did nothing at all to be ashamed of. Hey, in my country we insult the shit out of Asians all the time, so what’s the big deal? Using that logic, I could run around all day dropping N-bombs and excuse myself by saying in the neighborhood where I grew up, everybody dropped the N-bomb so quit being so damned sensitive about it!
He says, “I know [it’s] offensive.” Then he says, “I didn’t want to offend anybody.” So, the next time The Loved One and I get into a spat, I’ll haul off and slug her. Should she call the cops, I’ll just tell them Yeah, yeah, I know slugging her might hurt her — but I didn’t want to hurt her! So we’re cool, right? And if they still look askance, I’ll just say, Listen, I have a lot of love for her, and put my arm around her as she holds the ice bag to her nose.
Too many apologies are no apologies at all.
I’m writing today at the Vigo County Public Library in Terre Haute. I’m becoming something of a local library connoisseur. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve bounced around from Bloomington’s Monroe County Public Library to the Brown County PL as well as Columbus’, Bedford’s, and Indianapolis’.
Libraries today serve two main purposes: as repositories of a community’s various information media and as social centers for the homeless. When I park myself at a table in some quiet corner of the library, I add a third purpose: the office away from home. I often look around and see one or two other such souls, their backpacks opened on their tables and their laptops in front of them. Ours is an exclusive club. There are unwritten, unpsoken rules, the primary one being, Don’t bother me; I’m busy.
Some homeless people cluster together and hash out all the slights and unfairnesses they’ve experienced since their meeting in the same spot yesterday. Often, these meetings are conducted at a higher than normally acceptable decibel level. I don’t resent them for this; I simply plop myself somewhere out of earshot. Others are less than gracious about these gripe sessions. I figure if the homeless can bear sleeping on a park bench or in a shelter at night I can bear moving my stuff a few yards away from their din in the daytime.
Anyway, some of the county facilities around these parts are Carnegie libraries, something I’d never heard of until I moved to Bloomington. (Vigo County’s is not one.) We have a Carnegie library in Bloomington at Washington and 6th streets. It used to be the home of the MCPL but is now headquarters for the Monroe County History Center. The current MCPL was built in 1970, after the Bloomington Public Library merged with the County’s library system. The old library had opened in 1918, one of a total of 2509 Carnegie libraries built around the world between 1883 and 1929. Carnegie’s dough paid for a library, for instance, in Fiji.
Some 1689 such structures were built in the United States. When the money Carnegie earmarked for library-building ran out, nearly half the libraries in this holy land were built on his dime.
Converting fin de siècle dollar values to today’s, it can be said Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest human beings ever to live. He was of a breed that’s sadly lost: the moral philanthropist. Today, most corporations or individual uber-rich people donate money for tax purposes or to enhance their brands. In 1889, Carnegie wrote an article called “Wealth” (later familiarly referred to as “The Gospel of Wealth“) for the North American Review wherein he called on his fellow tycoons and inheritors to spend their money to improve society, sort of a noblesse oblige on steroids. Carnegie reportedly gave away 90 percent of his fortune to efforts like library-building and other philanthropies.
Before we become too infatuated with Carnegie, it’s important to note his eponymous steel company battled tooth and nail against the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, culminating in the Homestead Massacre of 1892. Union organizers and workers were routed by goons hired by the Carnegie Steel Company, local cops, and the Pennsylvania national guard. At least ten people on both sides were killed in the week-long battle (some sources put the number at 16). Management in a wide variety of American industries were emboldened by Carnegie’s strike-breaking and union membership dropped precipitously thereafter.
Nevertheless, duality of man and all that, Carnegie’s dough — ill-gotten as some percentage of it was — has helped bring books to tens of millions of Americans.
Today there are a tad more than 9000 public libraries in the United States. So far I haven’t been able to determine the total number of public libraries around the world. Suffice it to say the number surely approaches 100,000. Add to that number all the school, university, industry, association, church and religious and all other libraries and the figure for all places where books and films and audio recordings and so forth are kept must approach a million.
That thought, alone, makes me happy to be alive.
And here’s a treat. Eyeball some of these interior and exterior shots of spectacular libraries around the world: