Public apologies don’t right all wrongs

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

Christians observed Ash Wednesday last week as the beginning of the six-week Lenten season, which precedes Easter.

The manner in which this is observed may vary from place to place, and among denominations. I would venture to say that all Catholic communities, some liturgical Protestant communities and “others” mark this holy day with a service of repentance and awareness of one’s need to be forgiven.

The point of this has to do with our human need for repentance, confession and allowing the community to see our fallibility. That pattern, or a confusing version of it, seems to have become popular in celebrity circles.

What does that say about our society, or our celebrities? It becomes, almost, a case
of “laugh so you don’t cry.”

The death of Anna Nicole Smith, while tragic, exemplifies the bizarre nature of this trend. She first became a household name as a model and widow of an elderly millionaire. She also was willing to believe the American public was interested in watching her life as a reality show. There is a truly sorrowful aspect to this woman’s life and death, but that is not what people seem to be focused on.

The panacea for bad behavior, among the rich and famous, seems to be publicly confess, then go to rehab. Rehab is a wonderful thing — it heals broken lives and give anew start to those with addiction issues.

But does it “make nice” everything that one has broken? Is it possible or healthy to use it as a rite of absolution?

Britney Spears. Rehab. Shaved her head. Custody battle. Blah, blah, blah.

In the meantime, the Scooter Libby trial, which has profound implication for the safety of our CIA agents, the integrity of our government, the accountability of politicians, is going on almost unnoticed.

We find far more interest in Ms. Spears’ remorse, or lack of it, for her bad behavior.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I personally have never expected or believed those who happen to be famous are any more, or any less prone to mess up than the rest of us. If anything, I have always thought it unfair they are exposed to this kind of scrutiny. You or I can trip on the sidewalk and it goes unnoticed, but if Paris Hilton trips, everyone assumes she is stoned. Who really cares?

It is probable that, 50 years ago, even 1,000 years ago, the human personality was also such that exhibitionist “confessions” would have fascinated folks just as much.

The difference seems to be in the volume, availability and tenacity of the media in beating our ears with this — be it Mel Gibson to rehab (did he share a room with Keith Urban?) or Howard Stern’s courtroom arrogance and inappropriate laughter.

My life contains far too many challenges, triumphs and scheduling issues to be concerned about whether or not Britney chooses to go bald.

By the way, shaving the head is an old ritual for penitence.