I’m sorry to have to tell you this. We suck at apologies.
It wasn’t always so. Let’s compare a recent apology, to another classic example that occurred about a thousand years ago.
Earlier this month, the South Korean rapper PSY issued an apology. Shortly before his appearance at a White House Christmas concert, a little-noticed 2004 performance went viral, causing much embarrassment. In that earlier show, PSY rapped the following lyrics:
Kill those fucking Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those fucking Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully.
These are not the sort of words one expects from a White House guest. PSY apologized on December 7, a day he apparently wished not to live in infamy. Here is what he (or, more likely, his PR firm) said:
While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words.
Now let’s examine this putative apology.