By: Dennis Bates
Dave Letterman is just the most recent example of one of the most significant problems facing our society today. His announcement that he was the subject of an alleged blackmail plot and his admission on national television that he had affairs in the past with several staff members are big news, and the details that will no doubt come out in the following days promise to make that news even bigger.
There are some who say his unveiling lends credibility to the old maxim that what goes around comes around. As a comedian who makes a living using his acerbic wit to poke fun at the foibles or other prominent people, he is now getting a dose of his own medicine. Perhaps. Others say, as one of his recent guests did, that his actions just prove he’s human. Duh! What else would he be?
All the rationalizations trying to lend him cover notwithstanding, what bothers me more than anything about this is the way he’s treating it, and the way his buddies and audiences are responding to it. Of course, there has been ample precedent for this type of reaction, and it doesn’t matter whether you approach things from the right or the left. There are less than shining examples on both sides, whether the person is a former President or a former evangelist. They just prove that a lot of the public is nonpartisan in its myopia.
Here’s what I mean. Mixed in between Letterman’s comments that have been generously described as an apology from him to his wife are the usual Letterman quips. Even though their barbs are self directed for the most part, they have the effect of trivializing and attempting to excuse his conduct. To say that “…when a person hurts someone, they have to fix it…” is a far cry from an apology. To add “I have a lot of work to do” is similarly no apology at all. At best it merits an equally flippant response such as “Do you think?”
Letterman appears to be trying to deflect any personal wrong doing or responsibility here when his comments are taken in total. The fact that he has a national television show to beat his breast lightly and whisper “mea culpa” doesn’t impress me much.
Furthermore, the willingness of his supporters and audiences to accept that kind of modern day non confession is even more appalling. It reflects in a small but significant way the total lack of morality that eats at the very soul of our society today. Everything is relative; nothing is wrong, especially until you get caught.
Let me suggest something radical to Letterman and all of us who continually fall short of perfection. I’ll even provide the words. They won’t serve as a spring board for jokes or clever quips nearly as well as some, but then, they are supposed to do that. They don’t need to be recited on national television either, even if doing that helps the ratings.
Here they are:
What I did is wrong. I did it; nobody else, and I was wrong. Please forgive me. I will try to do better in the future because I will try to do what is right.
It’s as simple as that. If you want the advanced course, you might try that from your knees and direct it heavenward after you tell the person you wronged. I’m not saying that Letterman hasn’t done that; I don’t know, and I don’t need to. At least he didn’t try to cover up what he did; why not go the whole way and admit that what he did was wrong, simply and directly? Then, and only then can he get the forgiveness he needs.