... I do think we’d all be better off if we reacted to these sorts of scandals in a different way. The civic fabric would be stronger if, instead of trying to sever relationships with those who have done wrong, we tried to repair them, if we tried forgiveness instead of exiling.Can we stop right there? Here's some of what Dr. King said about forgiveness in a 1957 sermon:
... many writers -- ranging from Hannah Arendt and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to modern figures like Jeffrie Murphy and L. Gregory Jones — have tried to think hard about rigorous forgiveness, which balances accountability with compassion.
... Martin Luther King Jr. argued that forgiveness isn’t an act; it’s an attitude. We are all sinners. We expect sin, empathize with sin and are slow to think ourselves superior. The forgiving person is strong enough to display anger and resentment toward the person who has wronged her, but she is also strong enough to give away that anger and resentment.
In this view, the forgiving person makes the first move, even before the offender has asked. She resists the natural urge for vengeance. Instead, she creates a welcoming context in which the offender can confess....
It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one's enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression.Read the last few words again: "the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression." We're talking about King in reference to Brian Williams. Exaggerating a war story is not a "tortuous injustice" or a "terrible act of oppression," not even if you really, really love TV news.
This just confirms my belief that we're lashing out against Williams in a sustained way because we're powerless in the face of real enemies who actually have done serious harm to us. We can't get people who took away all the good jobs, we can't seem to reverse the sense of societal decline, but we can turn Brian Williams into some combination of Hitler and Bull Connor in order to purge our own feelings of powerlessness.
Brooks does thinkwe should forgive Williams and let him get on with his work. But he says Williams must first undergo a "season of shame." After this,
The offended are free from mean emotions like vengeance and are uplifted when they offer kindness. The social fabric is repaired. Community solidarity is strengthened by the reunion.Jesus, if our "social fabric" and "community solidarity" are predicated on our relations with Brian Williams, we're in worse trouble than we thought.
I'm struck by Brooks's language in this column -- when he's not writing about a "season of shame" for Williams, he's telling us this:
Some sins, like anger and lust, are like wild beasts. They have to be fought through habits of restraint.... Some sins like vanity -- Williams’s sin -- can only be treated by extreme self-abasement.Shame? Self-abasement? Restraint? Do you get the feeling Brooks already has his tickets for this weekend's opening of Fifty Shades of Grey?