I love the way politicians invoke the passive voice when they want to apologize for an indiscretion while simultaneously implying that they had little to do with it. Mistakes were made. I may have, in fact, been in another state when it happened; if you’ll give me a minute to check my appointment book I’ll verify, but in the meantime, I am deeply sorry for whatever it was.
I wish I had some invincible excuse for my behavior last night at the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. I wish I could say I was at my ranch in Montana at the time and so I could not possibly have been that blonde woman who totally lost her cool when she saw her son (who had spent DAYS working on his little wooden firetruck only to see it eliminated in the first round of the competition) wind up disappointed and hurt. I wish I could say that I’m on some kind of prescription medication that makes me irrational and liable to walk right up to the person in charge (we’ll just call her “Sally”) and tell her what I think of her decision to change the way the Pinewood Derby has been run in the past—from “everybody races everybody else and has fun” to “we must have ONE winner so we’ll embrace the NBA model and eliminate the losers one by one even if it means some kids get one turn down the track and others get 15.” I wish I could say my upbringing at the Kennedy mansion has regrettably given me a hot head, a temper easily sparked by rumors of missiles in Cuba or maybe infuriating ladies like Sally who see the graphite-streaked tears on my son’s face and then point to the sign that says “Sportsmanship” above the narrowing brackets of the elimination chart, and ask him sharply, “What part of that word don’t you understand?”
Well I was there. I have no ranch in Montana. And I must admit that if mistakes were made, I was the mistaker. I regret the whole thing, not because I shouldn’t have said anything, but because I should have handled it far differently (like in writing the next day, for example). Instead, I wound up making McKay feel even worse by embarrassing him. And I made myself look stupid. And, frankly, I should have known better. I have known Sally for several years and, in moments of sweet rationality, I am completely aware that Sally and I may live a few houses away from each other, but we come from two entirely different planets. She comes from the “PE teachers who quote Harvard studies which prove that children need competition or they will fail in the workforce” planet. I come from the “Moms who feel that competition trains children to see other children as rivals and squashes their natural gift of empathy and all those external rewards like prizes, trophies, and titles of victory don’t encourage appropriate kinds of internal motivation and I want to see a copy of that “Harvard study” you like to quote because if the workforce is learning anything it’s that models of creativity and cooperation produce far better results and if you don’t believe me just look at Pixar and good grief they’re only a bunch of CUB SCOUTS!” planet.
My planet is right and hers is wrong, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that when planets collide, it may not be the best thing for a little boy with an adorable hand-made Pinewood Derby car that looks like a firetruck (with a matchstick ladder!) and a very soft heart. And so for that, I am deeply sorry.