In “Airport,” the ’70s disaster movie, actress Maureen Stapleton (above) has a memorable and moving moment at the end of the movie, greeting the disembarking passengers on the plane nearly brought down by her disturbed husband’s bomb, and saying, tearfully, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” She received an Oscar nomination for it. But the passengers weren’t going to forgive the man who nearly killed them because his wife was apologizing. What makes the scene so touching is her desperation and guilt when she did nothing to feel guilty about. Her apology, no matter how emotional, was meaningless to those who were receiving it.
Roald Dahl, who died in 1990 at the age of 74,was a famed and critically acclaimed writer of classic children’s books like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,”“The BFG,” “Matilda,” and “The Witches.” He was also, by his own admission, an anti-Semite, complete with a belief in “Jewish bankers” controlling world economies. Now that writers and artists face “cancellation” from the self-empowered censors of the cancel culture, his family has taken to Dahl’s “official website” to offer an apology to the world.
“The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements,” read the online statement.. “Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations. We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”
That’s nice. It also has nothing to do with Dahl, or a real apology. Third party apologies are not apologies at all. To the extent that anyone allows them to provoke forgiveness for the individual or the conduct being apologized for, such apologies are lies. A genuine apology is “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” by the party responsible for the offense or failure. Apologizing for acts or words one had no part in—and no, being related to the wrongdoer isn’t enough—is virtue-signaling and grandstanding, not to mention presumptuous.
Nobody has my permission or authority to apologize for me, and I am not going to apologize for something I had no control over unless I accepted the duty of exerting control. For example, I will apologize for the conduct of my dog, my minor child or my subordinates in an organization because I am responsible for overseeing and supervising them. I am not, however, responsible for Roald Dahl’s anti-Semitic statements, and neither is his family. They have no more legitimate reason to “apologize” for Dahl than I do.
For better or worse, the author retains his ownership of what he said and wrote, and his family’s declaration that they wish he hadn’t been the kind of person he was shouldn’t alter his responsibility and accountability one iota. What their apology really means is “Don’t blame us!”
I won’t. Now stop trying to let Roald Dahl off the hook cheaply using an apology he chose never to make.