Comment Of The Day: “Now We Have Will Smith’s ‘Real’ Apology”

I have a lot of reactions to mermaidmary99’s Comment of the Day regarding the Will Smith debacle that dominated the past week after it turned into a full-blown Ethics Train Wreck. But her post is provocative, and represents an important perspective. I’ll leave my comments until after she’s had her say.

This is mermaidmary’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Now We Have Will Smith’s ‘Real’ Apology”…

***

I don’t think it’s fair to assume the worst about him.
What he did would take a LOT of time to process.

When one snaps the way he did, it’s not because you had a bad day.
In my experience it’s because of a lot of things which have been buried, denied and all those things were trigged in that moment.

Will is a human being and I think it’s on us to extend a bit of mercy and kindness when we see good actions.

No one knows if the apologized to Chris Rock yet, and I don’t blame him or Chris if they kept it private, for now.

I just think that we could refrain from being so judgemental about every move he makes and if it means he’s sorry or not, or assign motives to everything.

Unless we know for certain, those things are pure speculation.

Why not hope the best?

I am speaking from experience. I am a bit reluctant to share them but I will for the sake of maybe some understanding and mercy being extended his way.

At my wedding, my brother was angry at my dad for a comment he made to my little sister. We didnt hear the comment but my little sister was upset and cried so my brother felt he needed to defend her. (she was approx 20 years old)

He went up to my dad, during the dancing part of the reception and told him to leave. When my dad didn’t, he was so angry he grabbed a nearby chair and hurled it into my dad and a leg of the chair hit my dad right below the eye. This was in front of my dad’s entire family and friends and thankfully my dad sat down, and my brother, realizing what he did, turned and walked away. Thankfully it was dark in that corner of the room so not many saw it. I was humiliated. anyone would say my brother over reacted. and yes, he did based on what happened that night.

But his reaction was years and years of pent up frustration and trauma about my dad’s abuse. My brother and dad took years to heal over that and my brother is still learning what it was that snapped that night! (i’ve been married 33 years)

At another event, about 7 years ago, at my dad’s birthday party, my cousin got upset at what he thought was happening with his dad and my brother and ran and jumped on my brother, choking him saying “I’m gonna kill you!” my cousin snapped too! My cousin just apologized to me last year over that, even though I wasn’t there and expressed his horror and shame over his actions. He’s made amends to my entire family yet still is seeking to find out what it was that made him snap.

Oddly enough, my dad and uncle were both raised by a violent father, and growing up, they both on occasion displayed out of line tempers and were bullies and my cousin and brother (and me and my siblings) were terrified of them as children.

I NEVER saw either of them (cousin or brother) be violent ever my entire life, and they said apart from the events I shared, they had not been. I believe them.

Funny as i write this I just realized they both at the time they attacked another person in public, were going through some pretty shitty things with their spouses which were not fully in the light. We later learned of my brother’s unfaithful wife, as well as my cousins, and they were really going thru a lot personally.

All that to say, both are good men who had seen their dad’s be violent on a few occasions. Both of them vowed to never be that way, yet both snapped once.

I just think there are so many things we do not know about people’s personal lives and what they go through that it’s not a bad thing to hope the best when they are attempting to make amends. it’s easy to assume the worst because Will is a celebrity but what if he is sincere?

Anyone but a cold, uncaring human who is evil would not be remorseful. So what if he has a team to help him? He could be very sincere as well.

I read a black man’s blog who works with black men and his advice to “whites” was, “This is family business, you have no idea what we do in our culture, this shit happens all the time. Butt out.”

While I didn’t fully agree with his blog post, he did share things I had NO idea about growing up black.

My examples were from my Hispanic side of the family and I wish I could say I wasn’t ashamed of it being what I heard about from that entire side. My Italian side, I never saw any violence, doesn’t mean other didn’t.

Anyway, I’m sorta rambling and this will probably get eaten anyway, but I just think we need to believe the best for Will Smith and his family and his emotional healing that he needs, (I read his step dad or dad was violent and a young Will saw him do that)

Most men are still young boys in big guys bodies, and many still carry trauma that they experienced as innocent powerless boys. I think we can extend compassion to them.

I have spoken to my husband quite candidly about men being isolated and not having places to vent and share like women do and he agreed. He said it’s rare and many men carry so much pain. He used to have a book called “the secrets men keep” and I read it years ago (over 20) and was shocked. I asked him if it was true and he said, “Yup.”

Anyway, being one of the few women here, I wanted to chime in. Maybe my take is a woman’s take? Not sure but I sure have a lot of respect for you all, and if any of you snapped like Will did, I would NOT judge you for one bad moment. I’d remember all the good you have done and all the contributions you have made in my life via your posts here.

And.. if we want to judge someone on one bad moment, then logically, shouldn’t we judge them on one good one too? No. We don’t.

These things take time to work out IF done properly. Will have a tough road ahead. No one snaps like that cuz of a joke. There’s some deep pain he’s carrying. Maybe this will be a blessing in disguise for him to heal. And in turn, he just may inspire many from this. I hope so. Our world needs it.

***

I‘m back for a one point; I think I’ll put my more extensive comments in a comment below later today.

For now, I’ll just ask mmm: Would you still hold to that if Smith had seriously injured Rock? He’s a much bigger man, and such ‘slaps’ and other blows to the head have had disastrous consequences to others. Smith should know this; he played the doctor who discovered CTE in football players as well as Muhammad Ali.

In law, there’s a saying “You take your victim as you find him.” It is called “The Eggshell Skull Rule,” which is nicely illustrative. That means that if you engage in battery and unknown to you, the one you hit happened to have a special vulnerability, you are still accountable for  all the damage you cause. It is also common sense, and thus one of the many reasons adults of average intelligence know that you can’t just pop someone because you’re upset, or angry, or stressed. How much compassion would Smith be getting if Rock had suffered a stroke from that “slap”? That he didn’t was just moral luck. How much would Smith deserve? My answer is “None” and I have the same answer now. You are essentially arguing temporary insanity, which would not fly in a criminal trial in light of Will’s subsequent statements and actions. He didn’t claim that he blacked out or couldn’t recall the incident, after all. It sure looks like people had to explain to him just how bad what he did was.

[I apologize to mermaidmary for using the graphic above, which relates more to my comment than hers, but I am sick of Will’s face.]

20 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Now We Have Will Smith’s ‘Real’ Apology”

  1. Just a comment on a sidenote in mmm’s comment.

    “This is family business, you have no idea what we do in our culture, this shit happens all the time. Butt out.”

    Yep. Separate but equal. What do we want? Jim Crow 2.0. When do we want it? Now.

    At least neither of them was carrying.

    It’s called “civilization.” Can you say “civilization” boys and girls? Sure, you can. It’s not always attainable but we should at least aspire to it, always. Cultures need aspiration. Without it, cultures are lost.

    And let’s hear it for stereotypes.

    Mary, I hope you’ve received sincere apologies for what was done to you at your wedding. Sure, guys can be unhappy, but that doesn’t give them the right to be jerks. I wonder if there isn’t a very fine line between empathy and enabling. I hope you’re never taken advantage of for being so understanding and generous.

    • Thank you so much. I did receive sincere apologies. Many times over.

      I think I have been taken advantage of due to being empathetic BUT, never on big things.

      And I do have a stopping point. But like all of us, I am still learning and I’ve become less empathetic in some ways…. And much much less in some ways, with a ZERO tolerance policy. 😊 feels great!

      I’ve actually exercise that on this blog by completely ignoring idiotic baiting posts by people who act trollish here. And it feels great!

      Thank you again for caring.

  2. Way back in grammar school, may be kindergarten, I was taught, and learned, that my freedom to swing my arms and legs and throw things was limited to where another’s body begins.

  3. I don’t see compassion and you’re wrong to act this way as exclusive. When my daughter was in preschool there was a child who verbally bullied her. He would say things like “everyone hates you”. “You have no friends”. She was 4 years old. That was devastating to her, as he tuned the rest of the kids to pick on her too. I was told “if you only knew what he’d been through, you’d understand.”
    I have compassion for that little boy, really I do, but… it doesn’t matter. It’s NOT ok to allow that behavior with a pass. It didn’t do him any favors and it certainly didn’t help my kid.
    So yes, you can forgive, show compassion and understanding, be generous in your assumptions and as Brene Brown says believe “they are worthy of love and belonging” but it’s still not ok. I do NOT care what your past experiences are nor do I care why they “snapped” or if they know today. The actions in that moment were not ok. We have societal norms that are overall non violent and verbally restrained for a reason. I get it… people slip up. I have slipped up. Welcome to humanity, still not ok to get a “pass” because of what they’ve been through or what they’re going through. You can be compassionate and say “hey, you kinda screwed up there, it’s not ok to behave that way, there’s consequences for this behavior.

    • Exactly!

      That’s exactly what I was attempting to say.

      No way does he get a pass! Hell no.

      And, he may be truly sorry and if so it’s gonna be a long hard road to make the kind of amends the situation warrants. If he tries to skip that, he’s not truly sorry.

      I elaborated more answering Jacks question, but you summed up what I was meaning.

      Have compassion. Hope the best. Believe him if he says he’s sorry.

      AND….

      he will show us if he truly us.

      If not, we must hold him to account.

      When my son was bullied in school I had compassion for the kids. And I also made sure my son was protected and those kids were watched and I was not easy on the behavior.

      My husband says, hard on the behavior, gentle on the person. Meaning… be kind as you make it clear nothing will be tolerated that is unkind or hurtful to anyone.

      Plus, we hurt ourselves deeply when we do crap to others. So it’s comPassionate to lock someone up who hurts others.

  4. Anyway, I’m sorta rambling and this will probably get eaten anyway, but I just think we need to believe the best for Will Smith and his family and his emotional healing that he needs, (I read his step dad or dad was violent and a young Will saw him do that)

    First of all, I appreciate your comment. Compassion is an integral part of ethics, and a compassionate response is never unwelcome, even if it is sometimes insufficient.

    In the instant case, along with compassion for possible (but as yet unknown or unconfirmed) motivations for Smith’s behavior, we have to consider Marcus Aurelius’ famous question “This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material?”

    In substance, this was a brutal, apparently insensate act of violence. An unsuspecting man was assaulted in front of millions. As Jack explains above, taking our victim as we find him, it was pure moral luck that Rock was not seriously injured, permanently disabled, or even killed. There is no knowing what his health, physical condition, or susceptibility to impacts to the head are — just as we don’t know why Smith, in your words, “snapped” (which for the sake of this comment, I will stipulate).

    The problem is, Smith’s violence was not directed only against Rock, but also against society as a whole. We criminalize Smith’s behavior for a reason — not only because it is a violation of a person’s right to peaceful existence free from such attacks, but also because allowing such actions to go unpunished encourages them to recur and by extension does violence to society.

    It is ethically incumbent upon each of us to have the self-awareness to know that we are capable of lawless action, and get help or self-help. It is particularly unforgivable in Smith’s case, as he is a wealthy celebrity of uncommon means. Incidents like this, as you correctly imply, don’t happen in a vacuum — there are stressors that create the conditions necessary for such behavior. But these are problems that are incumbent upon each of us to address and manage. We cannot just “snap” and then ask our victims and society to forgive us by claiming the Pazuzu Excuse.

    Mercy is a desirable ethical principle, and certainly it is on the table for Smith in theory. However, mercy makes no sense if the person takes insufficient action to hold himself accountable and engages in transparent damage control (as I believe Smith has done here). Also, society cannot afford to forgive this transgression, lest it become even more commonplace than it is. Smith may be able to atone for this violence, but that atonement is on him, not on society. Maybe one day he will make himself worthy of forgiveness, but for now, we as a society have no choice but to judge him, and judge him harshly. His actions, whatever their motivations, have made that mandatory. Whether he is punished criminally or not, society must punish his behavior with strong disapproval and censure.

    • Well, Glenn’s excellent analysis covered most of the other bases I was going to. Well done. Two more points: we have to judge the conduct of others. That’s how society communicates standards and sets them.I also have trouble with the “snap” explanation. The attack was premedidated—Smith had to move across the aisle, approach the stage, cross the stage, and then swing at Rock. He had plenty of time to reveres course. He also had to have many alarms ringing: 1) He knew it was a professional event. 2) He knew he would disrupt it. 3) He knew nobody does that at any event. 4) He knew Rock is a comedian. 5) He knew it was all on TV 6) He knew he was about to commit a crime. He ignored all of this, because there was plenty of time for him to consider it.

      I don’t recall reading anyone calling for us to think about what stresses may have led Derek Chauvin to abuse George Floyd. He also has plenty of time to consider what he was doing. Did he “snap”?

      • I agree with all this, and your question about Chauvin is particularly interesting.

        Society must judge the actions of its members, as you say, because that’s how we determine what is acceptable and what is not. And I agree that Smith’s act was premeditated, but for the sake of argument in my comment, I was willing to accept that it was not because it frankly doesn’t make any difference to the judgment of the action. Even if he did “snap,” it’s on him to make sure he doesn’t harm others because of his emotional instability. There’s no way he was unaware of it until the moment of Rock’s joke. We all know it doesn’t work that way.

  5. “Most men are still young boys in big guys bodies”
    This sounds like you want to say “everybody does it”, or maybe “most men do it” but of course most men do not do it. Since Smith is in his fifties, he has had ample time to transcend his early life and become his true self.

  6. I think there is value to the analogy, but there are key differences in context.

    Weddings are famous powder kegs for emotion, and in most cases everyone is a private individual. Tempers rising is a foreseeable, if unfortunate, consequence of gathering closely related people together who don’t necessarily like each other out of social obligation. I am reminded of the family brawl scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

    The Academy Awards are a professional gathering. Everyone is there to make the industry look good, for the purpose of elevating the art and business of movies.

    If Will and Chris got into an argument at the after party, that might be understandable. Coming to blows, less so. That would be directly comparable to family arguing at the reception. Will’s actions are more in line with interrupting the vows, punching the minister, and pretending he did nothing wrong. You just don’t do that.

  7. Wow. Never expected that comment to be a COTD!

    I think perhaps me saying to have compassion for Will means I excuse what he did.

    Let me be VERY clear.

    Not. At. All.

    I personally think charges should be pressed and he should have whatever consequences under the law happen to him for what he did.

    I’m glad Chris wasn’t hurt, Will should be too. He could have snapped worse and potentially killed him.

    There is NO EXCUSE for his behavior but there are REASONS.

    The reasons don’t give him a pass and If he’s truly sorry, then he will want to pay in full for his mistake and make it right.

    I think in my wanting to address so many of the comments saying he wasn’t sorry really, and he is just having his people write stuff, etc. and my arguing if for hoping the best and believing him, somehow you thought I was saying we should just forgive and forget.

    HARDLY.

    I think he needs to pay big time for his snapping.

    Why?

    Because he did it in a big way. On TV, and disrupted a publicly televised celebration that people worked on for months and months.

    My guess is he’s still processing the enormity if what he did and that’s why I was trying to say “hey guys, have a little mercy, this. Any he easy”

    Bringing up the years it took my family to process the things that happened was to say, this is gonna take a long time.

    So yeah, I still think having compassion is good thing.

    But I never meant to say we should forgive and forget.

    One only snaps that way when one has not been tending to the messy and hard work of dealing with crap going on.

    It was a huge wake up call for Will and he’s gonna have a big job ahead of him IF he is truly sorry. It won’t be easy.

    that’s why I want to hope the best, not judge him in the process, and wait and see.

    I hope this clarifies.

    I’m curious, what were you thinking I was saying that you disagreed with? Like, did you think I was advocating for “he said he’s sorry lets move on? Poor Will.” (Or something like that?)

    Because I hope I made it clear I wasn’t.

    Thank you so much for taking so much time with all these posts about The incident.

    So many opportunities to learn and grow and understand how others see things.

    Btw, I heard they asked him to leave after hitting Chris and he refused. I can understand why he wouldn’t, and I think they should have escorted him out.

    My guess is everyone was so shocked, no one knew what the hell to do.

    Our culture is at a very weird and frankly, scary place.

    Which is why I think compassion is needed because we have a shot load of work to do to get us back on tack and it’s going to require big doses of love and compassion because some BIG lines are gonna need to be drawn to save us, and those things do best in my experience when done with love.

    Hope that makes sense.

    I’m like the strict mom who was, “I love you, I forgive you, I understand you made a mistake AND you are still grounded.” 😊

    In other words tough, with a soft heart.

    • Just found it, and another one too. WordPress’s new trick is that if I search under your full screen name, I get nothing, but if it’s just “mermaid,” the eaten comments appear in the Spam file.

  8. Great comment MM. A lot to think about

    One line I wont to talk a little bit more about.
    “I have spoken to my husband quite candidly about men being isolated and not having places to vent and share”

    Unfortunately there are few or none modern day male spaces where men can be openly male and build a support network. I’ve been lucky to find one such group, which is geographically distributed, but tech works on our side now. I remember when I first moved to Seattle trying to find some place to make friends (with deeper connections) and the like. Church was for older people (or at least with families), most sports things tended to lean co-ed, martial arts (which I did all the way into college) was very watered down (co-ed, no contact). In many ways I was unable to build male friendships, and the spaces where that was still allowed were of the kind where the identity is built around “no females allowed” which is not what I was looking for.

    I look at today’s Boy Scouts for example, but pretty much any other “definitionally male” club has been watered down. I wonder what, if anything, will take their place in the next decade or so.

    It is hard for the kids and teens growing up these days, and I wish to find some way to support them. It is dangerous going alone, so I wish young men didn’t have to.

      • They certainly do not AND yet, when the find a safe place they can and do. And you’re absolutely right, it’s NOT how women do it!!! Well not most men…

        It shows weakness and it’s uncomfortable as hell and it turns women OFF.

        No woman feels safe around a man who cents like a woman…

        And… still, I’ve seen men break and wail and share in controlled environments (LGAT’s) and not ONE man present in those events was any different when it came to having crap inside, that was still bothering them, and when given the opportunity, they let it out and were able to drop lifetimes of things they had kept inside.

        And were talking Navy Seals, CEO’s of Fortune 50 companies and very successful manly men to your average every day joe.

        In fact, one man, a navy seal Said the 4 day training was harder than anything he encountered in his training!

        So yeah… I hope my
        Comment is more clear now and my replies give context on what compassion meant to me.

        I am pulling for Will and hope he follows through. And I hope he comes up with a creative way to show he’s made proper amends and that he can earn back the trust he destroyed.

        So appreciate all the comments!

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