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Virginia Thomas's Anita Hill apology demand

It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
- P.G. Wodehouse, The Man Upstairs

Now I feel silly -- waiting my whole life for people to apologize on their own, when all this time, I could have been demanding apologies right and left!

As you've likely now heard, Virginia Thomas called Anita Hill and asked for her to apologize for the sexual harassment allegations she made against Clarence Thomas almost 20 years ago, during his 1991 confirmation hearings. In a voicemail message to Hill on October 9, Virginia Thomas said: "I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day."

If only I had known earlier about Virginia Thomas's apology philosophy. As a consequence of my upbringing, I wander around apologizing to people constantly, often at random. I'm Episcopalian, so the closest I can come to atoning for people's sins -- unless I discover Jesus on my toast -- is wandering around contritely, taking responsibility for other people's actions. "Sorry about that!" I say, stumbling into traffic. "Didn't see you driving into that pedestrian crosswalk there!" "Sorry," I respond, fending off aggressive strangers who try to tackle me on dark sidewalks, "Don't mean to ruin your plans for the evening!"

But Virginia has taught me a lesson. No more shilly-shallying! No more wandering around waiting to forgive people! No more apologies! Next time I find myself at confession, I've got some stern things to say to the Big Guy. "I know I committed some false witness," I'll say, "but I would love you to consider an apology sometime for what you did with Haiti. And maybe Christine O'Donnell. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day."

I wish there were a button on Facebook -- "Demand Apology," somewhere after Poke and before Friend. Virginia Thomas and I would hit that button a lot.

Thankfully, there's a Web site dedicated to the concept of vague, free-floating guilt. I plugged Virginia Thomas's accusation into the apology site and it was happy to oblige: "Sorry 120624," it said, "Please excuse me. It will never happen again." A little impersonal, but I'll take it!

By Alexandra Petri  | October 20, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  Anita Hill, Virginia Thomas, phone calls  
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