"The Man Who Apologizes Too Much"

In the United States these days, a lot of people have been carefully counting each new home run of San Francisco Giants slugger and alleged steroid-freak Barry Bonds as he advances past Babe Ruth’s historic achievement. It’s almost a national pastime here.

But in Taiwan people watch many times President Chen Shui-bian has had to apologize to the nation. And this has almost become Taiwan’s silly national pastime.

In Asia, to be sure, an official apology in general is not necessarily a bad thing. In small quantities, on rare occasions, it can demonstrate a sincere respect for public opinion, a proper sense of shame, and an appropriate attempt to regain dignity.

The most notable, recent example of a classic Asian apology actually took place in New York, where superstar baseball player Hideki Matsui apologized to management, teammates and to his many adoring fans for sustaining an injury that would keep him out of the lineup for months. Even though the injury was an accident, suffered during a game in a fearless effort to make a difficult diving catch, the proud Yankee wanted to say how sorry he felt to have to be removed from the battle.

On the other hand, sometimes the Asian apology, especially when they come in large numbers, month after month, year after year, are less personally ennobling than shameful. This is the case with President Chen, first elected by the good people of Taiwan in March 2000.

In these last six years Taiwan’s president has apologized something like 13 times for 10 different alleged broken promises, misdeeds or misconducts, the latter mostly attributed to family members.

One round of apologies revolved around his wife over allegations of illegal stock trading, another involved a relative accused of corruption, another hit his son-in-law.

This is getting embarrassing.

It is a dishonorable son-in-law drama that is on center stage right now, entertaining all of Asia and serving to remind the entire world that the Chen presidency, taken as a whole, has not exactly amounted to Taiwan’s finest moment. The latest: Chao Chien-ming, the husband of Chen’s daughter, was handcuffed and officially detained by law-enforcement authorities earlier this week on allegations of insider stock trading.

The apology scorecard was not nearly so over-the-top during the administration of Chen’s predecessor, President Lee Teng-hui -only six official apologies for five miscues in 12 years, according to one count.

And as Chen’s opposition is calling for resignation, his die-hard supporters point out that none of the corruption allegations have touched Chen personally. And, at this writing, the incumbent President Chen actually has not yet issued his 14th official apology.

But perhaps the world wont have to wait too long. It’s as if Chen believes that the more he apologies, the more credible he becomes. The apology becomes an act almost of spiritual rejuvenation and public redemption.
(Article from The Korea Times, written by Tom Plate)


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