Cue Connie Francis. In this “the winter of our discontent” – the season of 90-inch snowfalls, Southern ice, broken water pipes and equally shattered hearts – the lament of the woman with the catch in her voice and a torch-song life to match would seem most appropriate.
Really, it’s as if we’re all stuck in “Dr. Zhivago” – without Omar Sharif.
In this “region of ice” – thank you, Joyce Carol Oates – everyone is sorry. Ray Rice is sorry for cold-cocking his then wife-to-be, Janay Palmer, issuing an apology almost a year to the date of his Valentine’s Day (image) Massacre. (Could the holiday of hearts have been the inspiration?)
Hot on Ra-Ri’s Achilles heels comes A-Rod and his handwritten apology for steroid abuse and – the thing that always does you in more than the transgression itself – lying about it.
And speaking of lying, opprobrium and ridicule continue to snow down on disgraced anchorman Brian Williams for aggrandizing his role in the Iraq War – although Jerry Seinfeld’s line on the SNL 40th anniversary show about Williams being part of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast was one of the subtler digs. The irony is that the talk show-minded Williams probably counted as friends many of the people now making fun at his expense. Ouch.
Let’s just say Williams should be glad that he’s not A-Rod. The disdain heaped on him by The New York Times’ columnist Tyler Kepner is typical of the way in which the once and apparently future New York Yankee is now viewed. There are two schools of thought on this. One says that justice is justice and compassion, like patience, has its limits, particularly as said limited patience is often accompanied by the sneaking suspicion that the contrite are not all that contrite but actually seeking something less noble than the epic redemption found in Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim,” say like a return to the Yanks or the NFL. (It reminds you of the moment in “Gone With the Wind” in which Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara that she’s like the thief who isn’t sorry for what he’s done but is awfully sorry he got caught.)
But the other school of thought – voiced by my uncle, an otherwise hardline conservative, at a recent family gathering – says that everyone deserves a second chance.
But is that true? What about ISIS? What about Hitler? Are there some offenses so heinous that they deserve only retribution? And what about Karma, that oft-misunderstood linchpin of Hinduism and Buddhism? People often equate it with the Judeo-Christian “As ye sow so shall ye reap,” but it’s a little more complicated than that. Karma says “As ye sow so shall ye reap no matter what you do to change how ye sowed.” So I murder my mother. I repent of that murder, serve my time as an exemplary prisoner and devote the remainder of my life to the poor in Mother Teresa’s Calcutta. Doesn’t matter. Something will happen that will be the response to my having murdered my mother. That’s Karma.
Or think of it in terms of physics: I send a pendulum away from me. It comes back to me with equal force.
Karma suggests that it doesn’t matter whether we view transgressors with compassion or contempt. They will get their Karmic comeuppance. Except that it does matter, because how we view them is about our Karmic destinies.
I for one feel sorry for many – though not all – transgressors. It must be terrible to know that your actions have inflicted misery on loved ones and strangers alike. But then, I’m seeing the offenders through my own honorable, enlightened lens, a lens that wouldn’t lead me to make their choices to begin with.
At times like these, I think it helpful to remember the motto of Mary Queen of Scots (and bad choices): “In my end is my beginning.” That can be taken two ways. The more sanguine view is that life’s tribulations and even death are not endgames but mere stations on our way to eternal life.
Yet it can also mean: The choices I made early are the consequences that I will enjoy (or endure) later.
Maybe A-Rod and company can get an embroidery of the queen’s motto – to go along with the scarlet letters society seems hell-bent on their wearing.