People are complex, and assume different identities depending on whom they’re interacting with.
I’d thought I’d start with that obvious statement to bring context to my take on Clint McCance’s clear, direct, and total apology for his hateful Facebook posting, in which he celebrated the violent death of gay youth. Watch the linked video to his interview with Anderson Cooper, and I think you’ll agree — based on tone of voice and body language — that the apology is sincere, and thorough. Here’s a quote that captures the essence of it:
“I would never support suicide for any kids,” he said. “I don’t support bullying of any kids. I’d like to extend apologies to those families that have lost children, for all those children who feel that suicide is the only way out, especially for the five families who have already lost children,” he said, referring to a rash of recent suicides by gay teens. “I brought more hurt on them… they didn’t deserve that and I do feel genuinely bad for them.”
Of course, it doesn’t explain why he uttered these comments in the first place. His hateful spigot gushed some of the nastiest, most evil stuff I’ve ever read. (It’s reproduced here.) And David Mixner’s right in saying that the effects don’t vanish just because an apology has issued:
[T]heir venom has been poured into the public dialogue and they have created fear and given other less stable people (if that is possible) the permission to hate and even incite violence.
Mixner, though, also thinks that the apology was insincere. Having seen it, I don’t agree. But how can one person be so toxic, and then so abject in apology? Sure, there’s a self-serving element to it: McCance still has to live in the community.
But it’s conveniently simplistic to think that the contrition that’s in evidence here is purely an act. Like most of us, McCance likely behaves in different ways when with different audiences. For whatever reason, Facebook was for him a place to vent the darkest side of who he is. Some people really don’t fully appreciate that the medium isn’t a diary, or even a closed-circuit exchange with some close friends. (I’m guessing McCance gets that, now.)
He’s also a person with a family of his own, and it seemed clear to me that he’d be appalled to think that his kids would have this kind of hate-mongerer as a parent. Like few others, McCance has been forced, in the most public way, to manage the cognitive dissonance between two aspects of his being. Perhaps he’ll now be able to exorcise the part of him that could write such awful stuff. We should all hope so, and encourage this kind of positive step rather than clucking cynically at it.
Of course I’m not excusing any of this, nor am I an apologist for McCance. Indeed, I could barely believe what I was reading in the Facebook post. Nor can we disregard what Mixner says about the environment such statements create. But the walk-back helps to create a healing environment of its own. A great opportunity will have been lost if the Midland school district, and others, don’t use this as a way to counter the relentless bullying that’s belatedly entered the mainstream public dialogue.
It does get better, sometimes even within one soul.