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Hello, Imus Be Going

BY RICH HERSCHLAG
04.17.2007 | SOCIETY

Mel Gibson. Michael Richards. Don Imus. Who's next? You and I, that's who. Culturally sensitive though we are, of the next million words that pour forth from our lips, three or four or eight of them are destined to be stupid at best and professionally suicidal at worst. Thanks to recent technological advances, that next faux pas will end up on iPods, BlackBerries, and ringtones the world over.

As we lack the chops of a Groucho, we will not be able to slide out of it as easily as we stepped in. Here, then, is a sort of Mea Culpa for Idiots. Save it to your hard drive or print it out and stick it on the bulletin board. You'll need it any day now.

To those I have offended:

Today, I offer my most heartfelt apologies not only to (primary offended group), but also to (secondary offended group) and (tertiary offended group). You are as justified in expecting better of me as I am in expecting better of myself. I wish I could go back in time and change what happened. I would cut off my (non-essential body part) if it would help. But since it won't, what I'm asking for is another chance. Today is not the last day of my productive life but rather the first day of my rehabilitation. The important thing is not what (large, unfeeling multinational corporation) decides to do. The important thing, rather, is what we can take from a tragic experience such as this one.

First and foremost, this is a time for healing. I have agreed to sit down with prominent members of the (primary offended group) community and begin that painful but necessary process. It is my hope that by establishing this dialogue, we can better trace my illness back to an unfortunate incident when as a (number from three to eleven)–year-old, I was exposed to a vicious racist, misogynist tirade by my (close male relative) which left me scarred for life.

Of course, my personal battles with (medically recognized psychological disorder) and chronic addiction to (legal prescription medication) have been well documented. Though not at all an excuse for my insensitive use of language, the bigger picture can be seen once it is understood that during my unfortunate outburst, I had just consumed (number from 50 to 500) milligrams of (legal prescription medication) and was in all likelihood mentally impaired. I am bringing this to light not as a way of reducing personal responsibility for my own actions but rather as a service to my fellow (legal prescription medication) addicts. Though I had been clean for (number from two to fifteen) years, as we are all too well aware, we are never completely "cured."

Perhaps most ironic is the little-known fact that I myself am (number from three to twenty-five) percent (primary offended group). My (direct ancestor) was a proud (primary offended group) who came over to this country in (year from 1750 to 1950) on a (marginally seaworthy vessel). He fought countless obstacles to become a respected (non-bootlegging trade) and ultimately raise a family of (number from four to fourteen). If the outcome of these last several days of despair and soul-searching is that I finally develop the full capacity to embrace my own (primary offended group) heritage, then I for one am grateful. My (direct ancestor) would certainly be proud.

I only wish that you could know me as (name of significant other) does -- taking in wayward (primary offended group) kids, teaching them literacy skills, buying them designer clothing, and even taking the time to learn (ancient tribal dance connected to primary offended group). Summers at (name of ranch, camp, or retreat) have been among the most rewarding times in my life, and the events of the past several days will make that even more so.

During this trying time, I have sought the valued counsel of my good and dear friend, (clergy member closely associated with primary offended group). He has known me for (number from ten to fifty) years and understands above all else that I am a decent and sincere person who his entire life has worked hard for the rights of (primary offended group). In fact, back in 19 (number from 59 to 99), (clergy member) and I were united as brothers during the march on (state or federal capital), where together we bravely stared down police armed with (brutal but non-lethal weapons).

No one, of course, is infallible. Even (martyr associated with primary offended group) had his moment of weakness. Just yesterday, (clergy member) told me it is not up to man to judge the fallen but rather to (name of Deity). We then had a very positive private meeting with (name of Deity), and He agreed. I hope you do too.

With a heart full of love and awe,

(your name)

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at RichsRant.com.

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