We've all done it. Whether out of ignorance, out of a fit of anger, difficulty fitting words to a situation, of simply being stupid, we've all said something that we wish we had not said. And unlike a blog, in life there is no 'edit' or 'delete' button we can click to erase those words.
So do I think that someone ought to be tarred for life because of a single ill-conceived remark? No, I don't. So, for example, I am giving Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney the benefit of the doubt for his saying that the Big Dig project was a 'tar baby.' He says he was unaware of the fact that the term has racial overtones, and as he has never before said anything that would suggest he is a racist, and as the context of the remark was about the faulty highway tunnel in Boston, and is easily understood as saying that the state has invested a great deal of time and money in a project that still is full of problems, I understand what he meant.
In contrast, Mel Gibson's apology, delivered by faxed statement today (several days after his DUI arrest in which he went on an anti-Semitic tirade according to the official police report), while certainly contrite (I'm sure Gibson's publicists edited it very carefully) is not enough to set aside either the fact that its lateness belies its sincerity, nor the fact that unlike Romney, this is not the first time that Gibson has come under scrutiny for anti-Semitism.
Of course it is natural that Gibson would, since his father, Hutton Gibson, has written extensively denying aspects of, as well as the scope of, the Holocaust. Hutton Gibson has not denied that it happened, but his articles argue against documented historical facts (in particular the fact that six million Jews were killed, a number supported both by Nazi archives and pre-war census data.) Of course Mel Gibson is not his father, but he has time and time again ducked the question of whether he agrees with his father. It would only take a simple statement, "Those are his opinions about the Holocaust and I don't agree with him about that," but he is not willing to even make that kind of a statement.
Then two years ago, Gibson was most in the news for his masterpiece, Passion of the Christ which graphically depicted the crucifixion of the Savior. He was again accused of anti-Semitism in the movie, but as Gibson pointed out at the time, the movie was based on the Bible, he tried to be accurate to what was in the Bible, and the description in the New Testament is not kind to Jews. The problem of course is that he never tried to make a distinction between the Jews who were written about in the Old Testament (who were themselves only a small proportion of the Jews who lived then) and the Jews of today, who are their descendants thousands of years later (and their descendants which include me-- I was raised Jewish although I am now LDS). The idea that anyone could be punished for whatever their ancestors did over the past 2000 years (which includes literally millions of ancestors-- do you know what all of yours did?) is ludicrous, except to idiots who believe that today's Jews are still guilty today for what Christ suffered then. Gibson, whose movie audiences included thousands of people who in fact do believe that, only made that distinction when pushed, and then not in a very impassioned manner. He could have made a real difference then, and one would think that if he really disagreed with his father, he would want to, understanding personally the concept of being judged by what his father has written.
However, when the New York Times' Frank Rich wrote a column suggesting that the movie could help fuel anti-Semitism abroad, Gibson's reply was disturbingly psychotic. Gibson, in an interview with the New Yorker magazine about Rich and his charges about anti-Semitism, declined to devote his ink to disputing the charges of potential anti-Semitism, but instead said about Rich, "I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog."
I wonder what kind of a person would read that quote and still hold up Gibson as a man who exemplifies 'Christian values.'
So Gibson's outburst while he was drunk, if it were the first time that anti-Semitism had come up would likely be dismissed as the ravings of a drunk. But as addiction psychiatrist Bryon Adinoff said (quoted in today's USA Today), "Clearly Jews are on his mind."
Or, as Italians have a saying, "vino veritas" (wine makes truth; i.e. that a person who is drunk may lose his inhibition and say what he really thinks.)
Until he is willing to totally renounce anti-Semitism, including (in fact, specifically including) the anti-Semitic writings of his father, there is nothing that Mel Gibson can do that will convince me and many others who have seen this pattern repeated again and again and again that he is not an anti-Semite.