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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Amid the turmoil resulting from the coronavirus and COVID-19, I commend to you the first segment of last Friday's Clark Howard podcast. Clark hosts a nationally syndicated personal finance radio show, works as a consumer reporter for television and is one of the most reasonable people I know in media:

In less than 15 minutes, Clark (a) describes how Taiwan learned a decade ago from our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the right way to manage a viral outbreak and has brought that knowledge to bear with great success against COVID-19, while our CDC failed to follow its own teaching when the current virus came on the horizon, (b) tells the story of Vò, a town in the north of Italy that stopped COVID-19 in its tracks without bringing daily life for all residents to a halt and (c) explains why stay-at-home orders and lockdowns of large swaths of the citizenry will be ineffective at minimizing either the number of Americans who die in the pandemic or the economic damage we all face.

Clark acknowledges that, of course, the United States is not a small island nation like Taiwan or one town in Italy. But over the past couple of weeks, my gut was already signaling me that our political leaders, though well-meaning, were taking us in the wrong direction on this matter. As we speak, I've become even more convinced that de-emphasizing universal testing for coronavirus in this country at the beginning of the outbreak was a mistake. I also believe that continuing not to make testing the top priority and instead essentially quarantining the entire population is the opposite of what needs to be done.

All this said, Clark Howard closes the segment on a fairly optimistic note, speculating that the fight against COVID-19 may be years-long, but we will get our act together. I'm taking that to heart. I already look forward to reuniting with friends and family members whose companionship has been interrupted. I'm even eager to see people I don't really like.

Sort of.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

I can hear my mother's voice:

"Say you're sorry."

As a child, those words were addressed to me on more than one occasion after I had committed a transgression against a neighbor friend, a school friend, a sibling, and was taken by the hand to apologize in person to the injured party. In the adult world of today, however, some contend that no one, especially a public figure, should ever say they're sorry. Recent research indicates that apologies can lead to people respecting the apologizer less, the apologizer respecting him or herself less and an erosion in the impact of future apologies that person might make.

I'll add a reason to consider taking a breath before expressing penitence: It often doesn't result in forgiving and forgetting. Politicians say and do offensive things all the time, after which they frequently try to walk back the blunder with a few carefully scripted words of remorse. Does anybody really forget the initial offense? It becomes part of the politician's permanent record and they are mocked for following up the original sin with an apology assumed to be insincere. As much as it leaves a bad taste in one's mouth, the public figures who do the dance best seem to be those who never say they're sorry for anything. By not seeking forgiveness in the first place, they don't look foolish when it doesn't come.

This phenomenon also occurs in our private lives. Let's say you and I have had a relationship of substantial length, but I then wrong you. I admit responsibility, I apologize, I make amends and I promise it will never happen again. Are you obligated to accept my apology? Of course, some transgressions are unforgivable by any measure, but in a gray area, does an injured party owe the offender the opportunity to patch up the relationship and move forward? Though again with a bad taste in my mouth, I would understand the thinking of a politician if he advised me not to go all out on an apology tour at least until I sensed you were willing to forgive and forget.

None of this is meant to suggest that I'll never say I'm sorry to anyone again. In fact, on the chance that one day you'll be due an apology from me and it isn't imparted, I apologize here in advance.

How'd I do, Mom?

  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Say hello to Freelove Ann Elizabeth Blessing, my great-great-grandmother on my mom's side:

With a name like Freelove Blessing, she could have been raised in a West Coast hippie commune. But she was born in 1829, died in 1901 and lived her entire life in rural Virginia.

I became acquainted with this photograph, on display in the home of an older cousin, when I was a teenager and always on alert for pictures of attractive women. At the time it was taken, a photo such as this was considered almost pornographic. I'll be forever grateful that the photographer got Freelove to loosen up for the shot. Believe it or not, she was usually rather buttoned-down.

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