Editorial: Politician’s DWI apology did not deserve rewards

ApologyAcceptedThink about the things you applaud: a symphony, perhaps, or a play at your community theater. You don’t applaud any old thing, and when you give a standing ovation, you save it for something really special.

Well, one Texas lawmaker is getting applause, and even flowers — but not for doing something great.

Texas state representative Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Gonzalez hit a car with her BMW sedan, which then hit a cyclist. The cyclist was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at an Austin hospital.

She apologized to the entire Texas House on Monday, asking for the special privilege of speaking about something that wasn’t on the agenda.

Following her apology, her fellow House members applauded her — a standing ovation — and she received flowers.

We don’t need to tell you drunk driving is wrong. We don’t need to tell you apologizing is the right thing to do.

It’s the way Gonzalez approached the apology, requesting special privileges and apologizing for bringing shame to the House, as if that were her greatest offense and not the injuring of an innocent cyclist, that we take exception to; that, and her colleagues’ behavior.

She doesn’t deserve flowers. She doesn’t deserve standing ovations. It seems as though her greatest shame is in getting caught.

“I made a mistake and I am deeply, deeply sorry for it. I am sorry for the shame I brought upon this House,” she said in the apology.

Indeed she did. It takes courage to admit your mistakes, especially in front of your colleagues. But it’s certainly not courageous behavior to use a public forum as a place to garner applause for doing something so essential, trying to make yourself look better by apologizing for your serious mistake. In fact, we hesitate to call it decent.

And why did her colleagues applaud? Or send Gonzalez flowers? Sending flowers would have been appropriate… for the victim.

Why send Gonzalez flowers, as if she had been the innocent one injured by someone else’s recklessness? For having the common sense to apologize? The decency to apologize?

Is accountability so absent in our society that our reaction to simple decency is so exaggerated? Do we have so low a view of our lawmakers?

I would no sooner applaud a citizen who stopped at a stop sign. They were compelled to do it. It is the right thing to do. To not stop, or apologize, would be wrong — but to respond so enthusiastically is ridiculous.