Making mistakes, and making amends

Monday, November 12, 2018

I’ve been a fan of “Saturday Night Live” since it was my slightly-risque late-night television viewing of choice as a preteen back in 1976 when it debuted. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was bawdy, timely and rip-roaringly funny.

It launched stars and introduced comedic geniuses and musicians to the world at large. It also propelled cultural touchstones into the universe.

Mention “land shark” to a person of a certain age and Eddy Murphy in his costume comes immediately to mind. “I’m Chevy Chase ... and you’re not,’ was a standard Weekend Update greeting we know by heart. Gilda Radner’s “Barbara Waawa” was a lighthearted jab at America’s top female television journalist.

“Saturday Night Live” has been through creative peaks and valleys through the years. But it’s always, always tiptoed right on the edge of appropriateness. And, it has, on occasion, gone over the line.

That’s what happened last week when Pete Davidson, lately known as singer Ariana Grande’s ex-fiance, made a tasteless, classless joke about Dan Crenshaw, a wounded veteran and Republican congressman-elect.

He didn’t slip over the line — he leaped over it in a terrible lapse of judgement and taste. I’m not going to repeat what he said about the decorated combat veteran who lost an eye in service, not going to give it more life.

But, and here’s the important thing, with a lesson for us all in how to A.) admit you are wrong and B.) accept an apology.

Crenshaw accepted an invitation from “SNL” to appear on the show. Following a sincere apology from Davidson, he came onstage. He accepted the apology, had a little fun with Davidson over his short-lived engagement, and at Davidson’s urging told a couple of jokes about the comedian.

Then he took the time to make what was a negative experience into a teaching moment.

“There’s a lot of lessons to learn here,” he said. “To just that the left and the right can still agree on some things, but also that Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country, and still see the good in each other.”

He went on with a reminder for Americans.

“It’s a good time for every American to connect with a veteran. Maybe say ‘thanks for your service,’ but I would actually encourage you to say something else. Tell a veteran, ‘never forget.’”

That line, he explained, takes down the imaginary line that lies between civilians and veterans and binds them together.

He went on with a further kindness, including those who perished on 9/11. Davidson’s father, a New York City firefighter, died in that attack.

Amidst the vitriol that sometimes seems to take over our nation, this was a nice moment that reminded us that human kindness, and walking a mile in another’s shoes, is a way to heal.

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.