Things have calmed down somewhat with regards to the infamous comments of Daniel Handler during the National Book Award ceremonies where he pointed out that Jacqueline Woodson was allergic to watermelon, ‘make of that what you will’.

Jacqueline Woodson then posted a very interesting open letter in the New York Times talking about how hurtful the comment had been, but at the end of it, honestly I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Mr. Handler.

We all say stupid things.

I’ve met loads of stupid ‘brown’ people, stupid ‘yellow’ people, stupid ‘black’ people and stupid ‘white’ people.

There really is no monopoly of race when it comes down to stupidity!

And I think white people are in a particularly difficult position because historically, and even presently, they’re often in a position of privilege and many of the more conscientious ones completely understand that.

Perhaps they want to show how ‘egalitarian’ they are, and would like to be able to include some good natured ribbing of their ethnic minority friends in the same way that they’d rib their white friends, often without thinking of what’s coming out of their mouths.

And everyone knows humor can be hit or miss.

Rene Saldana Jr. writes an excellent post about what occurred recently here:

And like he says, I’d be much less willing to forgive the Republican Elizabeth Lauten for her stupid remarks about Obama’s daughters.

Like Mr. Saldana says, the GOP have a track record, and I really believe that they are highly disingenuous when it comes to reaching out to minorities and championing their rights.


I do think both Lauten and Handler should be really forgiven, and maybe it’s because of my own history of saying stupid things. Showing mercy in this kind of situation can be much more effective than anything else.

I feel very strongly about this because of a moment of mercy in my life, that was a real turning point for me.

I went to Guyana, South America, for three weeks and I stayed with my husband’s family. They lived in a quaint little house, very neat and clean but full of bugs.

Being a tropical developing country I found the taps and washroom facilities rudimentary and yes, uncivilized. But it was the lizards and frogs on the walls of the inside of the house, flicking their tongues at flies and mosquitoes that were the most alarming.

The customs and mannerisms of the local people were also very rudimentary and unusual to me, and after two and a half weeks, I was really homesick and singing the praises of my beloved Canada to the youngest of my brother in laws, while we sat on the veranda, where the sea breeze kept the mosquitoes somewhat at bay.

I was only about twenty-one and it was the first time I’d ever left the continental North America, but still that’s no excuse for my behavior.

I was telling my brother in law (a boy about twelve) all about how wonderful Canada and Canadians really were. And he was listening avidly.

“Things are so modern there!”

“Really?” he said.

“Oh yes! And the people are so civilized!”


“Oh yes! And smart! They’re so smart!”


“Oh yes! And I’m so smart!”

“You are?”

“Oh yes! In fact…I’m smarter than everyone in this house!”

Even as the words came tumbling out, I realized how stupid they sounded. And there was a moment of stunned silence. The veranda jutted out, like a balcony of sorts, and behind us were the curtained windows of the living room, just a few feet away, and of course the windows were open to let in the breeze.

You couldn’t see inside. But I heard my father in law’s voice very distinctly as he calmly said to my brother in law, “Get in here.”

That was all.

He’d obviously heard my stupid remark, but he made no other reference to them.

Even when I went downstairs.

Even when we all sat down to dinner.

My mother in law had always been such a friendly chatty type, but she said little, and her little sideways glances told me she knew what I’d done.

I waited to be scolded.

I waited for the next day and the next day after that for them to confront me with the magnitude of my stupidity, so I could apologize, but they never did.

Probably because I was a guest in their house.

And their silence was a much more painful punishment than any scolding could have been.

I didn’t know what to do.

I’d never experienced this type of excruciating kindness.

And it occurred to me that I could just pretend the whole thing had never happened.

But it was eating me up inside, and on the way to the airport, I decided I had to say something!

When my mother in law was hugging me, just as I was about to board the plane, I said, with tears in my eyes, “I’m really sorry.”

Her face changed. And she smiled, and it was like the sun had come out. And the relief made my knees wobble.

And then I turned to my father in law and said, “I’m really really sorry. Can you forgive me?”

And his face too, broke out into a grin. “It’s okay.”

And that was that.

In all the years since, they have never reminded me of it or thrown that incident in my face.

I felt thoroughly humbled and I have never thought myself better than them in any way. In fact, for the last thirty-five years of my married life, I’ve been doing everything I can to make it up to them.

That’s what mercy can do.

Whether or not Lauten was sincere, (I really do believe Handler was) they should both be forgiven in the hopes that mercy can lead us forward, and we can all get a little closer and a little more united despite our various cultures and backgrounds.