They’re almost never ideal, for lots of reasons. Emotions are high. Full understanding rarely happens with the immediacy of a cartoon light bulb over someone’s head. The harm that has been done can rarely be undone simply with words. It is easy to view words as trivial.
When apologies are really, really good, people hold them up as shining examples, but this is the sort of thing that happens in the English-speaking world maybe once a year. Most apologies have the kind of faults we expect and deal with in any other communication.
With that said, I want to thank Ron Lindsay for his remarks yesterday evening on the CFI blog. They give me hope for moving forward on this, and they help me resolve the dilemma of wanting to support the good work of my friends at CFI while being unable to support the management.
Some specifics on the remarks and the circumstances surrounding them.
- While the remarks don’t contain much in the way of specifics, the apologies there are solid apologies. I’ve heard them referred to as not-pologies. They are not. They apologize for both the behavior and the results of that behavior.
- CFI is holding a branch leaders meeting at the moment. Several people who are there are telling me (in varying degrees of public settings) that discussions there have been intense. They are also confirming that when Lindsay says he’s starting to understand what the letters told him. He is listening again.
- Lindsay has apologized to CFI staff. Official communications from CFI refer to this apology as “heartfelt”, and people at the meeting confirm this. Both in terms of professionalism and in terms of him dealing with people I care about, this is huge to me.
- Comments are closed on Lindsay’s post. As someone who has been targeted with nonsense in the comments of prior posts at CFI on this topic, I appreciate that.
There are, of course, things I would still like to see going forward, but I wouldn’t have expected to see them at this stage of the process.
- A prompt announcement of Women in Secularism 3. Given that the existence of the conference and Melody Hensley’s helming of the conference have been points of general, public contention in the past, I would like to see both of these confirmed as soon as possible.
- Melody’s reception speech from Women in Secularism 2 posted at the CFI blog. It is still painful that the coverage of this excellent conference has been dominated by this issue, particularly in CFI communications. It would be good to see something positive, and Melody’s speech was that.
- Understanding that what happens online is an important part of our movements these days, both in its positive and negative effects. I think work is already being done on this score. At least, I hope this is one of the messages that Lindsay is taking away from the letters that were sent to the board and from the discussions with his staff.
- Willingness to reach out on controversial topics. I don’t think feminism should be particularly controversial topic, but controversy is obviously built around it. With this and other hot-button issues, I would like to see secular and skeptical leadership (I am not just talking about CFI here) talk more to the people involved in the controversies. When conflict has extended this long, it needs to be understood in order to be dealt with.
There are some ambitious items on that list. That’s fine. Sorting this stuff out is a process, shaped by our interactions with each other. It breaks down when a person or an organization shuts down and stops interacting. With Lindsay’s apologies online and at the branch leader meeting, the shut down is over. That’s important.