Jackal and Ibis leapt to their feet. “We will do it!”
from The Jewel Fish of Karnak
written and illustrated by Graeme Base
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011
My parents taught me to say “excuse me” for all the burps, coughs, and other noises my body made. I wondered why I needed to excuse those behaviors since I (nor anyone else for that matter) had control over those sounds.
Bumping into someone or stepping on a toe (literally or figuratively) required a request for a pardon.
“Pardon me,” shorthand for “What did you say?” is a nice way to say “Huh?” or “What?” My parents were pretty strong on teaching us politeness, manners. Those lessons have served me well all these years.
Asking for pardon implied that I had committed a wrongful or thoughtless or potentially embarrassing act, accidentally. It implied that I did something wrong and admitted it. It required accepting the pardon or forgiveness, from the person I had wronged, if it was offered.
It was never okay with my folks to do something wrong or hurtful or hateful on purpose and not feel sorry. I was expected to try to make it up to the person I hurt.
My mom had a story about conscience. I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. It is a Native American idea. Mom said my conscience is a pointy triangle in my heart. When I do something wrong, my conscience-triangle turns. It hurts. And like water dripping on a stone, or slowly turning a dimmer switch, finally I will notice the stone has a slight depression, or finally I will notice the light is fading.
The corners of my conscience will wear away like that, and pretty soon, I won’t even feel it turning. I could do any bad thing and not feel the sorry-pain of my conscience-triangle turning in my heart. My mom kept me from going to that scary, bad place with her story.
Some people have conscience-triangles that have completely worn away. Their conscience spins and spins around and around in their hearts and they don’t even notice.
Offering pardon to a person who incites hatred and fear should never be allowed. Accepting that pardon for the purpose of instilling more fear and hatred is despicable.
I’m sure my mom would agree.