Published on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Dear World: Sorry About Bush
No, seriously. Very, very sorry. How sorry? Well, let America show you ... in pictures
by Mark Morford
No matter what it is, it's called sorryeverybody.com and it expresses, better than any outpouring so far, a sentiment that's omnipresent and palpable and still going strong, and every single Democrat and every single Kerry supporter and every single liberal of any stripe whatsoever probably felt it like a white-hot stab in the heart the minute Kerry's concession speech hit the airwaves and it undoubtedly went something like this:
Dear world: We are so very, very sorry. For Bush. For our bitterly divided and confused nation. For what's to come. Please know that tens of millions of us did not vote for him. Please do not hate us. Not all of us, anyway. OK, maybe Utah. Do you know where Utah is? Never mind.
See, not only is half of America still deeply dejected about the onslaught of Dubya Dubya II, but much of that half wants the world to know just how crestfallen we are, and just how awful we feel for inflicting Bush and his middle-finger foreign policy on them like a virus, a toxin, a nasty STD, yet again.
After all, we knew this wasn't no ordinary election. We knew how much was at stake, how this one represented a sea change in global attitudes, a dramatic upheaval and reversal of long-standing American ideas of cooperation and defense and restraint, ideas that BushCo has now mutated into a hollow, kill-'em-all faux-cowboy maverick attitude, an almost irreversible shift, mostly backward. Or downward.
But here's the genius part. Beyond e-mail, beyond blogs or radio shows or despondent letters to the editor or overly verbose progressively insulated Left Coast columnists who avoid excessive punctuation as they type because it might spill their scotch, sorryeverybody.com nails the sentiment in a way no one could have imagined: in photographs.
Or, rather, thousands of photographs. Of people. Ordinary people, grainy and crooked and funny and amateurish and honest and full of pathos and raw emotion and wry humor and surprising beauty and you want that connecting thread? That thing that unifies and makes you feel less alone and that helps you locate yourself in a country gone mad and lost and regressive? You can do no better than this.
And so far the site carries nearly 5,000 photos, with an apparent backlog of over 1,000 more ready to be uploaded and new ones coming in faster than the site's diverse gaggle of stunned creators -- namely, a sly neuroscience student from USC named James and his ragtag team of webmasters and designers from across the country -- ever dreamed. And the reaction has been, to put it mildly, overwhelming: a whopping 50 million hits to the site so far, moving nearly two terabytes of information. And growing fast.
And if a picture's worth a thousand words, then sorryeverybody.com is exploding with a few million very ardent expressions indeed, all echoing the same simple but heartbreaking sentiment and all, presumably, posted in the hope that the message will be somehow reach the eyeballs of the world, the countries so very and rightfully appalled and revolted by our apparent lack of vision.
It seems to be working. Pictures are apparently flooding into the site from around the world, full of messages of "It's OK" and "Thanks for trying" and "Just don't let it happen again" and it's even spawned a European response page called apologiesaccepted.com and this is when it hits you: this little gag site, unexpectedly, wonderfully, with its beautifully simple concept, might have actually stumbled on a way to do the impossible: it might just help heal our decimated international relationships and, quite possibly, do more for world diplomacy that Bush ever could, or ever will.
Is that taking things a bit far? Not really. Sure the site's cute. Sure it's a bit of a novelty. But it's also illuminating and deeply moving and 50 million hits in under two weeks is nothing short of staggering, and hence the creators are receiving reams of hate mail from the BushCo Right of sufficient vehemence and vitriol that it's even spawned a creepy 'n' crude "We're Not Sorry" countersite, with its handful of disturbing pics of rabid right-wingers displaying their, uh, raging pro-Bush myopia. So you know James and Co. are onto something.
After all, sorryeverybody.com has broken the cardinal rule of Bush's bitter neocon agenda: no matter what the atrocity, no matter the how grossly botched the war or how insidious the WMD lie or how debilitating the world-record deficit or how brutal the attack on the environment, if there's one thing the GOP simply does not do, it's apologize.
But this is what makes sorryeverybody.com so incredibly effective. It does what no column and no punditry and no news analysis and no Democratic weeping can possibly do, what the Kerry campaign failed to do, what no amount of verbal raging into the Void can manage: it puts a human face on the sadness.
A very real face, families and children, teenagers and the elderly, young couples and homosexuals and many, many disaffected liberal loners who are stuck like sad beacons way out in the middle of the red states and who desperately want the world to know they exist, that they're Americans, too, that they did their best to get the Smirking One out.
What's more, the pics, generally speaking, aren't raunchy. They aren't gross or hateful or puerile or full of screaming middle fingers or manly gun collections or people holding large kitchen knives or butane lighters up to Bush dolls in effigy.
They're just snapshots, candid and intimate and expressive and unretouched and often rather beautiful, taken in the living rooms and backyards and bedrooms and small towns of the country.
It's just people. It's just America. "Real" America. An enormous and enormously saddened half of this amazing country that's trying to reach out to the rest of the world and get the word out and mend its broken heart like at no other time in our generation's history. It's an expression of regret for what's been lost, for what we once were, for what we had hoped to become again but that has now been, well, at best delayed, at worst bludgeoned into a blind stupor.
The site proves that countless Americans still not only care enough to apologize for our country's massive errors of judgment, for our blind mistakes, but also are concerned about the effect those mistakes will have on others. As such, these pictures are perhaps the finest and most honest expressions of love for one's country you can find. And if that's not patriotic, nothing is.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does.
© 2004 San Francisco Chronicle