My nephew Ronan, is a genius. He revealed his genius to me early on, back in the eighties, when he was not yet TWO YEARS OLD.
The Circumstances: I was on a visit back to Cobh, to see my mother and all the folks –I think it might have been Christmas time. There were gathered the whole family and lots of visitors, all sitting together in what we had always called “the dining room”. We all were sitting around on armchairs and couches, around a roaring turf fire in the fireplace.
The young Ronan –just about to be 2– was there with us, sitting on one of the couches, squished in between two adults, and playing with a handpuppet on his hand.
In a momentary lull one of the adults –my brother’s wife– turned to Ronan and in a tone that might have had a touch too much of adult-to-child exaggerated interest: “Oh Ronan, what a lovely puppet! May I see?”
Ronan obliged. Slowly he brought his hand to within inches of his aunt’s face, and then, suddenly, bopped her –quite hard– on the nose with the puppet.
We all had followed the path of the puppet: now our shocked, involuntary exclamation of “Oh! Ronan!” filled the room.
I think that Ronan might not have anticipated the level of disapproval. But, no matter. He did not miss a beat. He raised the puppet to face him and then he sternly rebuked it:
“BAD, BAD PUPPET!!!”
Tell me that that is not pure genius. From a two-year-old! Reflex exculpation!
Not my fault. Just like that little scene in the Garden of Eden that we looked at above. Reflex exculpation. (I’ve been watching our president
over the years, with a particular eye out for instances of “taking responsibility”. Here is a man who apparently never makes a mistake, and who cannot apologise. Even when he “apologised” later for his “Bring it on!” remark, he explained to us “…because there’s always someone who misinterprets you.”
(One day I’ll present some other examples from my notebook.) By the way, remember when Pope Benedict made that speech in Turkey with his negative remark about Islam? When he later apologized, he used the same George Bush “misinterpretation” construction –“I’m sorry if you got me wrong.”)