In the 90’s, Thursday nights were a high point of my week, because I knew Kramer was going to find another way to explode into Jerry’s apartment, and it was going to be awesome. But then, years after the show, the entire country saw Kramer explode on stage during a stand-up routine, and it was not awesome. To say Michael Richards’ rant was ugly is far too kind. He turned on his audience. The hecklers were black, and his storm of vitriol zeroed in on that fact. It became a racist, almost frightening tirade. Say it aint so, Kramer!
Richards has pretty much disappeared form the public eye since that disgrace, and I only recently saw him resurface in Jerry Seinfeld’s simple, ingenious little web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” I’m not able to embed the video, but the picture will take you to it. It get’s serious and heavy around 14 minutes in. I’m not ashamed to say I almost teared up.
I wrote last week about people who demand mercy when they’ve been caught doing something. Brokenness and humility are a pre-requisite to restoration. What struck me most from watching this, aside from the fact that Jerry Seinfeld is an excellent friend, is that Michael Richards is a broken man. He obviously still feels the weight of it every single day. He ruined his career that night, and while he has apologized, he himself has never gotten over it. And I confess, I feel sorry for him. I want to see him restored as a man, and one day, even as an artist. I want him to be forgiven.
Some will certainly scoff at that. After all, what he did… it was awful.
Tell me, who needs forgiveness if not the people who sin awfully? Who needs more grace in today’s society than the recovering racist?
David was an adulterous murderer. Peter was a coward and a backstabber. John was a scheming opportunist. Paul was a religious bully and an agent of violence. Christ came to forgive them of those crimes, and me of my aggressive self-righteousness.
I realize that Michael Richards did not offend my race. I get that it’s easier for me to forgive than it is for others. But when a person humbles himself, comes to terms with his sins, and does not demand absolution… isn’t that the kind of man we want to see absolved?