Robert Kirby: It’s National Pardon Day, so forgive someone, including yourself

Robert Kirby

It’s Sept. 8, National Pardon Day. It’s also National Nut Bread Day. It’s possible that the two may be related, but let’s not go there right now.

National Pardon Day was enacted — sort of — in 1974 by President Gerald Ford.

If you weren’t born yet (and many of you weren’t), know that it was Ford who pardoned his predecessor, disgraced ex-President Richard M. Nixon, who was about to be hauled into a court.

Nixon resigned the presidency Aug. 9, 1974, but that didn’t stop the baying of the hounds. He continued to be savaged in the news media. He lost his office, and now they wanted his head as well.

A month later — 46 years ago, to be precise — Ford pardoned Nixon. It was time, the new president reasoned, to put all that corruption in the country’s rearview mirror and speed up the healing process.

Ford continued this pardon idea later by offering conditional amnesty to some 10,000 military draft evaders who had fled the country in protest over Vietnam.

What Ford started, President Jimmy Carter finished, with a blanket pardon for everyone who dodged military service. This angered a lot of people but not me. I was in South America.

That brings us up to date on National Pardon Day. Just because it began a long time ago, doesn’t mean there isn’t a desperate need for it today.

Pardon is most often used in reference to criminals, but nobody is perfect. We may not have been convicted of grievous felonies, but we have all given and received offense in some way.

If you’re among those sainted souls who honestly believe they have never wronged anyone and therefore need no pardon, we’ll get to National Nut Bread Day another time.

For the rest of us, today is the perfect day to pardon someone who has caused you pain or betrayed you. And I’m not talking about a president.

It could be anyone, really. An ex-spouse, a loathsome co-worker, the jerk who cut you off in traffic, or an ill-mannered newspaper columnist/cartoonist.

I wouldn’t know about ex-spouses because I’ve never had one of those. I’ve come close at least three dozen times, only to have her change her mind at the last minute.

Got neighbors who reportedly said something bad about you? Pardon them. It’s what I did to Brenda W. in the fourth grade when she said I looked like “a rat with glasses.”

Granted, it took me until the seventh grade to issue the pardon, and by then we had moved 900 miles away, but I managed to get it done.

Carrying around such poorly managed grudges can be wearying, and it can take a while. But it is possible to extend a token of forgiveness at some point.

Mrs. Sullivan, whose cat Leon and I dyed purple one empty summer day, eventually forgave us. At least I think she did. Anyway, she stopped screaming that she wished we were dead.

The most important criminal to pardon is yourself. We all have crimes that we drag around. Work on it. Do your best to make amends. And then pardon yourself.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.