What can we learn from “shock jock” Don Imus’ meltdown?
What can we learn from “shock jock” Don Imus’ meltdown? In case you were fasting from the news this week (which isn’t such a bad idea, come to think of it), you know the public furor over the racially and sexually derogatory remarks that nationally syndicated radio talk show host Don Imus made about the Rutgers University NCAA women’s basketball finalists, words unworthy of repetition. Both CBS radio and MSNBC cable television dropped the Imus show for two weeks. Corporate sponsors pulled their ads and financial backing. The public backlash has been quick and strong.
And yet, truth be told, the irreverent diatribe of so public an entertainer as Imus can only be explained by the recognition that hundreds of thousands of Americans tune in each day to listen to him. The millions of dollars of corporate sponsorship poured into his program are a frank admission that the public thrives on living (at least in thought, if not in practice) on the crude edge of courtesy and decency, not to mention bigotry and hate. (I’m not thinking, of course, of you and me—but rather all those others out there.)
And what shall we and “all those others” learn from this unseemly (but no longer unusual) flap? Perhaps that it really isn’t a flap at all. Could it be that it represents the mounting evidence of our society’s drive to insular independence and isolation (the only three people I have time to care about are I, me and myself)? Could it be that Imus still gets so large a hearing because tearing down public and private figures satisfies the smallness of our own hearts to prop ourselves up on the wreckage of others? To trash a team of ten young coeds who made it to the pinnacle of their sport, just as they were savoring that accomplishment?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) We’re all in the same boat together. It’s no wonder that even God himself at times has struggled with his own corporate sponsorship of the human race! Thank God he hasn’t pulled the plug on our self-worshiping, people-trashing ways and sent us packing. Not yet anyway. Because Mercy keeps running after us, doesn’t it?
But what do you say we let Mercy catch up with us? We can pray for Don Imus, but let us also pray for our own hearts. And lips. That the Great Commandment—to love God supremely and our neighbor impartially—will compel our thoughts, our words, our actions. After all, if nobody is our brother and sister’s keeper, than there’s nobody left to keep us either. And that would be the saddest meltdown of all.