You could see it coming like a freight train down the mountain. The intemperate language used by Don Imus on his syndicated radio show caught the attention of the national gabfest and made it inevitable that his punishment would snowball from calls for an apology to a series of mea culpas to a two-week suspension of his show to a cancellation from television simulcast to summary dismissal from the venue that has been his home for decades. The nation is offended, and thus so are his colleagues and employers, because he has so seriously offended, beyond all possibility of repair, a team of bright, intelligent young women — scholars and athletes, suddenly robbed of their innocence and insulation from the world. You can almost hear the voices poised, ready to take offense at anyone who is not offended, who dares to actually accept Imus’s oft-repeated apologies as anything close to meaningful or adequate.
This just in.
Buried under the news of the day about the summary firing of Don Imus by the networks on behalf of the advertisers who of course on behalf of their customers who on behalf of that team of young women have seized the moral high ground, it seems that the same team of young women has met with the now-radioactive “shock jock” and — somehow departing from the national cathartic script — accepted his apology.
Let’s just watch to see how many of the recently indignant voices remember what they were saying days ago about how the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team are the ones whose opinion matters here, who deserved an apology. Let’s watch to see whether the process of repentance and restoration can get any traction now that righteous indignation is the public domain centerpiece of political correctness.
It appears that those courageous young women might have something to teach the nation about more than sports. Their forgiveness is the easy part, now. It came before the two-week suspension of Imus from the airwave was to have begun, but after it was suddenly made permanent. Will a nation that has shared its soul in outrage on behalf of the innocent also be able to share its soul in forgiveness on behalf of the gracious?
Sadly, I doubt it. There’s no place in the media script for forgiveness or redemption in these hard times. No chance for the possibility that an apology could be accepted as sincere. No escape from the mindless need to avoid admittance that bad words and bad thoughts can enter the minds, and sometimes the mouths, of even the best of us.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’ve always admired Jesse Jackson, and have come to have a much higher general opinion these days of Al Sharpton than I did back when I first heard of him, when he was cutting off the branch he was sitting on in the Tawana Brawley matter. That’s why today, I call on these Christian gentlemen to take the lead in bringing this nation of sheep out of the wilderness of righteous indignation on behalf of the offended, and into the promised land of redemption on behalf of the forgiving.
The road to redemption is hard. It’s hard for a hotheaded loudmouth who sins, and will be hard for a nation who delights in grinding his sin in his face. His road began with a public change of view, a repudiation of his own words, an admission that he has no right to the forgiveness that he seeks. His relationship with the Rutgers women’s basketball team provides a window into what could become a modern-day parable of redemption and grace. I fear that instead those women will suffer the condemnation of some who will be angry at them for their act of forgiveness. That will make the road to redemption doubly hard for them, and unavailable to those who can’t accept their acceptance of an apology. And won’t that be an irony?