Chaplain's Column: The Don Imus Situation

The events surrounding Don Imus' remarks about the Rutgers University Women's Basketball Team have been the fodder to many discussions in homes, workplaces and places of public gatherings. Feelings and opinions about the situation run the gamut from its being a non-issue about which no one should really care to its being reflective of the sad state of the American culture.

In the discussions in which I have been involved, someone invariably asserts (and rightfully so) that Don Imus is not the only one who engages in the use of words that can bee seen as inflammatory, prejudicial and insensitive. People who may have no idea about the "rap culture" or "hip hop" have had their eyes opened to an everyday world to which many people in our culture are exposed; most notably the young. Police officers deal with the effects of such a culture each and every day.

What I find fascinating is that most of us (and I include myself in this) have found all sorts of people to blame in this situation; Don Imus himself, the companies who pulled their advertising, the entertainment industry, the media, civil rights leaders etc., etc., etc.

With all due respect, I would like to suggest that there is more to this issue as to whether Don Imus should have been fired and whether there is a double standard that is employed in this country. I would like to be so bold as to suggest that each of us look inside our minds and hearts as I believe, in some way, all of us must bear some culpability for the type of discourse, entertainment, and social interaction that takes place in our culture.

Is it no wonder that in a culture in which what is utmost to an individual is their feelings, followed by the "right" to express those feelings that basic civility goes by the wayside? Is it no wonder in a country in which Republicans and Democrats have become mortal enemies rather than political rivals and that people of various creeds not only advocate their own religion but publicly damn people of other religions that people lose respect for the concept of diversity? In a culture in which parents, teachers, police officers and others in authority are expected to be people's friends and not people who hold other accountable for their actions, is it no wonder there is a lack of respect for authority?

It is all too easy for each of us to distance ourselves from the Don Imus situation! Who among us, with some honest introspection, cannot identify some prejudices within us, whether they are based on race, gender creed, politics, sexual orientation, social class, nationality? How many of us have been entertained at the expense of other people? How many of us have taken pleasure in the misfortune of others? How many of us have more than willingly passed on information about others even though we may not even know if it is true? This may be true in our dealings with others in the department or with the public whom we have been called to serve.

As strange as this may seem, I want to thank Don Imus for making me look at an aspect of myself that I do not want to readily admit, i.e. that I do not always treat others the way that I ought and that in some way, big or small, I may have contributed to an environment that has made remarks such as he made more of a norm than an exception.

When we look at it this way, it is not only a police matter, but a matter for everyone!