Memo to Chris Matthews: Sssssh

I think Chris Matthews is a good man. He’s been the host of Hardball with Chris Matthews since 1997 and his love for politics and country is evident and admirable. I like him. However, he has never met a sentence he wants to finish speaking or a question he wants to finish asking. Given the bursting-at-the-seams loudness of his delivery, he  clearly graduated the How to Avoid Whispering Workshop at the head of the class.

He interrupts guests all the time. It is a small miracle that, to my knowledge, no guest has ever gone across the table and throttled him. Christopher, please! Why do you ask me a question when you have no intention of letting me answer it?!

If you watch and listen closely, you will notice that some guests rush their answers, as if they are running as fast as they can so they don’t get caught in the breaking  wave of a Matthews’ interruption.

Please, Christopher, let people talk. Don’t interrupt. And for God sakes, don’t drink coffee.

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SHARPTON & JACKSON: A BIGOTRY DUET

Boston columnist Mike Barnicle was right recently when he said the reaction to Don Imus’s inappropriate remarks has included a “tsunami of hypocrisy.”

But before I get to that, let me first apologize to my readers and retract any positive words I wrote about Reverend Al Sharpton in the previous blog entry.

Watching Sharpton over the past couple of days and doing a bit of research into Sharpton’s past, it is clear he has no right to the title Reverend, unless, of course, you are one who believes a racist and anti-Semite can be a Christian minister.

Consider the following.

1) Sharpton was found civilly liable for falsely implicating a Dutchess County New York attorney in the rape (which never occurred) of Tawana Brawley. The whole fiasco was determined to be a hoax. Sharpton has never apologized to the attorney and still refuses to do so.

2) During a 1991 crisis in New York City’s Crown Heights, Sharpton said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Again, he never apologized.

3) During a landlord-tenant dispute involving a Jewish-owned store in Harlem, the Wall Street Journal reported on February 29, 2000, that “Mr. Sharpton was even more malevolent. He turned (the) dispute between the Jewish owner of Freddy’s and a black subtenant into a theater of hatred. Picketers from Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network, sometimes joined by (Sharpton) himself, marched daily outside the store, screaming about “bloodsucking Jews” and “Jew bastards” and threatening to burn the building down.

After weeks of increasingly violent rhetoric, one of the protesters, Roland Smith, took Mr. Sharpton’s words about ousting the “white interloper” to heart. He ran into the store shouting, “It’s on!” He shot and wounded three whites and a Pakistani, whom he apparently mistook for a Jew. Then he set the fire, which killed five Hispanics, one Guyanese and one African-American–a security guard whom protesters had taunted as a “cracker lover.” Smith then fatally shot himself.”

Eight people dead, and no apology from Sharpton.

And so here is Sharpton, along with Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson passing judgement on Don Imus. Sharpton and Jackson clearly make their bed with the poisonous sheets of bigotry and hypocrisy. It has been a long time since either man has been in the same room with honor and integrity, although, I suspect when he was a younger man working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson knew honor and integrity well.

CBS and NBC’s claim that they fired Don Imus because they care about the way women and black Americans are treated is, well, a lie. It’s about sponsors and money. Neither network nor their parent companies are free of misogyny and bigotry in their offerings. Given the fact both networks gave Jackson and Sharpton an audience, one wonders why they didn’t they didn’t invite Mel Gibson to the meeting. And given Sharpton and Jackson’s bigoted behavior, why would they give either man airtime if their commitment to healing the public airways was genuine?

Now we have Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in the mix. Here is someone who knowingly promoted a distortion of truth that led to a war that thus far has cost more than 3,000 American lives and untold thousands of Iraqi lives. The fact she thought to comment on Mr. Imus makes a despicable thought look like an act of purity and honor.

Meanwhile, Don Imus has accepted, without excuses, responsibility for his behavior. He has met with and received forgiveness from the gracious and remarkable women on the Rutgers basketball team. He has been talking nearly daily with Reverend Deforest Soaries, the extraordinary man who facilitated the meeting between Mr. Imus and the Rutgers players.

Told today that Sharpton and Jackson said they hadn’t forgiven Mr. Imus, Reverend Soaries put it all in perspective. He said, “Where there is no forgiveness, there is no Christianity.”

May God bless Reverend Deforest Soaries, the women from Rutgers and Don Imus. May God help Sharpton, Jackson, CBS and NBC.

IMUS, HONESTY AND FORGIVENESS

I have fought bigotry of all my life: anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, etc. The list, sadly, is endless. As a recovering alcoholic and one who increasingly recognizes and believes in the beauty and power of honesty, accountability and self-accountability are pivotal realities for me. While no one, least of all Don Imus, excuses his remarks last week denigrating the women of the Rutgers Basketball team, the man has done all any human being can do when they make a terrible mistake. He has admitted it, apologized for it and, in my view, learned from it. Were our elected leaders and, in some cases, our religious and social leaders as wedded to self-accountability as Imus, our country would be better off.

I hear that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ministers both, have called for Imus’s resignation or firing. A sad and barely understandable reaction on the parts of both men. After all, should Jackson remain forever punished, unforgiven and judged because he once referred to NYC as hymie town? Should Sharpton, who in so many ways has developed into an extraordinary civil rights leader, remain forever punished,unforgiven and judged because of the Tawana Brawley fiasco? The answer is no.

None of us are thoroughly free of the disease of prejudice and bigotry. Our responsibility as a people and as individuals is to acknowledge it, own it, apologize for it, make amends, learn, and struggle to get free of its insidious and poisonous grasp. Imus this morning showed he has learned from this by pointing out that while “the climate on (the Imus) program has been what it’s been for 30 years (it) doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that.”

How I wish more people had the character to own unhealthy aspects of themselves. Were this to become a trend, we, as individuals, and we, as a people, a world community, would find the world in a better place. Forgiving is not an easy thing to be sure. Someone said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” If you disagree with this in any way, the man who said it, Mahatma Gandhi, has long since passed away.

The building of real character rests in large part on the back of honesty, the ability to allow self-honesty its full reign, no matter how grueling and painful the journey may be at times. A wonderful woman once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” So said Helen Keller.

A childhood hero and a current hero of mine said “The true measure of a man’s strength is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Imus created his own challenge and controversy with his remarks. He has chosen to stand in the open, take responsibility, apologize, make amends and learn. That meets the definition of strength in the last quote. The man who uttered the words in the last quote was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rarely, if ever, is a person fairly defined by a single act. In a way we are all, in some measure, the sum of our history and our dreams for tomorrow. The tally of all I know about Imus is this; he is a man that started a ranch 10 years ago for kids with cancer, sickle cell, siblings of children who died from SIDS and more. He is a man who after watching one of the children from his ranch fear their imminent death from sickle cell, came back asking elected leaders to explain why so little is being done on sickle cell research. He is a man who has drawn enormous attention to the plight of children with autism and over the years has raised more than $100 million to help others. He is a man, too, who said a horrible thing last week. He has owned it, apologized, and learned. You can ask for nothing more from a human being.

An Imus resignation or firing would be a terrible mistake for many reasons, not the least of which is this: how refreshing is it for you to finally see someone in the public eye not just apologize, but admit they were wrong in the first place? It’s a novelty. Perhaps with Imus’s display courage, humility and accountability, it might just become a trend.