Last April 11th, my father had the misfortune of taking a phone call from an angry person. I was upset, and I know that it carried over the phone. “You’re not going to believe this,” I said. “Imus was cancelled!"
And I’ll never forget his response: “So?”
I was irritated at him, even though he made a very good point. At that moment, I was in the middle of the most incredible semester of my academic career. There are times where everything in your life - your friends, your work, your relationships – are absolutely perfect. Due to one thousand personal reasons, the period from January to May 2007 were some of the best months of my life.
So why did this hit me so hard? Or, to paraphrase my dad, why should I care?
Why should I care about the misfortunes of people with whom I share no relation, have never met, and will likely never meet? Yes, I admire their talent, and no, I would never wish ill upon them. But bad things happen to good people nearly every day. Terrible things. Why was their case any different?
We're in the middle of the anniversary of that awful week - "Hell Week," as I call it - and I figured that these questions were worth revisiting. There were so many aspects to this entire sordid episode that shocked me. Some are very naïve on my part, but others…I don’t know. Judge for yourself.
1)First, I was shocked by the fact that anyone actually got fired. I thought that, barring illness or death, this show would never be kicked off the air. Never. It had been around for 35 years, it was an institution, and on and on. Yeah, I know that’s a little ignorant, but it’s exactly what I believed. I’m still not sure how it happened, honestly.
2) The demonization. I didn’t watch every single episode; I caught the first 30 minutes of every Monday and Tuesday before I went to work, so I usually saw about an hour per week. When the controversy started, I remember thinking, “Are these people REALLY that bad? Did I miss an episode where they did something horrible?” Judging by the reaction, you’d think that they’d sacrificed a virgin on the MSNBC anchor table. (Perhaps that happened on a Thursday.) I had no idea that the people I had “spent my mornings with” were so dangerous.
I didn’t watch most of the coverage that week, and I remember seeing a news segment about it a month later. (The segment - “Has
3) Speaking of music, the songs they played on the program were incredible. They did an excellent job in setting the tone that week, and they are among the things that I remember the most about that awful occasion. I can still recall that eerie feeling of listening to “
Martina McBride’s “Anyway” was also played in near entirety, with good reason: the lyrics seemed like they were written for the occasion. I think they also played Billy Joel’s apocalyptic “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out on Broadway).” Key lyric: “They turned our power down/drove us underground/but we went right on with the show…” I must have played that song 100 times over the summer.
I don’t know who chose the music - Lou or the I-Man or another person - but someone was bringing their A-game that week.
4) Weasels. This topic has been done to death, so I won’t rehash it too much. I never believed that the I-Man's guests would win a Purple Heart for bravery (with the exception of Jack Jacobs, John McCain and John Kerry, of course), but I grew to admire a lot of the people on that program. What bugged me the most was that somewhere, perhaps in a dusty closet in Secaucus, there were days and days' worth of footage of various weasel journalists, yukking it up with the I-Man and telling some very un-PC jokes. Yet somehow, none of this showed up on the news.
Here’s how pathetic I was: I actually used to read Brian Williams’ blog on a regular basis. (Yes, he actually has a blog, and no, I’m not linking to it.) In fact, in late March of 2007 I actually bought the Men’s Vogue with him on the cover. My then-boyfriend laughed at me for buying Men’s Vogue, and I wish I had listened to him. When it was announced a few weeks ago that David Gregory was getting his own MSNBC show, I said, “You know, there was a point in my life when I would’ve been excited about that.” Sad.
I liked a lot of the guests that later turned out to be “traitors.” Brian Williams. Tim Russert. Jon Meacham. David Brooks. (Yeah, I was the one person that liked David Brooks. Don’t judge.) So you can imagine how I felt when I saw these people, who I thought represented truth in journalism, go two-faced. I didn’t just lose my favorite program; I also lost the respect of a chess set of people that I admired.
5) Personal strength. A survey completed in April 2007 revealed that upon hearing the phrase “nappy-headed hos," 55% of Americans “were paralyzed with shock,” 29% “cried like little girls,” and 12% “wet themselves.” (Source: Lexis-Nexis).
But…I did nothing. I am not a tough person, not really, but somehow I didn’t go into a mass panic. If you are horrified and disgusted by my lack of disgust, don’t become too concerned, because I’m sure that most of 2007-era
6) The suffering. Lots of people “suffered” during that fateful week, I discovered. But some tales of suffering were more poignant than others.
My personal favorite was from some Internet columnist. He told this compelling story about how, between 7:30 and 7:45 each morning, he had to venture out of his apartment in
But his account was so moving. He painted this Tom Joad-like portrait of a man who bravely trudged to his car every weekday morning with knots in his stomach, ready to face his daily beating, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the torture wouldn't be so painful today...and how, each time, he was beaten down into submission. But he faithfully returned, every morning, to repeat the cycle again. Equally heartrending was that he was the only man in
Such was the tragedy of his life – up too late for Steve Somers, up too early for Joe & Evan.
7) The fact that I apparently have a vastly different values system than the rest of
And the best part? No one challenged this.
Which leads us to
8) Alleged “role models.” Ladies, didn’t it drive you crazy when you were told, practically at gunpoint, that you had to accept Vivian Stringer as your personal role model and savior? Because if you didn’t like her, you were a traitor to your gender. She had suffered for us, dammit. It especially sucked for people my age, because she apparently is a "mentor" for college students, and was therefore touted as our “inspiration.”
So this is why the entire situation disturbed me so much. How did it disturb you?