Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Don Imus Is a Good Man"

One of the more unbearable aspects of the Imus "nappy headed hos" controversy is the outpouring of smarmy defenses for the I-Man from his buddies in the mainstream media. Many are taking the form of assertions that "Don Imus is a good man who said a bad thing." I heard Mike Barnicle use this line on MSNBC yesterday afternoon, I just heard some friend of Imus say the same thing on Imus's show ("You're a good man, Don, and people need to understand that"), and Imus himself used this formulation during his on-air apology yesterday.

As far as I'm concerned, this is an amazingly inane thing to say. What is this abstract quality of "goodness" that has no relationship to a person's behavior? If you are "good" but repeatedly say and do vicious things that hurt people, what the hell does your "goodness" amount to?

This "he is a good man" nonsense is also a standard part of the Bush administration's defense of any friend who gets into trouble. Alberto Gonzalez may be a liar, a law-breaker, a political hack, a torture-enabler, and an incompetent buffoon to boot--but somehow his inherent "goodness" never changes, no matter how many revelations of his evil-doing come to light.

Interestingly enough, considering how quick these right-wing hypocrites are to claim the mantle of "Christian," Jesus himself specifically disavowed their use of the word "goodness":
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" [Mark 10:17-19]
You see the point. Jesus brusquely rejects the idea that "goodness" inheres in a person's character. Instead, it's all about behavior: "You know the commandments."

So please, pious phonies, spare us the homilies about how "good" you and your best friends are. Instead, devote your time and energy to actually doing the right thing--and let others decide whether or not your behavior merits the word "good." That's what Jesus did.

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