Today is the day we all ask ourselves whether what we get in return for our tax dollars is worth it. For many, today is the day that political decisions are made, far more so than that other day, Election Day. There are four Tax Days for every general Election Day.
Today, many people are thinking about the war in Iraq. Others are thinking about the environment and global warming. Some are thinking about life, choice, prayer and Don Imus. All good things to think about.
I’m thinking about this: Imagine that there were gleaming super freighters pulling up to all of our docks full of knock off auto parts. The boats are lined up 100 deep in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Houston, Seattle. So many boats that legitimate cargo was having a hard time getting through and had to pay premium port fees to do business at the ports subsidized by the federal government.
Pirate auto parts were choking legitimate distribution channels, and some pirates got paid so much to take the parts on their journey that they just dumped their cargos once they arrived to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Not So Brave. For no one did anything about it. The Customs Service was nowhere to be found. The FBI was busy. The US Attorneys who hadn’t been fired did nothing.
For the Department of Justice, FBI, etc., have more important things to worry about, don’t you know. I mean, who is really getting hurt by any of this? It’s just stupid car parts after all.
Google Motors jumped into the act, and set up an advertising supported peer-to-peer barter system for pirates who were searching for willing buyers—Screw 2.0 web hosting, don’t you know. Send them a notice and they’ll kill a link or two.
Ford Motor Company called Washington and said, hey—what about this? These guys are killing us!Washington said—that’s a private industry problem. Let us know how that turns out.
So as legitimate car parts stores closed in droves, the carmakers decided that they had no choice but to sue their customers who had been corrupted by the glut of counterfeits. Because it’s hard to compete with free (or near free). And the Automotive Frontier Foundation (funded by Google Motors) jumped to the rescue of these poor souls who were on the other side of the Automotive Divide and started a class warfare campaign against the carmakers who had the temerity to enforce their rights.
But I’m comforted to know that’s just a Kafka-esque bad dream and our government would never do such a thing to a legitimate industry that accounts for such a significant portion of America’s balance of trade. Not to mention culture.
That’s what I think about on Tax Day.
When I was about five years old, I remember going with my mother to a drugstore in Houston. I saw two water fountains. One said “White” and the other “Colored”. An entirely new vista had opened up for me. Colored water. I’d never heard of that before, much less seen it. I was fascinated. I tugged on my mother’s purse and said “Momma, Momma, I want to see the colored water.”
And before anyone could stop me, I marched up to the font of this great new experience and hopped up on the little wooden steps—clearly put there for five year olds such as me to enjoy this wondrous experience—and pushed the knob on the water fountain. I kept pushing it until my mother whisked me off that step and out of the store before the old cracker who ran the place could “explain” anything to me. My innocence was preserved for the moment, and explanations of Jim Crow would come another day.
I believe that if a bad man seeks to make genuine contrition, seeks genuine forgiveness for his bad acts and wants to turn his life around, then society should forgive him and give him another chance. America is all about second chances.
However—that doesn’t mean that the path of the confessor is a simple one. I am not going to suggest a punishment for Don Imus beyond saying that however much he may wish forgiveness, crazy doesn’t get a seat at the mass media table. Hurtful doesn’t get a seat, some voices can be heard just fine without the mass media megaphone. Period. I know everyone’s trying to be all responsible with Don Imus—far more so than he was in his cavalier and insulting treatment of a great team of athletes—but there are some things that are so obviously wrong that you just don’t come back from them. That’s a commercial punishment, not a moral one.
I can’t help thinking that Imus’ defined his own punishment by his thoughtlessness. He will have to apologize to every woman he meets for the rest of his life. He will have to apologize to every person of color he meets the rest of his life. There’s a certain Biblical symmetry to that knowledge, and as I often say, I’m an Old Testament kind of guy. I take no joy in pointing this out, and I certainly would prefer the incident had never happened.
A Catholic theologian once wrote of forgiveness: “The greatest damage of an offense is that it destroys my freedom to be me, for I will find myself involuntarily dominated by the inner rage and resentment — a type of spiritual poison which will permeate all my being — which will be a subconscious but very powerful influence in most of my life.”
I hope that the team can overcome this very real possibility. I was very impressed with the team’s press conference as well as their coach’s statement. I have to say that I wasn’t aware of the dramatic story of the Rutgers’ team’s championship season, one that certainly rivals Glory Road, and at least for me, that story eclipses the Imus incident in lasting importance. That’s a story that should be told, and if I know my industry, that story is going to get told.
The team’s story is inspirational and uplifting, and even the way they have reacted to this final adversity in their season is inspiring. I don’t know any of the team, but it’s clear to me that they don’t have any problems with each other, they are dedicated and hard working, well-spoken and tough. And I will say what they didn’t: No snide cracker is going to take that away from them.
When I first heard the news report, I thought that Imus should pick on someone his own size. That was wrong.