Just in time for the premiere of Mel Gibson’s latest movie, another popular culture figure has stepped forward to add his own ugly thoughts about Jews to the public discourse. As we report on this week’s Shmooze page, Don Imus, the irascible radio-and-cable talk-show host, recently complained on-air that he had been barred by his network’s “Jewish management” — “money-grubbing bastards,” he added — from airing a heartwarming segment featuring a blind, black gospel group known as the Blind Boys of Alabama. As the in-studio banter heated up, Imus’s co-host suggested that “they were probably trying to push a more Semitic group on you. I don’t know, maybe the Paralyzed Putzes of Poland or something like that.” To which Imus added, “You can’t believe what goes on behind the scenes, at least with me, with these people.”
For our part, we’re finding it harder and harder to believe what goes on in public. The outrageous bigotry that is casually spewed into our airwaves on a nearly daily basis — against gays, blacks, Muslims, Hispanics and Asians as well as Jews — has become a national epidemic. The apologies that inevitably follow hardly carry any meaning anymore.
It must be acknowledged that not every offense is out of bounds, and there are those self-appointed watchdogs who try to use the accusation of bigotry to stifle open debate about sensitive topics. It must be acknowledged, too, that the sort of indecency directed so freely against Jews of late has been a familiar aspect of life for blacks and gays in this country for years. Many of us were too slow to notice it until it caught up to us. Many of us, in fact, encouraged these open displays of incivility in the name of opposing “political correctness.”
It should now be obvious that the dams have been breached. It’s time for some genuine soul-searching — within the vulnerable communities and across those boundaries — to see what we can learn from each other’s experiences. America is better than this.