On April 13 2007 Don Imus and his long running “Imus In The Morning” radio and TV broadcast were taken off the air in the wake of his referencing the Rutgers Womens Basketball Team with the term "nappy-headed Hos."
A stellar thirty-five year hall of fame career came to a screeching halt.
Imus is back on air beginning tomorrow, and the questions have already started: "Will Don Imus be defiant or contrite? Will he mock his skeptics while making his triumphant return to radio Monday?"
But something else happened that same day he was booted from the air and it hasn't been discussed. On that day, three million people lost their favorite morning show, and they weren't happy about it.
While others call him hateful, spiteful and racist they call him different words, insightful, hero and champion.
It started with individuals. “It was like I had to go through the grief cycle. It was like he died.” Those sentiments were heard over and over. These were people from every conceivable background and every conceivable corner of America. As diverse a group as America itself.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression were all present. But to a person they couldn't get past acceptance. Deep in their hearts they refused to accept what was quoted as being inevitable. They refused to believe that after more than thirty-four years it was over.
And thus the I-Nation was born.
There's an old saw in the Social Justice movement that states “Don't agonize. Organize.” And that's what they did.
As Percy, an English professor from a big name university in Virginia puts it. “We felt like we had lost a member (or members) of our family. We mourned for weeks until I stumbled upon Imustruth.com, where I discovered...the amazing I-Nation, a wonderful group of people whose commiseration helped ease the pain of an interminable summer of mornings without Imus.“
It started on the Net where the disenfranchised listeners started to meet up with each other and build networks using MySpace, mailing lists, Web pages and blogs. Savvy net users took the time and patience to teach elderly first-time users who, up until then, had only viewed the computer as an electronic mailbox for sharing pictures of the grand kids. They were angry, they had something to say and true to their most cherished values they refused to be silenced.
There is Anne a 66-year-old grandmother from Gainesville Florida who along with her husband took her first trip to New York City this past June, so she could stand outside the big window at The Today Show and have her pro-Imus signs confiscated by NBC Security. A moment she still brags about. Later her and others waited outside the WFAN studios in Astoria for a once in a life time chance to meet Charles McCord.
Another of the I-Nation who made the trip to New York from his home in California is thirty something KeithA, WebMaster of the popular site SuportImus.org His site along with Imustruth.com was integral in educating fans on what needed to be done to recapture the story away from the spinmeisters and put it back in the hands of the people who had been paying for the show all those years by supporting it's advertisers.
The two sites became a training ground for an army of Bloggers/Comentators who were not afraid to take on friend and foe alike taking any misrepresentation of The I-Man or his audience as a personal insult.
People like Chanelxrfr a self-employed IT consultant from NJ. StDomsgirl an Irish Catholic Nurse from Maine. Lenny a Graduate Assistant working on his Masters at, of all places, Rutgers University. Karen a fifty four year old Cancer victim who used the I-Man to jump start her increasingly difficult days. Bruce who grew up in Newark NJ and now lives in Florida.
Then there's Dave from Brentwood (MO), a 48 year old real estate man who stumbled across Imus by accident several years ago, while surfing cable TV. for some early morning news..“I remember seeing Don sitting there in full IMUS regalia and thought what the hell is this? After about 3 days I was addicted, then came Friday & Cardinal Egan. I about fell off of my couch laughing-needless to say I was hooked.” He's giving himself an early Christmas present, a trip to New York and tickets to Monday's Town Hall Show.
A tapestry as rich as America.
Misogynistic, showing or displaying a hatred of women, is a term that has been thrown around as liberally as the term racist in describing Don Imus. So it might surprise you that some of Imus's most vociferous supporters are women.
Mel is a 42-year-old mother of an autistic son, Living in the Boston area who had been listening for over 10 years when her son was diagnosed. As she puts it “Imus quickly became my champion”
Call Imus a racist and you risk the eloquent wrath of Harley, an African-American women who teaches elementary school and has been involved in the Social Justice Movement her whole life.
Joanne, Ree, CAS and millions of others, I wish I could Name them all. These are the faces of the I-Nation. These are the people who were truly hurt when MSNBC and CBS canceled the Imus in the Morning show without listening to the voices of his constituency. These are the people who've been boycotting CBS/MSNBC since April (How are those numbers Morning Joe? What were your losses in the radio sector at CBS and why did you take a pay cut Les Moonvess?)
These are the three million people boycotting Imus's former sponsors (General Motors, Staples, GlaxoSmithKline, PetMed, American Express, Sprint Nextel and Proctor and Gambel). These are the families looking to support Imus's new sponsors. As Channelxrfr regularly reminds them “The I-Nation is Buying what The I-man is selling.”
In the interest of fairness and full disclosure I must state I am one of them and I have been for thirty four years.
For me it began as so much does in life, in childhood.
I had a rough childhood, undiagnosed ailments such as ADD and possibly Asperger's Syndrome compounded by or resulting from severe neurological trauma caused in a near fatal accident (boy versus garbage truck, garbage truck wins) at the age of six. Add to that a School system not prepared to deal with my conditions (we're talking the seventies here) and an abusive home life you'll understand why there were times when I thought the only friends I had were the voices that came out of the magic box I kept by the side of my bed.
And John Donald Imus was one of the first and longest lasting of those friendships.
I got the humor right away and loved the Nixon jokes. I have an above-average intelligence and a rabid love of history and politics all of which Imus fed and nurtured. I remember watching the Nixon Impeachment hearings during lunch, summer of my fourth grade year and waiting eagerly for the next morning to hear what “Uncle Don” thought.
It was on The Imus in the Morning I first heard words that would have a profound effect on my life. It was a January morning I must have been in fifth or sixth grade. I remember asking a my teacher if I could be excused for a little while just after nine so I could listen to something on the radio. She looked at me like I had two heads. She often looked at me like that. “And what could be so important on the radio that you would need to miss class time to hear it.”
I decide to take that as real interest. “I'm not sure really. It's a speech that some doctor gave in Washington some years ago and I think they shot him because of it. Imus says everybody should hear it at least once and that it can change your life”
She asked me if I remembered the Dr.'s name. When I said Martin Luther King, she not only allowed me to hear it but she let me play it for the whole class and then we discussed it.
I held those words close “Let each man be judged...but by the content of his character” It has been the foundation of my personal philosophy ever since.
After a term in the Navy, I found myself back in NJ and Imus was still there. We picked up like old friends. He had become even more political and therefore even more interesting to me.
During the Eighties and the Nineties I worked for a major TelCom company and through my union, The Communication Workers of America(CWA), became involved in the Social Justice Movement. I've spent most of my life fighting all forms of bigotry. All because of words I heard on “Imus in the Morning.”
Our society is at a crossroads.
In 1966, shortly after becoming the first black graduate at ‘Ole Miss’, James Meridith was shot in the back while marching from Memphis to Jackson to encourage voter registration.
The shooting of James Meridith drew hundreds of Civil Rights Activists, both black and white, to finish the march that he began. The march culminated with a rally of fifteen thousand people in front of the Mississippi state capital in Jackson . At that rally two of my heroes spoke, Martin Luther King and Stokey Carmichael.
Dr. King told the crowd of his dream, that one day in Mississippi “justice will become a reality for all of God’s children”
Stokey Carmichael argued that blacks had to “build a power base so strong in this country that we’ll bring [whites] to their knees.”
So many ‘factions’ in our society today have found Stokey’s strategy effective, but to say they win is like saying the playground bully wins every time he gets another kids lunch money We can not reach Dr. King's dream using Carmichel's way. This is a time when we need dialog not diatribes. We need education not intimidation.
A note to the politicians, pundits and professional agitators: The I-Nation has always been willing to listen and learn and discuss, but we will not be bullied by anybody.
I’m reminded of a story Don Imus told where his son asked him “What’s the difference between white and black people?” Don pointed to two pickup trucks, one red and one blue and asked him what the difference between them was. All Wyatt could come up with was that they were different colors. They had the same engines. They did the same type of work. All that was different was color. Imus looked at his son and said, “It’s the same with people.” Which sounds a lot like Dr. King's “Judging a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.” Which I heard for the first time on the radio.
It was played by a man named Don Imus.
Welcome back Cowboy.