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Sticks and Stones

April 11, 2007

We have a kid in our neighborhood who isn’t very nice. Each one of our kids has had a run-in with this kid at one point or another. We’ve had many conversations that start with a young one bursting through the front door, in tears, screaming, “I hate (kid’s name here). He’s not nice!” It’s true, he’s not nice. I don’t know if he’s just got some screw loose in there that makes him not nice or if his parents are not nice and he’s just learning well from them. Either way, the kid is decidedly not nice. He calls them names, he’s destructive, he manipulates other kids in the neighborhood into picking on them, etc. He’s just not nice.The conversation always goes the same way, after the tears are dried and our kiddos feel better.

“What happened?”

“He called me a big, fat idiothead.”

“He did?”

“Yes, and it really hurt my feelings.”

“I’m sure that it did. I’m sorry that he called you a big, fat idiothead. Do you think you’re a big, fat idiothead?”


“Then why let it bother you? Do we really care what this kid thinks? Doesn’t the fact that he’s acting like this really make him the big, fat Idiothead?”

We discuss how others only have the power to hurt us with words if we allow it. We discuss the sad fact that there are people in this world that are unkind, that we can’t stop them from being unkind, that there will always be unkind people. We discuss the old “sticks and stones” rhyme. We repeat the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” rhyme. We try to teach them to get some thicker skin. We try to teach them to have enough self-esteem to realize that it doesn’t matter what this kid thinks.

Yes, I’m drawing a parallel to this Don Imus thing. I’m just truly so blown away by the uproar over his words. These women, these extraordinarily talented women, are going to Rutgers University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. They’re great athletes. They have bright futures, every one of them. I’m floored that they, like my kids, really care what some random guy thinks of them. Why does it matter to them what Don Imus thinks? Surely, they are so far out of his league that he’s the big, fat idiothead here. Just like the kid up the street, he doesn’t have anything of value to offer them. He’s a nobody in their world. The Rutgers coach went on this morning about how “injurious” Imus’ words were to her players. Yes, Imus is an idiot, but he’s a shock-jock. That’s what he does. And his words can only be injurious if the Rutgers players allow them to be. Why not just let it go? Why not just rise above it and blow him off entirely?

Back to the First Amendment thing, isn’t that what makes this country great? Isn’t is our ability to co-exist with differing opinions that makes us so different from all of the kingdoms and dictatorships out there? Isn’t it an awesome thing that Pro-Life and Pro-Choice can co-exist peacefully? Isn’t it a great thing that Republican and Democrat both get a say? Isn’t that what democracy is all about? Listening to all of the voices out there (even if we don’t agree) and then making decisions based on a fully educated perspective? Do we really want to draw the line on something like this and institute censorship just because Don Imus acted like a big, fat idiothead? That seems to me like we stepped onto the slippery slope in shoes with no tread on the bottom.

How about if we just let the market do what it does best? In the past, when we’ve had issues with something a company or a person did, we let our feelings be known by refusing to buy the product, watch the show, attend the rally,or whatever. The uproar over this statement has had the complete opposite effect. Isn’t that what shock-jocks do? Isn’t that how they make their money, get their name out there, increase their ratings? If we, instead of freaking out and going on the national news, just refused to listen to the guy, we would create the effect we were seeking (shutting him up) without imposing censorship, making more laws about decency, or infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights. Don has the right to say whatever he wants. We have the right not to listen.

As a side note, it’s absolutely incredible to me that we focus on what Imus said specifically and make it a huge issue when Simon Cowell is on the most popular show on television right now saying things to the contestants like, “Wear as least amount of clothes as possible because, look, … you can’t do well in this competition based on your voice because there are much better singers.”

I’m hoping to see the Rutgers coach turn this away from a race issue and use this opportunity to showcase the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team for what they are–intelligent, talented women who have enough self-esteem to blow off what someone as insignificant as Don Imus thinks.

There are a lot of Idiotheads out there. There always will be. Censorship won’t stop them from being Idiotheads. Let’s just pretend that Don Imus and those like him are the bad kids in the neighborhood and find someone else to play with.

A wise man (my father) once said, “Rule #1: Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Rule #2: There are a LOT of turkeys.”

Another wise man (Thomas Jefferson) said: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lynda permalink
    April 11, 2007 10:32 am

    As usual, my dear cousin, you have great wisdom and insight. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject and agree with your assessment of the Don Imus / Rutgers situation.

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