“I’m a good person.” So says Don Imus. At least he has said so every morning since this Rutgers Bruhaha. I mean the guy has started every sentence he says with, “I’m a good person.” I’m a good person and the sun is shining today.” I’m a good person and my cereal was cold this morning.” “I’m a good person and 16 troops were injured in Iraq.” I’m a good person and I hope Harold Ford is OK.” I don’t know why he hopes Harold Ford is OK. Harold Ford probably just doesn’t want to talk to him. Harold Ford is probably the only guest who has decided that Don Imus is at best a racist and at least a sexist and he doesn’t want to participate in his shameful nonsense anymore. At least I hope that’s why Don Imus can’t seem to find Mr. Ford.
Does giving to a charity make someone a good person? Don Imus makes about $25 million a year. I think it’s easier to be a good person when it’s not painful to be charitable. That doesn’t mean that his charity work with cancer kids or his advocacy for vets, or his profitable ‘green’ thing is meaningless, but giving without having to make a choice between your welfare and someone else’s does have consequences that might lead one to question the “I’m a good person” crap. Maybe that’s not clear, so let me explain. If I write 10 checks to a variety of charities that total $250,000, I am likely to think “look at all this good I am doing for all those unfortunate souls.” If I advocate for better conditions for vets on my radio show, I am likely to think “Look at all the good I’ve done for all those unfortunate souls.” If I spend ten days at a ranch with my name, which I promote, and from which I broadcast, I might think “Look what I’ve done for these poor unfortunate children. I must be a wonderful guy.” After a while, and maybe despite the things I say publicly, I begin to believe I am so terrific, and I am doing such good things, that I am entitled to say anything I want to say, regardless of how distasteful or unkind, because I am a good person – after all, look at my record, my history, my checkbook.
David Burnett is a good person. Today he went to the Arlington Courthouse and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he got a $500 parking violation for unlawfully occupying a handicapped space. He never saw the sign, nor did Jordan when she went out to put money in the meter. (But that’s no surprise.) David is a good citizen, a kind human being, and a wonderful father. He has served on jury duty, he writes letters to our city council, he does not litter, and he is not apt to use racial or sexist slurs — because he really is a good person. I am not saying that we never tell an ethnic joke or make fun of someone who has no taste in clothes, but we don’t do it on a radio show and we would never excuse this kind of entitled behavior by saying, “look at my record, I have given hundred of thousands of dollars to charities-- of course I make millions and I do allow guests on my show to talk about tits and ass and mostly they are all white males – but I’m a good person."
Rose Groman is a good person. She is a woman who has spent her life caring for others. Her children as they grew and her husband who had Multiple Sclerosis and was totally disabled by the time he was 45. She fed him, lifted him, put him on the toilet and yelled him to sleep at night (that’s the way they communicate in my family—see Gefiltefishchronicles.com) She did her best to supplement his income and his Veterans pension by becoming a beautician (we had a real hair dryer in the basement and dyed my friend Joyce’s hair green), and she sold Banff Knitwear -- a designer knitwear company owned by an uncle, (I still have all the sequins knit dresses—to die for!) As a young woman she worked for the Boonton Jewish Center as a volunteer and then as a volunteer at St Clare's hospital in Denville. She didn’t have any Black friends but there were care givers who helped her with my dad every day and she was always respectful of the work they did and of who they were as people. I never heard her tell a racist joke and although she thought women were smarter to marry rich and not have to work, (she was not wrong on that one), she was proud of all I and my female cousins achieved. Admittedly, when I suggested she have her hair done at the Mews (the assisted living facility) because it would be easier than going to her regular beautician — she suggested I look around the room at the people who did have their hair done at the Mews. But that’s about as unkind as she gets. I discovered that despite her meager income from Social Security and Veterans benefits, over the years she has contributed to more than 30 charities. While it’s $5 here and $10 there, she had to make choices about buying something for herself or giving it to someone more in need. Rose Groman is a good person.
And there are other people who can legitimately call themselves good people – but my list of those people is much too long for this blob. Suffice to say, they have given of themselves without having to be thanked or even noticed. They are teachers, organization people, mothers, daughters, (go to goodaughters.net) photojournalists, writers, business people and corporate wonks. They spend their lives trying to make things better, as opposed to trying to make a point about being a good person. Are you sick of the “good person” stuff? So am I.
Here’s something you might find interesting. The highest form of Tzedukah (charity) in Judaism is to help someone help themselves. And, here’s the most important thing about it, when you give you need to do it without any notoriety. Real charity is about being kind and selfless. That’s how one qualifies to be a good person. We’re just sayin...Iris