Imus and I were close at one time -- I used to talk to him on the phone. In those days, you could call him up and ask him to nuke someone, and then he would play the sound of an explosion. I used to ask him to nuke my rector, and he would make me tell him why and I would make up something ridiculous. Walt needed to be nuked because he wore a plaid sportcoat to the office, I told him once, and Imus said, Okay, he's gone! and played the explosion. Is this that woman priest? he would say, back in the day when there weren't many of us, and I would own up to it. You need to get your life together, he would say, and I would agree, and then he would nuke someone. These conversations all took place on air.
Coming soon: Rex the Wonder Dog! he would say, apropos of nothing, and once in a while I would call up and ask When is Rex the Wonder Dog coming?
SOON! Imus would answer. Jeez, where do these people come from? he would ask his sidekick. I bet if I called up and asked him when Rex the Wonder Dog was coming the answer would still be SOON!!! and this was almost thirty years ago.
He was always biting. It's my memory, though, that in those days he was on the side of the underdog, poking holes in the inflated. That's what satire is: it's a redress of injustice, a sly and savage protest. It paves the way in art for things to be better than they are now in real life. I remember a piece Imus read on the air the morning after John Lennon was killed -- it was straight, no jokes on that day. It was about our culture of violence, about what we were about when a person could be killed for being a poet. It was a humane and dignified essay.
There is an essential place for satire in a society that intends to become better than it is. Satire is a powerful engine for change -- art is often the first to do what politics can do only later on. But it's a loaded gun, and needs to be handled with care. Its necessary savagery endangers it: satire isn't misanthropy. It ceases to be itself when it turns on the weak, becoming instead the propaganda arm of unjust power.
People saw this immediately in the case of the young women from Rutgers. Young people trying hard to make something wonderful of themselves aren't the ones who need deflating.
Tomorrow in Ardsley, NY: St. Barnabas' Quiet Day in Eastertide with Barbara Crafton, 10-1. Telephone 914-693-3366 for travel directions.
St. Luke's, Metuchen, NJ, Saturday evening 5:30 and Sunday Morning, 8 and 10am, Barbara Crafton will preach and celebrate at all services. For directions, visit http://www.stlukes17.org/Directions.htm
Next weekend: Barbara Crafton is the featured speaker for the Swindell Lecture at Haw River State Park in North Carolina. For registration information, contact Harrison T. Simons, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, she will preach at both 8.15 and 10.30 services at The Church of the Holy Comforter, 320 E.Davis St, Burlington, NC 27215. (336) 227-4251