Jesse Jackson Cracks 48-Hour Redemption Barrier

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by Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

The world of mass-media absolution was sent into shock last week when the Reverend Jesse Jackson shattered a slew of long-standing redemption speed records – lowering the previous mark on some of them by several years. Some of these records were thought to be as impregnable as Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. And breaking the 48-hour barrier had often been considered physically impossible. Up until now, Jackson’s previous personal best had been an unimpressive 4 years in the "redemption after racial/ethnic intolerance" category, after his "Hymietown" incident. Among the records that Jackson’s amazing feat shattered: Fastest redemption by an African-American political figure: This had previously been held by Mayor Marion Barry. Barry still holds the record in the chutzpah category, which is reserved for those select few whose ghastly behavior and subsequent return to civilized society are so cathartic that their performance is forever engraved in the American heart. Fastest redemption after sexual shenanigans by a religious leader: Jackson also blew away the record held previously by the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. Fastest redemption after being caught diddling an aide: Jackson’s two-day feat easily bested the existing record of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Fastest redemption by an African-American celebrity: Jackson here topped what was thought to have been a record unbreakable by anyone other than the previous record holder, Darryl Strawberry. This consensus of absolution commentators was solidified by the fact that Strawberry had held the second, third, and fourth best marks in this category, in addition to his record.

Congratulations Order of Day

The buzz surrounding Jackson’s record-shattering performance was intense, as accolades poured in for the Reverend. "I remind people that Reverend Jesse Jackson should not be judged just by this single, amazing performance," the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a news conference in New York City. "We should remember that during the last 35 years, it was Jesse Jackson who made up all those neat rhymes, that sort of got South Carolina to kind of abandon the Confederate Flag, that went to foreign shores to bring home prisoners of war for this nation at a time when we were nearly out of them. Did I mention that he made up a lot of neat rhymes? It was Jesse Jackson that raised issues that others didn’t raise. And look& at least she wasn’t a white woman." Even Republican absolution analyst Ann Coulter had to praise Jackson’s feat, but she was careful not to give sole credit to Jackson. "God’s grace worked fast," Coulter noted. Meanwhile Jackson, in his first public appearance after his time of healing reiterated something he had said often in the months before the presidential election, giving this advice to his followers: "Stay out of the bushes." "His statement is very clear. That’s the first, second, third, fourth, and last word he will say regarding that issue," said Rainbow/PUSH/SHOVE Coalition spokesmomma Keyashawnaiana Qweesy. "Everything henceforward is focusing on our future plans and goals. Why keep dwelling on the distant, sordid past? As Joyce said, ‘History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awaken.’"  As Jackson had been preparing himself for his shot at the record books, he apparently received a phone call from President-elect Bush. Bush telephoned Jackson on the Friday before the inauguration, and offered Jackson words of encouragement: "It’s during times of trouble, which are often the most disturbing, troublesome times, that all of our difficulties seem to be upon us. I pray for you that, through these disturbingest of troubles, you’ll be in my prayers." The Rev. Jesse Jackson held a prayer service in Harlem as part of his Wall Street Project dedicated to looting the financial sector. During his sermon, the Reverend Jackson said: "The ground is no place for a champion to wallow on. If you’ve been with the bitches, it’s no reason to wallow in the ditches." In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Jackson said he had spent the two days prior to his redemption at home in Chicago with his family, undergoing the period of intense crisis that is the traditional preparation for attempts at redemption records. He said he had been doing "lots of thinking, lots of praying, lots of reflecting, and a whole heap o’ yellin’. Lordy, you don’t know the troubles I seen." Many speculated that it was those two days at home with his wife that were the major factor convincing Jackson to quickly return to public life and get back on the road. January 29, 2001

Gene Callahan is a regular contributor to, and Stu Morgenstern is contributing editor at The Frumious Bandersnatch.

2001, Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

Gene Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

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