Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wright is Right (About Some Things)

The Clinton (or is it the McCain?) attack machine has now turned on Barack Obama by targeting his pastor, Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama then forced Wright to step down from an advisory post on his campaign’s African American Religious Leadership Committee. Not unrelatedly, Wright is also retiring from his position at Obama’s church.

There’s a certain irony here, as in much that the Clintons do when they throw “the kitchen sink” at their rivals. There is an inexpugnable rumor in right-wing circles that Obama is a Muslim. Who knows who started it. But Hillary has been quoted as saying that “as far as [she] knows,” there’s nothing to that “charge.” One would think that her supporters, especially the erstwhile ladies’ libbers who have morphed into high-minded liberal ladies would object; after all, their politics is all about niceness and “celebrating difference.” But because they think that electing Bill Clinton’s wife would constitute a great leap forward for Womankind, they are her most loyal constituency; in their eyes, she can do no wrong. So they will not insist that she say something like -- “so what if he is a Muslim?” – not if illiberal words can do Obama harm. It’s not just the Clintons who are unprincipled opportunists; many of their supporters are too.

However, there is indeed something to be wary of in the Obama-Wright connection – namely, that it exists at all. There are many reasons why, in the days of slavery and segregation and even nowadays in some quarters, the Black Church was black America’s “salvation.” For one thing, thanks to white Southern piety (or fear of impiety), it was comparatively immune from racism’s worst predations. It is therefore not surprising that, at the height of the civil rights movement and subsequently, some black clergymen would become prominent in the struggle. But Obama is not from that world. Were he “spiritually” or politically connected to his pastor only for appearance sake – because American politicians cannot seem ungodly to a benighted electorate -- then his ties to Wright might be forgivable. But this does not seem to be the case. By all accounts, Obama is a believer. More than two centuries after enlightened thinkers definitively exploded the beliefs upon which Christianity (and other Abrahamic religions) rest, there is no excuse for this. [In fact, I suspect that Obama, like most Americans, deceives himself about faith. As a well educated, intelligent and thoughtful person, he can’t really believe such nonsense, though he probably thinks he does, for any of a variety of morally and psychologically suspect reasons.] The same criticism applies of course to Hillary Clinton. To the degree that her vaunted religiosity is not feigned or that she is not in a state of self-deception, there is reason to worry about her judgment too.

Obama’s “faith” is troubling, but what Reverend Wright said is not. It’s right on. For example, in a sermon on the Sunday after 9/11, Wright purportedly suggested that the United States brought the attacks on itself. The New York Times quotes him as saying: “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.” Don’t expect Obama or Hillary and Bill or any other prominent Democrat to sign on to this, but since they’re not idiots and they’re reasonably well informed, in their hearts they know he’s right.

Then, according to the same article, Wright said: “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

Malcolm X got into trouble with liberals after the Kennedy assassination for using that expression about the chickens. Malcolm is no longer demonized the way he used to be; he has even become something of an icon in popular culture. But Wright’s reference to chickens coming home to roost conjures up the bad old days; no matter that what he – and Malcolm – said is true. Wright is also guilty of stepping on the Third Rail of American (especially Democratic party) politics – by saying something that could be construed as less than unabashed praise for the state of Israel and its crimes. His remark about supporting the use of state terrorism against Palestinians, though obviously true, crossed a line where a pusillanimous Obama, aspiring to lead the Party of Pusillanimity, dares not go.

[As I’ve noted before, Obama wasn’t always as servile as he now is on the Israel/Palestine Question. Expect his good deeds to come back to haunt him.]

Then in a 2003 sermon, according to The Times, Wright said that blacks should condemn the United States. “The government gives them drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn American for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” Apart from the reference to the Bible, there is nothing to fault in this either. [What Wright said is remarkable because it implies, no doubt unwittingly, that, like America, God, if He existed, would have to be counted as cruel and incompetent and generally full of Himself.]

Wright also said that we live “in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” and that “Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger.” Can anyone deny this? Can Obama, even as he distances himself from it?

Apparently, Wright is also “guilty” of identifying America with the Ku Klux Klan, by having used three “ks” to spell “Amerikkka.” In the Black Power days, this spelling was a way of calling attention to the centrality of African American oppression throughout American history. In the same period, many white leftists took to substituting a “k” (only one) for the “c” in “America.” Then the reference was to Kafka’s novel, Amerika, and thereby to the absurdity of the ambient culture. There was also the implication that the Land of the Free had come to be of a piece with authoritarian (perhaps even Nazi) Germany. In this regard, it is interesting to observe how profoundly impressions have changed after Cheney and Bush and their Democratic enablers. Today, in comparison with the United States, Germany is a bastion of decency, human rights and the rule of law; and everybody knows it, even in the United States.

In recent decades, these spellings have rankled self-declared patriotic leftists of the old school – the now deceased Richard Rorty is a prime example. These are people who deserve to be irritated at every opportunity. I won’t engage their “arguments” here except to note that both Obama and Clinton are in their camp. Verbal patriotism is not the only reason those two are scoundrels, but it helps assuage their bad consciences. It helps them think they’re doing the right thing when they “support the troops” by funding wars they claim to oppose. Even worse, it helps them to support Cheney’s and Bush’s war aims, by conceding the “need” for a quasi-permanent Amerikkkan/Amerikan presence in Iraq.

In a word, Wright is more right than Obama. Except for the “reverend” thing (assuming his faith is for real), better he than Obama to rid us of those dreadful and pestiferous Clintons. Too bad that the negative forces the Clintons unleashed have dealt him such a low blow. According to The Times, the United Church of Christ issued a 1400 word statement praising Wright’s church for its community service and work to nurture youth. It also praised the pastor for speaking out against homophobia and sexism in the black community. Shame on the Clintons (and/or McCain) for turning the media against him, and on the godly Obama for not standing by his man. Evidently, in Amerik(kk)a nowadays, audacity, like hope – and loyalty too -- has its limits.


A Christian Prophet said...

It's not about the pastor. If Obama's THEOLOGY is seen for what it is the election is lost. See:

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.