Posts Tagged ‘jeremiah wright’

Again with the Reverend

April 30, 2008

I’m a bit disappointed that Barack Obama finally saw fit to denounce and repudiate (denounced! repudiated! We declare him excommunicated and anathemized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and all his angels and all the reprobate!) the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Although I’m the whitest of white guys, I have some sort of weird soft spot for Wright. I must just like having fiery black preachers around.

I had foolishly hoped Obama really would be be able to transcend the awful conventions of political campaigns, especially the smug and phony patriotism that so poisons our political discourse (a subject for another day’s rant). He seemed to be doing so well, both in small things—eschewing those tacky flag pins—and in large—turning the last flap over Wright into an opportunity for a genuinely important discussion about race.

But I suppose after Wright seemed to imply Obama might secretly agree with him even Obama didn’t feel he had any choice; he was in a sort of “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” situation. Although really I’m not sure that’s exactly what Wright meant. He said

We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they’re pastors. They have a different person to whom they’re accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That’s what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do.

Heavens above, does anyone think politicians don’t say what they say and do what they do based on electability?? Whatever else Obama may be, he’s still a wily politician. If he weren’t, he would never have gotten where he is. And if he weren’t, he would frankly make a terrible president. I remember a good line from Joe Klein’s political roman à clef Primary Colors:

You don’t think Abraham Lincoln was a whore before he was a president? He had to tell his little stories and smile his shit-eating, backcountry grin. He did it all just so he’d get the opportunity, one day, to stand in front of the nation and appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature.’

Perhaps the real reason Obama had to do something was—as I heard some commentator (no idea who!) say on NPR—that Wright undermines Obama’s basic premise, that America is ready to put its racial problems behind it, and ready to elect a President who transcends racial (and other) divides. Wright’s racial anger belies that. Now, whether that’s really Obama’s premise I tend to doubt—slavery and other race-based horrors are America’s Original Sin (as I’ve said before), and we won’t be done with them for a long time—but yes, righteous anger doesn’t really suit Obama’s message. Some of Wright’s nuttier and more controversial views—his support for the odious Louis Farrakahn, his the-government-created-AIDS conspiracy-theory-mongering—are I think less interesting and worrying in themselves than because they same to be taken seriously by significant numbers of African-Americans. What does that say about the state of race relations in the country now? Nothing Obama’s campaign would like to bring up, I think.

Also on NPR I heard two Congressmen, one a supporter of Clinton and one of Obama, discussing Wright. The Clinton supporter (Emmanuel Cleaver, himself an African-American and a minister) was considerably more pro-Wright than the Obama supporter. My default assumption is that (despite being politicians!) they were both being honest—but it does make a perverse sort of sense for a Clinton supporter to want to emphasize Obama’s connection to Wright in the guise of “praise,” and for an Obama supporter to put all the distance possible between Obama and Wright.


The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright

March 18, 2008

Blogging on Barack Obama’s pastor problems is probably already passé, but a few thoughts anyway:

The United Church of Christ certainly is a Big Tent denomination. Wright and Obama’s Trinity Church, with its great size and aggressive Afrocentrism, sounds nothing like the quaint and sedate Congregational churches that dot the town greens of New England, whose congregations are as white as their clapboards (I say that as a member of one of those churches). I imagine they have a better choir than most of our NE churches, too…

As for Obama’s relationship with Wright, and Obama’s statement that he was unaware of Wright’s more inflammatory rhetoric, I certainly can’t judge–and neither can the pundits and bloggers who have been judging, as far as I can see. And really, I’m not sure what Wright said is as bad as all that:

The government gives them the 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 America 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.

Not something a politician wants to be associated with, certainly, but in context not entirely undeserved. Racism is America’s Original Sin, and it behooves us to stay aware of that.

Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.

Hard to deny that one. The big problem there, IMO, is campaigning from the pulpit.

[just after 9/11]: 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 right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

The least defensible of Wright’s quotes that I’ve seen. The “reason” 9/11 happened, insofar as the concept applies, is that Al Qaeda is evil. For all I know Wright said so; I haven’t seen the rest of his sermon that day, and obviously it might matter. But even if the quotation isn’t missing relevant context, there is an argument to be made that our policies abroad have consequences at home–if our policies the Middle East were different, would 9/11 have happened? (The answer is, “I don’t know.”) Certainly what Wright said is less odious than what Pat Robinson and Jerry Falwell and their ilk said. Not that that’s a defense.


OK, so maybe he’s a little crazy:

The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.

We started the AIDS virus . . .

and I’m not going to try to say anything nice about his association with the odious Louis Farrakhan.