Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Reverend Jeremiah
"God Damn America" Wright:
Here We Go Again

I'm tired of this issue, and I'm sure that the Obama campaign staff is tired of it, too. But, the non-trivial matter of The Reverend Jeremiah "God Damn America" Wright, and his 20-year post as Barack Obama's pastor, is still around. And for good reason.

Politics affects America's decision-making process regarding the war on terror, so from time to time it's necessary to wade in and start shoveling.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright

For 20 years, a presidential candidate listened to sermons from The Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The Reverend Wright's sermons are on publicly-available DVDs, where you could hear the minister say:
"God damn America ... for killing innocent people.

"God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans.

"God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme."
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., pastor of an American presidential candidate, in a sermon delivered in April 2003.

You could also learn that The Reverend J.W. believes that American foreign policy invited the 9/11 terror attacks.

To be fair, Presidential candidate Barack Obama says that he had no clue about The Reverend Jeremiah Wright's beliefs. And, now that they're public knowledge, he doesn't agree with them.

This is About Race, Right?

Wrong! I'm aware that The Reverend Wright is black. I've seen videos of the man. That isn't why I disagree with his "God damn America" beliefs.

I disagree with him because I do not believe that America is damnable: any more than any other country whose administrators have, without exception, been human beings.

I do believe that Americans have treated minority groups very poorly at times. But I do not believe that this recurring bigotry is a reason to reject the promise and reality of America.

And I am disturbed when the pastor of someone who may be President next year says, and clearly believes, "God damn America," and that America invented the AIDS virus to kill black people.

I'd be disturbed if the people involved were someone named Shamus O'Toole, (fictional) pastor to Conor Flaherty, (hypothetical) red-haired son of Eire and candidate for the presidency.

This isn't About Race

What's at issue here is how interested a presidential candidate is in the welfare of America. Having a pastor who has said "God damn America," and whose church sold DVDs of the statement, is something that should cause concern about a candidate.

Even if the pastor, and the candidate, are black.

I started out just being concerned about the Reverend Wright's "God damn America" belief.

Now, I'm concerned about the belief I've seen expressed: that criticism of The Reverend Wright is, by definition, racially motivated because The Reverend Wright is black.

Snap out of it!

This isn't about race. It's about America.

I have to go now, I'll be back: after reading the transcript, I hope.


I'll give Barack Obama credit: He's a fine orator: possibly one of the best that western civilization has seen in the last century. That doesn't make him right. And it certainly does not mean that any criticism of Mr. Obama, his positions, or his entourage is racist. (More of that at the end of this overly-long post)

On the other hand, Obama said 'we should look to the past, without becoming victims of it.' That's a paraphrase, not a quote. That idea makes sense.

Transcript of Barack Obama's 'Race' Speech, March 18, 2008

"Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union" (March 18, 2008)

One excerpt:
"The profound mistake of Reverend Wrights sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. Its that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."
One thing I appreciate in Barack Obama's rhetoric is that he seems to be making an effort to get over the idea that this is still the sixties: that somewhere activists are rallying for passage of the Civil Rights Act; that blood still flows on the pavement of Kent State; and that hate-filled, pot-bellied southern sheriffs embody all that isn't groovy.

This does not mean that I agree with the policies promoted by Mr. Obama's presidential campaign, or that I find his voting record acceptable. I don't, entirely.

Snap Out of it, America!

Sure, race can be an issue. But it isn't the only issue. And it isn't always an issue. My hope is that more people will wake up, realize that it hasn't been 1964 for a long time, and that it's time to move on.

Still later.

One of the cable news networks has a rather nice article on how "Obama urges Americans to help heal racial divide." CNN (March 18, 2008)

Here's an excerpt:
"The remarks that caused the most recent firestorm 'were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity,' Obama said.

"Obama said that if he knew Wright only through clips played on television and YouTube, he also would see a reason to distance himself from the minister.

" 'But the truth is that isn't all that I know of the man,' he said."
Sounds good. The flip side was at the bottom of the article:
"More than 50 black ministers from around the country participated in a 90-minute conference call Sunday with representatives of the Obama campaign, according to Dr. Frederick Haynes, one of the participants. Haynes said the pastors -- some of whom were angry with Obama -- felt something had to be done to address the concerns of African-Americans, particularly those in the black ministry.

"Haynes, pastor of the 10,000-member Friendship-West Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas -- who considers Wright a 'mentor' -- said there was a sense of 'outrage,' a feeling that Wright was 'being lynched in the media' and reduced to sound bites by those 'ignorant of black culture, black expression and the black church.' "
This seems to be the same, tired, old line.

A black minister who sells DVDs with the "God damn America" refrain, and who says he believes that America invented AIDs to kill black people is "being lynched in the media." "Lynched" is an emotionally-charged word, one you'll often see used, when non-blacks do or say something that doesn't show people like The Reverend Wright in a good light.

The "reduced to sound bites" part would fit, if the video clips hadn't included extended statements like this excerpt:
"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."
It's difficult to see how this "sound bite" could mean anything other than "God damn America."

Earlier, related, posts:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.