Monday, March 17, 2008

The Difference Between Wright and Wrong

With the revelation of a number of videos showing "controversial" sermons made by Barack Obama's good friend, spiritual mentor, and African American Religious Leadership Committee adviser, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the American lack of self-awareness was once again revealed in all its shameful and embarrassing glory.

It has been made very clear, time and time again, that outspoken and incendiary voices are not to be tolerated in the democratic presidential process (save for the bigoted views of your average Huckabees, Thompsons, Romneys, and McCains, with the added endorsements of serial racist and chronic hate-spewer John Hagee), and with the recent dismissal of Samantha Power from the Obama campaign and Geraldine Ferraro from the Clinton team, we can see how this process seems to mandate a playing field where everyone pretends to be respectful of one another and no one actually says anything important or substantial. The candidates themselves are supposed to remain judicious with their viewpoints and not stray too far (if at all) from an Americocentric vision of the world. Statements regarding the illegal invasion of Iraq are allowed, but must not ever include such crazy and anti-US words like "illegal" or "invasion." It's always a "war" and it was always just and right and correct to murder well over a million Iraqis (over eight-hundred thousand deaths have been reported and documented, though the actual numbers are substantially higher), displace about 5 million from their homes, and wound millions more. These figures continue to grow every day and are seldom, if ever, mentioned.

No no, it is the troops that need our help and care and who deserve a safe return from the killing fields. It is only the deaths of American soldiers and lack of safety for Western 'diplomats' that has turned Americans (and their representative politicians) against the 2003 invasion. Absolutely nowhere on either Clinton or Obama's sites (I didn't bother to check McCain's) are the words "Iraqi casualties" mentioned and only Obama even refers to America's "moral and security responsibility to confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis" of its millions of refugees (the result of American invasion and occupation). Basically, American deaths are sad and terrible and wrong and therefore should stop, but Iraqi deaths seem not to register in any way within the consciousness of our supposed leaders (or the general public for that matter).

It is with this mentality that any comment critical of America is viewed as treasonous, inflammatory, and downright evil by the mainstream media, the misinformed (i.e. average) voter, and the brainwashed hysteric (see: Bible Belt resident). Critique of the American system, awareness of its historic inequities, and knowledge of its past century of aggressively imperial foreign policy is not only looked down on by the American public, any mere mention of these issues are shunned and the speaker ostracized. Obviously, as it stands, America can do no wrong. Whatever else happens in this world, America remains altruistic, honorably noble, and a protector of freedom. The United States is, in the eyes, minds, and hearts of its inhabitants, a beacon of justice and liberty. A shining "city upon a hill," as John Winthrop put it. Essentially, America finds itself much like a young Indiana Jones, alone and without help, clutching the stolen Cross of Coronado, and shouting idly for any sign of his compatriots in a desolate Monument Valley. Upon hearing no reply, Indy, and America too, calmly concedes without the slightest hint of irony, "Everybody's lost but me."

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke the truth quite often during his sermons in years past. He spoke passionately about the injustice for African-Americans in this country as well as about less domestic issues regarding the United States' drive for hegemony across the globe. The recent publicity of some of his less complacent statements has signaled his ridicule in the media and public domain and his immediate abandonment by Barack Obama. Apparently, American feelings are too important to be riled up by silly things such as the "truth" and "historical awareness." We Americans are far too sensitive about how great we are that calling us out on our dastardly deeds and complete complicity in the current state of the world and injustice done unto others on a constant basis (and paid for with our hard work and tax dollars) is always frowned upon. The lesson is: If you wish to voice dissent, please do it as quietly and dispassionately as possible; that way, you're easier to ignore while we heat up some more HotPockets and watch America's Next Top Fluffer.

On one occasion in 2003, reported on ABC News, Rev. Wright repudiated the United States for its unfair treatment of black people, stating,

"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."
I find nothing incorrect, dubious, or vile in any of these statements. Anyone who knows anything about the racial inequities in America would conclude the same thing. Alas, panic set in to the Obama campaign with the release of this news, and immediately distanced itself from the pastor by denouncing his accurate views as "inflammatory rhetoric." Meanwhile, it is Rev. Wright who has been speaking the truth and who has revealed himself as far more cognizant than his presidential candidate disciple of American imperial blowback. A mere six days after the events of September 11, 2001, Rev. Wright was preaching from the pulpit about the root causes of anti-imperial backlashes, stating in full clarity of vision,
"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. 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."
Now, for Wright to say these things to his congregation does not make him anti-American in as much as criticizing Zionism is in no way promoting anti-Semitism. He is simply aware of real historic factors that play a large part in America's dealing with the world as a whole and its own citizens at home. Wright is not anti-American. He doesn't speak out against people, but against governmental, military, and socio-economic practices that harm people, people that may or may not be American. He questions American policies here and abroad and preaches a social gospel that informs his followers of a reality that truly cannot be compared with the blind racism and ethnocentrism found in most Southern, white megachurches. In short, Wright is not wrong.

And yet again, Barack Obama can be counted on to show his complete lack of dignity and spine by feeling compelled to "vehemently disagree" and "strongly condemn" his pastor's statements, adding in an article for the Huffington Post, "I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies." How can anyone who is supposed to be the champion of international diplomacy claim that anything negative said about the United States must be ignored and blown off as absurd? This country has problems! Serious problems! And turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to the discussion of such issues is patently unacceptable.

Obama countered Wright's 9/11 statements with this cute bit of American idolatry and total absence of historical insight, "The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification...It sounds like he (Rev. Wright] was trying to be provocative."

Indeed, we truly are in deep, deep trouble regardless of who winds up winning the presidency come November.


drewayers said...

Right on. You know I'm an Obama-niac, but I really dislike his handling of this whole situation...perhaps his speech today will clarify somethings. The reaction to this whole "situation" by the media demonstrates the extent to which this is still a deeply and systemically racist country. And I scold Obama for not pointing this out. I praised Obama when he removed the lapel flag, stating that it was an empty symbol of patriotism. I wish he'd do the same here. It seems that the only way a person can win the presidency in this country is by publicly fellating god and country. A vast majority of the citizens of this country are like whiny, insecure children -- they need to have their values constantly reaffirmed, and they need to be frequently told that they are "special" and "good" and "righteous" children.

Nima Shirazi said...

Agreed, Drewbert, agreed.

So, what did you think of his speech?

The Preservation Society said...

Notice how the media never reacted like this to McCains relationship with Jerry Falwell. You didn't see McCain backed into a corner, forced to defend himself...won't happen either.