Saturday, March 15, 2008

God damn America

These are the now infamous words of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the now retired pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, the congregation which Barack Obama calls his church.

My reaction to the argument against Wright's inflammatory sermons along with Obama's opponents' shock and dismay with the connection between Obama and his pastor, and to the reaction of the journalistic and political world, is complicated. The simplistic approach, that Wright has somehow insulted America, couldn't be more wrong to me. Consider these possibilities.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is right. For good reason this is something that no politician will ever admit. Strangely, it's something that journalists are unwilling to admit as well. Listen to a Jeremiah Wright sermon, an entire Jeremiah Wright sermon. I'll be the last to buy into his worship of and trust in God and Jesus, but I admire his willingness to speak social and political truths about the position of black Americans in a country which is filled with a racism it won't admit to. Wright speaks about a people abandoned by its government, betrayed by its leaders, isolated by its color. It's truth, and it's very hard to hear. But it's truth. I dare anyone to try to deny most of what Wright says. America is run by rich white people. Black people are discriminated against by the law and its enforcers. Hillary Clinton was never labeled with a despicable racial epithet . And isn't it his right, as the leader of a people who have not yet been able to completely throw off the yoke of oppression, to damn the country, and its government, which allows that oppression to exist?

It's shameful to force a politician to denounce a friend who has spoken nothing but the truth. No matter how difficult the truth is to bear, why is it that everyone from Keith Olbermann, to Jim Vicevich have required Barack Obama to denounce what his pastor has said. I can understand the political expedience, but no one has been willing to dig beneath the inflammatory statements to touch upon the truth of Wright's words. And why, in the end, has Barack Obama decided to denounce these words (because America cannot bear the truth). After all, Wright's words are not a case of wrongheaded racism like those of Geraldine Ferraro, nor are the the religious bigotry of McCain's spiritual advisors (John Hagee called the Catholic Church "the great whore" and televangelist Rod Parsley wants to wage religious war on Islam). I have to say that as much as I admire Keith Olbermann I found it difficult to bear the tone and tenor of his interview last night with Barack Obama, or the ridiculous analysis which followed immediately on the heels of the interview. The false piety from all sides is sickening.

Barack Obama did not condemn his friend, only his friends words. This is the best news to emerge from this fake controversey. For political reasons Obama has to distance himself from anyone who declares "God damn America." But he hasn't abandoned the man. He's also left the door open to that Wright's feelings of frustration are based in truth. Of course, that crack in the door leave jimmy space for any 527 that wants to use a crowbar of fear against the Obama campaign.

Since when is dissent unAmerican. Martin Luther King may have been a bit more graceful in his condemnation of racism in America, but he was saying the same thing. Nothing has every been achieved through blind patriotism. The only way we've ever moved forward in this country, the only way we ever became a country, is through dissent.

Is a person really tainted by the words or actions of his/her pastor? If so, then there are a lot of people in America who need to feel deep shame. Every Catholic who has ever been blessed by a pedophilic priest, or an Archbishop who protected one. Every evangelical minister who has showered hate on a gay person. Every store front born again pastor who has tithed a poor person deeper into poverty with the promise of a better world after this one.

No comments: