Thomas Paine:

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

OBAMA: Wrong on Wright

But he's right for his time and place in history

        A funny thing happened to me as I meandered through this week of news and conflagration: For a brief moment, I lost faith, and I lost hope. I lost the faith I had been nurturing in Barack Obama, a faith based in part on the denial of my skeptical side, and the desire to be part of a progressive movement, to see the positives and give him the benefit of the doubt; but, I also lost hope that the Democrats can win the Presidency in 2008.
        Pretty scary.
        So, please forgive me, O Gods of Positivity, Faith, and Hope— and those still-hopeful and faithful within my progressive, liberal sphere. I could not help myself. I could not deny my very eyes and ears, to pretend Obama did not respond exactly consistent with his role, as Rev. Wright had described it—as the politician he is.
        Reverend Wright should hold a news conference and say, “I rest my case.”
        What was it my eyes saw and my ears heard? Well, on Monday morning I turned on C-Span and caught Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s entire speech before the National Press Club. What I saw were standing ovations, an energetic, wry and humorous exercise of free speech; and what I heard was a great deal of truth, spoken with the lack of shame, timidity and doublespeak we’re used to hearing out of the mouths of politicians and pundits. What I heard was opinion and a point of view. What I did not hear was an attack on Barack Obama.
        But the truth is often treated as an attack by the entity it exposes. This is human nature and the nature of human organizations, governments, corporations, clubs, political parties, families, the media, and the rest of it. It would be nice to remember that simply because one is offended does not mean the offending event was false!
        It would be nice to remember the First Amendment of the Constitution too. It would be nice if we ask ourselves about truth. But instead we kill the messenger of truth.
        It would have inspired me better and restored my faith in Barack Obama, if he had stood up and defended Rev. Wright’s right to an opinion and educated the American people and the media about the First Amendment to the Constitution, rather than being defensive in a near-pathological extreme, by smearing him and rejecting him personally, completely, and for all time.
        Of course, the mainstream media welcomed this denunciation, for it calmed the Beast of American Empire, where the rule of silence, the taboo against knowing what we are, reigns supreme. Obama could in no way sanction the truth expressed, for example, in Rev. Wright’s comments about 9-11 being a matter of the reaping of seeds sown, of retaliation for the State terrorism the United States has heaped upon foreign others, of “blowback,” as Chalmers Johnson so prophetically wrote about before 9-11 in his book Blowback, the Costs and Consequences of American Empire. Obama simply did the prudent, polite —to the powers that be— thing, the politic thing, the only thing to do, where the cultural de rigueuer requires a certain honoring of lies, in particular the lie of the innocence of the United States government where 9-11 is concerned.
        I sent an email soon after I heard Rev. Wright’s speech, saying, “I LOVE HIM!” This is remarkable, given that I am a non-theist and not known for my attraction to religious leaders. (to put it mildly) Imagine my bafflement, however, when I tuned in to watch Countdown and heard Keith Olbermann say that Rev. Wright had “thrown Obama under the bus.” I mean, had we watched the same speech? But this take on Wright’s speech was everywhere in the mainstream media; no hide nor hair was to be found of what I had seen and heard—not here, nor there, nor anywhere—except on DemocracyNow! DemocracyNow!’s coverage, in keeping with the alternative news program’s way of giving a more in-depth picture of events, showed lengthy portions of Rev. Wright’s speech, Obama’s response, and then had a debate on the subject between one Obama supporter and one Obama detractor. Not that they had a Rev. Wright supporter on the show, which would have been even better. But it was on DemocracyNow! that I finally heard somebody say something positive about Rev. Wright’s speech. It was Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, who said, “...what is clearly a dog pile-on campaign at the national level against Wright...,” and, “I also agree with much, if not the vast majority, of what he had to say, frankly. And I think he’s also correct—Wright, that is—I think he’s also correct that Obama couldn’t embrace him, couldn’t do anything except distance himself from that largely astute analysis of American power and other contradictions of the governing regime of both parties, because of the warrants of trying to win an election in which the discursive center of gravity is much farther to the right.”
        There it is: Obama is a politician and speaks as politicians do, just as Rev. Wright said. It happens to be the truth.
        Deal with it.
        And what made me think neither Democrat could win the Presidency now, beyond the fact they have soiled the Democratic Party’s nest better than any Republican ever dreamed of doing? Here’s the thing: these two, in their eagerness to win every heart and mind of every persuasion, no matter how wrong-headed that persuasion may be, by moving to the right, trying to out-do each other on religion and feisty threats against Iran, have given the right exactly what the right will capitalize on—”hey, McCain is the true Republican!” Rather than being a contrast to the right, being true progressives and liberals, they try to identify with the right. Rather than respecting the notion that religion has no place in politics, that no politician should ever have to pass a religious litmus test, they pander to conservative Christians. Rather than giving us truth, they perpetuate lies. It’s the same ol’ same ol’ politics.
        Am I sick of it? You bet. Do I need to take a bath and relax? You bet. (Thanks, Donald, for that rhetorical thingy.)

        So, I’m back from my bath. And what a difference a bath can make! All I had to do was to get a different perspective, a wider view—the big picture, as they say. This came with my reading in my bath (bubble) of an article in the beautiful Orion magazine, entitled, “Revolutions Per Minute, Radical transformation is all around us,” by Rebecca Solnit. There, she points out that positive radical changes have happened incrementally over time, so that we hardly notice how far we’ve come: “Sex before marriage. Bob and his boyfriend. Madame Speaker. Do those words make your hair stand on end or your eyes widen? Their flatness is the register of successful revolution.” And she makes a case for patience: “This is why we need training in slowness, and the long attention span that makes it possible to see the remarkable changes of our time.”
        It was then, while reading the article, that I thought, “A woman and a black man are running for President! Wow. Where did that come from? Whatever, I’m glad I lived long enough to see that one!” I also realized Rev. Wright was correct in another way. Rather than condemning or criticizing Obama for saying things politicians tend to say, for being a politician, he was forgiving him instead. He was saying, “That’s okay—it’s how you are right now. It’s your role speaking, not you.”

        America is adjusting to seeing new faces in old roles, and we are having growing pains. Therefore, I can afford to forgive Obama too, as Rev. Wright has, for not being perfect. Anyway, sometimes politicians change in accordance with the will of the people, once they get into office. It hasn’t happened in a long time—gr-r-r-r—but, given that we don’t have much time left to fix our gravest problems, it must happen this time. Long attention span for social change is fine; long attention span on global warming just ain’t gonna work.

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