On March 14, 2008, Obama wrote an article for the Huffington Post website entitled On My Faith and My Church in which he said the following:
Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
Barack Obama has a Pastor “problem” named Jeremiah Wright. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Workaday Liberal Bhfrik talked about this a few days ago. So did everyone else in the blogosphere and punditocracy. Through the remainder of the campaign season, Pastor Wright’s “hate” sermons will definitely be replayed occasionally by the networks, msnbc and cnn, and much more often on Fox. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, a cottage industry of Obama/Wright Hate America 527’s will appear during the general election campaign linking Obama to Wright’s fiery homilies (and calling him a radical Muslim who doesn’t wear a flag pin).
I don’t watch the news everyday, and this story slipped by me on Thursday, at least until I got to work. The 2 local dittoheads ambushed me at the time clock and demanded to know if I was still going to support Obama and vote for him. When I said yes they bombarded me with the talking points of the controversy du jour: Obama’s pastor’s a hatemonger. He hates whites. He hates america. He hates. Obama went to his church for 20 + years. Wright married him and baptized his kids.
Not knowing exactly how much was true and what was spin, I was nonetheless a little shocked by what they said but had a quick response: That I’d watch the speeches when I got home, and defer judgment until then. But I thought at that moment the Wright clap-trap sounded real bad for Barack’s chances in PA, and seems like perfect ammo for would-be Swift Boaters in the general election. I knew Obama would repudiate Wright’s comments like he had Farrakhan’s and fire Wright from any symbolic post he held in the campaign. I also mentioned to the ditto’s McCain’s relationship with Hagee, his ongoing courtship of Lehaye, and his disgusting about-face with Falwell and Robertson after rightly naming them “agents of intolerance” during his 2000 primary campaign. I outlined briefly those guys’ “greatest hits” of hate speech.
The more deeply indoctrinated dittohead (by this time the one with the short attention-span had dropped out of the conversation) ignored most of what I said and piled on with details–some true, some false, some embellished–of Wright’s sermons. “He called Hillary a nigga! He said the 9/11 victims deserved to die!!” Etc. etc. I saw red.
I’ll debate education. I’ll debate global warming. I’ll debate Iraq. I’ll debate the economy. I’ll debate FISA and warrant-less eavesdropping. I’ll debate torture. But I won’t debate how much or how little Barack Obama was affected by what his pastor said in a few sermons he may or may not have attended. Obama’s a grown man with his own ideas. He joined the Trinity United Church of Christ in the 1980’s because he liked some, many or all of the things that Wright was saying at the time and/or what the Church was doing for the community. It doesn’t mean he agrees with every word out of the Rev. Wright’s mouth. And it doesn’t make him responsible for those words.
I told the head ditto this. I barked at him about how all he ever wants to talk about is nonsense. Salacious, inconsequential nonsense. “Let’s talk about how we can’t sustain the surge in Iraq,” I yelled at him. “How, other than securing a few areas, it isn’t working because the Iraqi Government isn’t doing anything towards reconciliation or oil-revenue sharing. How the “Anbar Awakening” and the Madhi Army cease-fire are being bought by gobs of greenbacks–bribes–not democratic principles or lofty ideas of freedom and/or fighting a common enemy: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. How tax cuts during wartime are a bad idea and have never been done before in the history of the country. How not all deregulation is good for the economy, and that many markets NEED government regulation to exist. How NAFTA, GATT and the WTO are enriching the few while impoverishing the many. Let’s talk about stop-loss, Tramatic Brain Injury, the under-funded VA, Personality Disorders, Walter Reed, 15-month deployments, units on their 5th tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, The now-defunct “Coalition of the Willing”, Admiral Fallon’s “resignation”, The marketing campaign for another “rogue state roll-back”, this time in Iran. etc. etc.” All I got back was the same blank stare I’ve come to know so well and one stupid comment about how it was a good thing to pay for the Iraq War on the “credit card” (future generations of taxpayers will be paying off the war debt when ditto and me are dead and gone) because tax-breaks help “grow the economy”.
I cooled down and Ditto and I switched gears and talked about the Red Sox for awhile. Mainly the young pitchers and how cool I think the name “Bartolo Colon” is. We mostly agree on baseball, so its our go-to topic if political talk gets too intense. After work Thursday night I watched the “greatest hits” collection of Wright’s sermons and read Obama’s apology/repudiation at Huffpo. At work Friday the head ditto talked more on this and he said he was content that Obama strongly disagreed with and strongly condemned Wright’s offending remarks. He still won’t vote for Obama, unless NewsMax can prove McCain was brainwashed by the Red Chinese while he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam (this is, I know, a poor attempt at humor–John McCain suffered tremendously during his imprisonment at the “Hanoi Hilton”–but also an rumor that floats around emails in the nuttier circles of the lunatic right), but his righteous indignation over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright had been abated. Unfortunately, I’m madder than ever about this crap, especially after listening to Randi Rhodes forecast gloom and doom for Obama and condemn Wright repeatedly on Friday’s program.
Obama will take a hit, of course, and his chances of beating Hill in PA look bleak. But Obama’s base are young and educated new voters who won’t be swayed but this crap. Ardent Dems will vote for the Dem candidate, Ardent Repubs will hold their noses and vote McCain, and the “undecided” voters will vote on pocketbook issues and Iraq.
I know this will be a very unpopular position, but I agreed with a lot of Wright’s “fiery rhetoric”. And I would point those who jump to label him “un-American” and a traitor to Rev. Wright’s wikipedia entry: Rev. Wright is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy and served from 1961-67, during the Vietnam War. In the Navy Jeremiah Wright served as a Cardio pulmonary Technician at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where the “un-American” Wright treated injured Sailors and Marines and most likely saved the lives of some of them.
Wright’s Military Career encapsulated, from the Corinthian Baptist Church website:
1964-67 Salutatorian Cardio pulmonary Technician National Naval Medical Center U.S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, MD
1963 Valedictorian – Corpsman School Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Great Lakes Illinois Hospital
1961-63 U.S. Marine Corps, 2nd Marine Division
Those who are offended by his frank words on racism in America would do well to remember the turbulent era in which he grew up and how the assassinations and violence of the civil-rights era must’ve contributed to Rev. Wright’s personality and worldview. Below is a famous image of a Birmingham, Alabama Policeman siccing a police dog on a non-violent civil rights activist in 1963. The look on the face of the cop grabbing the protester chills my blood. Until a few years ago I thought these characters only existed in Ralph Steadman drawings.
I’m a white guy from rural western Massachusetts. Apart from 4 years in the US Navy, where I was stationed in Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia, I’ve lived in WMass all my life. In my 33 years on this earth, spent mainly in the so-called liberal, educated northeastern state of Massachusetts, I’ve heard the word nigger said (in real-life, not on TV, movies, or Dr. Dre videos) at least a thousand times. I’ve seen black men and women called niggers to their faces–and I’ve seen the pain and anger and violence the word provokes.
Many of the so-called hate-filled lines from sermons given by Wright, though “coarse” and un-PC, are true, inconvenient for “Main Street America”, and Barack Obama’s campaign battle, but true. Hillary Clinton has never been called a nigga. If Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were not famous senators but anonymous private citizens hailing cabs in NYC, odds are Mrs. Clinton would have an easier time getting a cab to stop than Barack would. America’s foreign policy and support of terrorist groups like the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the 80’s and 90’s and the stationing of US forces in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War did contribute to us getting hit on 9/11/2001. The truth is not pro-American or anti-American, it is simply the truth. Repeating the falsehoods that all people, regardless of skin color, are always treated equally; that racism is a thing of the past; that the U.S. of A is a shining city on a hill that never does harm or makes mistakes over and over doesn’t doesn’t transform those falsehoods into gospel truth–it just makes you an idiot for saying those things–or a politician trying to pander to idiots and thereby win an election.
We are all equal, but we don’t treat each other equally most of the time. We are all racists, some a teeny, tiny bit racially-biased and others full-tilt hatemongers, as well as all variants in-between. And America and Americans do many good things, many so-so things, and many bad things. That’s just the world as it exists, like it or lump it.
I’ll close with this, the concluding passages of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s 1990 sermon that inspired the title and some of the content of Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope. (I found the sermon at Andrew Sullivan’s blog)
III. Persistence of Hope
The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter—the most important word God would have us hear—is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It’s easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident—you don’t know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day—that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope—make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you’ve got left, even though you can’t see what God is going to do—that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.
There’s a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I’ve not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It’s an old song out of the black religious tradition called “Thank you, Jesus.” It’s a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It’s simply goes, “Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord.” To me they always sang that song at the strangest times—when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn’t have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.
Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us
But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That’s why they prayed. That’s why they hoped. That’s why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.
And that’s why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer.
Frank Schaeffer’s take on the Wright “scandal” in a must read.
Fox News Reporter Ainsley Earhardt makes disturbing Rev. Wright/Adolf Hitler comparison here.