I only saw bits and pieces of it as they were replayed on various news shows -- Hoystory doesn't begin operating at 7 a.m. PDT -- but Sen. Barack Obama's big speech was full of soaring rhetoric, signifying nothing.
To be honest, there's little he could say or do to really address the underlying problems of his association with the extremist, racist bigot Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He could've claimed ignorance and then thrown Wright under the bus, but that would've smelled too noxiously of political convenience. After all, he's attended that church for twenty years.
Now, a fisking:
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
God Damn America! Sorry, but that's the first thing that comes to mind. How can you attend that church for 20+ years being "preached" at by Wright and still believe that America is uniquely a place where you can make it through hard work and perserverance? Was Obama napping in the pews?
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
Speaking of unifying and racial divides -- if you were so interested in unity, why did you choose to attend an Afrocentric, all-black church? There are integrated churches -- even in Chicago. If you were interested in bridging the racial divide, why attend a church that demonizes whites?
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
This is a change from Friday's various interviews where Obama claimed to not have heard any of these "controversial" statements. Obama has rightly determined that that story won't hold water. I must confess that I've occasionally attended churches where I didn't agree with remarks made by the pastor. Usually those disagreements were theological, not political -- I don't go to church for politics. But at what point does the occasional disagreement or controversial remark reach the level that you cease attending that church? Obama's tolerance is much higher than mine -- I couldn't last 20 years.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
Is this the first time a Democratic presidential contender has uttered the words "radical Islam?" It might be.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Which is worse: wrong or divisive? Obama seems to suggest that divisive is worse. I disagree.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
And he's a racist and a bigot and a hatemonger. Louis Farrakhan does all that stuff too.
Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And that's apparently just the pastor.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Throw grandma from the train. She's an anti-black bigot -- just like Jesse Jackson.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.
And Mr. Unifier decided long ago not to take a stand and buck the trend.
The rest of the speech is just the standard big-government must solve all the world's problems and it will only do it if you elect Barack Obama president.
I'm not sure if Obama's taken care of this problem. We'll see if the media continues to dig into the Trinity United Church of Christ and challenges Obama's narrative.
My gut feeling is that this is going to disappear from the political watercooler talk. The media is very uncomfortable with issues of faith and race and the sooner this goes away, the better.