Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jeremiah Wright And Hagee/Falwell/etc.

It's getting to be a cliche over the last week to point out that Obama is being publicly crucified over statements made by his minister, Jeremiah Wright, that are in no way more offensive than things routinely said by right wing ministers like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Robert Dobson and John Hagee, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in to the mainstream media, and the Republican slime machine has decided that this is going to be the swift boat that they sink Obama with, so I'm going to bring it up some more.

Wright certainly impresses me as a knuckleheaded goofball, no question. But is there any signifigant difference between what he says and Falwell blaming 9/11 on God's wrath against America for embracing homosexuality, or Hagee making similar statements about Hurricane Katrina, or Hagee saying that the Jews have brought all their suffering on themselves by rejecting Jesus? Well, I think it is different in two ways.

First of all, I keep hearing Pat Buchannan calling Wright's sermons "hate speach," but they strike me more as anger than hate. It's a thin line, to be sure, but the important point is that the target of his hate/anger is an abstract concept--"America"--and not a group of people--gays, Muslims, liberals, feminists, women, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, or even other Christians who don't share all their views. And it's an important distinction, because the atmosphere of hatred the religious right creates is one that can incite violence. Sometimes they even seem to be encouraging it.

The second difference is in how the ideas these ministers spout relates to the policies of their political counterparts. From Glen Greenwald's piece on the issue: "By all accounts, George Bush had private conversations with Pat Robertson about matters as weighty as whether to invade Iraq. John Hagee privately visits with the highest level Middle East officials in the White House and afterwards pronounces that they're in agreement. John McCain shares a stage with Hagee and lavishes him with praise, as Rudy Giuliani did with Pat Robertson. James Inhofe remains a member in good standing in the GOP Senate Caucus." Even beyond these examples, if a party is actively working to push through legislation aimed at limiting the civil rights of gay people or declaring war on immigrants, then their association with public figures who use hateful rhetoric becomes an issue. It's not an issue with Obama, because he has never said or done anything in office that reflects the extreme views of Jeremiah Wright. In fact, his entire career is the opposite of this rhetoric. Does he really strike you as an angry militant? Why should we care who he's associating with, if he clearly doesn't share his views? And why should he even have to make such a huge show of rejecting ideas that his entire career is a clear rejection of?

Well, that's a rhetorical question of course. Because black nutjobs are held to a different standard. When Obama was linked through six degrees of seperation to Farakhan, he had to publicly denounce Farakhan as well, because Farakhan is such a boogeyman. Never mind that Farakhan is a fringe looney with very little real political power (especially compared to someone like Falwell or Robertson). He is dangerous! And remember Bill Clinton attacking Sista Souljah, an even fringier fringe looney who only had what little public profile she had because she was associated with a rap group that probably sold about as many records as The Cure?

But these sort of things probably resonate to some people. Do white folks still believe, somewhere deep down inside, that any minute now the slaves are going to rise up and start slitting our throats?

And you know, I'm OK with Obama not winning, but if Obama doesn't win because of this, then this country is fucked up. And it's dangerously close to Obama not winning because he's black, because (speak up if you think I'm off base about this) it's pretty hard to imagine a black (liberal) politician that doesn't have some association with someone as inflamitory as Jeremiah Wright.


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