The worst thing about the perpetual campaign for the Democratic nomination is that while the race dominates the airwaves and internet, precious little substantive discussion is going on. Most media coverage, including the debates, is dominated by superficial trivialities. It seems to me particularly pronounced in the coverage of Obama. The nation is facing some potentially grave economic times, a thorny international situation, and the rats nest which is Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the general blowback from the spurious War on Terror. Instead of some very hard-hitting, critical analysis of Obama’s agenda, his economic and international philosophies and his proposed policies, I keep hearing gossipy speculation and innuendo about flag-pins, salutes, unsavory neighbors, pastors, childhood schools, and even the man’s middle name.
Come on. How puerile is this going to get?
Once again, Reverend Wright is making headlines, and Obama is scrambling to distance himself. I’m tired of hearing about Wright, but I can understand why he is taking a stand. If I’d become a national public whipping boy, I might want to defend myself as well.
When the hysteria over the soundbites and short clips of Wright on YouTube exploded in the media, a co-worker of mine chuckled “The people who are all upset obviously don’t go to church,” she insisted. This woman, a deacon in her own congregation, noted that nobody ever agrees entirely with their pastor. You don’t leave the congregation over it. We shouldn’t hold Obama accountable for Wright’s supposed transgressions.
But are the phrases really transgressions?
I’ve seen little reason to condemn Wright’s statements as egregiously inappropriate. We are warned in the scriptures that if we sow the wind, we will reap the whirlwind; when Wright says that “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he is only reminding us of that principle’s application in foreign policy.
“God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme,” Sounds harsh, yes. But has not God promised damnation for those societies and people who rise to the pinnacle of hubris? I wonder if it isn’t more sacrilegious to confidently proclaim “God bless America!” as if such blessings are the monopoly of our nation.
I don’t believe that the U.S. government under any leadership has concocted the aids virus to harm the black community, or any other community. But as Frank of Simple Utah Mormon Politics pointed out, there are proven examples in which the U.S. government has deliberately harmed or endangered members of our population.
What about the AIDS claim of Wright, that the US government inflicted the black community with AIDS? I haven’t seen any evidence given by Wright, but I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility. Here’s a couple of things that your government has done:
- For forty years, the government did experiments on several black men with syphilis, not telling them what disease they had and not helping them to get better.
- The government conducted open-air testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada in the 1950′s.
I’m no fan of Louis Farrakhan, and I believe that much of his rhetoric intensifies friction between races. But I can respect the fact that he has motivated many members of the black community to take responsibility for their lives, build businesses, organize, and otherwise act with dignity rather than turn to gangs, violence, drugs, prostitution, and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. I can accept Wright’s approbation for Farrakhan’s work in that regard.
Yes, Wright is passionate and confrontational. That doesn’t bother me; it is part of the black religious tradition. Not only that, but it is part of the general historic Christian tradition. Many of the Old Testament prophets used very incendiary language to condemn the social injustices of the nation of Israel. The very word Jeremiad comes from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, known for his stinging rebuke of Israel’s sins. Christ very harshly condemned society in Jerusalem during his time, and warned them of impending damnation. It has always been part of the responsibility of Christian leaders to admonish with sharpness, not only of personal sins, but of social injustice. For those who believe that religion has no part to play in the conversation on social issues, I would call your attention to Ed Firmage’s reminder of past LDS leaders:
If you are Mormon and want to see class, or at least read brilliance, read the Jeremiads of J. Reuben Clark, Jr, during World War Two. Note: During the Second World War, while our troops were dying by the tens of thousands. What did Clark say? He said God would not forgive us for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or fire-bombing Tokyo and Dresden. He condemned without equivocation the development and storage of biological and chemical and nuclear weapons in Utah. During a war. He condemned the use of our God-given land and air and water and people in the employ of making or storing or disposing of weapons of mass destruction here (“The Reverend Jeremiah Wright…Jeremiads are What the Bible Says”).
The reverend is hardly perfect in his perception. But neither is he the raving lunatic nor hatemonger many have accused him of being. In the end, his opinions have nothing to do with Obama’s capacity to serve as President. People should stop worrying about him, flagpins, and names, so that we can concentrate on meaningful issues of governance.