“For now we see through a glass, darkly”-- I Corinthians 13 verse 12
Today America looked into the mirror and beheld the angry form of the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in south Chicago; a black church in an overwhelmingly white denomination, and the church of Barack Obama. In an article by Jodi Kantor in today’s New York Times, it was reported that “Senator John McCain’s campaign forwarded to reporters an article in the Wall Street Journal in which Mr. Wright was quoted as saying, ‘Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.’ The Reverend also accused the United States of importing drugs, exporting guns and training murderers”. (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/15/us/politics/15wright.html? ).
The Reverend Wright, 66, has been ministering to his congregation for some 37 years building Trinity into “a 6,000 member congregation through his blunt, charismatic preaching, which melds detailed scriptural analysis, black power, Afrocentrism and emphasis on social justice”. He is a major spokesman for black liberation theology, “which interprets the Bible as a guide to combating oppression of African-Americans”.
The Reverend Wright is also something of an “equal opportunity critic”, according to Kantor, “often delivering scorching lectures about black society, telling audiences to improve their education and work ethic.”
We saw none of that, nor did we see the kind of sermons that moved the young Obama to write The Audacity of Hope; the sermons about social justice that Obama among so many others have found so inspiring. Instead we witnessed a thirty-second compilation formed into a pointed and bitter commentary on contemporary America designed to make the young Jedi appear to be a cult follower who has succumbed to a completely foreign ideology. This represents yet another attempt to paint the young Jedi as hopelessly out of the cultural mainstream; yet another attempt to marginalize him.
Let’s examine the incendiary remarks of the good Reverend and ask, in all honesty, where lies the truth?
On the tape, Reverend Wright is recorded as saying, “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run”, and accused the Untied States of importing drugs, exporting guns, and training murderers. The record quite clearly shows that the Republic was indeed founded on slavery, that it still runs on racial persecution—just examine the penal system for instance—a whole industry dependent upon and sustained by the incarceration of huge numbers of minorities, most on minor drug violations. The Reverend here accuses the United States of importing Drugs. Remember Oliver North, the CIA, Manuel Noriega and the importation of heroine into the US for purposes of raising money for the Contras? Is it mere coincidence that Afghanistan was nearly drug free under the old Taliban but now produces, under U.S. occupation, nearly 80% of the world’s opium? Is it mere coincidence that the U.S. props up in the form of material and military aid to Afghanistan and Columbia two of the greatest narco-states on the planet? What about the export of guns and the training of murderers. Well now, the U.S. we must admit sells more weapons overseas than any other country and our facilities at Fort Benning Georgia and elsewhere are notorious for training interrogation forces on behalf of every right-wing fascist dictatorship in the world. Let’s not forget who trained SAVAK for the Shah of Iran, nor the secret police of Pinochet’s Chile among many, many others.
The Reverend was also recorded shouting, “we bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye…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”. The truth is that we did bomb the Japanese cities and we did it for no other reason than to demonstrate our new weapons to the world and to intimidate the Russians as we went about the business of establishing a post-war order. Yes we have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians in the form of massive U.S. military aid to Israel who has used that power to occupy the territories conquered during the 1967 war and to engage in policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. In recent years we have seen the Government of the United States, in the name of the people of this country, condemn and then go to war with Iraq for the failure of that regime to abide by a handful of United Nations resolutions. Meanwhile Israel has been in violation of over 80 such resolutions (see http://www.middleeastnews.com/unresolutionlist.html also see http://en.wikipedia.or/.wiki/list_of_the_UN_resolutions_concerning_Israel) critical of Israel and its international behavior. Nary has a word come out of Washington about enforcing these resolutions, a point not lost on the peoples of the Middle East. Instead we have stood idly by a witness to the apartheid granting at best our tacit approval, and at worst our outright complicity. Then there is the question of South Africa. For decades this government, and the Corporations it represented, not only did business in South Africa but actively resisted any attempts to overturn the racist regime in Johannesburg. Instead of heeding the call of the African National Congress to end the oppression we labeled Nelson Mandela a Communist and the African National Congress a mere front organization in an erstwhile effort to brand them the enemy in a crusade of another sort.
And, finally, America’s chickens are coming home to roost. As in the debacle in 1979 when the Shah was overthrown by the Shi’ite clerics in a riot of anti-American venom, so too the entire region has witnessed not only the propping up of every form of oppressive regimen by the Western powers, and the completely one-sided approach to the Arab-Israeli mess, but in recent years the wholesale introduction of Western ground forces into a region that fought for most of the last century to rid themselves of the British and French colonialists. By re-establishing the appearance, if not the substance, of the old colonial order, the United States has re-opened ancient wounds in the name of securing the oil fields for Bechtel and Halliburton. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were criminal acts directed not against America so much as against the symbols of American and Western imperialism. This is what the good reverend meant in his blunt and angry address before the faithful. Any objective historical analysis vindicates his view.
Lastly, and most damningly, the good reverend called upon the damnation of America for its sin. “The government gives them drugs, build bigger prisons, passes a three strike and your out, then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.” No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. 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”. (see http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080315/ap_on_el_pr/obama_pastor ) This is not damning America. This is damning America’s sins, of which there have been all too many.
Then the Reverend turned his attention to Rupert Murdock’s favorite Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Saying “Barack knows what it means to be a black man to be living in a country and a culture controlled by rich white people…Hillary can’t say that, Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger”.
To paraphrase Pontius Pilate: I can find no fault with this man.
These clips have been dumped in the spin-cycle, replayed endlessly in the gaping void that must be filled on cable news. Barack moved quickly to stanch the hemorrhage, saying of the pastor that had married him to Michelle and had baptized their children that the Reverend’s remarks were “completely unacceptable and inexcusable” characterizing them as “inflammatory and appalling”, and concluding that if this were the tenor of the church “I wouldn’t feel comfortable there”. Citing the Reverend’s impending retirement, Obama said that he never heard the Reverend say any of these things, but his remarks have once again raised questions about Obama’s religious beliefs at a time when he has had to fight against “false internet rumors suggesting he’s really a Muslim”. How quickly and how much distance can be placed between Obama and his spiritual advisor remains unclear but the damage has been done. Pat Buchanan on MSNBC was speaking yesterday of the possibility of records and witnesses emerging showing Obama in the pews during one of the Reverend’s more animated moments. The Reverend Wright has withdrawn from his advisory role in the campaign (spiritual advisor) and is about to retire. In the meantime the Rescumlicans—in the form of Limbaugh, Seen Hannity and Murdock’s new tabloid The Wall Street Journal will have a field day savaging the young Jedi as being hopelessly un-American and distracting the country from the more serious problems at hand.
Barack, in a statement on the Huffington Post, said that “he (Reverend Wright) has never been my political advisor…He’s been my pastor” (see New York Times cited above). It matters little. America has been drawn to the mirror” and what it encountered, if for but a few brief seconds, was the rage within felt by those who have been left behind. “’If you’re black, its hard to say what you truly think and not upset white people” said James Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary and the father of black liberation theology who has known Mr. Wright since he was a seminary student.”’ (see New York Times cited above). In this the Reverend Wright speaks for many, if not most of us. It’s a pity that the image is reflected through the lense of race, through a glass, darkly as it were, for America will not take the first step toward honesty with itself until it can look into the glass and behold its own myriad form.