Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 22, 2008


It has been a long posting drought for me, partially due to the realities of life and work, but partly because, as the Obama-Wright “controversy” played out, I was consumed by a rage which left me sputtering and incoherent. Seeing Sean Hannity on TV in the Portland Airport on Monday night go on as if he’d discovered that Obama has really been furloughed from a Massachussetts prison to kill us all in our sleep because his preacher is a scary black guy was a bit much to take.

It has taken me days to calm down, although this idiotic piece by McClatchy’s Margaret Talev brought my blood pressure up again. It’s a tired piece that takes a book that “animates the theology” at Trinity United Church of Christ and talks about its controversial elements – but not necessarily the elements that Trinity United has embraced (one that they have – that Jesus was black – seems like less of a stretch than imagining Jesus looking like Jim Caviezel) – and lays them out to essentially scare people about Obama’s church. And people thought Mitt Romney was the one whose faith was going to be put through the wringer.

I think this is a stupid issue. First, why has faith and belief become a prerequisite for office? And since when do we have a hierarchy of religions, from good (Southern baptist!) to bad (any church that doesn’t believe in torture)?

OK, dumb question. How about this: why is this Blue Texan headline on Firedoglake so true? “Republicans : Only our Pastors are allowed to say crazy shit.” Since John McCain and Hillary Clinton(!) have both made pilgrimages to Pat Robertson, and McCain to Jerry Falwell when he was alive, it seems there’s a wee bit of a double standard at play here. After all, Robertson and Falwell have a history of fairly incendiary remarks – some of them even directed at – gasp – the United States of America.

Third, no one in their right mind thinks Obama and Wright share political beliefs. Rather, Wright is his spiritual advisor, and we are, allegedly, entitled to whichever one of those we choose.

Fourth, why should Obama have left his church? A church is more than its pastor, and leaving a church because you disagree with some of what the minister says would be like John McCain leaving the Republican Party because its leadership embraced torture.

Oops, bad example. It would be like me leaving the Democratic party because the senior Democratic elected official from California – Dianne Feinstein – believes that the flag is worthy of more protection than the constitution. Or me leaving this country because our President is so embarrassing on a daily basis with his lack of understanding of damn near everything, and his perversion of what American values really ought to be. The same people who would say “my country – right or wrong” in a heartbeat clearly are the same ones who would have Obama leave his spiritual home because of what his Pastor said, taken out of context. I mean, if Mike Huckabee gets it

I am not naive – this is politics, Obama has to deal with it, and I believe he has. I think the measure of his success is that – and I hate that this is the world we’re in, but it is – the chattering class loved his speech.

As well they should. [See above and judge for yourself.]

But let’s look at what Obama has shown during this process.

He has been loyal to someone who has been in his life for decades, at considerable political cost to his own goals.

He was willing to talk to us, as Jon Stewart said, like adults, about a difficult issue.

He showed an understanding of the context and history of racial relations in America, and spoke honestly about it. And he didn’t run away from a difficult subject.

But we wouldn’t want any of those attributes in a President, would we?


One personal aside, with respect to the generational divide on race.

I was born in New York City, and lived on the upper east side of Manhattan. In 6th grade, I chose to write a paper on the Black Panther party. Wanting to go to the source, I had my father take me to Black Panther headquarters in Harlem – on 125th Street, if I remember correctly. Everything else about that day has faded from memory but this: the front doors of their building were riddled with bullet holes.

[I live in Los Angeles now, and if you want a feel of how the black community existed in the 40’s through the 60s, the Walter Mosley Easy Rawlins novels are a great and enjoyable place to look.]

If you don’t think the blacks who came of age in the 50’s and 60’s aren’t separated from most whites from the same period by a yawning chasm of experience, and if you don’t think that experience might provoke some righteous anger, then I don’t know what to say. Obama nails the source of black anger – and its white counterpart – and his genius, if it gets through the noise, is in the simple act of making people feel heard. That alone will not take us beyond race in this country, but it’s a first step.


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