Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obama and the Preacher (2)

One of the nice things that has appeared on the Chicago Tribune's editorial page was a column by Steve Chapman on March 23 titled "The Wright-Obama Divide." While I appreciated Chapman's recognition that Barack Obama's vision of and for America differs significantly from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I was distressed by how casually he dismissed the idea that there could be some rational basis for some of Wright's negativity.

The column began:

The important thing about Jeremiah Wright Jr., the inflammatory former pastor of
Barack Obama's church, is not that he thinks America is "controlled by rich
white people," that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were the result of our
"chickens are coming home to roost," or that God should "damn America" for its
sins against blacks. It's that Wright is supporting a presidential candidate who
clearly believes none of these things, but instead puts his faith in what
Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature

As much as I love the association of Obama with that wonderful phrase of Lincoln's, it seems to me that it is only the third of those assertions that I would want him clearly not to believe. I'm not sure that Obama is smart enough to be President if he does not recognize that rich white people have an awful lot of power in this country and that America's foreign policy mistakes have at least contributed to the atmosphere in which radical Islam has flourished.

Is the suggestion that rich white people control this country really that controversial? Was there any reason other than pleasing rich white guys for the Republicans in Congress to get rid of the estate tax? Wasn't it the rich white guys like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld who got us into the quagmire in Iraq rather than Condi Rice and Colin Powell? Even if you believe that the rich white guys obtained their power by entirely legitimate and democratic means, you have to notice that they have got the power.

I realize it is more controversial to suggest that America might have done anything to piss off the Muslim world that might have made Al Queda's recruiting easier, but can't we be honest? After all, we toppled the government of Iran in 1953 as a favor to the British and installed the Shah. We plotted to overthrow the government of Syria driving them closer to the Soviet Union. We played both sides of the fence in the Iran-Iraq war to keep either one from getting too powerful. We encouraged Iraqis to overthrow Saddam during the first Gulf War and then turned a blind eye when he retaliated against the Shias and the Kurds. I'm not saying that this justifies terrorism, but can't we at least acknowledge that we have sometimes been less than loveable.

Personally, I don't know of anything Wright has said that is any sillier than Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blaming liberals, feminists and homosexuals for the 911 attacks and I find it hard to categorically reject all of the claims that are considered so inflammatory. Moreover, if the few clips that have shown up on YouTube are the whole case against him, I have no trouble believing that the hundreds of hours of sermons that I have never seen probably contain many admirable sentiments?

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