Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jeremiah in the Box

My adds to the will-not-die Rev. Jeremiah Wright hoopla are:
  • Forget his arrogance; he has the ego and vanity of many ministers.
  • Non-Blacks looking for an excuse they want to dress up as a reason not to vote for Barack Obama hide behind it.
Having grown up in church and been active in the polity and politics of many of them, I have known and know many clergy. With just a little distance, we can easily see the colossal egotism that many exhibit.

Often, they use it too good effect far beyond just feeling grand themselves. They influence congregants to good behavior, people who would not take direction, much less scolding, from anyone else.

Moreover, with the lack of challenges to their statements day to day and on their preaching day, they understandably fall into such patterns. They can view themselves as speaking for their deity and perhaps as consistently correct in a confused world.

This particular preacher is toward the fringe of his profession. He has come by it honestly, with decades of speaking his truth, what he likely would call God's truth, before hundreds or thousands at a time. He is clearly positive that he's clever, and as so many ministers, that he's irrefutable.

It's not really noteworthy that so many TV talking heads, print media folk and bloggers have gnawed on this bone that they use to connect Obama's candidacy with Wright's rhetoric. All that's left in the ugly stub, an artifact that hints at unpleasant aspects of America.

We can even set aside Hillary Clinton and John McCain's long associations with bigoted preachers such as Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. They like to say that's different because they didn't sit in the pews for decades. Well, it's also different because they praised those ministers mightily while Obama did not do so for Wright. They also have exhibited selective oversight and never once criticized their religious mentors and aides. When Obama does what they never had, they are ready with too-little-too-late.

Among the many commentaries on why voters as well as media want to gnaw on this particular bone, I favor The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Brown's It's gut check time for white Americans. Brown is white and he's right on Wright.

The Wright affair has such resonance in this campaign because Wright has shown himself to be the kind of black person that white people don't like. He brings out our prejudices. Yes, I said "our" prejudices.

Part of it is Wright's ignorance and part of it is his arrogance and part of it is that he talks louder than white people would prefer and part of it is that he uses the sing-song cadence they associate with other black ministers they have grown to hate over the years such as Jesse Jackson.

Obama is none of those things (OK, maybe a little arrogant at times), so Wright has been brought to the forefront as a substitute punching bag.

Brown's town has the same deeply rooted race prejudice as Beantown. He knows from observation that "An opponent has trouble attacking the black candidate, so they find somebody connected to the candidate and attack them."

I have heard local self-identified liberals say it's not race at all that causes them to find these associations to discredit Obama. Yet, they let similar and worse links to Clinton and McCain slide. In a rare flash of fairness from me, some voters surely have manufactured reasons not to vote for the woman, but oh no, not because of her gender, but for something "real." Both types of excluders try unsuccessfully to disguise their emotions.

Brown is not kind to those who would feign objective concern as a way to avoid voting for the Black candidate. Writing of his own upbringing, he notes, "I know firsthand that when you get that prejudice in your system, it doesn't just go away on its own. It's stored away."

He calls simple racism on this, adding:

If somebody tells me they're against Barack Obama because he's on the wrong side of the issues...I can understand. But if they tell me they're against Obama because he went to Wright's church, I can see that for what it is.


Jeremiah Wright in a jack in the box that keeps popping up. He'll pump up his own ego to keep the attention coming. A lot of other ministers would do the same. More important, the MSM will keep turning that crank to make sure he pops up again and again.

I think of the saintly and sinful people whom could connect me with in my life so far. Were I to run for public office, I could hope for the blinder treatment that other candidates have gotten and not the spotlight of guilt by association that the media, and even candidate Clinton, shine on Obama.

I'm with Brown on this one. I can see it for what it is.

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Ryan said...

I do agree with you. I maybe wouldn't if Obama hadn't so forcefully removed himself from Wright, but now that he's done so... that should be more than enough. Also, this is one of the reasons why I'm not religious. I can't stand the vast majority of preachers/fathers/ministers and their typical arrogance. The only people I ever liked were the Sisters who ran my religions ed as k-12, because while they were strict and harsh in many cases, they had the still ran against the grain and would openly admit that they thought the Catholic Church should allow women to become priests, and change many of its ways. In effect, they had the humility to be honest.

John Hosty said...

"If somebody tells me they're against Barack Obama because he's on the wrong side of the issues...I can understand. But if they tell me they're against Obama because he went to Wright's church, I can see that for what it is."

Yup, this says it all for me too. Like always I find myself complementing your thoughts!

massmarrier said...

Yeah, John. I feel that way on many of yours too. If I had a better voice, we could sing duets.