He has Jewish friends... (Updated on Tuesday, April 29)
(sotto voce) and we know what that means
I. I watched parts of the grandiloquent circumlocutions by Dr. Reverend J. Wright last night on CNN. While I was terribly impressed by the man's erudition (endless strings of dropping names of scholars, books and publishing houses) and histrionics , I thought all in all he gave a rather self-indulgent, boring speech about difference and deficiency which seemed oddly obsolete in this day and age when difference is celebrated to a point of self-abandon (multiculturalism and all that, you know).
Richard Miniter's description is quite acute:
"...he was offered a prime speaking role at an NAACP convention. This was a chance to confound his critics and rescue his friends—by presenting himself as the measured, thoughtful, faithful man that the Obama campaign said he was.
Instead, he appeared in his natural plummage; a seemingly educated man who traffics in bizarre theories.
In the NAACP speech, he calls for reaching out to all faiths “including the Nation of Islam”—a sect that believes that white people are evil beings created a mad alien scientist underneath a volcano.
... he weirdly claims that no one in Detroit speaks English... He puts on a phony Boston accent to impersonate JFK. Than switches to a bad Texas drawl to channel LBJ. Then back to a fake Boston accent to imitate a senator he calls “Ed Kennedy.” Finally, the good reverend reveals his point: Why does no one fault these presidential and senatorial accents when they condemn black speech? That it is the grammar, not the pronunciation, never seems to occur to him. Nor does it occur to him that millions of blacks—from Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby to your doctor and your stock broker—speak standard English. The patois of the streets... is spoken only [by] a small minority. Why does Rev. Wright think the most uneducated are the most authentic?
... He says that blacks and whites love God differently. He then shifts into a mock “white” accent and says, with no feeling, “I love Jesus.” ... he continues, blacks are passionate.. bursts forth with praise music. Why ridicule other people’s faith if his point is religious tolerance?
... Rev. Wright is a racist. He sees people as inherently different in musical ability, speech patterns and nearly everything else based solely on something as inconsequential as their skin.
This is racism, in its full, undiluted essence.
Why would the NAACP give a man like this a forum?
Why would Obama sit in this man’s pews for almost 20 years?"
II. The Sequitur describes another unpleasant aspect of the godly pastor:
"On Sunday, his rebuttal against charges of anti-Semitic remarks and ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan appeared to be, in essence, ‘Look, I have Jewish friends.’
He thanked and ticked off a long list of Jewish leaders in the country that he knew (and he threw in at least one Muslim, for some balance, one can suppose).
But more interestingly than that, he thanked someone else: CNN’s Roland Martin, whom he referred to as a “friend.”
Having followed Martin's meteoric rise on CNN I was a little surprised by this nugget of information.
"...during the Wright-“Goddamn America” controversy, there has been no greater defender of the Illinois reverend on cable television than Martin. In fact, Martin, who wore a white Dashiki with gold embroidering while “reporting” on Wright’s speech Sunday night on CNN, has done more defending of Wright than Obama.
Martin should at least offer some clarity on what this friendship consists of.
What is discouraging, however, is that neither CNN nor Martin divulged that he was a “friend” of Wright while Martin repeatedly appeared on-air defending the Wright’s rants, telling us all how we were misinterpreting the statements, how the comments were taken out of context, how we just didn’t understand the black Diaspora (don’t you love when educated people use words like that?). "
III. Taking up the challenge of "Rev. Wright was quoted out of context" Hugh Hewitt went to some trouble and effort to provide Context For Reverend Wright. He has some long transcripts of the actual speeches from which the misleading "soundbites" were taken. I'm quoting just a smattering of some of statements that astounded me by their audacity of candour and upfront defamation:
Remember, they had to send Jesus to a court presided over by the enemy, a provisional governor appointed by their enemies, ran the civic and the political affairs of their capitol. He had him backing him up an occupying army with superior soldiers. They were commandos trained in urban combat, and trained to kill on command. Remember, it was soldiers of the 3rd Marine Regiment of Rome who had fun with Jesus, who was mistreated as a prisoner of war, an enemy of the occupying army stationed in Jerusalem, to ensure the mopping up action of Operation Israeli Freedom. (Jeremiah Wright - 4-13-03 - Cut 1 - Jesus' enemies)
Regime change, substituting one tyrant for another tyrant, with the biggest tyrant pulling the puppet strings of all the tyrants, that does not make for peace. Colonizing a country does not make for peace. (Jeremiah Wright - 4-13-03 - Cut 2 - Military making war for peace is like raping for virginity.)
Turn back to your neighbor and say it again. Governments lie (audience responds). The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment. They purposefully infected African-American men with syphilis. Governments lie. The government lied about bombing Cambodia. And Richard Nixon stood in front of the camera, let me make myself perfectly clear, we are not...governments lie. The government lied about the drugs for arms Contra scheme, orchestrated by Oliver North, and then they pardoned, the government pardoned all of the perpetrators, so they could get better jobs in the government. Governments lie. The government lied about adventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color.
(Jeremiah Wright - 4-13-03 - Cut 5 - This government lies, Part 2.)
The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no, not God bless America, God damn America, that's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God, and she is supreme (applause). The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent. Think about this, think about this, for every one Oprah, a billionaire, you've got five million blacks who are out of work. For every one Colin Powell, a millionaire, you've got ten million blacks who cannot read. For every one Condoskeezer Rice, you've got one million in prison. For every one Tiger Woods, who needs to get beat at the Masters, with his Cablasian hips, playing on a course that discriminates against women, God has His way of bringing you up short when you get too big for your Cablasian britches. For every one Tiger Woods, we've got ten thousand black kids who will never see a golf course. (Jeremiah Wright - 4-13-03 - Cut 7 - God damn America, and Condaskeezza Rice.)
And so on and so forth.
It seems quite obvious that the man does not differentiate between historical times, causes and effects. For him the past is present and alive. His Christianity fails to distinguish between ancient Judea and modern Washington. An extraordinary combination of a heated imagination and self-righteous manipulation. As I speculated elsewhere, he is more like a mullah than a Christian preacher.
I remember an Iranian friend telling me how Shiite Muslims going to Friday prayers at the mosque would be coming out of the services with tear stained faces, the mullah having re-told them of the martyrdom of Husayn in 680 at Karbala , as if the traumatic event happened the day before, not 1400 years ago. This is a way of keeping the faithful in a state of simmering indignation and grievance.
Another pastor on TV said today that he did not understand what Wright was doing. This report may help him understand:
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright said Monday that he will try to change national policy by “coming after” Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) if he is elected president. The pastor also insisted Obama “didn’t denounce” him and “didn’t distance himself” from Wright’s controversial remarks, but “did what politicians do.” Wright implied Obama still agrees with him by saying: “He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was [portrayed as] anti-American.
... “I said to Barack Obama last year, ‘If you get elected, November the 5th I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people,’ Wright said.Wright seems intent on wrecking havoc upon Obama's campaign. Does he consider him a prodigal son, deserving of being puuled up short for distancing himself from the mad priest publicly? For maybe pronouncing positions about American policies and Israel's rights which he cannot stomach?
I'll wait to see how this definitely operatic drama evolves.
Update: Here is another view (links to the Wright event on video in six YouTube segments.)
It would be hard to imagine any Jew talking this way about Germans, and the Holocaust is still within recent memory. Wright not only never lived through the stuff he excoriates white America for, he grew up in middle class affluence, with a pastor father and a mother who was vice principal of Philadelphia High School for Girls.
Latest insight about Wright's confused signifiers from the classically cool-headed and incisive left-brainer Norm:
Jesus said, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.
That's the Reverend Jeremiah Wright speaking yesterday in Washington. Biblical or not, his interpretation is based on a rather flexible interpretation of the signifier 'you' - so that it has different referents within the same sentence. The whole point about terrorism, in its accurate meaning, is that the 'you' who has it 'coming back' to them is a different 'you' from those who were doing terrorism on other people, if indeed they were doing that. This flexibility of interpretation involves treating those who were in the Twin Towers on 9/11, or who were blown up on the London Underground on 7/7, as if they were culpable for some previous act of terrorism, which is, in general, false. Not only is Wright rather selective in what he takes from the Bible, since somewhere in it there will be an injunction against killing the innocent, he himself is innocent of the understanding that guilt is not acquired simply through community membership, much less by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And a belatedly shocked awakening from Andrew Sullivan:
If I believed for one second that Obama shared any of this bile, I couldn't begin to support him. But Wright's cooptation of Obama for his own agenda - his assertion that Obama's distancing from him is insincere - requires, in fact demands a response from Obama.
Obama needs not just to distance himself from Wright's views; he needs to disown him at this point. Wright himself, it seems to me, has become part of what Obama is fighting against: the boomer, Vietnam era's obsession with its red-blue, white-black, pro and anti-America fixations. That is not what this election needs to be about; and Wright's massive, racially divisive and, yes, bitter provocation requires a proportionate response.
We need a speech or statement from Obama in which he utterly repudiates this poison, however personally difficult that may be, however damaging the impact will be.
In this previous blogpost I tentatively compared Obama to Prince Hal. I think the comparison has been boosted in view of the more recent Wright self-exhibitionism. If Prince Hal is serious about ascending to the presidency, he should do as true leaders do, and cut himself loose from his past Falstaffs, who would cling to him in the hope that some of that power will rub on them...
But I am a liberal offers some more grist for the mill...