Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wright or Wrong?

Right now, there are so many things going on in my head regarding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s recent appearances and the controversial nature of the sermons that first brought him to national attention during this campaign for the presidency. It’s made me look closer at this man of the cloth and think a bit more about his message, intended or not. In essence, I equate the aforementioned fiery sermons with Muhammad Ali’s notorious “Ain’t no Viet Cong ever call me nigger” statement: pregnant with uncomfortable truths no one really wants to address and ones many would rather sweep under the rug that covers our great racial, social and economic divide.

Many have talked about Rev. Wright recently distancing himself from Sen. Barack Obama by repeatedly differentiating the words and works of a pastor with those of a politician, and derisively so. Some have stated that the Rev. is jealous of the senator’s rise to prominence over his own. And that his irate and sarcasm-filled appearance on Monday at the Natural Press Club—organized by one Barbara Reynolds, who the New York Daily News calls “an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter”—is nothing more than a misguided, yet effective effort to put Obama in his place, as far as Wright is concerned. (Although I must say, in a just world “I served six years. How long did Cheney serve?” would be the most popular sound bite of the year.)

Maybe. But I’d like to think the Rev. is putting Sen. Obama to the test for a nobler purpose, even if the method is highly questionable. It seems to me Wright wants Obama to face the facts surrounding racism and inequality head on, without compromise; that he feels this is an extraordinary opportunity for the views of many African-Americans, and other minorities in this regard, to be aired via the candidacy of the most promising candidate of color we have seen in our lifetimes. And one he just happens to have a personal, spiritual connection with.

Obama’s non-wholesale embracing of many of these views—which like the percentage of those ‘not ready to vote for a black president’ is held by a number of people much higher than we are led to believe—is perhaps what has led Rev. Wright to castigate Obama by calling him a “politician”, which he clearly uses as a euphemism for charlatan or imposter. He probably feels that Sen. Obama should make the points that we all know to be true about racism, poverty, and inequality, regardless of who is upset by them. I personally would love to see that happen. Unfortunately, unbridled truth—or your interpretation of it—may or may not win adherents but it has yet to become part of the formula conducive to winning elections in American politics. I think Wright knows that very well, but does not care. I’d not be surprised to learn he’d prefer Sen. Obama to lose being blunt and unwavering in his pronouncements than to win by being cautious and guarded with his statements.

Of course, if I am wrong about Rev. Wright’s intentions, then he will be revealed as petty and jealous, and one who sacrificed a good man and candidate for the glory of his bruised ego.

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