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Thread: On Wright, Obama and Seeking a New Way Forward

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    On Wright, Obama and Seeking a New Way Forward

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    Americans, Democrats but not only Democrats, supporters of Clinton or Obama or none of the above....

    ....we are facing a crossroads. In one direction lies a battle we have been fighting for decades upon decades, of which many of us are weary, to which many of us cannot relate. In the other direction, there lies a new dynamic. And we have a choice to make.

    I cannot remember ever encountering a Rorschach test as instantly inflamatory and deeply telling as the ten second clips, aired in continuous loops on cable tv and, apparently in some peoples minds, of Reverend Jeremiah Wright this past week. Their prominent display seems to have set an entire generation of people back on its heels and into the recesses of its collective brain, where it is fighting the last war still. I feel like I'm watching a loved one suffer through some kind of PTSD flashback. Its depressing and scary. Part of me wants to settle you down and make you comfortable; part of me wants to slap you silly until you open your eyes and see what's actually there.

    Its a maddening time to be a young Democrat. All I can do now is to tell it to you as I see it, and hope that you listen and try to understand.

    This furor is about two things at its core: race and generational experience.

    There are some who claim its really about religion and politics - by and large those claims seem disingenous to me. Yes, what Rev. Wright said was inflammatory, but the vast majority of it has been said on numerous occasions in other forms and in different formats. The idea that 9/11 was to some extent the result of decades of military involvement overseas, especially in muslim majority nations, has been expressed by intellectuals before and frankly seems likely. Growing up I heard preachers say that America would answer for her sins more times than I could count - though usually the sins listed were abortion and homosexuality, not the killing of innocent civilians. Anyone who has actually been to a church or knows anything about, especially, the religious right knows that churches these days often express political views, and they aren't always mainstream ones (and its important to note that African American churches have a very long history of political involvement and mobilization - none of this should come as a surprise).

    In short, if John McCains white preacher was heard on tape speaking disdainfully about Islam or saying that America must change its leftist ways or face the judgement of the Divine, the sentiment would seem so common no one would even see fit to play the tapes on television, let alone manufacture a controversy over McCains connection to the man.

    But this isn't a white evangelical preacher pushing the views of the religious right.

    Its an "angry black man."

    And lets face it, in America, thats different.

    The first time I saw those tapes I was in the company of conservative baby boomers... their reaction was immediate disgust, physical even, setting in strongly before they could have possibly thought through what was being said. I suspect that they were not alone in having that kind of visceral reaction to Wright's anger, passion and choice of words. Most of the people that I have talked to who are "outraged" over this issue don't even seem to remember what the words were or meant at all; they say Wright is a racist without being able to explain why or how, they remember "God damn America" but haven't a clue about the context in which it was said. All they saw, all they remember, is that angry black face, dressed in foreign looking garb, bringing race to the forefront in a confrontational manner.

    The fact of the matter is that nothing you saw in those tapes is particularly uncommon in the black community. Whether we whites wish to see it or not, there is a lot of fear and paranoia and anger in that community to this day - and to some extent its understandable. That doesn't excuse all of it, and that certainly doesn't make it healthy or productive. But its there. It must be dealt with. And getting all red in the face and proclaiming "outrage" and condemning anyone who associates with it isn't going to cut it.

    Now for the claims of "guilt by association."

    Barack Obama has been a servant of the public in an official capacity for more than 13 years. He has worked closely with our most prominent politicians. He has written and voted on oodles of legislation. He has given speech after speech. He has written two lengthy and particularly honest books about himself and his life.

    There has been no hint in any of this record or in any of these relationships that Obama himself agrees with any of his pastor's racially divisive rhetoric or shares any of his anger. In fact, Obama has made every effort publicly and privately to transcend these kinds of artificial and pointless divisions between people; his consistancy on this has been truly remarkable.

    So what, exactly, are we afraid of?

    I am getting the feeling that a lot of people, baby boomers especially, are overplaying the relationship between Obama and Wright because in their minds and hearts, whether they want to admit it or not, Obama's blackness associated him with that kind of anger immediately. People of a certain age seem to have very particular frames built up through which to view people and ideas; these frames seem to have been set in the 60's when divisiveness was at a maximum. This "identity politics" way of viewing things also explains Geraldine Ferarro's statements about racism and sexism and why she was so hellbent on defending them. Both Ferarro and Wright are children of an era in which identity was everything, in which each person was supposed to fit neatly into a little box and everyone had their supreme label: the hawk or the dove, the black or the white, the man or the woman.

    Many of these people WANT on some level for Obama to fit into the "black" box. And everyone knows that the "black" box is full of angry radicals like Wright. So to conflate the two is natural.

    But the problem is, Obama doesn't fit in your box. He refuses to fit in ANY box. He dares to reach out to people of all classifications - from angry black men to optimistic white youth to gay people to conservatives to anyone else who is willing - but he doesn't become them, he just LISTENS to them.

    This inability to fit into and refusal to use the 60's era system of compartmentalization is a huge reason why Obama appeals to so many in our largest and, potentially, our new "greatest" generation, the millennials. We understand what Obama is trying to do because many of us juggle people in the same way in our daily lives. We are gloriously diverse and we love it: 40% of us are ethnic minorities, we were raised on hip hop and bilingualism, more than half of us have been in interracial relationships.

    We haven't stopped supporting Obama, and we won't. We don't get what all this fuss is about. We have old racist uncles and sexist bosses and judgemental pastors and we know that being connected to them does not make us carbon copies of them. We genuinely don't understand why so many people seem to think that one could not seek spiritual advice from someone they disagreed with about something political. If we all vetted our friends and associates that way - distancing ourselves from anyone too different - we would be profoundly lonely.

    Americans, we are at a crossroads. We are looking at a fine man and a fine candidate who is involved in a complicated relationship with someone who plays into an awful stereotype. We have two choices. We can view this man through the frames of the past, reduce him to a one-dimensional caricature of himself and place the two men together in a box labeled "black," whatever that entails, so that they both can be summarily dismissed. Or we can set the frames and boxes aside. We can judge this man on the content of his character, not on the color of his skin and the many generalizations that tend to flow from that. We can accept this relationship for what it is: a friendship in which there is some agreement and some disagreement, in which both parties are forever growing and changing, a friendship just like many that we all have. And then we can let Wright go back to representing Wright and take a good, hard look at our candidate, making this important decision based on what he and he alone brings to the American table.

    I'm ready to step forward. I hope you are, too.
    I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failures to live up to these possibilities.
  2. Darkly Dreaming Dexter
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    That was written well - delivered it's point...and with much less grace I'll just give the opposite view, and a bit of what would just add to your statements, there.

    I'm tired of race being an issue all together - I'm sick of hearing about racial tension, our country's slavery past, on and on...Not just black, but mexican and others.
    Why does race have to be an issue at all - we can all see that people are black, mexican and any culture or shade in between. Does any of it need to be harped on like it's some sort of badge that's been earned? As if your race really defines who you are.
    People think it does - but it doesn't. Color is only skin deep - you are who you were raised to be and who you want to be. You are not your skin color.
    Presuming that it actually means something to be ____ is as if the country farm boy across my street presumes to be a rich white man - he's white, he's a man, but he's not rich....So that would be a false presumption, wouldn't it.

    Whoopie - our country has done some wrong things in the past. So has every country in the entire world - every country has done some atrocious things in it's past to claim land, honor, food, water and blood rights. Some countries are still doing things, true - are we one of them? *shrug* I don't see it that way. I see us as trying to figure out how to get past it and the majority of people who DON'T want to let it go are black, mexican, etc....Not white.

    But it's all the PAST.
    If people are EVER going to move on then that's what they should focus on leaving behind - the past.
    Don't dwell on the past, it will lead you no where. Only learn and understand it so you can avoid repeating the mistakes.

    If people want others to leave things behind that bother them then they can't sprinkle it around as if it's food for thought...I give, for example, the word 'N*gger' - My grandfather was devotely racist and never kept his mouth shut about it and i heard this word from him all the time. But, I tell you that I've heard it from more blacks than from my grandfather or anyone else in my entire life.
    Our daughter heard this word for the first time the other day - do you know where she heard it from? Rev. Wright on the freaking news...So, now she's heard this word and it DID NOT come from any white people we know. Get my point.
    I give an example of the opposite - the word 'Jap' as a slang for Japanese...When was the last time you heard this? Did it come from any Japanese people you know? I've only heard this in documentaries relating to WWII, actually - and I think that's about it.
    Why?
    Don't we still hate them? We were, after all, quite at war with them not too long ago - after slavery, after segregation ended...But we seem to be ok with them, yeah?
    That's because THEY let it go - they didn't go around toting their history and heritage like a badge of some type...so it VERY quickly went away, all the discomfort and the tension.
    Of course some people will come right out and say "well, we didn't enslave them" ... and I'll just respond "But we hated them for a good long while - and that was ok." ... just like most people hated blacks and that was ok, back then, too.

    If we're ever going to get past the racial issues we need to let them go completely and give them NO weight in politics, religion and the media. And the FIRST people who HAVE to let go of things in order for things to progess beyond them are the people who are discriminated against, themselves.
    If they always keep it alive with theirselves then it will always keep bubbling to the surface - it will never die.


    I will add, though, about Obama and Wright - Would people still view this situation the same way if Wright was his father?
    I, really, dont' think so - I think it would be the opposite ... Funny how people hold you more to what a 'friend' does and says instead of what your parents say and do.
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    While it is a great sentiment and I wish we were there, we are not there yet, not even close. So, until we get there, the only way to get there is to be able to have conversations about it. Not monkey flinging poo 3rd grade conversations, but adult conversations. To deny there is a problem will not solve anything. People keep forgeting that 40 years ago (people are still alive that dealt with it), blacks were denied rights to vote, to marry who they want and were subject to vigilante justice for the mildest of offenses (if they could even be called that).
    I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failures to live up to these possibilities.
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    Very well written Melanie I had to reread it four times to let it all sink in.

    Yesterday I watched a movie called Proud it was about the USS Mason DDG 87 and her acts during WWII. She was the Navy's all black ship every single sailor on that ship had been recommended for a commendation by the fleet admiral, it took until Clinton was in office and there grandchildren searched for records for them to get that letter. Many of their children did not even believe them that they had done anything important during the war as it was not published anywhere. As much as it is pleasant to say all of this is in the past it is not in the past and it will never be in the past until the issue is faced that there is still great injustice happening in our nation.
  5. Darkly Dreaming Dexter
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    Of course we still have problems - but I don't think that Obama being a black-president is going to automatically solve those, you know.
    Problems of this nature aren't solved by who's in charge - or laws and regulations. Laws and regulations only affect businesses and organization - not people's hearts. And a national-view only changes slowly over time, never over night, or even a few decades.

    That's the same as saying that Huckabee would be a great president for our 'obesity problem' that we're having because he use to be overweight and has successfully changed his body and his life.

    Or that Hillary would be a great president for women's-equality problems that we're still having because she's a woman and would be able to just snap her fingers and make it happen.

    Just because you can "identify" with an issue does not mean you can "fix" national-problems.
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    I am not saying vote for him for this reason (I didn't vote for him in the Ohio Primary). I am giving an opinion on what I think the visceral reaction to all this is.
    I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failures to live up to these possibilities.
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    Yeah, I understand - I was just adding that part in because that *is* what some people really feel and believe will happen.
    That was part of Wright's controversial comments - Obama knows so things will be better off for them *maybe*
    Even if he doesn't change anything at all - he (Wright) seemed to have comfort in the idea of a president who had *race* in common...Like, it's a mental-level issue rather than a bread and butter fact...They would feel better about ti so it would then be "ok"
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    I read a transcript of the sermon and it isn't really that far off base. I also listened to his sermon Audacity of Hope and it was really good.

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmi...ht_sermon.html
    I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failures to live up to these possibilities.

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