Friday, March 14, 2008

The W(r)ight Perspective

I make a point of staying up late enough to catch the first part of Morning Joe on MSNBC. This morning Joe spent a lot of time playing up the inflammatory rhetoric of Barack Obama's former preacher, Jeremiah Wright.

Let me preface the following with the admission that this is all generalities... and thus may not exactly fit each and every person reading this post to a tee. I do not intend to offend anyone, but this is a very touchy subject so I will probably offend every single reader anyway.

My sense while watching Reverend Wright preach was to be instinctively turned off and take offense at his rhetoric. As an Obama supporter my first reaction was a foreboding of things to come. But as time has passed I am starting to reach another impression of this entire affair. I object to Wright's rhetoric, but there is a wider context to this we need to consider.

I full well and truly believe Reverend Wright is out of line with the rhetoric I saw him using. But his take on society is comparable to the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson immediately after 9-11, blaming the attack on liberalism which I feel was out of line rhetoric as well. Wright blames American history and foreign policy, Falwell blames liberals. Is one take really more damaging than the other or is it just the style in which the opinion is delivered? Wright is impassioned, fiery and African American. Rightly or wrongly, that angry black man running off at the mouth is far more threatening for most of us than is the same type of sentiment made by a calm and smiling white man.

I recall a plethora of right wing spiritual leaders who preached that the catastrophe wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina was the wrath of God validating their conservative take on social issues by destroying a decadent city. Reverend Wright gave his socially radical take on widespread destruction wrought on an American city in far more colorful and fiery terms. But why are his sentiments really more objectionable than the conservative preachers who claimed that God struck New Orleans with a hurricane and America on 9/11 out of political spite?

I consider the call of the Right Reverend (and right wing) Hagee, for unprovoked war to be waged upon Iran with the express intent of bringing about Armageddon and all the horrors of the apocalypse, to be more dangerous to the nation and the world than anything I've heard from Wright to this point. Hagee wants to bring death and destruction on a biblical scale (literally) to the world whereas Wright is seen expressing an impassioned, and radical, view of society and America's role in world history. Is the impassioned anti-American history lesson really more dangerous to this nation than the coldly reasoned call for America to trigger Armageddon, made by a preacher who has McCain's ear?

Yet I do not doubt that Obama's association with Wright will prove more damaging to his political aspirations than McCain's association with Fallwell, Robertson, Hagee or any of the other right wing preacher men McCain appeals to for help in winning the White House. In fact, McCain's embrace of the religious right, warts and all, will be a political plus for him. So here is where I go off half cocked in my own right: I believe the difference in the political ramifications of the preachers supporting McCain or Obama can be attributed to racial stereotypes. Yes... I did just go there. But what other reason is there for the fact that McCain considers the endorsements of the right wing preacher types to be a strength for his candidacy, but Obama is being damaged by past association with this Wright character?

When the nation heard Falwell or sees Robertson or Hagee make some outrageous and patently offensive comment we are watching a white preacher, normally with a soothing southern drawl and a smiling countenance. When we see Reverend Wright in a dither during one of his rants, we are witnessing an angry black man. Quite frankly angry black men like Wright scare the snot out of most of the nation, especially little old white ladies. Pleasant sounding white fellows who preach the same sort of nonsense from the right are much less traumatic for most of us.

Most Americans have been raised to give spiritual authorities and leaders inherent respect, and for most of us those leaders are cut from the same mold as Falwell, Robertson and Hagee. So part of this racial/spiritual dichotomy must be attributed to the life experience of each one of us. People like me and my wife... who are white and raised in fairly traditional Christian households are used to the typical white authority figure. My wife is Mormon so every few months I am privy to the regular meeting of Mormon elders known as general conference. I have determined that the talks given from the pulpit at the LDS general conference would be extremely effective sleep aids if they could somehow be distilled into pill form. Quite frankly it is impossible to imagine a liberal black firebrand preacher giving a sermon in that setting.

The same applies to congregations around this nation who would be thunderstruck at having one of the Mormon leaders come to their church to give the Sunday sermon. The different outlooks on social issues may very well present a barrier, but an even greater wall would be the jarring difference in the style of the preachers.

So when white Americans are exposed to a black firebrand espousing objectionable clap trap I don't find it surprising that they are more shocked than when some right wing preacher spouts off with something just as objectionable.

Nice post, Bhfrik. I agree 100%, or at least 98%.

Interesting first comment. Lot's of big boy words and colorful language. Who's the Nazi Party candidate running for President this year, Paul?

I posted on Obama and Rev. Wright today (better late than never, I suppose), check it out if you get the chance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I too have a date with a Popsicle and a camel that I simply don't want to put off any longer. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Thanks Mike... I sort of appreciate the little metal brain ditto head posting here. It gives anyone reading the comments a good notion as to the intelligence and cogency of the youth on the other side. I encourage Paul to please keep coming back.
I looked at Paul's blog and profile after I pretty much called his a Nazi in my prev. comment. The kid's only 13. I bet by the time he's 19 or 20, he's a different (hopefully more thoughtful) person. I went through the antisocial metalhead phase too, only back then there was no internet so I couldn't semi-anonymously insult total strangers I disagreed with.
Upon further consideration I did delete the offensive comment. The person who left it on this post also left it on the previous post so if anyone really would like to see it there it is.

The reason I deleted it is because I found a hit on the post which was from someone googling "general conference". I certainly do not want people who are interested in the LDS to find such offensive commentary and foul language when they come to this post.

I typically would not take such a comment down, but in the context of this post in particular I feel it was for the best.
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