Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will rhetoric save the day?

The JWright/BObama incident and the presidential hopeful’s subsequent speech have something to say to America, but it will probably be lost on most of the voting public. Over the course of the past few days, we’ve all watched clips of Reverend Wright’s fiery oratory and prophetic pronouncements. While Wright’s opinions don’t necessarily represent the monolithic views of the black pastorate, I think they do represent a strain of theology that isn’t uncommon in many African-American churches.

Not surprisingly, media from across the spectrum have gotten the story wrong. If there’s one subject that media types know next to nothing about, it is theology and ecclesiastical polity. In fact, they wear their ignorance like a badge of honor. Add to the mix fiery rhetoric and a preaching style that few of the predominantly white media community have ever witnessed firsthand and you have the perfect storm required for getting everything wrong about this story. What makes this particularly galling is that many Americans, despite their carping about the MSM, will rely entirely on these misinformed, religious bigots, to interpret this story.

One of the better commentaries I’ve read is an essay by Tim Wise that ran yesterday, at Counterpunch. Do yourself a favor and read it from start to finish, even if it makes you squirm a bit. Wise writes, But here we are, in 2008, fuming at the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago--occasionally Barack Obama's pastor, and the man whom Obama credits with having brought him to Christianity--for merely reminding us of those evils about which we have remained so quiet, so dismissive, so unconcerned. It is not the crime that bothers us, but the remembrance of it, the unwillingness to let it go--these last words being the first ones uttered by most whites it seems whenever anyone, least of all an "angry black man" like Jeremiah Wright, foists upon us the bill of particulars for several centuries of white supremacy.

But our collective indignation, no matter how loudly we announce it, cannot drown out the truth. And as much as white America may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright fundamentally told the truth

Barack Obama may be as deft as any politician I’ve encountered in my lifetime. Forced to walk a tightrope between a theology that he may in fact hold, at least in parts, and the need to comfort affluent white, well-educated liberals that overwhelmingly support him, Obama was able to hold Wright at arm’s length, without entirely tossing him under the bus of media backlash and right-wing outcry. His performance should also keep the elite types in his corner.

I don’t know exactly what Barack Obama holds to be true. Only a few people, privileged enough to be part of his inner circle do. I honestly hope that at his core, where values should reside that the prophetic teachings that he’s learned, sitting under his fiery pastor, will help guide him, if elected, to represent all Americans, not just the top one percent, or the corporate interests, or even the liberal elite, who get whisked out of the urban areas, by drivers, to their gated suburban enclaves.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve allowed myself to depart from my original intent—to report on the horses in the horserace—but over the past couple of weeks, I find myself moving back to my original position that I held during the early days of the derby.

Despite Obama’s abundant rhetorical talent, I still have concerns that there is little difference between the two major corporately-controlled wings of American politics. Because of this, there’s probably very little that he can do to radically change the political crash course we’ll remain on.

In my opinion, Obama too often has appeared to appeal to people who are too busy, or too cool, or too “whatever,” to be bothered by politics.

As Ted Rall wrote, back in January, Obama can tell you that “there is something happening in America!” he just can’t tell you what it is." His speech yesterday helped lend a bit more definition to his political persona. Still, a part of me wonders why he didn’t give this speech earlier, when his motives would have been clearer, instead of because expediency required him to.

Speech, or no speech, I think David Walsh comes as close as anyone to “nailing” Obama for me. Sadly, the World Socialist Website isn’t a regular stop for most American’s when web surfing.

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