BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
JEREMIAH AND AMERICA'S BLIND SPOT
The American media has become absolutely fixated on Rev. Jeremiah Wright. How could he say what he did about America? Why didn't Senator Obama storm out of the church in protest? And how can Barack Obama be the man he claims to be and embrace such a man? These are all questions that might have also been asked of another man and his supporters over two thousand years ago, and today just as then, the answer is short and sweet–because the man speaks the truth.
The controversy over Rev. Wright's sermon says much more about America's blind spot than it does about either Rev. Wright, or Sen. Obama. Because while the words were indeed ugly, the truth therein was as pure as virgin snow. Thus, the problem is not with Rev. Wright or Sen. Obama, the problem is with America's inability to handle the truth, and as long as that continues to be the case, America is doomed to be led by demagogues whose claim on leadership will be based on lies, and the very worst in an otherwise great nation.
The fact is, Obama didn't renounce Rev. Wright or leave his church in protest because he knew that there was nowhere he could go in the Black community to find a credible ministry that wasn't preaching the very same sermon at some point in time. We must remember that the snippet of Rev. Wright's sermon that we heard played and re-played ad nauseam by the media was taken from over thirty years of sermons–and even then, it was taken out of context. Not once did I hear the media play the part of the sermon where Rev. Wright declared that he'd been taught to "love the hell out of my enemy!" And that was the thrust–the intent, if you will–of his sermon. It was not his intent to preach hatred of America, his intent was to preach the truth, and to love the hell right out the those who specialize in bringing the very worse out in the American people. So, the media didn't just take Rev. Wright's words out of context, it took the role of the Black church out of context as well.
Black preachers are not just spiritual advisers, they're also therapists. For the most part, Black people don't have the resources to engage private therapists to work out the frustrations attendant to a daily barrage injustice, so Black preachers provide that service. The next time you watch the endless loops of Rev. Wright's sermon, look at the people in the background, and the young man who comes up to bow his approval. Rev. Wright is giving his congregation the opportunity to vent the frustration of injustice. White people who find themselves concerned over Rev. Wright's words should ask themselves, where do you think all of that passion and frustration would go if Rev. Wright, and Black preachers across this land, wasn't providing their people a vehicle for releasing that passion and pent-up frustration? Instead of demanding that this man be renounced, he and his Christian colleagues should be given awards as renowned public servants.
And further, it is indeed ironic that this man would be called un-American. Black people have been called a lot of things over the centuries, but unpatriotic has never been among them. We must never forget that it was a Black man, Crispus Attucks, who was the very first person to die for this country. And from that moment to this, regardless to what Black people have endured at the hands of White America, we've been the very first to respond, with a willingness to lay our lives on the line against any threat to the American ideal. But it is the phrase "American ideal" that separates Rev. Wright from Bush, Cheney, and the Limbaughs of this world. When Rev. Wright said "God damn America", he was clearly speaking of American policy, not the American ideal–and since he has paid his dues as an American in full, he had every right to do so.
One Rev. Jeremiah Wright is worth more to America than a boatload of armchair patriots like Bush, Cheney, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world. While these armchair patriots take pride in going around wearing American flags in their lapels, and declaring how much they love America to all who will listen, where were they when America needed them to place their lives on the line? I'll tell you where they were–George Bush used his father's influence to maneuver his way into the Texas National Guard in order to assure that other Americans would go Vietnam, and in many cases die in his place, and even then he went AWOL; Dick Cheney managed to get five (5) military deferments, indicating that "I had other priorities"; and Rush Limbaugh managed to avoid fighting for this country by claiming a boil on his ass. Now these so-called "super-patriots" are pointing their finger at Rev. Wright as un-American for speaking the truth–this man who not only answered this nation call in the Navy, but served as a United States Marine as well. There's something very wrong with that picture.
Rev. Wright's sermon was designed to wake a sleeping giant, the American ideal. He was pointing out to America that we're suffering from a serious blind spot. He wanted to open America's eyes to the fact that the most unconscionable act of terrorism in the history of mankind was when the United States dropped not one, but two atomic bombs on the women and children of the Japan. In that case, we attempted to justify it by saying it saved countless American lives, but by using that argument we also argue that the lives of American combatants are more valuable than Japanese women and children–thus terrorism is justified when American lives are involved. We're embracing that very argument even now in Iraq. The American people can be blinded to that fact through the thick fog of patriotism, but the rest of the world doesn't suffer from our laundered point of view. They see our actions then, and now, for what it is--terrorism.
The good Rev. Wright's sermon was right out of the Bible. John 8:32: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." And the truth is, the only difference between Arab terrorism and American terrorism is that we've got a much more efficient delivery system. Open your eyes America. True, Al Qaeda killed three thousand Americans, but in response, we've killed over a million people who's done absolutely nothing to us.
Let us think about that as we condemn Jeremiah.
Eric L. Wattree
THE REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times. He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. He has been a vocal critic of the racism, sexism and homophobia which still tarnish the American dream. To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation, and the African-American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence. Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize. This is a critical time in America's history as we seek to repent of our racism. No matter which candidates prevail, let us use this time to listen again to one another and not to distort one another's truth.
Dean J. Snyder, Senior Minister
Foundry United Methodist Church
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Monday, March 24, 2008
Posted by Eric Wattree at 1:34 AM