Sigh. I thought things were going to change for the better, one way or another. Hillary won in Pennsylvania. For the first time in years, I made a political donation and became one of contributors to her $10 million post Pennsylvania cash influx. Days after posting an article about how I was coming to terms with Obama, I was ready for my second wind. Or third. Or whatever. And actually, briefly, I felt the race might become reinvigorated.
Then the media had to go and screw it all up. Damn media. They had to cover Reverend Wright's speech at the NAACP event. Now, of course Wright had to be there, which didn't really help. But the media, for some reason, thought his speech was newsworthy. Perhaps it was noteworthy, in that it would give the man some well-deserved voice, and an opportunity to clear things up. But that's not how it worked out. See, I have a theory about Wright. I call him an active-passive-aggressive. Passive aggressive because he acts in a manner that suggests he's not within the fray, but causes spiked reactions. Active passive aggressive because he relished the opportunity to take the center stage. I agree with Obama that the Reverend's comments and actions have helped create a distraction; and that he is attention-seeking. This is unfortunate because the venerable NAACP gave Wright an opportunity to be square with Obama. And Jesus. And, to a large extent, Wright blew it.
By giving the speech he did--and being true to himself, he pushed Obama into a position where Obama had to respond and denounce the reverend's old and new comments squarely in the jaw. Wright forced an unnecessary confrontation. To be sure, Wright should have acted with some greater restraint on the national stage. But his actions alone didn't cause the media quake--or aftershock.
A bloodthirsty media, latching onto the conflict and the fire and brimstone newly injected into the media, has seized upon the great opportunity to portray Obama as a man trying to escape another whose position he (ostensibly) once embraced. By forcing Obama to take a stand against Wright, the media is helping to drive a wedge not just into the African-American community, but into the Democratic community, as well. In the blink of an eye we have been hit with one poll after another, each proclaiming that Obama can't win the blue collar vote. That he has squandered his lead in Indiana and North Carolina.
All of that for doing nothing than saying he disagrees with a media hound? Why is the media so hell-bent on infusing race into the debate? Why fixate on Barack's attempts to distance himself from an arguably loose cannon, all-the-while ignoring McCain's active attempts to embrace the very same? We'll get to that in just a minute. In any event, the media simultanously seeks to paint Obama as both an out-of-touch liberal elitist AND an inner-city radical black-churcher conspiracy theorist? Neither portrait is flattering, neither is accurate, and both are racist.
Was this all too good to be true? Was it only a matter of time before our country caved into its carnal impulses and started throwing race into the equation because of its deeply-rooted fear of black supremacy?
I can't think of any other reason for the media focus than that? I mean, is Rev. Wright out of the mainstream? Perhaps. Perhaps he's out of the white middle class mainstream. Although I don't agree with him on all his points, I find it despicable that his life's work is being excoriated, along with his church, his message, and all the good he's done in his career. Even if you find his rhetoric disagreeable, at least acknowledge it's just rhetoric. Not necessarily truth, per se, but a tool used to draw attention to an issue. Did our government cause or intentionally spread AIDS? Probably not, but how quickly did our government respond to the epidemic in Black America? Did racism pervade our attitudes towards the spread of AIDS? Sure it did. As long as AIDS happened to gays and minorities, most people didn't care to look (or see) the problem. Is Wright divisive? I'm not so certain of that--at least I'm not so certain he intends to be. In his speech to the Detroit chapter of the NAACP (available at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/04/28/wright.transcript/), he embraces the work and message of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. If one peruses his speech, it is evident that though it is wide-reaching, it is a thoughtful and considered speech, addressing themes of community, responsibility, and education.
In his speech he goes on to talk about the difference between two Americas, by implication a Black America and a White America. He talks about the vilification of Barack Obama by the invocation of his middle name, stressing that Arabic is a language, not a religion, and that people shouldn't try to scare or intimidate others by acting as if an Arabic name is a disease. He comes out pretty strongly in the defense of Obama, I'd say. Nothing bad there.
Perhaps most damning, though, he utters this phrase: "...And for 40 years one of those Americas has acted as if they were the only America. But all of that now is in the past. I believe a change is coming..." Was he arguing for black power? A black America? Who knows? How many of us have actually bothered to sit and listen to everything he said? To digest it all? Why are we so willing to disregard a man and dismiss him so swiftly?
Now for the sound bites--comments about American acts of terrorism being punished with 9/11; comments that HIV was invented as a weapon against minority communities, kind words for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan; and railing against American imperialism (taken from cbsnews.com). Are these comments incendiary? Yes. Over the top? For the most part, yes. But are these attitudes understandable? Sure. Granted, all at once, these comments are pretty big pills to take. But more than just a single person believe that America has acted imperialistically. More than a single person believes that the government let HIV spread. More than a single person believes that 9/11 was a response to perceived American imperialism and terrorist acts abroad. The worst thing one can say about Wright's comments is that they came at the wrong time, and forced Obama to react the way the media wanted to. In a way that helped cement a perceived conflict. For my part, I find the comments about Farrakhan to be the most egregious. But even Farrakhan has had positive impact on the world--black and white--around him. There are many who despise him greatly yet despite that praise him for his role in the Million Man March.
I am reminded of that story about the alligator who promises to help the mouse cross the river. The mouse pleads that the alligator won't eat him, and the alligator promises he won't. The mouse trusts the alligator and the alligator midway through the trip eats the mouse, apologizing but noting that he is, but an alligator, and did what an alligator does. Both Wright and Obama have acted and responded in accordance with whom they are. But their conflict is not real. It was staged, and fueled, by media boredom, malice, and racism.
Think I'm making that up? That part about institutionalized media racism? Think again. Hillary Clinton has been hit with tons of sexism and dismissiveness throughout the process. And McCain? The man who called Obama elitist? He skirted the spirit of his own baby, campaign finance reform, to borrow his rich wife's plane at discounted rates when his campaign was failing miserably. Is that straight talk? Allegedly, McCain used public financing as collateral for a campaign loan. Is that straight talk? I don't know about you, but discounted private jet fares, to me, strike me as a bit more elitist than comments about the roots of race and class bitterness in rural and working class America.
I love the "Straight talk Express", by the way. In so many ways, for two elections, the "straight talk express" has served as the election cycle's "compassionate conservative" or Lamar Alexander's red lumberjack shirt, or Howard Dean's dorky short sleeve button downs. Bill Clinton's saxophone. It's nothing more than a gimmick, really. By the way, did you ever hear of an "express" train, bus, elevator, or the like that made stops everywhere? Just thinking out loud.
Anyhoo, back to my point...which I've finally meandered to. See, the media is obsessed with the fact that Obama has tried to distance himself from someone controversial. But did anyone blink when John McCain, in a supreme singular act of political pandering,actually sought the endorsement of radical Christian extremist John C. Hagee? McCain actually sought the backing of a guy who's trashed Christians and Jews himself.
Here are a few of Hagee's lovely gems, taken from the internet's most reliable news source, Wikipedia. First, he claims that the Koran has a mandate in it to kill Christians and Jews. He claimed that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God, punishing New Orleans for sin, citing a gay parade that was allegedly going to be held that day. My personal favorite is when he blames Jews for the Holocaust because of their disobedience and rebellion. Of course, he doesn't pay taxes, either, apparently, because although he earned over $1 million in 2003 alone, received from the board of his non-profit agency (stacked with him, his wife, his son and a church member), far more than most other televangelists report.
Now, but for the fact that I am tired, bored, and just not mentally committed to detailing every last reason why even John Hagee may not be such a bad guy, I think I have made my point. The white candidate runs for the controversial white pastor with tons of media exposure. The black candidate runs from the controversial black pastor with tons of media exposure. The black candidate runs from the controversy because he doesn't want to be associated with it. The white candidate runs toward the controversy because he does want to get in on the deal.
What's wrong with this picture?