I know that I told myself that after hearing Barack ask us all to turn to the better angels of our nature and seek a unified path away from our long, long stalemate . . . .
But it is hard for me to just stand around and let people score cheap and malicious points of people I respect.
What did Rev. Wright really say? He said Hillary "ain't never been called a n-----". If that is not a true statement, I certainly have not heard Hillary step forward and explain when and where it happened. I can tell you this: every black person I know can tell you what it was like the first time they were ever called by that name. It usually happens with such a jarring degree of hate that it jolts you from whatever reverie you might have been peacefully and happily ensconsed within. And it almost always happens to us when we are children, so the concept that there are people out there who might have some visceral, uncontrollable, pent-up storehouse of rage against us is the most inconceivable sort of thing.
Picture yourself back when you were just a child - perhaps just entering your first few years of schooling. There may be kids there you do not click with or people who do not share their toys, but hate? What child expects to encounter someone who hates him or her?
Of course, your parents know this day is coming. For they recall going through it as well. I imagine - as I do not have children of my own - that there is almost a timer that starts as soon as the child is born and then you make an oath to yourself to push that day so far into your child's future that the impact is just that much less jarring - that you know she or he will be just that much more prepared for that day than you were.
What else did Rev. Wright say? Well he blamed the impact of AIDS on the black community on the government of the USA. I know that most white people protect themselves from knowledge of the evil that their own government perpetrates in their name, but it is a fact that our goverment - our own goverment - conducted a decades long study of the affect of syphilis on the human body, by injecting it into black men and then letting them spread it through the black community. Years of conducting this study, collecting data and telling people you were treating them, when all the while the people who said you the patients, "I'm from the government and I am hear to help" were perpetrating one of the most evil acts known to man. This kind of evil leave a long memory - a psychic memory - in the group against which it was perpetrated, even while the group on whose behalf it was done whistles past the overflowing graveyards of those who have died. Did the government of our own country purposefully infect us with HIV? I honestly do not know; is it wise for me to ever completely absolve the same government that has done a very similar act of malfeasance? And knowing that they followed up their prior bad acts with an almost willful disregard for ensure that the poorest of our citizens - which is often a corollary to the blackest of our citizens had any meaningful pathway to the sort of medical care that could have prevented the infection from every occurring or at least have provided the sort of treatment that could have kept it manageable - to proclaim that "well, at least they didn't infect with the deadly virus - this time" is to damn the government with the faintest of praise.
But we all know that these two "crimes" are not what has riled up the "nutroots" of the American populace. No, the best way to get them going is to appear to be even the slightest bit "unpatriotic" - which is why we have to witness our politicians drap symbols all over their chests - flag pins, eagles, Statues of Liberty emblems - to bear silent witness to the depths of their patriotism. It is this theme that has struck a resonant chord with those anonymous email chains that proclaim - erroneously - that Barack Obama does not cover his heart with his hand during the Pledge of Allegiance. It is this meme that is most dangerous of all.
And yet it is most empty.
For what business is it of a pastor to be a loyal servant to any government of man? Jesus asked us to "render under Caesar that which is Caesar's and to render unto God that which is God's". Jesus never asked his followers to swear loyalty oaths to any government of man - indeed, he has commanded us to not put any false god before his Father. And what is a proclimation that any nation is flawless is but the anointing of a false god?
So - on the Sunday after 11-September-2001, when the rest of white America was securely seated in their home churches, hearing their pastors' transform the Prince of Peace into a god of war - the member of Trinity United Church of Christ had a little history placed before them. Rev. Wright told his flock that what happened to them the previous Tuesday was vile - yes - but how different was it from other acts that have taken place, other acts that were executed in our name by our government. Now, I have not heard his whole sermon, but I do know that he compared the events of that awful day (and I was in NYC that day; it was where I worked at the time and across the Hudson River from where I lived) to the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What is important to note here is that Rev. Wright did not say that it was those two atomic bombs that caused the attacks on us that day; what he said was analogous to: "if you go around the world, deciding who lives and who dies, you can't then act surprised when someone decides to give what they got".
(Didn't I hear a man say once to do unto others as you would have them do unto you?)
Now, I put out all of these words in defense of Rev. Wright - not because he needs a defense from me, but because other's need to hear people attempt to speak truth to power. And I know that these words will not convince anyone of anything, but they can at least bear silent witness that the truth is indeed out there.
And there is one other reason I have stayed up into the night to write these words; to ask this question: why have I heard people preach all week long that the "Christian" thing for Barack to do when he heard or was informed of the things his reverend - his pastor - had said was to turn his back on the man and leave that houst of worship - when the Jesus I read about in Sunday School taught that we should be slow to take offense and quick to forgive. Why have I continued to hear "Christian" say the most hateful things about Rev. Wright, when the Christ I learned about oh so long ago made it his duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? Why is it, that in the end if the only things Rev. Wright are guilty of is saying that:
- Racist slurs have never been thrown in the direction of Hillary Clinton;
- The US government has a history of infecting its own black citizens with the most vile of diseases; and
- The US government has a history of visiting violence around the world and that violence begets violence (did someone say to turn the other cheek when struck?)