Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wright shouldn't matter

I was going to write a post about the whole Jeremiah Wright torpedo-ing Barack Obama thing that has the inter-webs lit up like a christmas tree for the last few days, but then I read John Cole and he pretty much said what I was going to say:
Maybe it is because I am totally and unrepentantly in the tank for Obama, but I just can’t get worked up over what his pastor said. Maybe it is because I am not religious, and I am used to religious people saying things that sound crazy. Or maybe I just refuse to spend any more time and energy getting worked up over and denouncing, distancing, and rejecting the wrong people- people who really don’t matter in the big scheme of things. If you have a memo from Jeremiah Wright to John Yoo showing how we should become a rogue nation, let me know. If you have pictures of Jeremiah Wright voting against the GI Bill, send it to me. If you have evidence of Jeremiah Wright training junior soldiers on the finer aspects of stacking and torturing naked Iraqi captives, pass them on.

Until then, I just can’t seem to get all worked up about the crazy scary black preacher that Obama has to “throw under the bus.”
So, yeah. Whatever. And fuck all the rest of them (the media, the wingers, those nervous-nellie liberal Democrats, various bloggers - hell, for that matter, even you, if Reverend Wright makes you a little uneasy) for getting all judgmental and sanctimonious about the somewhat unhinged rantings but nevertheless highly entertaining ravings of a man who has faithfully served his community for three decades, helping the poor, ministering to his flock and generally acting like, well, what all those titular X-tians out there claim a Christian should.

You know, walking the walk.

So if he's a little off his rocker, I frankly don't have a problem with it. I think religion is stupid anyway and we've all got kooky people in our lives who we love and cherish nevertheless so it's a whole lot of so what. If Johm McSame and the whole rest of the Rethugli-bot goon squad all get a pass on Hagee (and Robertson and Falwell and Randall Terry and ...), then Wright isn't too far wrong when he claims that the recent events have been an attack on the black church. I think his essential meaning has been willfully mis-represented. From what I've seen on tee-vee and online, some seem to have been spinning his claim to mean the people attacking him were attacking the notion of black faith as different from or less-than white faith and then pretending to be shocked by that straw man.

I think that is disingenuous. Nobody, except for the most virulent racists in the GOP, thinks that the way black people choose to internalize their god is deficient when compared to the way white people do it. The claim hardly makes sense, except to a bigot or a Nazi.

I think Wright is correct because the black church is being attacked for being a source of organization and strength in the black community. In some places and in many ways, it is the only institution wholly their own. I don't see that, apart from my contempt for religiosity in general, as bad in any way whatsoever. The Limousine Liberals in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party can't have a block of voters with their own leadership, now can they? Like the netroots, they want our money and our votes and otherwise we are to STFU do as we are told. I told a friend of mine yesterday the same thing - in this instance, the black church and the blogs are in the same boat. We are a constituent block of the Democratic coalition and by golly, we just refuse to behave ourselves.

Sure. Because lockstep obedience in the GOP has served this nation and the world so very well. Habeas Corpus, anyone?

I know, I know. Louis Farrakhan. Booga-booga-booga! Whatever. Like I said, Wright is a loud-mouth kook who happens to admire another even larger-scale and anti-semitic loud-mouth kook, which I see simply as one powerful black man with a professional admiration for another powerful black man, however hateful and weird. Ma and Pa Peoria will of course get creeped out by all of it, but they still somehow also think he's a secret Muslim, in a Manchurian Candidate kind of way, and they also intentionally voted for George W. Bush twice because they think he's a good Christian man. And Reverend Wright is weird for thinking the US Gov't created AIDS to destroy the black community?

I will grant a few minor points. I think Wright is a tad bitter about Obama's success and doesn't want to be one of the ones left behind as this extraordinary person ascends the ladder of success. I also think he has enjoyed the spotlight and is trying to extend his 15 minutes. I also think he is drummning up publicity for a possible book. And I don't think any of it is particularly bad. Or, at least it doesn't have to be.

The fainting couches and clutched pearls aside, this whole kerfuffle is only a little bit about Obama and his loopy pastor. It is a whole lot about finding a way to torpedo a rising star and potentially very powerful black politician the likes of which this country has never seen because we in America are very much not post-racial. If the bobbleheads squeezing cable news talk-time out of this silliness didn't hang some crazy, America-hating Negro preacher around his neck, they, and the cackling GOP oppo-research gremlins who feed the Serious Journalists their "scoops," would together run some other fruit-loop up the flagpole who has some tenuous connection to the junior Senator from Illinois (who once may or may not have said or wrote some strange or offensive things) and thus find some other way prove Obama hates the troops.

Remember Glenn Greenwald's Five Steps to A Republican Presidency:
What is notable here is not so much the specific petty attacks, but rather the method by which they are disseminated and then entrenched as conventional wisdom among our Really Smart Political Insiders and Serious Journalists. This is the endlessly repeated process that occurred here:
STEP 1 A new Drudge-dependent gossip (Ben Smith) at a new substance-free political rag (The Politico)--or some rightwing talkradio host (Rush Limbaugh) or some credibility-bereft right-wing blogger (a Michelle Malkin)--seizes on some petty, manufactured incident to fuel clich├ęd caricatures of Democratic candidates.

STEP 2 The old right-wing gossip (Drudge) employs his old, substance-free political rag (The Drudge Report) to amplify the inane caricatures.

STEP 3 National media outlets, such as AP and CNN, whose world is ruled by Drudge, take note of and begin "analyzing" the "political implications" of the gossip, thus transforming it into "news stories."

STEP 4 Our Serious Beltway Journalists and Political Analysts--in the Haircut Case, Tim Russert and Brian Williams and Adam Nagourney and the very serious and smart Substantive Journalists at The New Republic--mindlessly repeat all of it, thereby solidifying it as transparent conventional wisdom.

STEP 5 When called upon to justify their endless reporting over such petty and pointless Drudge-generated matters, these "journalists" cite Steps 1-4 as "proof" that "the people" care about these stories, even though the "evidence" consists of nothing other than their own flocklike chirping.
Repeat steps 1-5 until the Republican is elected.
And that's why the Rethugli-bots will always get a pass on all their hate-spewing weirdos. Which is why we have to push back. Now. And hard. If we don't, they will continue to be able to beat us this way.

The last time America had a black leader anywhere close to Barack Hussein Obama's charisma, grace, stature and eloquence, white forces of racist hate dispatched him from a hotel in Memphis and black American leadership spent the next four decades in the wilderness. Four decades. Four decades of GOP ascendancy on the wings of Dixie-cratic bigotry coinciding with four decades of mockery and cartooning of any black political leader above the caliber of municipal dog-catcher have not been by accident.

Note that black athletes and entertainers are A-OK as role models, as long as they are fundamentally non-threatening, defined as "not too prone, either overtly nor implicitly, to asking really, really hard questions of white folks or demanding answers about the history race and class in America." You know, Bill Cosby and Magic Johnson instead of Immortal Technique and Alan Iverson.

Note also how if any members of the previous white-culture-approved categories of black prominence should try to get too political, they are mocked and cartooned, or dismissed as angry (as though black anger is somehow an ahistorical mystery). Recall how that "trouble-maker" MLK may have scared the white folk mightily, but Malcolm X scared 'em more.

And as the Rethugli-goon Revolution's agenda has failed on every single count except to enrich the old-money country club set who footed the bill for the whole party to begin with, racism is the only thing they have left to run on. On cue, Democrats offer them a black man. And don't worry, Hillary comes with her own built-in set of hate-buttons the Reich-wing puppet-masters will be pushing if she should filch the nomination. But Obama, by simple virtue of the color of his skin and his funny-sounding name, offers a ready-made smear template. It's like an old family recipe the Dixie-crats perfected generations ago they can now dust off and offer to the world. Like a bully who runs home to mama when someone finally hits back, this modern-day, ever more racist but disintegrating GOP is resurrecting the central tenant of Nixon's odious realignment "Southern" strategy: get white voters afraid of black anger. If Obama is not particularly angry, so what? He's heard of angry black people. He's met angry black people. He knows angry black people. He's even friends with some angry black people. How can the voting public (meaning "White Voting Public") not be certain that Barack Hussein Obama, too, isn't one of those angry black people who don't love America? Or Jesus?

Jeremiah Wright is just the kind of reminder White America needs that a deep pool of righteous black anger lies out there, latent, untapped and powerful. The slick operatives of the GOP have no qualms about using that truth to tap the white lizard brain. They can't help it. It's in the GOP's DNA. It really was too much to hope, I suppose, that we could have had a black man in a run for the White House without it coming down to race.

This is going to get very ugly.

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