I have argued here on this blog that the type of political tactics which allows for the Reverend Wright matter to dominate the whole of America is troubling. Barack Obama suffers as the result of the GOP working over-time to demonize him, the one candidate they fear most in the fall campaign.
Now comes a well written national article that adds on to that theme. THIS IS A MUST READ!
Not all of what Wright says is comforting.
His views are not universally appealing, nor are they or should they be seen as unassailable.
But, for the most part, they are well much within the mainstream of American religious and political discourse.
The problem is not Jeremiah Wright.
The problem is a contemporary political culture that has come to rely on character assassination as an easy tool for reversing electoral misfortune — and a media that willingly invites manipulation.
Let’s not forget how Wright became an issue in the 2008 presidential race. Republican operatives, fretful about their party’s political fortunes, decided that the only way to weaken the candidacy of Wright’s longtime parishioner, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, was by suggesting the Democratic presidential front-runner was in the sway of an anti-American radical.
That end was achieved by separating out from long and thoughtful sermons regarding matters biblical and political seemingly offensive phrases and then inviting the Grand Old Party’s media echo chamber to repeat the sound bites until they became conventional “wisdom.”
This is a classic guilt-by-association maneuver, played out so aggressively in the current circumstance that it would make Joe McCarthy blush. But it has worked, at least in part because people of good faith have not taken the time to assess and appropriately answer the charge that Obama’s connection to Wright confirms the candidate to be either a closet radical or, worse yet, a dupe of some free-floating, ill-defined but still frightful fringe.
Wright can be unsettling, thought-provoking, often right and sometimes wrong. But he is neither anti-American nor unpatriotic.
In more ways than Republican and now Democratic critics seem prepared to admit, Wright is the embodiment of an American religious and political tradition of challenging the country’s sins while calling it to the higher ground that extends from the founding of the republic. No less a figure than Thomas Jefferson — who constructed that wall of separation between church and state but who worried a good deal about questions of the divine — worried openly about the retribution that would befall a nation that permitted slavery.
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other,” wrote Jefferson in 1781’s Notes on the State of Virginia, where he asked, “(Can) the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
The wrath of God brought down on a country that permits slavery? A nation damned by its original sin? God damn America?
America has been blessed from its beginnings by champions of liberty, by abolitionists and civil rights marchers, by suffragists and union organizers, by anti-imperialists like Mark Twain and challengers of the military-industrial complex like Dwight Eisenhower. Necessarily, these patriots have said some tough things about American leaders and policies. They have acknowledged flaws that are self-evident. Yet, they have not done so out of hatred. Rather, they have loved America sufficiently to believe it can be as good and as just as figures so diverse and yet in some very important ways so similar as Thomas Jefferson and Jeremiah Wright have taught us.