Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Contextual Bait and Switch

Neil MacDonald is concerned--very concerned--that Barack Obama's former spiritual advisor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's numerous incendiary observations should not be taken out of context. He contends that Rev. Wright's sermons are "worth reading." That is, that they have some value above and beyond what others have identified as their hatefulness (that is to say: their overt racism), and their patent lunacy.

Mr. MacDonald proceeds to give us a number of examples supporting his contention. The first of which is the, apparently largely ignored preamble to the good Reverend's "God DAMN America" line. He quotes:

"The United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating her citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains, the government put them in slave quarters, put them on auction blocks … put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments … and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government … then wants us to sing God bless America."

... Sorry, but ... That's supposed to change everything?! Set aside the hopeless ambiguity of the third point there, the total absence (ironically) of a context given to the second, and the utter intractability of the first; you do understand, Neil, that blaming "America" (by which, needless to say, the good Reverend means white America) for the crimes of some Americans, mostly long long dead, is itself the very definition of hatemongering, right? God damn American children for the crimes of their fathers and grandfathers? God damn America for its inheritance?

Intelligent people don't say such things, Neil. Bigots do.

He continues:
Now, you can fault Wright's lack of diplomacy, but it's hard to take issue with his precis of how this country has treated minorities.

The bit about subjecting black Americans to scientific experimentation does sounds [sic] far-fetched, at least until you read Wright's other sermons and learn he was referring to the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.

In that particular episode of American medical scholarship, 399 mostly-illiterate Alabama blacks were denied treatment for syphilis back in the mid-20th century.

It's true. Tuskegee was a deplorable event that, unbelievably, did not end until 1972. Here Reverend Wright has his feet planted firmly in the real world--even if it's the real world of nearly 40 years ago. But the thing is, Neil, nobody is taking issue with him on this. What they take issue with is his lunatic belief that AIDS was developed by the United States government to exterminate the black race. You, in spite of all your bleating on about context, make no mention of this.

He continues:

Wright has said many other things from the pulpit, too. He's attacked the U.S. for supporting what he calls "state terrorism" against black South Africans, presumably a reference to Washington's reluctance to punish that country's old apartheid regime.

What's more, he's used the same language to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Both references are controversial, but hardly unusual among the political left.

Wright is particulary corrosive about white American racism, which, he argues, was a principle upon which the United States was founded and infects the power structure here to this day.

As with the AIDS thing, I don't think anybody should care quite so much about Rev. Wright's views on South Africa and the Palestinians if they weren't cast in the light of the man's conviction that there is a White Conspiracy to subjugate/exterminate Blacks! Wake up, man! I mean, corrosive?! Surely you meant controversial! Deeply, deeply controversial. And, if false--which of course they are--hateful in the extreme.

He then proceeds to equivocate on a grand scale by citing the examples of various Republican candidates whose spiritual advisors are known to have said a nasty thing or two. He names Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham. He says:
Now, it is true that most of [their] remarks received pretty extensive coverage. But the public figures who stood with their authors, courted them and even described them as spiritual guides, are probably politically stronger as a result of having done so.
Perhaps. But these were all post-election allegiances. So he cites the more recent example of the Revs. John Hagee and Rod Parsley lending their support to John McCain:

Hagee, who is white, is noted for his view of the pope who he has suggested is "the Antichrist." The Catholic Church, he has said, is "the great whore" and "a false cult system." Hurricane Katrina, he once declared, was God punishing New Orleans for allowing gay pride parades.

McCain later said he does not agree with all Hagee's views, but that he nonetheless remains proud of the endorsement.

In February, McCain described another white endorser, Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, as a "spiritual guide."

Among other things, Rev. Parsley has declared that part of America's founding purpose is to destroy Islam, which he characterizes as a "false religion."

Three things here:

1) It has yet to be seen if John McCain's evangelical associations don't have a negative impact on his campaign.

2) I can guarantee that if either of the Revs. Hagee or Parsley were to say about blacks what Jeremiah Wright has said about whites, not only would John McCain drop them like a pair of hot, burning crosses, and not only would he would lose the nomination, the Republican party would never find itself in power ever again.

3) In spite of his association with Rev. Wright, Barack Obama remains poised to take the Democratic nomination!