March 22, 2008

Not so bad?1

Our series of point-counterpoints on Obama's race speech has generated what 90 percent of our posts fail to get: comments. As usual some of these are from possibly crazy people that I don't know, but for the first time I actually clicked on one of those youtube videos that people post in the comments. In it is the full context of Jeremiah Wright’s so-called hate-speech about the 9/11 attacks. As I’ve written before, I’m not so sure Wright’s comments are really as bad as everyone has been saying, and this video seems to validate that sentiment.From the brief clips that have run on a loop, it would seem that Wright is implying a cause-and-effect—that the U.S. got what it deserved on 9/11. The reality is a lot different, and not too far from what you’d expect from a religious leader in the wake of horrific events. In addition to the fact that his “incendiary” remarks are actually just rehashing those of a commentator he saw on FOX News that week, they are also explicitly a “footnote” to his sermon. They are not his response to the attacks—just a preemptive warning against future military engagements.Anyway, this is where his rant—which began with the Native Americans and moved on chronologically (and selectively) through U.S. history from there—ended up:

Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that, y’all. Not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who’s trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised.The ambassador said the people we are wounding don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die to take thousands with them, and we need to come to grips with that. Let me stop my faith footnote right there and ask us to think about that the next few weeks if God grants us that many days.
From there he returned back to the main subject of his sermon: The attacks are a time for introspection, and a time to reevaluate our personal relationship with God. Nothing too racy there, and certainly not on the same level as Gerry Falwell.Again, I think at his worst, Wright is part of a problem, propagating harmful myths and venting his rage when he should take leadership. But in this case, his comments veer perhaps only slightly to left of what was being said at houses of worship all around the country, emphasizing peace and a faith in a time of turmoil. I certainly wouldn't ask him to teach a political science class, but I doubt I would have walked out on this sermon, either.I also wonder what effect his rhetorical style has on public perception of his comments. I find it fascinating but also unfamiliar and over-the-top, which is likely to exacerbate any skepticism viewers may have.