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Sneering sarcasm beats soaring rhetoric

[UPDATE] I speak only for myself. For another view, don’t miss Riverdaughter’s post

I guess we just naturally try to block out sounds and images that are too distressful or disturbing. And since the eruption of the Rev. Wright issue a lot of people blocked out the sound and vision of Rev. Wright as he mocked President Clinton and Hillary from the pulpit. In conversations about the issue my friends talked about anything but that. It was just too distasteful.

And that’s pretty much how the televised and online conversations went too. We’ve heard a lot of conversations about Race and the Black Church Tradition and Liberation Theology. But, we haven’t heard much about publicly mocking people who aren’t there to defend themselves. There’s been no discussion of that.

With his speech, Obama contained the Rev. Wright issue to a discussion of race. And it looked like that might work, at least during this primary season. But, the Wright issue is also a respect issue and by refusing to discuss what Wright said about the Clintons we never addressed that at all.

If we had, we might not have been so surprised by Obama’s campaign style. We might have been prepared for Obama giving Hillary “the finger”. After watching the NAACP speech, couldn’t you see the Rev. Wright making that same gesture if he thought it fit?

If there had been discussion of the laughter in that church as Rev. Wright rocked against the podium supposedly mimicking President Clinton, we might not have been surprised at Senator Obama laughing at voters in San Francisco earlier this month.

This weekend, we saw that it’s Reverend Wright’s style to insult people by name. This week it was Presidents Kennedy & Johnson whose accents he mocked. I can only imagine that it’s always someone. Someone who isn’t there to defend themselves.

It’s obvious to me that in style at least Obama is a faithful student. In tone and gesture, he can match his teacher. That’s why “The Wright Issue” resonates with me. It’s going to be a long time before I stop the sound of Rev. Wright sneering, “Ask not what your country can do for you” out of my ears. There is no worthy context for that.

29 Responses

  1. The whole thing about Bill Clinton doing to black people what he did to Monica Lewinsky just made me sick. Bill Clinton was not America’s greatest president, but he turned out to be a very, very good one, especially when you look at what the Republicans put him through the entire time he was president. The welfare reform that Clinton put through (which affected white people more than black people) was something a lot of African American leaders were saying needed to be done. No body was saying Bill Clinton was a racist back then. It started when Obama gave it the thumbs up. I didn’t care too much about Rev. Wright in the beginning, thinking Fox News was just attacking a guy’s church, and the IRS was going after it, which I saw as a Republican way of shutting down the competition. But the Clintons are getting the blame for that. Wright is off his rocker.

  2. Obama has become the one we were hoping for, that is, the loser. And along with him, are other losers in the MSM, the blogosphere, the political arena. I wonder how they feel now that Obama has been exposed as a fraud, a phony and media creation?

  3. Nice post, Katiebird. I think Obama was attracted to Wright because of the anger and disrespect that comes across in his preaching. Obama himself was an angry young man who already saw racial slights everywhere. He was angry that his father had left him to be raised by women who looked different than he did.

    Now Obama himself has angered Wright, and he’s apparently going to get the full Wright treatment. I wish I could feel some compassion for Barack, but I don’t. I only feel pity.

  4. Sorry, Kbird, I guess I’ve lived with religious wingers long enough to not be insulted by everything that comes out of their mouths. Obama has offended me with his immature gestures and comments but not Wright. That’s because Obama is aspiring to be my president but Wright is just a preacher and not my particular cup of spiritual tea.

    Just be careful that we don’t alienate people who we want to reconnect with. Wright isn’t the issue. He is being used as a cudgel to split the African-American voters from the Democrats for a long, long time. If we come down too hard on Wright, we risk offending many Africcan-Americans. Obama is at fault for putting race into play this season and the media is mega at fault for acquiescing to the goading of Republicans to play the issue up.

    Let’s not ruin it for Hillary. Let Wright go, Kbird. Don’t let him get under your skin.

  5. It has been reported that Wright was dissed by the Obama campaign by pushing him into the background. It appears that Wright is just getting back at Obama for they way he was treated. By making all those speeches and being in the news, white Americans are being scared and moving away from Obama. I am dissappointed that Obama seems to back away from who he is by not responding to Wright more strongly. He will respond if pushed, but he doesn’t take the lead by responding right away. Obama will not win in November. if was very iffy before, but now that Wright is all over the news, the Republicans will just attached him to Obama every chance they get. Obama supporters think we are above race. How sad. Obama supporters are way too naive. If Obama gets the nomination, he will not win in November and his supporters are going to get the lesson of their lives. All the racists aren’t dead yet.

  6. riverdaughter, I don’t actually care much about the whole Wright thing. My thoughts in writing this were to broaden the conversation. Hillary keeps getting asked about what she thinks – what she would do. But I think she could only be asked that because it’s forgotten that she & the President were directly mocked by Wright.

    I’m really just trying to bring the conversation back to style and tone.

  7. I said after Obama made his speech about race in Philadelphia that I would have respected him a lot more if he had stood up for Wright and really tried to put Black Liberation Theology in context. Instead, Obama was wishy washy. He’s afraid to stand up for any principles. Just look how he rolled over for Fox News on Sunday.

    I agree that Wright is not the issue, but he is destroying Obama, and there’s not much anyone can do about it at this point. I saw this coming months ago when I looked into Obama’s history. I didn’t know if it would be Wright or Rezko who would bring him down, but it was clear that Obama had a lot of troubling issues that would eventually come up in the campaign.

    I tried to tell Obama supporters this at DK, and got shouted down and mocked for my trouble. Now the chickens are really coming home to roost.

  8. bostonboomer: “I tried to tell Obama supporters this at DK, and got shouted down and mocked for my trouble.” Of course, you did. But now that BO has thrown dkos under the bus in his Fox interview, the chickens have, alas, come home to roost. There are no saints in this whole BO/dkos/Wright debacle, but more than enough sinners to go around.

  9. I thought Wright dialed back a whole bunch in those speeches so I dont understand the contiinued anger against him by the media hounds, frankly. He is a bit on the vulgar side and I am not used to that from spiritual leaders, per se. But he isnt out to get Obama and I kind of agree with RD that it might be time to let him go – he isnt hurting any of us and the Clintons can take care of themselveson the sex stuff.

    Worst thing I have seen in a while on the scandal side, was a supposed Clinton supporter talking about Bill cheating on her etc in a question at the Maya Angelou event – -an event meant to raise Her up. Hillary walked over and drank a glass of water to distract herself and the audience. Talk a bout a dumb supporter. Damning with feint praise indeed.

  10. Judith,

    Most of us here have no problem letting Wright go. We aren’t the issue. It will be up to the voters in the remaining states to decide if Obama is “the one.” Obama has hurt himself in the way he has (not) responded to what is happening. If I had my choice, this would not be the way Obama goes down. But it’s not up to me. I could see this coming because this is the media and political environment we live in now. It will only be changed by courage, not by Obama-style accommodation to the right wing.

  11. I’m speaking as a preacher, here. For three years, I served as a lay pastor to a small, rural church. I’ve known many black preachers. I’ve worked on district and conference boards with them. I’ve attended pastor’s school at Duke with them. A black preacher was our guest speaker at church this past Sunday. And while the black preachers that I’ve known can get fired up more often than we white preachers do, they still have a posture of humility, recalling the one that they serve.
    When I attended Duke to earn my license to preach, one of my teachers was a black preacher, a man of humility and grace who has worked very hard for racial harmony and unity—not only within our church but within the communities he has served. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in the appearances I’ve watched over the last two days, is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. His behavior in that news conference did not look like a man who was serving (or following) Jesus. He looked like a D-list actor who was auditioning to be a game show host. It made me feel sorry for Obama that this man was his spiritual mentor.

  12. Lucinda, great post and spot-on conclusion.

  13. Obama was cast into the role of the “transcendent” candidate, the healer so speak. It is not the issue of Wright himself that is disturbing but the question of how and why the transcendent candidate would have subjected himself for 20 years listening to divisive rhetoric and praise of Farrakhan that the public is trying to reconcile. The media cast him as JFK, RFK, MLK, all rolled into one and a thirsty public lapped it up without question. Wright is just offering a peek into what makes Barack Obama tick and it is not what they expected. Reduced to nothing more than a basic politician and the luster erodes.

  14. bostonboomer – perhaps you shoud direct that post at Riverdaughter as well as she asked Katiebird to let him go here because it may alienate people. So here on this board you Are the issue – as far as she meant.

    of course your words here are meaningless in the scheme of voting coming up – we all are on these chat boards. River’s point was that piling on seems unnecessary and potentially damaging.

  15. I have no problem with many of Wright’s comments and I think some of the backlash is a deep-rooted fear of liberation theology or anything that highlights that religion can be aimed at a social justice revolution. The sanitizing of MLK and reduce him to a cuddly “I have a dream” soundbite, while ignoring his sharp criticisms of racism, capitalism, etc, is an example.

    However, Wright has also made some odious comments that can’t be excused by anything. This includes disgustingly violent attitudes towards Natalee Holloway, suggesting she was “asking for it”, and spreading ignorance about AIDS. These comments should rightly be called out. And yet, as disgusting as these are, these aren’t the issue either.

    The crux of the matter: Obama’s relationship to Wright entitles him to a nuance of religious life that he disallowed the people of PA. Obama’s allowed to negotiate the complexities of religious and racial identity… but the working class joes are just bitter and clinging to guns ‘n’ Jesus. As far as I can tell, the only difference is that Obama is a “have” and the working joes are “have nots.” There are different rules for the people who carry their lunches to work — they’re cartoons to Obama, it would seem, without individual experiences, aspirations, or complexities. It must be so hard for the Precious to have to go to the yokels and actually *ask* for votes! That’s where the whole thing falls down for me.

  16. I just think he is a hypocrite who tried to paint himself as more morally sound then Hillary by virtue of his closeness with his preacher who turned out to be sort of freaky and offensive. I also think for one who constantly claims moral superiority and better judgement he is neither. So that’s my feeling on the Wright matter.

  17. I couldn’t agree more, k-bird. In fact, I think TUCC’s tax exempt status ought o be revoked based on that sermon in particular. It wasn’t about God, or even Jesus, it was about why you should vote for Obama, and why you shouldn’t vote for Clinton, at a time when Clinton was out-poling Obama in the AA vote. Deliberately political and deliberately inflammatory. They ought to lose their tax exempt status, along with any other megachurch or regular church that preaches for or against any candidate or party. We have a wall in this country, a wall of separation, thanks to Jefferson, and we ought to finally own it and express it.

  18. Melanie, you are right about that. That’s one thing I haven’t seen discussed anywhere–how Obama ASKED for this. He was the one chastising Democrats for not using religion like Republicans do, and saying how we need to embrace and demonstrate our “faith” as Reps do. Well, he asked for it, and now he knows why Dems don’t play those games. Because they’re fake games, and they leave you exposed. What a moron.

  19. Alice, Wright does not practice liberation theology. Google the term. It’s actually a Catholic Latino tradition that was born in South America, and was co-opted and corrupted by AA radicals in the late 50s, early 60s. What they practice is NOT liberation theology. And this Wright issue is not an attack against such a theology.

  20. Anna Belle: “Wright does not practice liberation theology.” Wow, thanks for straightening that out! I’m going to take your advice and google.

  21. And can I just say, “megachurches” in general really creep me out. Whatever happened to neighborhood parishes and churches?

  22. “His behavior in that news conference did not look like a man who was serving (or following) Jesus. ”

    Lucinda, what has not been looked into closely (because the elites of journalism haven’t a clue, or the courage… and after all, they AGREE that religion/faith is a crutch people cling to, or an opiate), is whether or not Trinity UCC under Pastor Wright could be considered true to its namesake: Trinitarian. Some of the “Black Liberation” theology veers pretty far from that orthodox understanding, and comes closer in some cases to “Jesus as Prophet” theology. The Nation of Islam is literally “right next door” to such teaching.

    Anna Belle is correct; Catholic “Liberation Theology” is very different from “Black Liberation” theology. BLT is a heretical teaching along the lines of the Aryan Nation’s so-called Christianity.

  23. from what i see “black liberation theology” is more about black issues and not christian issues. jesus seems to be more of a tool and ways to an end rather than the way for them. the shame of it is this is not the black church. rev wright does not represent them. i wish they would have the courage to stand up to him rather than remain silent or even worse endorse him.

    rev wright is a side issue as some have pointed out. just look at the choices for friends and mentors obama has made including his angry wife. that tells you more about him than any speech he gives. most of us hang out with like minded folks. obama is going through a rough patch. the way he is handling it tells me a great deal about how he would handle crisis in the wh. (not very well) heck if i were obama, i’d be on the back of a truck going from town to town talking to average joe and jane. i’d beg hillary to debate with me. i’d do what bill clinton did and mayor koch. how am i doing here? but that take a fire in the belly and determination which bo doesn’t have. hillary does however in spades.

  24. as far as liberation theology, I’m also only familiar with the Catholic brand of that.. but.. I haven’t really heard a lot from Wright that advocates any kind of specific action to change things for the better? I probably missed a lot? but I hear a lot of emphasis on what is wrong without much leadership on what can be done about it.. like I said about his NAACP speech.. a lot of “there are differences” and “we need change” and no precise vision of what change or how to get there.

  25. Melanie – I see where you are coming from. Yes, that is a fair connection in my opinion.

  26. Todd Beeton at MyDD quotes Obama from his press conference today, “”The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years.” Beeton then observes, “That’s a big problem for someone running on judgment.”

  27. I am another proponent of “look at Wright only in the context of what it tells us about Obama”. (Rev. Wright is correct… he is not running for the presidency.)

    I believe that Wright served as Obama’s oratorical tutor. And in that he served him very well. Obama has built a huge following by patterning his style (if not substance) of oratory on Wright’s example.

    The problem for Obama in this drawn out primary process (“Damn You Hillary”) is that more and more people are recognizing how empty the rhetoric is. His schtick has been to repititiously invoke images of ours wrongs, rile up his crowd, telling them They Can Fix It, and get them to chant “Yes We Can!”). He never gets to the part about his role in the process, his policy positions and how he’ll implement them.

    We’ve had nearly 8 years of a C-in-C who believed his job was “catapulting the propaganda”. Please spare me another day!

  28. This tone and style post is (w)right on.

    something bothered me about the manner in which the Rev was talking… with a sacrasm that obviously never quite fit what he meant to say..

    Ex: why in the H#ll did he have to do imitations of JFK and LBJ at all?? His point could have been proven without it. It was like he couldn’t resist putting on a big show.. which is why he was having such a good time doing the nasty at the podium when he talked about monica and pres clinton..

    when i saw this, I thought: this guy is a narcisist. he loves the power of his own voice and the adoration.. it goads him to be even more outrageous..

    It’s obvious to me that Obama sees Rev Rong as his Father figure.. he can’t disown him.. he loves the guy.. that’s what Rev Rong meant when he said he’d “come after Barrack”.. after he was elected.. to keep “the kid” in line..

    I thought that was the most outrageous and dumb statement of all..

  29. Dear Hillary supporters,

    I want to say, first off, that I’m an Obama supporter. Secondly, I want to say that I truly want to extend the olive branch to all you Hillary fans so that whoever the nominee is, they will have a unified democratic party behind them. I respect Clinton supporters just as much as I respect Obama supporters. I just thought that maybe you might be interested to know why I’m more for Obama than Clinton:
    1. Experience is not as important to me as it is to a lot of Clinton supporters. I truly believe that Obama has better judgment, and that’s more important for me.
    2. For some intangible reason, I trust him… You can’t really argue against that, since it’s just a feeling and it’s there.
    3. I really think that we need a president with a vision. Obama has demonstrated not only a distinctly different vision for our nation, but a distinctly different way of running a campaign. Hillary’s campaign is devoid of vision in any way.
    4. I don’t want the president to be at the mercy of the lobbyists. Now, I’m not naive enough to think that Obama will be able to change Washington entirely during four years, but I think we need to start. I don’t like that Clinton stands by the lobbyists and says that they represent ‘real people.’ I don’t buy it.
    5. I feel like Obama is a lot more genuine than Hillary. Again, just a feeling, but it’s there and it’s undeniable.

    I like Hillary because she is tenacious, a strong woman and a liberal and she would also work for change. However, I think Obama will do a better job of changing Washington.
    These are just my views, and though I support Obama, I am not one of the short-sighted people who vows to transfer their vote to McCain should their candidate of choice not be nominated. I hope Hillary supporters will vote for whoever the democratic nominee is as well.

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