In response to attacks from the Clinton campaign and from others in the media over comments made by his pastor several years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech Tuesday on the subject of race relations in America.
After having watched Obama's speech on race and read the transcript I think that this was without a doubt the best speech I have seen any politician give in my lifetime. It was honest, blunt, and took a thorny issue straight on with a perfect sense of balance. On top of all that he showed tremendous poise and grace.
The one thing I would have liked to have seen him say that he didn't say is that Geraldine Ferarro is clearly not a racist. He hinted at such a sentiment, but I think he would have done well to completely absolve her of that issue and move on. I think her statements were wrong, but as Obama himself has said in the past, they weren't racist.
I also think that his speech was risky and was an example of real straight talk that by far eclipses the speeches given by McCain or Clinton during this campaign. "Straight Talk" John McCain has been doing more pandering this campaign than anyone, and has surely been giving the least straight talk, unlike during is earlier 2000 campaign.
Overall I would have to say that I was impressed with Obama's speech and very much agree with it. The only thing I didn't really agree with actually was his denouncement of his pastor's sermon, though I understand why that was obviously essential. When it comes to the sermons in question from Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, I actually agree with, or at least sympathies with, everything he said in those now famous quotes.
Not only that, but the real irony is that one of the statements of Reverend Wright that drew the most criticism, his statements about the 9/11 attacks, actually echoes statements by former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Here is what Reverend Wright said about the 9/11 attacks:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost,"This statement from Reverend Wright is absolutely true. As someone who is not a church goer myself, and who largely sees churches as instruments of state support, I'm glad to see such critical and honest discussion in a church. The reality is that Reverend Wright was right, and that perhaps is what scares people even more. But more importantly, look at a speech that Ron Paul gave on the floor of the House of Representatives:
"Excessive meddling in the internal affairs of other nations and involving ourselves in every conflict around the globe has not endeared the United States to the oppressed of the world. The Japanese are tired of us. The South Koreans are tired of us. The Europeans are tired of us. The Central Americans are tired of us. The Filipinos are tired of us. And above all, the Arab Muslims are tired of us.There is little difference between the substance of what Dr. Paul said and what Reverend Wright said, its just that Reverend Wright was fired up and speaking from the pulpit, plus he's black, and Dr. Paul is was a white man speaking more evenly, though still a little fired up, before a legislature.
Angry and frustrated by our persistent bullying and disgusted with having their own government bought and controlled by the United States, joining a radical Islamic movement was a natural and predictable consequence for Muslims.
We believe bin Laden when he takes credit for an attack on the West, and we believe him when he warns us of an impending attack. But we refuse to listen to his explanation of why he and his allies are at war with us.
Bin Laden’s claims are straightforward. The U.S. defiles Islam with military bases on holy land in Saudi Arabia, its initiation of war against Iraq, with 12 years of persistent bombing, and its dollars and weapons being used against the Palestinians as the Palestinian territory shrinks and Israel’s occupation expands. There will be no peace in the world for the next 50 years or longer if we refuse to believe why those who are attacking us do it.
To dismiss terrorism as the result of Muslims hating us because we're rich and free is one of the greatest foreign-policy frauds ever perpetrated on the American people. Because the propaganda machine, the media, and the government have restated this so many times, the majority now accept it at face value. And the administration gets the political cover it needs to pursue a 'holy' war for democracy against the infidels who hate us for our goodness."
As for Reverend Wright's "God Damn America" sermon, from 2003, I generally agree with that sermon too.
"The government gives them [blacks] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people, God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
I don't believe that the government is giving people drugs. Although there is indeed evidence that the CIA was involved in some cocaine dealing in America to help the Nicaraguan conservatives fund their war against the Socialist Sandinista regime, that is was an exceptional case.
But why do people like Reverend Wright criticize America? Because they hate America? No, because they love America and the rest of the world too. If they hated America they wouldn't bother with such criticisms, and I can certainly identify with this because I share much of that same sentiment myself. I'm certainly critical of much of American policy and American culture, but I wouldn't even bother wasting my time on this website if I hated America. Critics put in the effort because they care. And, any true Bible scholar should know as well that Reverend Wright's "damning of America" directly follows Biblical style and motifs. Anyone who has studied the Bible has to know that the vast majority of the Bible is condemnational. Almost all of the books of the Old Testament contain condemnations of Israel and the Jewish people. In the New Testament basically all that Jesus does is condemn everything. Reverend Wright's sermon is deeply Christian and heavily rooted in the Biblical tradition of condemnation of injustices and seeking to find meaning in disastrous events through criticism of the nation for not following God's commandments and principles. Reverend Wright's "God Damn America" sermon could be lifted straight from the pages of the book of Isaiah or any number of other books. So, this criticism of Reverend Wright's sermon by ostensible Christians I find to be completely baseless and reflective of their own lack of any real connection to scripture.
The reality is that many "white Christians" really know nothing about the Bible and nothing about Christianity and nothing about the real virtues of the religion. They tend, instead, or focus on actually the worst aspects of the religion, especially the conservatives. For conservative Christians the religion is more about tribalism, condemning non-believers, believing that their own nation is God's chosen people, and taking ancient stories as literal truth. These are all of the worst aspects of the religion. To conservative white Christians the Bible is a book to beat people over the head with and to reinforce patriotism and subservience.
Many black Americans, however, and liberal Christians in general, identify with the stories of suffering and struggle in the Bible and they focus on the message of working against poverty and oppression. These are the best parts of the religion and the parts of the religion that Reverend Wright apparently focused on. The damning of Israel by God is a constant theme in the Bible, and the reason for this damnation every time is that the people were supposedly not following God's desire to help the poor, to help the oppressed, etc., and in the Bible when the Jews were accused of not helping the poor and oppressed this was accompanied by attacks from foreign invaders, enslavement, and natural disasters. So, Reverent Wright's sermon follows directly in that vein.
The reality, of course is that much of the Bible was written by people just like Reverend Wright, social critics who loved their people and their country but wanted to right what they perceived as wrongs in society. They had little understanding of the real way that the world works, so they often blamed natural disasters and invasions on things that weren't really responsible for those events, but in the case of Reverend Wright's sermon the connections that he draws are real. American foreign policy did play a large role in bringing September 11th upon ourselves. American society and government policy is partly responsible for the strife that we have within our own population, especially among minorities. So, I agree with Reverend Wright and I also can clearly see that his sermon was supremely rooted in Christian an Biblical tradition.