I've been thinking. (Run for your lives! You've been given fair warning.)
Yesterday at work, my manager asked my pal Greg about what he thought of Barack Obama's self-destruction (or words to that effect). I happened to be standing close by and overheard this. Greg and I looked at each other, obviously a little puzzled, and Greg said, "Uh...I didn't realize he had." I said, "He still seems pretty intact to me."
My manager went on to say that more is coming out about the Reverend Wright controversy, that it's really hurt Obama's campaign, that there's no way he'll win the nomination now, and also no way she'll vote for him. Greg and I were still puzzled. Greg said he thought it was a non-issue, and I said that I'd heard just that morning that Obama's poll numbers were relatively unaffected. She said that's not what she heard, and said that she just couldn't support someone who went to a church like that or was friends with someone like Wright.
Now, I love my manager, I really do. However, I really disagreed with what she was saying, so do you know what I did? I quit on the spot! That's right. How could I continue to work for someone with whom I disagreed so completely?
There's that sarcasm again. Obviously, I didn't quit, but that's exactly how ludicrous this argument is. The fact of the matter is that people don't always agree with each other. Far from it. Obama has made it clear that he does not agree with some of the more outrageous remarks made by Reverend Wright, but that he is still a friend and that he values that friendship. I don't have a problem with that. John McCain doesn't have a problem with that. When asked whether a candidate should be held accountable for the views of his pastor, McCain said, "knowing Senator Obama... he does not share the extreme views..that I saw on television."
In doing some reading this morning, a couple of things about Wright's comments. First, it looks as if many of the remarks were taken out of context. In an interview with Charles Gibson, Obama said, "If all I saw of Rev. Wright … were the 30-second or one-minute clips that have been looped over the last two weeks again and again as opposed to the body of work for 30 years that he engaged in in building a church that is a pillar of the community on the South Side [of Chicago]....It's as if we took the five dumbest things that I ever said or you ever said … in our lives and compressed them, and put them out there, you know, I think that people's reaction would be understandably upset."
Second, I think it's important to remember that Wright is of the age where he saw first-hand much of the racism of our very recent past. As someone who has never been through such struggles, I feel I cannot pass judgement on the man. As for the comment about infecting blacks with the AIDS virus? While I don't believe that happened, have you ever read about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment?
Finally, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald raised a very valid point. "...the idea that America deserves terrorist attacks and other horrendous disasters has long been a frequently expressed view among the faction of white evangelical ministers to whom the Republican Party is most inextricably linked. Neither Jerry Falwell nor Pat Robertson ever retracted or denounced their view that America provoked the 9/11 attacks by doing things to anger God. John Hagee continues to believe that the City of New Orleans got what it deserved when Katrina drowned its residents and devastated the lives of thousands of Americans. And James Inhofe -- who happens to still be a Republican U.S. Senator -- blamed America for the 9/11 attacks by arguing in a 2002 Senate floor speech that "the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America" because we pressured Israel to give away parts of the West Bank."
While I believe it was important that Obama addressed these issues in his speech last week, I find it sad that we are focusing on the incendiary remarks made by his pastor, rather than on Obama's message in his speech: we need to move on and solve our problems together. "My argument is not that we should focus obsessively on race. My argument is, we should acknowledge the dangers of racial division, precisely in order to focus on those problems that we all have in common as Americans," he said. I couldn't have said it better myself.
You might want to read Leonard Pitts' column about this. Excellent.