Wow. The craziness is flying over comments made by Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright. I’ve read reactions from people stronly opposed to Wright, and from people defending Wright (or at least giving some helpful context—Knightopia links to several more).
Some of what Wright says is clearly off the deep end (i.e., the government invented AIDS to wipe out people of color). But I think some of his comments are right on. Like the “God Damn America” comments:
“The government gives them the drugs [referring to the Iran-Contra Affair], 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.” (Seattle Times)
The ABC News story left out the last sentence, which I think helps give some context. Wright is preaching prophetically, like the prophets of old, who spoke out against injustice. I love America and the freedoms we have, but it’s not anti-American to speak out against injustice committed by America. That’s patriotic. (I wish Obama would have made that point.)
And America has some injustice going on when there are more black men in prison than in college.
I think Obama’s response sums it up:
Obama said that if he knew Wright only through clips played on television and YouTube, he also would see a reason to distance himself from the minister. (CNN)
It’s kind of funny that much of the supposed controversy was raised in an April 30, 2007 New York Times article. But apparently we need out-of-context video clips, cherry-picked from a 40-year career to make real headlines.
I’ll say this much for Wright—I appreciate his frankness. In 1984 he took a trip to Libya with Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan to meet with Muammar al-Gaddafi. Critics jump on this bit of trivia (neglecting to mention that the peace mission resulted in the release of a capture U.S. pilot who was shot down over Lebanon), and Wright addressed it head on:
“When [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit Colonel Gadaffi with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell,” Wright once said. (London Sunday Times)
[It's also note-worthy that "the Anti-Defamation League says it has no evidence of any anti-Semitism by Wright" (New York Times).]