As I navigate through the world wide web, I see that Rev. Jeremiah Wright continues to be a polarizing figure. His name is usually raised in the context of an attack on Barack Obama, or a statement of concern about the perceived ill will that African Americans have toward white Americans.
I don’t want to be, or seem to be, a Rev. Wright apologist. He is intentionally overly provocative, and seems to have a nose for controversy. I don’t agree with everything he says.
But it does bother me to hear people say that, for example, Wright is a purveyor of hate speech against white Americans in particular or America in general. That’s just wrong.
I engaged in a conversation on this subject on another website, and I feel this is worth sharing.
INITIAL COMMENT ON REV. WRIGHT:
One thing that I am shocked and hurt by during this campaign season is to discover the fact that people of color have so much hatred or ill feelings towards whites. I have never in my lifetime had any bad feelings towards blacks, in fact, have had quite a bit of good wishes and good will towards them.
I hope I am not speaking out of line here, but trying to be honest. I cannot tell you how horrified I was to hear Jeremiah Wright screaming about rich white people and about our country.
And I am particularly heartbroken to hear this from a pulpit, where truth is supposed to be spoken. And the unforgivable to me is that he has and is teaching his people and youth to think of us an the enemy. I always thought that as a Christian, there was a common ground, you know, the “there is no slave nor free, but all One in Christ,” stuff.
Naive? I guess so. But I really didn’t want to know about those feelings, but they quite obviously exist. In fact, it has made me stand back and wonder, do all the people of color who I have worked with and known and run into every day feel this way towards me? I don’t know any more.
Rev. Wright is not a sympathetic figure. He is so extremely disliked by so many people, it’s probably impossible at this point to change minds that he is not the monster that people believe him to be.
But on the subject of Wright, I offer this not for purposes of persuasion, but in the hope of providing some insight and context regarding some of his more controversial comments:
 Rev. Wright does not preach hate, he doesn’t even come close. If you think he preaches hate, you haven’t really heard people who do.
 The closest person to Rev. Wright rhetorically, that most whites can “relate to” as an example, is Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh’s speech is hard coded to his target audience. Outside of the context of his listeners, his comments are considered racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-intellectual, etc.
The thing is, Rush says things that extremely provocative to the point of meeting the legal definition of fighting words.
Wright is like that. Wright is basically a fire and brimstone preacher for whom rhetorical excess is considered a virtue. But away from his regular listeners who know the full context in which he speaks, he can seem offensive.
Former president Bill Clinton charged that Senator Barack Obama “gets other people” to “slime” his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton – including pastors who speak at Trinity United Church. Trinity United is Barack Obama’s former church; he left the church after guest preacher Rev. Michael Pfleger made several offensive comments about Hillary Clinton.
Clinton was originally responding to a reporter concerning an article in Vanity Fair magazine which made several negative remarks about Bill Clinton’s behavior since he’s left office.
As he spoke, CLinton apparently went into an angry rant, during which he called the article’s writer “sleazy,” “dishonest,” “slimy” and a “scumbag.” Clinton then complained about the press and Obama:
It’s just slimy. It’s part of the national media’s attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It’s the most biased press coverage in history. It’s another way of helping Obama. They had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist, and he didn’t do anything about it. The first day he said ‘Ah, ah, ah well.’ Because that’s what they do– he gets other people to slime her. So then they saw the movie they thought this is a great ad for John McCain– maybe I better quit the church. It’s all politics. It’s all about the bias of the media for Obama. Don’t think anything about it.
Clinton’s remark feeds into the speculation that some Clinton backers have been trying to drive a wedge between women and Obama.
Obama’s response to Phleger’s comments was to say “as I have traveled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”
And while I’m on this subject, let me to vent a little about comments from some in the the media that Obama didn’t do enough to “apologize” for Rev Phleger’s remarks about Hillary Clinton.
Uh… what? Why should Obama have to apologize for something he didn’t say?
Now look. If Phleger was Obama’s spokesman, or part of the Obama staff, or even on Obama’s campaign payroll, then yeah – Obama would have had to apologize in that case. But that is NOT the case.
Obama is not responsible for what Phleger said, and as such, should not be held accountable for his comments, and as such, should not have to apologize.
The idea from Clinton that Phleger was doing Obama’s bidding is not merely unsubstantiated, it’s ridiculous. Obama needs Clinton’s support to win the election in November, and he’s said as much. It would be insane for Obama to have Phleger or anyone make such divisive comments. But perhaps in Bill’s fit of anger, common sense was eluding him.
It’s no wonder that Obama finally decided to leave Trinity United. Had he stayed, he would constantly get blamed for anything and everything that was said said there, a situation that is unfair to both Obama and the church. This will not be an end to Obama’s “pastor problems” on the campaign trail, but it should help.