A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I have to admit to. . .

. . .a certain amount of apprehension over the degree of disgust I'm experiencing in the wake of the Obama/Wright controversy. When matters of race come up in ways that stir such outrage, you have to pause for a moment and consider whether or not you're getting caught up in your own strain of identity politics. So, I have to ask myself, "Am I angry because I'm a white guy who would be treated entirely differently if I were in Barack Obama's position, or am I angry because the things that Wright said were so patently offensive that there's no other way to feel about them?"

Predictably, I suppose, I've come to the conclusion that it's a little bit of both. After all, had a white person said things analogous to what Wright has said, I doubt seriously that I would have been angered at all by them. More likely, I would have resorted to ridicule, which is considerably more effective in rebutting those kinds of idiotic sentiments, and a lot less toxic to the system.

So, what is it about the fact that a black man said these things that bothered me so much? I think a good bit of it is reflected in my previous post, where I expressed my indignation at the lack of leadership that Obama has shown throughout this debacle. Reading over it a second (and third) time, I can see a certain amount of whining that it's not fair that people like Wright can feel comfortable in saying such things, while any white guy would have been called to account for it long ago.

Not that it isn't true, but the fact is, too much whining about side-issue injustices invites ridicule -- usually justified. After all, the things that Jeremiah Wright has said from the pulpit are wrong in any context, and the fact that liberals and Obama supporters are doing their best doesn't make them any less so. And, they'd be wrong whether or not these people would be defending a white person who expressed similar sentiments. So, as far as that's concerned, it seems that I fell prey to All About Me Syndrome.

As for Obama, I think we know less about him than some of his most vocal critics believe, and much more about him than his apologists would ever admit. For instance, contrary to what many of his critics insist, I don't believe that we can infer from the fact that Obama has such close ties to Wright that he is a black nationalist in the guise of a mainstream politician. While it's possible that he is, I don't think one can assume it based on what we know.

At the same time, the notion perpetuated by Obama's biggest supporters -- that he somehow transcends racial politics and represents a whole new paradigm -- has been exploded to bits by his reactions both when the problem presented itself, and when public scrutiny forced him to address it. For a man whose campaign proposes to transform American politics by elevating it from its current status as a cynical sleazefest, Obama has displayed a distinct lack of principle. It's difficult to escape the conclusion that he is little more than a gold plated version of the same old Chicago-style machine politician.

When he had an opportunity to confront the vile lies being inflicted upon his community as they were being spoken by one of its spiritual leaders, he chose silence. And, when presented with the opportunity not only disassociate himself from those lies, but to rebut them, invoke the truth and express the need for others to do the same, he chose to evade the core issue, subordinate its importance to his sense of solidarity with his community and use his grandmother's fear to minimize his pastor's anger, ignorance and demagoguery.

Some make the case that it's not Obama's duty to bring an end to the racial divisions that afflict America, and I think that's a fair statement. It could be that the media are responsible for that construct, and that to expect Obama to deliver on something that he never promised and can't deliver is grossly unfair. However, I do believe that he has benefited from the public's perception of him as The Healer of those old wounds, and that he didn't mind the media painting him as such, so long as it garnered him the support he needed.

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