Sunday, March 23, 2008

Incendiary remarks everywhere

Dooce has gradually gotten less funny and more mainstream, what with her kid, dogs and successful career, but every now and then we see the old outrageousness, such as in her most recent responses to moronic commenters on her blog.

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I was going to write about the Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle when it was current, but decided to wait for a bit of perspective. This is the minister of Obama's church whose anti-white vitriol was circulating via YouTube. Since I first saw that clip, Obama gave his speech on race (see single-page transcript, or video with transcript alongside containing links to sections of the speech -- thanks, NYT). I read it and was very impressed. It's a well-reasoned examination of the race in America past and present that looks at both sides of the issue, effectively illustrated by his personal experiences. The writing is nuanced and intelligent without being dry, policy-wonkish or filled with platitudes, though certainly there are some of those. Despicable as Wright's words are (at least in the one clip of him I've seen, presumably not a representative sample of his sermons), I respect the fact the Obama isn't suddenly disavowing the guy altogether, as one is expected to do in politics when something like this surfaces. He condemns Wright's objectionable marks but not the man in full, noting that he has said and done some good things as well:

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed... I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.

As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

This doesn't make me suddenly think that Rev. Wright is a swell guy and let bygones be bygones. Anyone who can say the things he said, especially in his official and public capacity, will always be pretty suspect as far as I'm concerned. But it does make we want to step back a bit from my rush to judgment and maybe find out a little more about Wright. So I guess I learned something from Obama's speech. But still being a cynic at heart, I now wonder if he writes all his own speeches -- in which case I respect him all the more -- or whether he has a really good ghostwriter who ought to be running for president instead.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps all we need to say to Rev Wright is...

Meanwhile, as Frank Rich eloquently wrote today, why isn't Hilary trying to grab back some spotlight by improving her own self-image by, for example, finally disavowing her vote in support of invading Iraq? Or better yet, making a show of Democratic unity by attacking McCain's glaring weaknesses compared to both Democratic candidates? Christ, if all this excitement on the Dem side winds up amounting to nothing and McCain gets elected, I'm moving to Canada. Which is #75 on the list of Stuff White People Like. I like that site because it makes me laugh and also feel a tiny bit uncomfortable (some of the items apply to me because after all, I'm a white person) and being made uncomfortable is not always a bad thing.

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