Note: I wrote this post back on April 1 of this year. Initially, after thinking that the Jeremiah Wright situation would resolve itself (finally), I shelved it. I felt a harsh rebuff of Wright's unfair critics wasn't worth stirring the pot for. But after listening to Bill Moyers' recent journal on the subject, I wanted to share my original thoughts.
Pat Robertson has made dozens -- comments that make you cringe, recoil or just roll your eyes. The late Jerry Falwell publicly blamed gays, lesbians and feminists for the attacks of 9/11. Even the revered presidential pastor Billy Graham -- with unparalleled access and influence in the White House -- said outright anti-Semitic statements to the most powerful policy maker in the world at the time, President Nixon. Last I checked, nobody associated with these aforementioned men of God were questioned on their patriotism or presidential qualifications. In fact, having had them in your court is a right of passage for conservatives.
Taken to the extreme, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's words, specifically the passage about the national mood after 9/11, sound as outrageous and ugly as Robertson's, Falwell's and Graham's utterances. Senator Obama at least had the courage and character to distance himself from the commentary and controversy. More importantly, as a black candidate courting white voters, he had no choice. Blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder and this is still a country built around Robertsons more than Wrights. Add to this Wright's persona, a gruff and spirited black man pointing his angry fingers right at mainstream America, and no wonder he's the new pariah slash boogieman.
But with all the condemnation of Wright's words, what I've yet to hear is whether there is any basis to his claims. What about Wright's "God damn America" sermon's declaration that 9/11 is a symptom of our foreign policy and our selective concern about human rights in the rest of the world? As hard as this is to swallow for flag pin-wearing Americans, this is not far from the "Blowback" argument made in national security circles for years now. And Wright was not the first or the last to utter such seemingly grandiose claims as a rebuttal to our national indignation following the attacks.
Here is former presidential candidate Ron Paul speaking during the debates on 9/11 blowback:
Paul: Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East. I think Reagan was right: we don't understand the irrationality of Middle-Eastern politics. So right now, we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican, we're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.
Interviewer: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attacks, sir?
Paul: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it. And they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, "I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They've already now since that time have killed 3400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.
Meanwhile, months later . . . The media discovered the words of Pastor Wright.
A section of the much vilified and much excerpted sermon of Jeremiah Wright on the hypocrisy of American opinion surrounding the 9/11 attacks given its geo-political actions over the past half century:
Rev. Wright: "We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
One commentary is the fiery, if politically suicidal and socially offensive, oratory of a seemingly divisive and radical preacher. While the other is the more sober, researched, but equally as impassioned condemnation of American foreign policy by a major Republican presidential candidate. Neither view is mainstream. Both demand that Americans take an honest look at past and current acts--and how they have dire consequences in our current reality.
But only one has been endlessly vilified, mocked, dismissed as heresy and looped on cable news for weeks. It's fine to pick the reverend's words apart, but let's keep things in perspective.
Heck, maybe I should just let Bill Moyers speak: