I expected a roaring debate in the political blogosphere this morning, and on cable news after the Friday night Bill Moyers interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Instead, there's eerie quiet.
The most I could find was this post on Protein Wisdom saying that Moyers didn't play hardball with Wright. It's true, he didn't. Instead he did what I wish more journalists would, he interviewed him in a way that helped us get to know the person. He let him speak his piece, so we could listen.
There's so much to admire about Rev. Wright, but first, the shame of the professional media, who hounded not only Wright, but members of his congregation, including a woman in a hospice, to try to uncover more dirt about Wright and thereby embarrass Barack Obama.
Wright isn't running for office, he points out, it isn't his job to get our vote, it's his job to help his congregation, to help them understand the world they live in, to help them do better in that world, and to prepare them for what they believe comes in the afterlife.
Watching Wright, I wondered if Sean Hannity's preacher could stand up to the kind of objectification this man has withstood. What about Tim Russert's? How about the people who are close to Charlie Gibson and Andrea Mitchell? And how about the CEOs of Time-Warner, GE, the Sulzbergers and the Murdochs? These people have never run for office, they've never been vetted or elected. Could they come out so well after being put through the wringer that Wright has been through.
I think the silence comes from the fact that there still is some humanity in the press and in the blogosphere, and those who watched Moyers and really listened to Wright, realized that he's not a liability to Obama, he's an asset. At least some of the polish, the quiet confidence, self-respect, intelligence and grace we see in Obama must have rubbed off this man.
Watching Wright gave me pride in being an American, and shame at the same time, for coming from a country so willing to objectify and villify this person before checking out whether the characterization was accurate. Even the supposedly courageous and thorough NY Times calls his oratory "racist" in an editorial in today's paper. Based on what? I've watched the sermons that have been excerpted; if these are racist, then every other preacher in the US is racist too.
Wright says the religion of the people on the deck of a slave ship must be different from the religion from the people under the deck. On the deck, god is justifying the practice of slavery, and below -- god gives them hope that someday they will be free. My people, the Jews, understand this very well, it's part of our tradition. We've just celebrated the holiday of Passover, a feast that's all about the pride of an enslaved people. If we're still telling the story, passing it down from generation to generation, after 3000 years, why should we be critical of the African-Americans who are telling the story of their enslavement, which ended only 145 years ago, and whose manifestations are still with us today.
We, the United States, have made mistakes, and those mistakes are as much who we are as our triumphs. The failures leave behind people and their culture, their music, their legends, their religion and their hopes. Sure it seems strange when you hear it for the first time, but that's good! Because the second time it's not so strange, and eventually it becomes part of our melting pot, and enriches all our lives.
If you haven't watched the Wright interview, make the time to do so. You won't be sorry.