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 March, 2008


 Barack Obama Defends Attacks About His Preacher

Another Serious Discussion About Race?
By Al Owens

It’s official. Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim. He can thank Rev. Jeremiah Wright for the confirmation of that fact.

Wright is a reverend, not an Imam. He sometimes reads from the Bible, not the Koran. He has preached at a church, not at a mosque.
Obama has been one of his church members for 20 years, and that finally puts to rest the fear that a President Obama would somehow unleash armies of suicide bombers the minute he’d be sworn in with his hand still resting on that aforementioned mentioned Koran.

How’d I know that? Ann Coulter no longer refers to Barack Obama as “B. Hussein Obama.” Not even she feels compelled to childishly brandish his middle name to make some twisted point regarding his allegiance to this country. She now has Rev. Wright to pull from her quiver.

This past week has been a windfall for right-wingers who’ve finally been able to convince many liberals and swing-voters that Obama is a closet traitor thanks to his close proximity to Wright.

They’ve even managed to get liberal pundits to respond to the selected snippets from Wright’s sermons that reveal nothing more than his ability to rouse his parishioners with language that makes some white Americans recoil, then restock their fallout shelters to protect them from the hoards of angry black clergymen who’re sure to infect them with volleys of “hate speech.”

So what? I’ve heard that kind of language, and in many cases, coming from the same people who are trying to convince us Wright is the devil incarnate, my entire life.

Ann Coulter is one of them. I can live with it. So can you, I suppose.

The other day, just after Obama gave his speech on this matter, I was struck by two things.

First, right-wingers who’d claimed to have hung on every word of his speech weren’t satisfied because Obama didn’t physically drag Wright to the podium, douse him with gasoline and then set him ablaze.

It didn’t matter to them that Obama disavowed knowledge of having ever heard Wright make the statements we’ve all seen. They even questioned his veracity about having ever heard from other people that Wright had made those statements when he wasn’t at his church.

Well, if those statements are so unsettling, then why do these people play them over and over again? If I had small kids, I’d like to be able to usher them out of the room before they’d play another Wright sound bite, lest they’d get a sample of what they’re going to get when they walk out on the street.

The second aspect of the Obama speech “aftermath” that I found rather amusing, regards the long lines of insta-pundits who felt compelled to call it “The second most important speech on race, since Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.”
Come on. Who do these people think they’re kidding? Such high praise is always a prelude to the supposed “serious flaws” that pundits found in Obama’s speech.

To them, even a soaring speech that failed to completely discount Wright and any black minister who engages in any form of social commentary – is a good reason Obama shouldn’t win in November – or any other time for that matter.

Those pundits seem to have forgotten Martin Luther King’s speech in 1963 was viewed by many people the very same way as Wright’s sermons are viewed today.
“The Negro has been fed this racial poison in Negro churches throughout our land for a long period of time by just such rabble rousers as Martin Luther King” proclaimed an irate Texas letter writer, just days after that march on Washington.
Any serious discussion of race matters has always been met with derision in some corners of this country. Sadly, that’s the American way.
Obama should have known that no matter how eloquent his words would be the other day, there would be cat calls coming from the Ann Coulters of the world.
“As a post-racial American, I do not believe "the legacy of slavery" gives black people the right to be permanently ill-mannered,” Coulter writes as if she has a handle on the complexities of why so many black people (and so many white people) are so angry on the subject of race.

She doesn’t. It’s obvious that the issue of race in this country is an ugly one that continues to prevent some white or black people from fully trusting other white or black people, and her words certainly don’t help.

Nor did the words of the Florida columnist Howard Carraway help, when felt obliged to call Martin Luther King, Jr. a “comic-opera fraud” and a “criminal agitator” in 1963. King had been engaged in the “criminal” pursuit of trying to ensure that all Americans could have a full stake in this democracy.

I wonder then, if there had been a black candidate for president who’d been among the 100 thousand marchers who joined King in Washington, how silly it would have seemed if the pundits of that day would have been asked them to disavow King’s words?
He was a preacher. He’d made some mighty strong statements in pulpits. He, too, was perceived as being un-American.

Are we a nation so fragile that an honest discussion of our common resentments cannot be explored? If we are that fragile, then Wright’s angry words will be inextricably bound to Obama’s aspirations – no matter what proof he offers to the contrary.

The people of Iraq might be looking at all of this with some curiosity. After all, we’re trying to Super-Glue our sense of democracy onto their long held views of government.

Many Iraqis may see our newscasts and ask, “Why do they want us to be like them? How can they teach us about democracy,” they might be saying, “when they know so little about it themselves?”