April 30, 2008

Jeremiah Wright: Enough already

Enough with the Jeremiah Wright already. Why is this guy even news? He's a preacher. What do you expect from preachers? Crazy ass mofo shit.

Besides, Wright hasn't said anything mo fo' sho crazier than the wacky knuckleheads John McCain chillz wit'. Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment on America because some gay people were planning on having a parade in New Orleans?

I thought that's what you did in New Orleans.

Compared to a blunt assessment of the occasional effects of U.S. foreign policy, that's not just crazy, that's bat-shittery. Yet I don't see Anderson Cooper convening a nightly tribunal of nine to endlessly dissect the inanities of John Hagee and the rest of the megachurch televangelizers, any of whom on any given day will come up with something ten times stupider than anything Jeremiah Wright ever said in his life, in Barack Obama's presence or otherwise.

Dr. Glenn P. Hastedt is a professor of political science at James Madison University in Virginia. Hastedt wrote a book, now in its seventh edition, called American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, Future. It's one of the definitive surveys and a "required text." After conducting an exhaustive review of U.S. foreign policy drawing on a myriad of sources reflecting every conceivable perspective, Dr. Hastedt provides a conclusion summarizing a number of the dominant views of U.S. hegemony — in other words, the "common wisdom." He calls one of them the 'America as Balancer' view:
[T]he United States must learn to live with uncertainty. Absolute security is an unattainable objective and one that produces only imperial overstretch. In sum, the America as Balancer perspective holds that ... the primary national security threats to the United States are self-inflicted. They take the form of a proliferation of security commitments designed to protect America's economic interests.
Now, tell me how that isn't just a rigorously academic way of saying, "the chickens may come home to roost"? Al-Qaeda hit the WTC for a reason. Remember bin Laden's ghoulish disavowal of the innocence of the WTC victims, because they were U.S. taxpayers? Not because they needed converting to Islam.

It's a blinding glimpse of the obvious that U.S. foreign policy may have detrimental consequences for the U.S. itself. How could it not, given America's preeminent global position. America will be seen by many people on the other side of the world as oppressors for that reason alone, even before it sets up military bases within a stone's throw of the Kaaba.

Is that to say that America shouldn't establish a military presence in the Middle East? Not necessarily; only that there will be consequences, and those consequences may include retaliations in the form of 9/11. How is that even controversial? Those are standard considerations for the average competent actor in international relations, especially these days.

Jeremiah Wright is a preacher and it's his job to detect the Hand of God in everything and then tell anyone within bellowing distance all about it. Never mind that he can't prove there even is a "God," he just assumes it and furthermore assumes its constant involvement in the affairs of humans. That's what preachers do.

Sometimes they even relate the details of personal conversations they've had with God (preachers may waive the deity-preacher privilege; God may not, which is one of the reasons why you never hear from Him). And if I'm not mistaken, God has been communicating his displeasure with various warring tribes at least since the World was created 6,000 years ago.

So why does it come as any surprise to anyone that Jeremiah Wright would presume to articulate God's displeasure with certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy? And why are the surprised the same ones that venerate Ronald Reagan, who, much like John Hagee, consulted an ergot-poisoning-fueled nightmare called the Book of Revelation to fire his own End Times hallucinations? And whose necromancing First Lady consulted with astrologers.

Whereas John Hagee's "god damn Americas" come in the form of otherwise rationally explainable tropical weather disturbances that cripple half the country, Pastor Wright's candid observations on foreign policy have nothing on Hagee's demented fantasies.

Wright is playing to an audience and his main purpose is as a motivational speaker. It's a black schtick, which is cool, but his delivery is lame-on-arrival. That 'white people ain't got no rhythm' bit got old a long time ago. And I ask again, then how come Miles Davis got up at five in the morning to go round up Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans when they were recording Birth Of The Cool? Because Miles wanted soulless cats who couldn't dance?

But that's just my opinion. Who am I to say that Barack Obama may have enjoyed the hell out of Wright's act, but that he shouldn't have? Personally I prefer Chris Rock or Richard Pryor, but hey.

Wright surely has a right to get up there and defend himself against the stunningly irresponsible manipulations of his larger context by the working press. But it seems to me he's doing few people any favors by adopting that old-timey strutting preacher stance, as he did in "taking" questions (gee, thanks) at the National Press Club the other day. That schtick is just straight up passé. As is this whole preacher business in its entirety, if you ask me. Perhaps recent developments will convince politicians to avoid them completely in future.

eta: Mike Mathias is thinking along similar lines this morning.

13 comments:

kay said...

More than enough for me. This is like bait and switch.
My questions are about why Obama went there for so long when Wright was obviously going to bring all this into the spotlight. Did Obama think that was the only place he could get his soul saved or was it for political advantage in that area? They were close but he knew so little about the man's nature?

I think Obama showed his arrogance and naivety by not pulling away from that church long ago.
He said he made a "bone-headed" decision regarding Rezko. So, is this another bone-headed decision too? Are there more to be made public after the convention?

illusory tenant said...

Fair points. I reckon I'll be long since pushing up the daisies by the time viable presidential candidates give up considering their alleged religious beliefs a positively marketable attribute.

gnarlytrombone said...

So why does it come as any surprise to anyone that Jeremiah Wright would presume to articulate God's displeasure with certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy?

God forbid I quibble with a fellow atheist, but that's a mischaracterization of what Wright said.

First, the "God damn America" line was not in the 9/11 sermon (it came in reference to America's history of race relations). More importantly, though he issues it in a booming voice and via biblical allusions, Wright was making a much more nuanced argument that doesn't depend at all on divine intervention. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Wright's central thesis is that people throughout history have claimed God's blessing both committing heinous acts - "dashing babies' brains against rocks" - and in seeking righteous retribution for said acts. Both of these cases are human rationalizations for violence, he says. Psalm 137, often pointed to as evidence of God's sanction, is actually an example of this rationalization.

Wright is making essentially the same point as Kierkegaard (having read a number of his sermons, I'd go as far to say Wright is, like Soren, an proto-existentialist). God is transcendent. He is perfect and unchanging. He is not part of this imperfect, human world, and to assign any part of it - even the Bible - is blasphemy. Or, in Wright's term, "fake."

The end of the sermon is straight out of Kierkegaard:

"This is a time for me to examine my own relationship with God. Is it real or is it fake? Is it forever or is it for show? Is is something that you do for the sake of the public or is it something that you do for the sake of eternity?"

That's why God damns America, according to Wright - for assigning it's puny motivations to God's will.

illusory tenant said...

Quality comment -- thanks.

kay said...

You and me both. I'd be happy to see a politician respond to religious questions with "That's personal".

illusory tenant said...

Or, "The Constitution forbids religious tests for public office."

kay said...

God forbid we talk as much about the constitution as we talk about "personal relationships with God". But, hey, isn't religion the perfect scam for politics? Maybe we should be talking about Lee Atwater? Seems like this would be a good time to go over that shit again.

gnarlytrombone said...

as we talk about "personal relationships with God".

Here again I have to stand up for Wright and more broadly his brand of religion. I have a deep affinity for that cranky old bastard, and it has nothing to do with Gawd.

Obama's problem isn't that he got caught up in Wright's religion; it's that he fundamentally misunderstood Wright's heart-of-darkness Weltanschauung.

Obama joined the church in his community activist days because of that godless trotskyite Saul Alinsky's advice; it's a source of intel and a structure for organizing.

He stayed, I think, because he saw the church as a ray of hope in a sea of misery in South Chicago. It fit with his earnest idealism, and Wright's politically-tinged style - as opposed to the more abstract yammering in most churches - soothed his secular sensibilities.

I said Wright has existentialist tendencies (which I think is confirmed by his embrace of Ralph Ellison's oeuvre). "Hope" is a complicated concept in this worldview. To someone not steeped in the philosophy, hope can come off as precisely the opposite: as wallowing in one's own misery (read: that crazy mofo in Notes from Underground savoring a toothache).

But in many ways it's a philosophy that fits perfectly with the black experience in America. Grace through suffering. The Blues.

Wright's outlook and teaching isn't simply a matter of religion. And the "Audacity of Hope" isn't about soldiering on with faith that the future will be better in this life or the next. It's about soldiering on with the certain knowledge that life sucks and always will. The same thing that pinko commie Sarte said.

I think therefore that Wright's pissing on Obama's parade isn't just about ego. It's a basic resentment of Obama trying to turn sweet sourness into happy happy joy joy horseshit and political slogans.

To Wright, politics is an anathema to everything he believes in. It's Bobby McFerrin trying to sing Leadbelly.

TomJoe said...

Fortunately we're not involved in any wars, our economy is doing great, and food and fuel are cheap. Otherwise, all of this talk about Pastor Wright would be entirely misplaced. Thank God we don't have any other pressing issues so we can watch all of the candidates waste their time talking about this nonsense!

Rick Esenberg said...

To Wright, politics is an anathema to everything he believes in.

That strikes me as perfectly wrong. Politics - broadly defined -has everything to do with Wright's ministry. Nothwithstanding what he says, it is his anthropology that controls his theology. He has a political analysis of the world and goes from there.

It may be that it is Obama's politics that he does not like. Wright doesn't want to dampen his politics in order to make them palatable to others.

I'd be happy to see a politician respond to religious questions with "That's personal".

Except that it isn't. That's one view of religion that is rejected by many religious folks.

The argument that there is some type of equvalence between McCain/Hagee and Wright/Obama is obtuse.

Show me that McCain attended Hagee's church for 20 years, identified as the person who brought him to Christ, praised him as a spiritual mentor and advisor, had him preside at his wedding and baptise his children, used one of his sermons (one that, in fact, appears to contain some of the noxious views in question)as the inspiration for and title of his campaign biography, and gave what little he donated to charity almost exclusively to Hagee's church.

Then we'll talk about McCain and Hagee. This isn't simple guilt by association.
t know that McCain even knew who he

Emily said...

Damn, gnarlytrombone, I wish you'd turn your comments into an essay and publish it in all the major news rags nationwide. That's some good shit, right there.

What do you expect from preachers? Crazy ass mofo shit.

I know you're kidding a bit here, but (shaking fist) I'll have you know that my own pops is a preacher, and has never been prone to "crazy ass mofo shit." I'm rather thankful that I had his good example growing up, even though I didn't turn out Christian, because it serves to remind me that good people exist everywhere, even when they're a minority. Just sayin'. (end fist shaking)

Rick - Then we'll talk about McCain and Hagee. This isn't simple guilt by association.

You're right, it's not. What it is, though, is guilt through seeking out and embracing the support of a "crazy ass mofo" - which I think fairly characterizes Hagee.

gnarlytrombone said...

Politics - broadly defined -has everything to do with Wright's ministry.

Come on, Rick. That's juvenile semantics. It's pretty obvious I'm referring to electoral politics and in particular political campaigns, not the totality of human group interactions.

gnarlytrombone said...

Oh, and this is hilarious: "The argument that there is some type of equvalence between McCain/Hagee and Wright/Obama is obtuse. Show me that McCain attended Hagee's church for 20 years..."

Or in other words, the comparison is apples and oranges because this was such a cheap political (there's that word again) stunt and McCain is such a soulless hack that he couldn't have possibly cared about what Hagee actually represents.