Well, we can’t blame Fox News anymore for turning the decades-long career of ministry by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright into a You-tube-driven caricature. The good reverend, on his own initiative, went before the National Press Club and demonstrated that he is every bit as zany as the previous caricatures. Some zaniness is more dangerous than others, however, and what was most disturbing about Wright’s remarks was the under-current of self-hatred and their complete disregard for the welfare of the black community. In speaking of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, Wright said: "He is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery and he didn’t make me this color." I am not one for armchair psychology but it is impossible to see this statement in any other way. "Chains...slavery...this color." Which one doesn’t fit? If sinful men bear the burden of creating slavery, and they do, who is responsible for making Wright "this color"? God? And, why would you list it alongside demonstrable evil? It is hard to ignore the self-hatred in the remark. Of course, no one living today put Rev. Wright in chains or in slavery, so it is unclear from whom he expects an apology for slavery, a demand he re-iterated yesterday. And, come to think of it, while the historical shadow of slavery and racism is long and pernicious, Wright never was "in chains" or "in slavery" and he inflates his own burdens, and diminishes the actual suffering of those who were enslaved, by suggesting otherwise. Playing with history like this to stoke the emotions of a crowd ill becomes a minister of the Gospel of truth, charged with helping his flock make careful moral judgments. The evil consequences of Wright’s embrace of victimization as the central leitmotif of his worldview are nowhere more apparent than in his comments about AIDS. He again stated his belief that the government created AIDS as a way of extinguishing racial minorities. This is crazy but it is not harmless. AIDS continues to spread like wildfire through the black community, fed by irresponsible sexual behavior. Saying the epidemic is yet another instance of victimization does not help sexually active youngsters take responsibility for their own conduct. There is a conspiracy to spread AIDS, a conspiracy of ignorance, and Wright is now its most notorious spokesman. It is frankly shocking to see a man with a degree in divinity denounce Zionism as racism. Even a casual familiarity with the psalms illustrates the central role of the idea, and the reality, of Zion to Jewish identity and God’s Covenant. But, when you are defending an anti-Semite like Minister Farrakhan, who called Judaism a "gutter religion," what are we to expect? Wright showed something else yesterday. His self-hatred, his misplaced conspiracy theories, his anti-Semitism, his anger, and above all his narcissism, showed him to be so unlike his former congregant, Barack Obama, that the tirade at the Press Club may be the first step in separating the two men in the minds of the public. Wright may have thought he was throwing Obama under the bus, but Obama is a larger man than he. Wright threw himself under the bus, with all America watching. Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 4/30/2008 - 5:39am
Michael: Your comments, especially those of the last paragraph where you encapsulated the unfortunate recent remarks of Rev. Wright were right on target. His particular brand of narcissism does nothing to help bridge the racial and religious divides in this country and only serves to enflame and fuel the heated rhetoric of this presidential campaign. Furthermore, he does all ministers and people of God a disservice with such a tirade. He would have been better off saying nothing and the whole business could have quietly faded from our memory. However, in his failure to keep quiet he has only further distanced himself as a credible spokesman for anyone, least of all those of his race and those who are Christian. mdr
Anonymous | 4/30/2008 - 8:39pm
I have spoken with friends in the United Church of Christ who have a passing acquaintance with Wright and were very positive about him prior to this last week. He was recognized as a great preacher and pastor of the largest and, arguably, most influential UCC congregatiion. I imagine that this week they will be much chastened and as chagrined as many of us who wanted to hear him speak truth to power, but not egotism and true bizarreness of associations. Sad and angered describes many of us.
Anonymous | 4/29/2008 - 10:52pm
For what it's worth, I think you misunderstood Wright's reference to his color. I think he was referring to the fact that he is light-skinned, meaning that his ancestors had probably been raped by slaveowners. Wright may have said some absurd things, but he also said a whole of stuff that will be ignored exactly because it made so many people uncomfortable: that the elites who sent us to war do not themselves bare any of the burden of that war, that 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow can not be simply wished away, and that our foreign policy has been a consistent moral failure for years now. Injustice is real in America, and the people who call out the powerful about that injustice will never be popular. Instead the media will want to focus only the stuff that can make Wright look like a crazy angry black man, while ignoring the intelligent and coherent critique of American imperialism and racism that he gave.
Anonymous | 4/29/2008 - 2:44pm
Obama is the stealth candidate of white liberals. He has been sent out to dissimulate racial conflict in America, to complete the illusion that the US is beyond it's racist past and present. Dragging Wright through the mud is just part of the process.