If you wondered how the nation’s mainstream media would ensure that racism and religious militarism influence the next election, just watch MSNBC and ABC stage endless faintings about "Obama’s pastor problem." America’s DC pundits are bullying a black candidate while making racist attacks on black pastors and churches, thinly disguising them as a defense of American civility and patriotism.
MSNBC spent Friday evening’s political commentary probing the adequacy of Obama’s renunciation of statements made by his Pastor Jeremy Wright, including those following 9/11. Obama has categorically rejected those sentiments, but that will not stop the Republicans and Fox News from replaying Wright’s comments to maliciously brand Obama as secretly anti-white and anti-American. But MSNBC was hardly better, running the headline banner, "Obama’s Pastor Problem" throughout the discussion.
Let us be clear. Barack Obama does not have a "pastor problem." There is a problem, but it’s being framed as "Obama’s Pastor Problem" only because he lives in a country whose irresponsible media pretends that America does not have a "racism problem" and a "religiously driven militarism problem" neither of which can be honestly discussed in a Presidential campaign because we have a "corrupt media problem."
As expected, Fox News obsessed over Reverend Wright , but ABC and ABC’s This Week, were not to be outdone. And who better to pontificate on what constitutes acceptable political speech by black pastors than the self-righteous team of Ruth Marcus, George Will and Mark Halperin, arrayed against the ever polite Donna Brazile. You can guess the rest.
Will asserted that Obama was probably lying because Will knows that anyone who sits in a black church will hear unpatriotic, un-American views. Halperin announced the litmus test for Presidential eligibility that if it can be proved that Obama personally heard views that might offend George Will, then Obama is [black] toast. When Donna Brazile tried to explain to her white panelists that it’s not unusual for black ministers to preach against the evils of racism and militarism in America, George Stephanopoulus ignored her and ask whether Obama should condemn Wright even further. Ms. Marcus happily added that he should.
NBC’s Meet the Press then repeated this sorry spectacle, with David Broder wondering why Obama didn’t do a better job of selecting a black church. Couldn’t Obama have found an "acceptable" black church whose paster refrained from uttering statements that David Broder would find offensive? Heavens, isn’t it obvious that all potential Presidential candidates should clear their religious affiliations with the Dean of Washington morality? What was Obama thinking?
And just as Brazile was unable to be heard by her all white panelists at ABC, so NPR’s Michele Norris (yep, similar pattern: 3 white men; one non-white woman) could not make the same point about black churces to the hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil team of Tim Russert, David Gregory and Broder.
Washington’s self-appointed elite punditry is suffering from a severe case of historical obtuseness and amnesia. They’ve forgotten that we fought a civil war because black people were kidnapped, kept and sold as slaves, and that the hatred about that conflict and it’s aftermath still manifests itself nearly 150 years later. Our arbiters of civil discourse cannot recall that white Americans lynched black Americans for decades, and nooses still show up every week; that Jim Crow was the law in much of the nation; that whites murdered Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and dozens of others. It just slipped their minds that even today blacks have been systematically denied equal protection and opportunity, including the right to vote, and that the Republican Party still uses every ruse to disenfranchise blacks, while Bush appoints to the Federal Election Commission a man who specialized in such crimes while holding a key position in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
It does not seem to have occurred to the white DC pundit class that blacks have every right to be angry at America — and that condemning them for this anger is racist. Black and white pastors have every right to preach against these evils, even as they preach the Christian gospel of forgiveness and redemption. They carry an obligation to make sure this history is understood, contrasted against one’s moral/religious beliefs and against official denials and proclamations of piety, and not forgotten.
And they are justified in preaching against the militarism that has seen far too many blacks, whites and others killed and to rail against the jingoism and false patriotism that condone aggressive wars, torture, killing civilians as "collateral damage," and worse. Pastors should denounce the religious fanaticism, bigotry and hatred preached by John Hagee and his fellow right-wing extremists, men whose screeds openly call for religious wars/crusades against Islamic nations and Islam itself, or who advocate for holy wars because they are deluded into thinking killing other people leads to personal salvation. If our religious leaders are not damning America for enabling these moral failings, why not? We all should.
To be continued . . .