Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rev. Wright not an Obama confidant! Isn’t that what the president’s critics wanted?

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright popped up in the news again this week when the Associated Press came up with a copy of a letter that the president’s one-time clergyman wrote.

It seems that a group that wishes to transfer money from an account originally meant to buy, drugs, milk and food for children of Iraq to one that would benefit Haitian relief efforts can’t do so because of restrictions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department.

THAT CAUSED THE Africa 6000 International group to think of people it knew who might have connections high up in the federal government. Those contacts, it seems, include the retired pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ – the church that Obama and his family attended for many years while living on the South Side.

What the wire service came up with, according to its report, was the letter Wright wrote back to the group in response – one that indicates he cannot help them in trying to get through to Obama to intervene on their behalf.

Wright describes himself as “toxic” and “radioactive,” writing, “no one in the Obama administration will respond to me, listen to me, talk to me or read anything that I write to them.”

Now I get the impression that this story is going to be used by many elements of our society who oppose the Obama administration (such as a man I saw this weekend handing out leaflets along Cicero Avenue while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Impeach Obama” – and “Obama is a cracker” on the back) to feast on more political dirt.

REMEMBER THAT “CRAZY black preacher” who is Obama’s best buddy (he presided over the marriage of Obama and the former Michelle Robinson)? It is a chance to stir up more resentment that “this guy” who got elected president somehow isn’t worthy of holding the office – similar to the people who continually rant and rage that someone like Obama “can’t possibly be” a REAL U.S. citizen.

The problem is that this “story” seems to contradict that idea, which means the people who will use it will make sure not to read too deeply into it. Or if they do, they will claim it is a sign that Obama himself does not show personal loyalty to people (although if he did show loyalty to Obama, they’d be trashing him for that fact alone).

For it seems that Obama truly did cut off his old preacher, who presided over one of Chicago’s largest congregations – one that deliberately catered to the African-American population that wanted to feel a touch of “blackness,” so to speak, in their Sunday religious service (Oprah Winfrey was another one-time member of the congregation – although she seems to have lapsed from attending services at 421 W. 95th Street years ago).

Isn’t that what the people who were most skeptical of Obama back in 2008 would have wanted him to do? It would seem (unless Wright is lying, in which case the wire service is spreading mistruths with its stories) that Obama really is someone who is anxious to reach out to some middle ground in our society, even if it means abandoning someone who had become a significant part of his life.

I WILL BE the first to admit that I always considered a lot of the “controversy” surrounding the Rev. Wright to be misguided. Much of it seemed to come from people who weren’t all that familiar with the kinds of things that happen in churches that cater to predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Perhaps these people got all their ideas from watching The Blues Brothers, where Jake “sees the light” while watching James Brown’s “Rev. Cleophus James” character sing and parishioners dance and fly through the air. In short, a little silly.

So when I first learned of the rhetoric that shocked much of the electorate two years ago, I have to confess it didn’t move me much. I have heard black preachers say more outrageous things. And the fact is that there is an element of truth to what Wright said.

But Obama gained political points for the way in which he “dealt” with the issue, coming up in a few days with a speech that allegedly put the issue to rest, while also cutting off his ties to the pastor so as to appease the people who want to perceive the issue as that of a “black racist who hates white people” – although I wonder how many of those people found other reasons to vote against Obama in the 2008 elections.

SO WHAT SHOULD be the appropriate reaction to the Associated Press reporting on this letter? The Obama critics should be happy in that they got their way, except that those people seem determined to be unhappy until 2012 (and 2016, if Obama seeks and wins re-election).

As for the rest of us, I’d rather think we would have forgotten about Wright by now. He’s a part of a past political campaign, not a continuing issue of interest to the public.


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