Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

I like Jeremiah Wright. I watched his speech on Sunday to the NAACP and then I watched his press conference the next day. He has a lot of fascinating things to say. He is an extremely engaging speaker. And he is off the charts charming.

When I listened to Wright on Sunday and Monday, I thought that he was speaking out because he wanted to use the opportunity he had been given to say some important things that Americans should hear. That's why his speech to the NAACP was about the differences between black and European American culture. It was an important message and in an ideal world we would be debating the issues he raised. At the press conference on Monday he was kicking off a conference on the African-American religious experience. Pundits on CNN are making it sound like Wright has been speaking out as part of a grudge match with Obama, but I don't see any evidence of that.

I totally missed the part where Wright "dissed" Obama, and from what I've heard it was a pretty subtle diss. Apparently he said that Obama may have distanced himself from Wright's views because he had to in the election campaign. I doubt this was an intended slur at all. One thing you can immediately tell about Wright is that he's a straight shooter: he says what he thinks. And he has pretty good reason to think that Obama agrees with him. After all, Wright has been saying these things for the 20 years that Wright has been his pastor, and Obama has drawn Wright increasingly closer, even involving him in the launch of his campaign. Obama only started to disagree with Wright when it looked like those views would hurt his campaign.

I don't want to say that I agree with everything with Wright says. He said that the US Center for Disease Control developed AIDS and the US government spread it, which sounds like a dangerous conspiracy theory. He said things I disagree with about Israel.

But Obama went too far in criticizing Wright. He described him as a hate-filled lunatic. (Listen to the speeches I link to above: Wright's mission seems to be to join people together, not create dissension and hate.) Now Obama supporters are ripping the man to shreds. Over at HuffPost they're describing him as an attention-seeking troll, mad, a two-bit celebrity. We have, it seems, lost a valuable new voice just days after we got to hear him.

On the topic of AIDS, by the way, Wright seems to really believe that the US government developed the virus. He cites two books on the subject. My guess is that he is just one of many people who believe this, and it's probably worth a rational debate.


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