Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Whose Religion

The news pages and air waves are full once again of verbal hand-wringing and head wagging over Jeremiah Wright, the preacher the Obama chose to repudiate after some of his sermons were uncovered by the Hills's campaign hit team—her "swift boaters," as it were. The chief complaint seems to be that Wright argued that America might have brought the attacks of September 11, 2001 on itself, through its hubris, its mistreatment of other people, and its moral decadence. Much of that sounds like the Reverends Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other evangelical prophets of self-righteousness.

The brief against Wright seems, as well, to include his embrace of 'black liberation theology,' based on the much admired and heartily despised—depends on which side you're on--"liberation theology.” Developed in Latin America in the 1960s and '70s by Father Juan Luis Segundo and others, “liberation theology” says the Church should turn its attention to improving the lives of everyone, especially the poor and downtrodden. The gospel should help liberate people from injustice, suffering and bondage here and now. It should not be the servant of the power structure. The late Pope John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, threw the weight of the papacy behind smashing it.

In the U.S., the Reverend James H. Cone of the AME church and Union Theological Seminary developed a “black theology of liberation” to bring the movement for equal rights for all Americans into the global flow. What the hell is wrong with that? Oh, Wright has also said in a play on "God Bless America," "God damn America." All I can do is point to the scriptures and say let those who have never done the same cast the first stone, and let them swear that were they downtrodden in America, they would never say the same. That's granting for the sake of argument only that saying, "god damn America" is a "crime"--I don't believe it myself. I know I frequently say worse when I view the horror show of Iraq or the repressive oligarchies we back or the torture of prisoners or the singling out for prosecution for one half-assed crime or another young men whose only real crime is having a different skin color--phenotype, as it were.

Today, the fuss focuses on more inane comments Wright has made on his ego-trip tour of national media outlets eager to give him a stage. The media than sling his one-liners at the Obama or wield them like clubs to bash him. 'Repudiate this man,' they demand. Here's a link to the New York Times transcript of the latest Obama dash through the media gauntlet. I wonder why each candidate is not required to repudiate torture and pledge to send the Bushies to The Hague to face war crimes charges. The current frenzy is beyond guilt by association.

What's driving the frenzy in the mainstream media is that these are black preachers and a black man making a serious run at the presidency. I say that because, truth be told, no one has made half the fuss about the white candidates who solicit and lap up the endorsements of white evangelical preachers, nor has anyone—to my knowledge—dug through every utterance of every preacher whose church those candidates have attended. I haven't seen a big deal made of the reactionary Congressional prayer group, commonly known as the Family. that the Hills religiously attends. The Family provides a religious, American cover for the very groups that stand in staunch opposition to "liberation theology"--that is, oligarchs from the worlds of business and politics. For that matter I have seen no major questions raised about the influence the Catholic cult of self-mortifiers, Opus Dei, has on Antonin Scalia.

The reason is that most people understand that parishioners don't agree with every word out of their pastors' mouths, even if the pastor is the priest. A fundamental principle of protestantism, of course, is that a person talks directly to god, without the intercession of the priest. Except in cults and in hierarchical religious bodies presided over by inquisitors, lockstep thinking is frowned upon. (To be fair, the German pope, the former grand inquisitor, could rigorously enforce church discipline only by losing millions of "pick-and-choose followers.")

The Obama's "critics" seem to forget that large numbers of American believers choose a church or shul or mosque or temple for a host of reasons—familial, social, convenience, politics, necessity, as in, it's the only show in town or because they are banned from the church of choice by virtue of their skin color or sexual predilections. Catholic politicians, like John F. Kennedy and Mario Cuomo, to mention only two Americans, have taken positions opposite that of the Catholic Church and proven time and again that a politician is not beholden to a theology, unless he chooses to be.

It's long past time for the media to bury this dead dog, and make no mistake, it is long dead--arguably still born--and make no mistake, the media is keeping it on expensive life support, with more than a little prompting from the Clintons and their paid mudslingers. Were the hand-wringing head waggers to look honestly at what they were nattering about, they would probably not only learn a few things but also decide that there are a lot more important stories to pursue--having to do with war, hunger, health, and justice.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Obama + Marx, Karl

Pity the Obama--the man correctly points out that working class Americans have seen the life they were taught was the best on earth eroded, degraded, trashed, devalued, moved first South then offshore to Asia to the point where they have almost nothing left and so, in order to prove that they still rule the world, they flex their considerable political clout for gun wingnuts or 9/11 paranoics or representatives of the one true faith, hoping to ride the World Trade Centers through at least one more election cycle, rather than face the real truth that they are being fucked by the same corporate capitalism that has fucked them throughout their lives.

Meanwhile the servants of that coporate capitalism, this time made manifest in Hillary Clinton, John McCain and people who still trudge through the Drudge Report [couldn't resist], have pulled a clever reverses on the usual condemnation as a class warrior anyone who dares to challenge them.This time Clinton and McCain accused the Obama of being insensitive to the working class because he said that many of them have turned bitter over economic losses and so have clung to what they have left--guns [for revolution: my gloss] or to religion or to fear of immigrants, people not like us. They are afraid some alien will come and take the little they have left.

That sounds right, but apparerntly referencing the reinforcer, if not the cause, of nararow-mindedness, bigotry, and fear is not acceptable to certain keepers of the American myth. They couldn't claim the Obama was using class warfare, for fear of waking people up--the rise off the 'race card' early in the last century was related to the white power structures need to keep blacks and poor and working class whites from joining forces politically to make real changes. Better to discredit the Harvard educated Obama, as "elitest." Suddenly John McCain and HIllary Clinton are allowed to be the voices of the working class--only in America do the captains of industry and their lackeys succeed in pulling off this transference so easily.

The McCain-Clinton blather is enough to make a cockroach vomit. It is like the flap over the Obama's pastor's comments--a made up controversy. The reductio ad absurdum of the Clinton-McCain theory--that the Obama somehow endorsed or embraced all the mutterings of his pastor because he continued attending the church--transferred to Hillary Clinton would posit that she somehow endorsed or condoned her husband's philandering because she remained married to him; applied to John McCain the same line of reasoning would portray him as a masochist of overwhelming ambition, hypocrisy and shamelessness. But wait: Those are true statements. Don't they make the first true?

So accept that the Obama is "elitest" and that whether that is good or bad depends on the nature of the elite to which he belongs. Is it an educated "elite" that values basic principles of democracy, justice, fairness, peace over war, equality, and reason? Or is it the self-serving elie of the Bush-McCain_Clinton crew? I think the Obama is the best sort of 'elitist,' who has landed in the soup because he has begun more forcefully to speak truth, and he needs to continue doing so. But instead on Saturday he apologized for speaking in a way that might have discomfitted people. Apologizing when you are not wrong in order to avoid hurting someone's tender feelings is a proper thing to do, but having done it, the Obama needs to move on, recognizing that the people who are going to be offended by his comments on any issue aren't going to vote for him anyway. He seems to be trying to do so.The Obama put the whole matter in perspective in this Terra Haute, Indiana, appearance, picked up in Tallking Points Memo.

That was, I thought, the end of a short blog--silly me. The press, along with McCain-Clinton, and other officials, who can't be bothered to address the important issuues we face--the stinking bloody fiasco in Iraq where the military is now serving as a mercenary force (paid by us) for the Maliki government; a ruined economy; a dysfunctional health care system; and the need to remove war ciminals from the highest levels of government and ship them to the Hague for trial--have seized on the Obama's comments and the charge of elitism in an effort to beat his campaign senseless. If they succeed, and they might, this country will get what it deserves. But it could be that enough people recognize the essential truth of the Obama's comments--could be, maybe--for the twisters of truth to fail.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Phrase No One Will Utter

Judging from the appearance of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the sole and singular lesson from Vietnam for Senators and bureaucrats caught in a military quagmire is never utter the words "light at the end of the tunnel." The rule is that you can say anything you want that means the same, but not "that." Yet that is precisely the argument of Petraeus and Crocker-conditions are getting better, a wee better, but we have to pause now because it all could turn to crap. The rest is lies and more lies, as Crocker lied to the Armed Services Committee in trying to spin Maliki's licking in Basra into a victory because some made-up group called for an end to outside interference in Iraq, which he defines as Iran--not the U.S. Too many senators on the Armed Services Committee, in part because of time limitations, simply nod along. To her credit, Hillary Clinton was positively presidential.

Well, it's nice to know that our men in "theatre" can spin a whopper as well of the old Vietnam crew. Now, why doesn't someone ask why Iran is "outside" and the U.S. is not, especially since Iran's Ahmadinejad has visited Iraq, like Bush, only unlike Bush, he went where he wished. He was also the first Persian leader to visit Baghdad in more than a millennium, meaning, as my friend, Jeff, observes, this whole extravaganza has made Iraq safe for Iran.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is much tougher this afternoon, wanting specific reasons for continuing what is clearly a failed policy. The only answers they get are vague to the point of absurdity, except for the attempts to blame everything on al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iran. They are all playing to form in their "theatre."

Oncce again this afternoon, Crocker claims the fiasco in Basra last week was proof that Maliki is really a nationalist. The calculus behind this statement--and I predicted this argument last week--is that the Senate in particular and American public in general are too stupid to know the difference.