Obamulation

The other day I once again praised Obama on my blog, this time for his speech responding to Rev. Wright’s statements (a.k.a. the race speech). In my corner of the insulated, left-wing blog world, it was a pretty innocuous entry.

To my surprise, I received a considered rebuttal from a close friend of mine. To wit:

Personally, I have a problem with someone whose entire candidacy is based on “bringing people together,” yet whose “political and spiritual adviser” for the past 20 years is a person who spews hateful, anti-Semitic, anti-American, homophobic garbage on a regular basis. Even if Obama doesn’t believe those things, why would he closely associate himself with someone who does, and expose his family to it every Sunday? At best, it raises serious questions about his integrity and character. Ask yourself this: Would you give a Republican a pass who had a similarly close relationship with David Duke, and dismissed any criticism by merely saying he rejected his “controversial” statements about black people? I would hope not.

I left this buddy of mine anonymous, since he chose not to make his comments public. I don’t blame him, I can certainly understand his not seeing this blog or its readers as the safest of havens for open political debate (what, did the title “Even the Stupid People” seem somehow unwelcoming?). However, I happen to know there’s a few of you out there who would echo his criticisms, and perhaps offer an even more scathing rebuke of my Obama adulation (Obamulation? Maybe that one’s a stretch, sorry…).

Speak up if you’re out there.

10 thoughts on “Obamulation

  1. you’re missing the point. Obviously I’m not analogizing criticism and murder, I’m simply pointing out that people can put a good foot forward, while at the same time spewing hatred. This is why there are unbelievably still countries around the world who are fooled by Hamas’ “good deeds” and don’t consider them terrorists.

  2. as a rebuttal…the point is that, frankly, it doesn’t matter one bit that a person or group may have a few redeeming qualities when they openly espouse such hatred. Like Rev. Wright, who may have a long-career of preaching against social-injustice, etc also has a long career of spewing anti-American, anti-semetic remarks as well. The sunday after 9/11 I’m not sure what you were doing, but I know I wasn’t giving a speech explaining how, to quote Mr. Obama’s long-time friend and advisor, “America’s chickens have come home to roost”.

    Wow. I really cannot get on board with analogizing public criticism of American foreign policy to blowing up innocent people.

    But I should also point out that there’s a big difference between hatred and anger.

  3. In response to 346…not sure where to begin.

    first off, it appears you do not follow world affairs too closely based on your superficial comments. This is not intended to be an insult because many people just base opinions on what the media tells us to be importnat. For instance, you say a man should be judged on his whole career (as you refer to Rev. Wright). You describe how he generously donates money, creates opportunities for young boys and girls, etc. The terrorist organization Hamas (hopefully you don’t argue with me and the rest of the western world that they are indeed a terrorist organization, since you attempt to find moral equivalency between the USA and Al-Qaeda) builds schools, places or whorship, roads and gives money to the poor. Seems like a nice group of people…oh yeah, they also attempt to murder innocent people on a daily basis and procalim their goal proudly to be the destruction of Israel. Obviously this is an extreme example but it’s simply meant to illustrate a simple point that hopefully you can figure out.

    Donald, thanks for joining in!

    But your comment, frankly, misses the mark. Casey’s comment is pointedly against superficiality. You seem to be saying that people and organizations should not be judged on the entirety of their words and actions, but then you provide a perfect example of how important it is to remember the totality of past events. Indeed, it would truly be a shame for Casey or anyone else to ignore or forgive the bombing and mutilation of innocents (BTW, I don’t think you have to worry about Casey on this point, since he just got back from Jordan & Israel a few months ago — following world events, indeed!).

    Very fortunately, your analogy in no way applies to Rev. Wright or the congregation at Trinity.

  4. “I think a clear-eyed perspective, though, reveals that these problems are generally the result of actions by the majority, not because of the irritating presence of the minorities. The endemic and systemic social problems of race in America don’t exist because of something that’s wrong with African-Americans, but because of this country’s original sin: slavery and its legacy.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “result of actions by the majority”. I assume you are referring to some kind of collective guilt by racial association, is that correct? That somehow, being “white”, whatever that means, makes one responsible for the actions of other whites in the past? I’m not sure where this puts Obama, his ancestors being white American, and Kenyan. It is hard to see how he suffered from slavery.

    I would also have to assume by “majority” you mean national population figures, grouping all whites together. I certainly don’t agree with your brand of racism, seeing how I have more in common with a “minority” Black American Christian than I do a “majority” (by federal law) Palestinian-American Muslim. But even so, you must be talking nationally, because whites are definitely not a majority in the city I live in; in fact, no one “race” has more than 30% of the population.

    I’m also not sure why you are so quick to blame all of the problems of the black Amercian community on “original sin” which you define as slavery. Bill Cosby doesn’t think so. I’m also not sure how slavery could have had this affect on only black Americans; slavery was, and still is in parts of Africa, universal, and not just for blacks. Most (over 90%) of the Roman and Grecian Empires were slaves; there was a large contingent of slaves, yes white slaves, in North Africa, as recently as the 19th century. It would be almost impossible, genetically, for any person to NOT have been a slave in the past.

    This also begs the question if there are worse things than slavery. I think genocide would be one. By this token we might be perplexed at Jewish Americans, given their history. Or Armenian Americans, given what they had to go though in Turkey. Or closer to home, the Chinese Americans, subjected to lynchings of entire villages in the American West. Or the confiscation of land and livelihood for Hispanic Americans. Not to forget the American Indians either.

    “If you don’t want to vote for Obama, that’s your prerogative, but find a better reason than race or religion.”

    Perhaps accusing another of racism and religious intolerance is an easy out, the kind that at the same time belittles the opponent and also reinforces the trend as Gordon has mentioned of creating a “thought monoculture”. But I’m neither racist nor religiously intolerant. I do question whether someone raised as a Muslim in a Muslim country on Anti-American education will have the best interests of American citizens at heart. This added to his pastor and wife’s comments, and his senatorial resolution on the use of force against Iran, further beg the question. This is no more religiously intolerant than asking if a Branch Davidian should lead the American government. An 5th-generation American Muslim participating in anti-terrorism activities (The Looming Tower again) would get my vote over Obama’s any day. I don’t see how this is religious intolerance.

    As far as racism, I have no idea where you get this from. It sounds like a typical backlash statement with no evidence against anyone who questions Obama or Reverend Wright (not Gordon; at least I don’t think he’s a Reverend). But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have some actual reason to suspect racism, and give you a chance to articulate it. Looking over my posts, I can’t find any.

    Arley, do you really find it that hard to see how Obama or someone of his ethnic background has suffered from slavery? That’s appalling. The pervasive and rampant damage done by that shameful institution is still very much on show in our cities’ many urban slums and in the sadly stagnant politics since the civil rights movement.

    The analogy to “original sin” is apt, because Americans today are not directly responsible, and yet they can never fully repent. Bill Cosby and others aren’t minimizing the dastardly role of slavery or saying that these corrupted origins haven’t led to the current mess. He’s simply asking African-Americans not to use it as an excuse to succumb to anger and inertia. He’s saying that in spite of slavery, Black people should rise in station and prosper.

    I appreciate your attempts to envision a post-racial world, but we are achingly far from such a utopia. Your attempt at being visionary instead makes you callous and provincial.

  5. Gordon, you make the most interesting friends.

    How is it that I can be bothered by One Tribe post but so much more in accord with its half-sister, the Homogeneity post? Possibly because these are, in fact, complex issues. Not, as some might say, so black and white. It is possible to live on both sides of some issues.

    And that’s what I find so compelling about Obama. He recognizes that this is a difficult and nuanced topic.

    You’re right that people are probably most comfortable and most apt to choose people who are “like” them, however they conceive that. There is probably even some empirical evidence out there somewhere that would suggest that healthiest and most vital communities are in fact homogeneous enclaves, like a Chinatown or Little Italy or Pilsen, where people feel liberated to be themselves and not to defend themselves and their identities. It is hard to be The Black Guy in a room full of white guys, because then everything you say becomes the Voice of All Black Guys. You get tired of speaking for your “tribe” all the time – or so I am told.

    And yet, living in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society – even if we don’t necessarily live in multi-ethnic neighborhoods, attend multi-ethnic churches, marry into multi-ethnic families, play in multi-ethnic bands – also has benefits. It is important to recognize and acknowledge the other communities that we live among – their many resources, their many tragedies, their (our) imperfections and shortcomings. That does not mean we need to embrace them uncritically, but it does mean that we have a responsibility to try to see ourselves through their eyes.

    I’d write more… and there’s soooo much more to write… but our network is being upgraded and taken offline, so all of my other profound yet whimsical insights will have to wait.

    Good talk.

  6. Rev. Wright has certinly said many things that many thoughtful people would find offensive. My issue with the current dust up is that we are looking a very small sample of a much larger career. And more importantly in my mind, I look first at the actions of a person to help me determine the make up their character. From what I’ve read, Rev. Wright has spent a large part of his career bringing people together. And better to be pissed of and take risks rather than stand back and let things happen. Why didn’t Catholics get up and leave when their Pope did nothing to stop the exterminate of European Jewery? Give me a risk taker any day. They may make mistakes but at leat they’re trying.

    In my mind, this is a stark contrast to the Bush way of doing things. In Bush, I believe that we have a president who says the “right” things but whose actions are all wrong.

    In response to a poster above, I do not believe that a minister saying something “factually untrue to an ubsurd degree” is any sort of criteria for getting up and leaving. If we start introducing “facts” into religion we will have a lot of people walking out. Religion has never been about facts.

    I’d also like push the envelope a bit and say that there are many things that the US does that brings our moral authority into question. While you may find the assertion that “the US is a bad as al Queda” far fetched, how do we rationalize many of our own actions.

    A epidemiolocical report comming out of Johns Hopkins reported that that since the Iraq war began, an additional 645,000 people have died in Iraq. They looked at the a sample of the death rates in the years before the war and the death rates after the war. This is more than the number of people who have been killed in Darfur…and we call that a genocide. It’s not just good guys vs. bad guys. The Republican party does not speak to me becasue I see them as the party of black and white, right and wrong. The answer in usally in the gray.

    Sen. Obama gave a nuanced and honest explination for his actions. I’ve accepted his explination and look forward to voting for him in the general election.

  7. Wow. I admit that halfway through each of ABF’s comments my eyes started to glaze over, but I will share with you all the following opinions, which apply equally to John’s comment:

    I don’t think that anything Rev. Wright was particularly beyond the pale. Angry? Yes. Exaggerated? Yes. But, so what? Who is harmed by this kind of forceful speech? I haven’t seen anything quoted where Rev. Wright called for violent action, and that’s the bright line for me. He’s a fiery black preacher from Chicago, and he should be allowed to say what he wants.

    “ZOMG Obama is secretly an America-hating Muslim” is an opinion which I don’t even know how to intelligently engage.

    The rest of ABF’s comment strikes me as not-so-thinly veiled racism and xenophobia. “Don’t trust the son of a Muslim?” That’s the worst kind of religious intolerance.

    Finally, I’ll say that it’s undeniably true that mixed-ethnic societies tend to have friction, inequality, and division. I think a clear-eyed perspective, though, reveals that these problems are generally the result of actions by the majority, not because of the irritating presence of the minorities. The endemic and systemic social problems of race in America don’t exist because of something that’s wrong with African-Americans, but because of this country’s original sin: slavery and its legacy.

    If you don’t want to vote for Obama, that’s your prerogative, but find a better reason than race or religion.

  8. Oh man, now we’re getting somewhere. You just can’t have interesting discussions at work, because you might offend someone and get sued. But in the blogosphere, it’s gloves-off full combat!

    What I’m trying to do, in a rambling way (because it takes much longer to create coherent arguments rather than stream-of-consciousness thoughts), is to ask questions highlighting the gap between the idealistic way in which we approach Obama, and racial/ethnic views, and the decisions we actually make in practice which contradict those views. Examples:

    You are looking at schools for your children, either public zoned by neighborhood, or private. One has mostly black students. One has mostly white students. Perchance, they are academically comparable. Guess which school the white Obama supporter decides to send their child to?

    You are deciding where to live. Maybe you have no children, so schools don’t matter. Walking or driving the neighborhoods, you notice one where most of the people are black, another where most of the people are hispanic, one where most of the people are white trash, and another with lots of BMWs, mostly white. Guess where the well-educated Obama supporter decides to put in a bid for a condo?

    You’re deciding to go to church. Or maybe you don’t go to church, but you want a social crowd, so you’re finding some friends. Either way, you are finding people to associate with. Maybe they are not all the same race as you. Maybe a few are different. Maybe even some are “Jews: The Other White People”. But what percentage? Would you be surprised if the Obama supporter associates primarily with those of his own race?

    You’re forming a band. There are lots of talented musicians from the black community. But, pray tell, how many diversity candidates are members? Can you guess how many members of the white Obama supporter’s band are white?

    It’s time to meet that special someone, maybe even marriage. At least, dating. How many of the white Obama supporters have, or would even consider, dating someone of a different race? Perhaps they could be “mostly white”, at least in a crowd, would that help?

    This rant is not meant to condemn anyone. What it is meant to do is expose the hypocrisy, sometimes I think unintentional, promulgated by the vast majority of the supporters of Obama and his ideology. It sounds all fine and well; but when it comes time to stop hypothecating in cafes and start doing in the streets, I find most Obama supporters revert to an ante-bellum mentality, perhaps voiced only in their subconsious.

    Or perhaps you are Obama himself. You have a mixed background and a lot of options. Do you choose to continue with a mixed family and social group? Or do you “pick” a part of your background, marry into it, associate with it religiously, culturally, and indentify primarily with it, even when it is derrogatory towards part of your mixed background? Are you living the campaign rhetoric, or are you as racially divisive as those you condemn?

    This mentality, of racial association, division, distinction, is still the overriding factor in interaction, especially at the most personal level, among all the various American peoples. Perhaps one day, as I hope, it will not be so. But it will take more than empty rhetoric bent on winning an election to change anything. It will take deeds from the feet on the ground, from whatever party and persuasion they might be.

    Arley, I first need to take issue with your description of Obama “picking” a part of his background. To steal from the man’s own eloquence, he can no more “pick” blackness than we Americans can disown the tarnished racial history we’ve inherited. However, I agree that he could have chosen to disown his whiteness, and I’m inspired and encouraged that in his autobiography and his recent provocative speech Obama has shown that he aims to embrace all aspects of his heritage.

    You are absolutely right in saying that we should avoid hypocrisy. I think that’s exactly what Obama’s honest speech was meant to expose. Maybe you could become a believer after all…

    -Gordon

  9. Tribal Instinct.

    My tribal instinct of self preservation tells me, don’t trust the son of a Muslim who was a Muslim as a boy and raised in the decidedly anti-American country of Indonesia. Given 9/11, and reinforced by his wishy-washy form of patriotism, I cannot bring myself to consider him an acceptable commander-in-chief with Al-Qaeda pursuing us.

    I’d rather have a Muslim, like the FBI Agents in The Looming Tower, who had been here for generations and was gung-ho on being an American, than someone who seems less than dedicated to making A More Perfect Union.

    There’s the concept of racial equality. If we all equally act as black voters have acted, in voting overwhealmingly for a black candidate (even women), then I suppose whites, hispanics, asians should follow suit and vote only for their own ethnic group. It can be just like Lebanon. Or Kenya.

    In the long run, over several hundred years let’s say, multi-ethnic countries have a sore track record. Generally they can only be maintained by massive military force, e.g. the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Palestine, and decolonized Africa. When that force is removed, descent into breakup, chaos, and sometimes genocide occurs. The tragedy of the Roma, Armenians, and the Jews in Europe and the Middle East needs no elaboration beyond pointing out that Zionism’s primary rationale was not religious, but ethnic, from the even pre-20th century tortured history of being a minority ethnic group in Europe.

    If we are to avoid this tragic outcome, I would propose that our only hope lies in becoming a mono-ethic country, such as Japan, Norway, or (pre-Turkish) postwar Germany. Essentially, the tribe and nation-state become one. Ideally, I would like the entire world to do this as well, but one step at a time. I’m not proposing ethnic cleansing, which I find detestable, but rather ethnic blending. Of course I am familiar with this from the Chinese, and their history of absorbing people by people into the Han, ala the Borg. Even their conquerers, the Manchu, were within three generations completely absorbed in language and ethnicity. Even the Jews of Kaifeng. Peacable, unforced, natural assimilation in language, custom and culture to the point of oblivion of the differences.

    Differences should still be allowed, differences in political opinion, taste, dress, religion: but these must be, as they are to some extent, an individual, voluntary association and not an enforced, trans-generational tradition. We can go to different stores, but we must all shop in Utah, essentially.

    Become One Tribe.

    The alternative if we do not pursue racial assimilation is before us today, and that is the resurrection of a caste system. The caste in America appears to be, more than racial, educational and financial. Mao dealt with this by forcing intellectuals to marry commoners, but I believe if we return to the post-war times of greater opportunity (for whites at least), with essentially free college tuition, unionized labor, and rising (not falling as since the 1970s for white males) wages, enough variation will arise from genetic and individual differences to prevent a caste system. Instituting a 100% inheritance tax, as Zane has proposed, would also help. Forced public schooling, for the good of the state, would help. Eliminating zoning, as Houston has done, would help with mixing neighborhoods. Changing the Rice charter back to making tuition free for all undergraduates would help. Moving to a progressive tax system (instead of relying on regressive taxes like property, excise, and the capital-gains-loophole federal income tax) would help.

    I’m an ardent capitalist and libertarian, but with the counterbalancing force of equal opportunity and robbing of the rich.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    Whoa. That is one insane post. See what I had to deal with in high school, folks? Geez.

    First, I find the notion that Obama’s ties to Islam make him in any way un-patriotic or un-American completely provincial and even specious (and it is classic John Arley to throw in something personal like my dad’s book after making such a boldly controversial claim, as if to imply perhaps my own father would agree with this idea!).

    If anything, the variety of experiences in Obama’s upbringing have molded a man with more than just a sense of the diverse and nuanced global world we live in — he embodies it! Recognizing complexity doesn’t diminish commitment to our country. In fact, I think it encourages a healthy and necessary eagerness to improve our nation.

    Your “tribal instinct” sounds more like conspiracy theory, which, frankly, I find to be far beneath your intellect.

    The rest of your rant was, I admit, completely unexpected, and I’m still trying to parse its ramifications. In fact, I think overall I agree with you, but only in a far-off, John Lennon “imagine there’s no countries” sort of way. I love to think of a world beyond race and class, and as a part of the guilty hegemony, I would savor a world of blameless equality.

    Your analogies to the Chinese, though, are troubling (despite the many lovely half-Chinese offspring you’ve brought into the world), especially in light of the continuous revelations of that nation’s human rights abuses. The dream you imagine could be inspiring, if there weren’t something so bent about how you describe it.

    -Gordon

  10. I agree with your friend to some degree. I think that it shows either a lack of character or a lack of judgment to sit in an audience for two decades and listen to someone make inflammatory statements that are not only racist, but factually untrue to an absurd degree. The US government created AIDS to kill minorities? C’mon. The US is as bad as Al Qaida? Give me a break.

    Is Obama a racist or does he agree with what Wright has to say? I doubt it. At the same time, I can’t understand why a person as bright as Obama would hold such a knucklehead in high regard in his life. Not only did Obama go to the church, Wright married him and baptized his kids. I would distance myself from a person that made such comments, not welcome them into my family.

    The Duke comparison is somewhat fallacious in that minorities, especially minorities the age of Wright, do have legitimate gripes with the US. At least Wright’s racism is based on real injustices. Idiots like Duke base their hatred on nothing more than ignorance, so listening to Duke is even more inexcusable.

    I also think that Obama’s comparison of Wright with his racist white grandmother is fallacious. A person cannot choose their grandparents. They are who they are, shortcomings and all. A person chooses their pastor and chooses their friends. Obama chose Wright with full knowledge that Wright dislikes the US and holds blatantly ignorant views. For whatever reason, Obama went out of his way to listen to these views on a weekly basis.

    My belief is that Obama went to the church because of the standing it gave him among black voters in the Chicago community. I think the reason he did not challenge Wright is because he did not want to be perceived as challenging the community. If my belief is correct, I think that shows cowardice and the willingness to do what is he knows is wrong to get votes.

    I thought the story about Obama not wearing the American flag pin was originally ridiculous. I thought the story about Michelle Obama being proud of the US for the first time when Obama ran for President was shaky at best. However, when you start adding all of these stories up, it does make me wonder about how much Obama actually likes or respects the country. If liking or respecting our country was a prerequisite for the office, however, a lot of Democratic presidents would never get elected. Just joking on that one.

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