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May 6, 2008

Another View of “Wright”

Derek Shackelford

This last week of the primary presidential election season has not been about politics. It has more exemplified a mini-drama series.


There are many characters who play a part in this drama and, just like many of these series, there are the stars and those who continue the plot. All of the major characters – in one way or another – do not realize how much of a critical role they play.


There are three primary characters in this scenario: the media, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., and the people. That’s right this mini-series is about the relationship between presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, and the American voter.


Last week we were bombarded with press conferences, media clips, sound bites, and analysis of what has been said, and what should have been said. It appeared everywhere, whether it be newspaper, radio, or television. All pundits had an opinion of some sorts; some for political purposes, some for personal purposes, and some just for their two-cent worth.


And since everyone else offered an analysis, I thought I would try to offer a careful, thoughtful critique of what has taking place and what it should mean.


I’ll save you the suspense now. What took place last week should mean absolutely nothing in regards to this presidential election. But because of the propensity to focus on the drama, we have lost focus on the real issues at hand.


The media has had a starring role. The media loves ratings and they will do anything, anyway it can to get it. The Reverend Wright has retired and the sermon clips repeatedly played back took place happened in 2001 and 2003. The media did not cover this when Senator Obama announced his candidacy in 2007. It was not until he was the front runner that this became an issue.


While the focus has been on the Reverend Dr. Wright, there’s a lot that has not been covered.


We had the highest number of casualties last month in the Iraq War since early in 2007. If journalists and media types had approached the Iraq War with the same veracity as this story – well I digress.


A record number of home foreclosures occurred last quarter. Rising gas prices continue to effect transportation and employment and to contribute to the continuing downward spiral of the economy.


Neither side of the aisle is offering quality solutions to the health care crisis – only a continuation of policies that seem to do more harm than good.


The last time I checked, the comments by the Reverend Wright did not create any of these issues, nor have they offered any solutions. Yet, our clamor for the dramatic has once again been manipulated to gain ratings instead of the solutions to the problems.


The other presidential candidates are using this time to use the controversy as a political football in an attempt to gain a bump in the polls.


First, Sen. Hillary Clinton stated “that because of Wright’s comments she would not have stayed in that church.” It is apparent that she has political amnesia. For her to cast dispersion on what decision one should make could be deemed insensitive.


If one were to say they would not stay in that marriage relationship because of the behavior of former President Bill Clinton, she may be deemed that to be in poor taste. Sometimes it may be best to move to the side of caution before commenting.


Next, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, stated “that Sen. Obama should renounce and repudiate the remarks of Rev. Wright.” Yet I have not heard the media question Senator McCain’s relationship with Pastor John Hagee, of Texas.


Ever heard of Pastor Hagee? He’s the preacher who publicly endorsed McCain, said disparaging things regarding Catholics, and believes that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexuality in New Orleans.


I wonder, if the Reverend Wright had made these comments, if they be deemed un-American and considered hate speech? Is the media operating with two different set of principles and rules? No, it just likes the dramatic mini-series. It is good for ratings.


Another co-star in this dramatic mini-series is the Reverend Dr. Wright himself. The interesting part about his role is that he did not audition for the job. He was thrust into the role as a contributor to the mini-series drama based on some comments made some years ago.


First, the Reverend Wright is well known in theological circles. He has national respect in some circles. It is now his introduction to the mainstream that has garnered most of the attention.


His comments about 9/11, and his assertion that the government held some responsibility in the AIDS epidemic, has caused the firestorm. These comments have been labeled un-American, unpatriotic, and outrageous.


The interesting part about these sermon comments is that they were made years ago and since Senator Obama attended the Trinity United Church of Christ where the Reverend Wright was pastor, it became a national issue. Not so much about him personally, but because of his relationship with Senator Obama.


Months ago it was brought to the national spotlight because Senator Obama was questioned about the comments and his relationship with the Reverend Wright.


Well, weeks later the Reverend Wright appears again. First, on the Bill Moyers’ program for a one-on-one interview. Secondly at the Detroit NAACP Banquet. And lastly, the firestorm continued raging because of the question and answer session at the National Press Club in Washington.


It was his actions at this later event that caused this national stir. The Reverend Wright reiterated some of the comments made during the sermons. He did appear to be rather defiant. It is sad that his appearance has captured so much attention. It was a tremendous opportunity for the Reverend Wright to be an educator, not a divider.


It was his attempt to defend himself at the Press Club that the media types covered and his anger and ego allowed the defense to be turned into a sideshow.


By no means do I agree with some of the statements that the Reverend Wright has made; but to make him the centerpiece of whether Senator Obama is fit to be president, especially when the other candidates are not held to the same standard.


The last starring role in this dramatic series goes to “we, the people.” We have decided to allow the media and others to dictate that this story is a national crisis issue.


Some wonder how Senator Obama could stay in the church where a pastor has different political viewpoints. Well, the possibility exist that Senator Obama was at the church for spiritual nourishment and not for political commentary.


It would be fair to say that he has more in common with the Reverend Wright spiritually than he does politically. Senator Obama has admitted that it was the Reverend Wright who had a tremendous influence on his coming to the faith.


As a people, should we not base our opinions or objections on Senator Obama’s record and not on who his pastor is?


If Senator Obama is rejected on his record, then that is fine; but to reject him based on statements that are attributed to someone else, one who is not affiliated with his campaign, is a stretch. As an electorate, we need to decide what issues are truly important in this election. They should not be based on sound bites, comments by others, or this dramatic mini-series.


No matter who gets elected this fall, our votes should be based on who can do the best job – not based on fear. We should not simply vote for someone else because we fear a certain candidate.


As outrageous as some think the comments of the Reverend Wright are, it could be that he was speaking prophetically. We hear and see the sermons that are played before us. The one we don’t hear or see is the Audacity to Hope…I wonder why?

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