Thursday, May 1, 2008

Apologies in Advance

My brain was stuck in a feedback loop of thinking about this, and it was stopping me sleeping. And thinking. And everything. It's too early in the morning for this, but I need to be able to get on with my day.

Obama says public tired of hearing about his former pastor

Big surprise, huh?

So Obama is taking heat for his pastor, when McCain can blithely take endorsements from Hagee?

Some people are saying the difference is that Obama was actually a member of the congregation, had known Wright for twenty years, so this man really must have had influence on him. But frankly, I have family members, whom I love and care about, and whom I have known for well over twenty years, whose political influence on me is absolutely nil. This is because I like to think I'm fairly free-thinking, and when it becomes evident to me that someone I know has a very different political position from one I have, I don't put all of my own convictions aside and let theirs write them over. A matriarch is not going to make me "not trust Arabs" just because she doesn't (I am, btw, Syrian in significant portion--from the other side of the family). An aunt is not going to make me anti-union (I am, in fact, the official union groupie for my particular favorite). An older cousin sending me anti-Obama propaganda has clearly not diminished my support for him (I spammed back the list with correct information which I assume was ignored, but at least the effort was made).

Is someone really going to tell me that, even though I'm openly and actively opposed to the things these older people in a position to be respected are in support of, that I'm secretly anti-Arab (me), anti-Union (Chris), and anti-Obama (whom I voted for and will again)?


I feel, somehow, that this is not a compelling argument.

So what IS different about Wright and Farrakhan, and Hagee?

Apart from the really obvious one?

Why are they dangerous radicals whose support needs to be cast off, when Hagee is a good man whose support is an honor? (Here's a fun article, by the way, chock full of actual Hagee quotes, about how gay sin caused hurricane Katrina, how Muslims are mandated to kill Christians and Jews, and how we have to seek war with Iran to cause more deaths to bring about the Rapture. I am not over-simplifying.)

I really do think most of it comes down to the image, the familiarity or lack thereof. If your audience is primarily white and Christian (which is going to be the case in a country approximately 73.9% white and 76.5% Christian--those are the real demographic numbers, honest), it's more likely that more of them will not feel as much kinship with a black man in a dashiki as with a white man in a suit; the image is more likely to be alarming, because of associations people have built up with "radical" minority groups. The churches the bulk of the audience went to will more likely have been helmed by someone like Hagee or Robertson than by Wright (and let me clarify--I don't mean that the majority of white, Christian churches are headed by people with positions like Hagee, just more than are headed by people with positions like Wright's). The image there is more familiar. Someone that reminds you of family--whether or not it's family you agree with--is generally given more leeway than someone who does not.

And frankly, I'm not surprised that they're up in arms about something that addresses their own demographic in the negative, instead of the demographic of someone else. It's a lot easier to ignore digs at Muslims and lesbians than digs at straight, white, Christian men, isn't it?

But other than that?

The most generous reason I can think of is that people commenting can construe what's happening in Wright and Farrakhan's positions as specifically racist (as opposed to some other kind of prejudice)--which makes them look like open game. Hagee may be openly bigoted, and waging his verbal assaults on minorities and others that America's in a position to do grave damage to, to the point of actually advocating violence and oppressive legislation, but since that's not directly on a black/white divide, it's left alone. The media's not allowed to comment on these merely "controversial" positions that might be held by your average American, like anything having to do with gay rights, abortion, Islam, or war. The media's allowed to (encouraged to) practice absolute moral relativism in relation to these things ("Gays: trying to raise families, or indoctrinating children? Both positions commonly held today: who's to say who's right? (We report, you decide!)"). But they are allowed to weigh in on something as closed-book as black-vs-white. Not as many people at the moment are open proponents of racial tension (they just have their Opinions, right?) so anyone commenting about race in an unfamiliar way is fair game for attack from something you can pretend is a moral high ground.

Ah, but... Giuliani didn't have to denounce Pat Buchanan. Who made this statement. I'll save you some time: the best bit is where he says African-Americans should be grateful that their ancestors were kidnapped and enslaved, because it gave them the chance to be Christianized and brought up in this great nation.


So maybe Wright's statements are controversial and upsetting. I'll grant that. But I really think there is something qualitatively different (and less deplorable) about the things he's said and the things Hagee says--namely, the spirit and direction of the anger. Wright's anger is directed towards a real history of oppression that has been experienced--maybe it's not helpful, maybe it's divisive, but there is at least a legitimate context--and Hagee's is directed at the repeal of the historical oppressions of others that he'd rather perpetuate.

If you're going to go ballistic about something, I'd much rather it be about Tuskegee than about a gay parade. I really believe that's a better place to come from.

But maybe I'm just betraying my bias, here.

The black men I know and have known still get harassed regularly by the cops, and I don't. People who are far more law-abiding and hard working than I am--ones who work more than part time, who've never smoked pot and don't drink (like I do)--get stopped on the street. If they've got the money to drive a decent car to work, they've been accused of having stolen it (DWB), and if they walk home, they're accused of skulking and suspicious behavior (...Walking.. While Black??). This is today. Not thirty years ago--now. It's still systemic, and not just in the deep south--this is liberal, diverse, southern California we're talking about, here.

Their parents, aunts, grandparents went to schools that were still segregated de jure, and much less often had gotten the chance to go to college afterwards, so that's the background they've had for support for school--that's going to get better every year, I know, every generation, but it's still there. My family was full of college graduates--thriving in the school system is just going to take less work with that background, because it's not having to build much farther than your parents had the opportunity to go. Even Chris went to a school that was segregated in everything but name--with almost all black students forced into remedial classes, which were literally held in a different building on the campus. And most school districts today are still de facto segregated, with the poorer schools in minority areas receiving less funding, and so not performing as well, which further decreases their funding, which makes any improvement that much more difficult, and so in, in a feedback loop. With the same credit and income, a person of color will regularly get a loan with worse terms and higher payments than a white person, so foreclosures are hitting them harder, further forcing that feedback loop.


What is happening to white, Evangelical Christians of means "at the hands of" LGBT and Muslims? Secularization of schools they're not sending their children to (as mandated by the constitution)? Having to see people they don't know treated with some modicum of respect?

I'm sorry, Hagee, I just don't buy it.

(Oh, but, btw, Rev. Wright: I was raised on rock and motown, in Los Angeles. I clap on 2 and 4, not 1 and 3.)

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