Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Obama Conundrum: Dr. Rev. Wright

Enemy or Ally?
Dr. Rev. Jeremiah Wright flings himself back into the political spotlight, not with mere flourish but with the arrogance of a man beyond conviction, a 21st century prophet quite intoxicated by his own message, presence and new found celebrity.

And in every inflammatory sound bite replayed ad nauseum by the mainstream media, Senator Barrack Obama's campaign slides well away from the Audacity of Hope and into the Necessity of Damage Control. The good Reverend has become, for me, a bit of an enigma as I cannot begin to fathom even the tiniest connection between his message (the downtrodden African American) and his method (drive a political shank into the Presidential campaign of... an African American.) Unwitting? Perhaps, but only if Wright is so caught up in his own celebrity and bizarre message that he's blind to the consequences. This I doubt.

So what's this fire breathing (and rather talented) pontificator about? I've heard the ridiculous notions that he's an agent of the Clinton campaign. Sorry, that's a bit fantastic. No doubt Senator Clinton is mentally jumping up and down and waving pom poms every time this guy steps up to the mic. But the conspiracy doesn't fit, as interesting as it is to contemplate.

Very likely Wright is basking in his moment of international fame, enjoying his pivotal presence beyond the church and into the Big Game of Presidential politics. The most likely explanation, from my perspective, is blatant narcism. His impassioned message is lent a national audience and so he clings and a milks and can't get enough of himself. He's selling his message well beyond that of Jackson or Sharpton and he's on the short path to cementing his position as the latest and greatest race baiter in a country of such racial inequity that he suffers an uncertain future in a meager $ 1 million residence.

Back into the conspiracy consideration. Here's my own bit of conspiracy conjecture:

Wright fully realizes that should America elect a black President the message of socially enforced black inferiority will begin to dissipate. Hard to preach a message of White Privilege and seemingly eternal racism when the President of the United States is a man of Kenyan heritage, isn't it? In the essence of this bit of conspiracy theory, the realization of a black President would, at least, be the catalyst for deflating the message that Wright, Jackson and Sharpton have preached. That the racism continues to be so prevalent that African Americans simply don't stand a chance in attaining anything beyond Ghetto existence. These chaps are comfortable, no, rich and have been made such in reveling in the apparent racial disparities that could easily be unhinged by the election of a black President. Pure conspiracy theory, of course.

Back to reality. In the end, Jeremiah Wright might well be remembered as the black pastor that derailed the first black Presidential campaign. Not exactly a racially progressive legacy. Self progressive, perhaps. I don't envy the Obama campaign.


Adrian said...

Here is Hilzoy's theory. I think it is interesting.

In the meantime, here's a piece of pure, unadulterated psychological speculation. I have no support for it whatever, other than instinct, so treat it accordingly.

I have known people who have befriended me at a time when I was in some way their inferior: new, or young, or inexperienced, or junior in rank; and who have been immensely generous to me. They have taken me under their wing, offered to show me the ropes, and tried to mentor me. In many cases there was something about it that I might have found slightly condescending had I been so inclined. But I'm not, usually: generosity is generosity, and luckily, I don't have much of an ego. When I have encountered such people, I have tended to think: these are good people, who for whatever reason have to deal with other people in this peculiar way. Since they are good people, I would be foolish to turn them away, as though there were so many good and generous people around that I could afford to be picky; and since I myself no doubt have all sorts of peculiarities of which I am unaware, I'm probably not in any position to get all huffy about theirs.

Sometimes, however, these relationships did not survive the point at which I left the subordinate position in which I began. It was all very well when I was that person's acolyte, or pupil, or whatever; but when I turned into an equal, even if I did so involuntarily (e.g., by getting some kind of recognition), things went all weird. I hated that: in most cases, I felt that I owed the people in question a lot, and did not want to lose their friendship. But sometimes I did. And sometimes it was vicious.

I wonder whether something like this isn't going on now. When Rev. Wright first met Obama, he was a young community organizer, and Rev. Wright was the pastor of a large and thriving church. Obama would have been the one who needed advice and a community; Rev. Wright would have been the one who could take him under his wing and help him out. He might, for all I know, have been the soul of generosity. Moreover, Wright could have gone on thinking of Obama as his subordinate for quite a while. After all, they would have met mostly in the context of Wright's church, where he was the acknowledged leader. I can easily imagine Wright thinking something like: he's a United States Senator, but here in church, he's still my parishioner. In that case, the superior/subordinate dynamic could have persisted, and even been enhanced by Obama's success elsewhere.

But if their relationship was of this kind, it would not have survived Obama's disowning Wright's remarks in Philadelphia. There is no way that it could have. That kind of relationship requires that one person see himself as the guide, the teacher, the one who generously shares his wisdom and counsel with the other. It never survives the other person's explicitly repudiating that counsel.

As I said above: in my experience, these kinds of relationships often do not end well. It's awful to get some sort of recognition and then discover that a relationship you care about has always been predicated on your obscurity, even though you didn't know about it. (The opposite -- when you're friends with someone and it turns out that their friendship for you is predicated on your being in a position to do something for them -- must be even worse; at least in the cases I'm describing, the person in question has a kind of real, if warped, generosity, rather than being simply mercenary.) I suspect it's also awful for the other person; I know, as I said, that the end is often bitter and vicious.

I have a hunch that something like that is at work here. As I said, it's just a hunch, supported by no evidence whatsoever. But it makes more sense of the destructiveness of Wright's appearance before the National Press Club than anything else I've thought of. It would also explain why what Wright did there surprised both Obama and others.

Dan tdaxp said...


Hilzoy's post continues the race-baiting that have been typical of so many Obama apologists throughout this sad affair. The reason it is a big deal, we are told, is because of a racial double standard.

Evidence to support this, such as Obama or Clinton being active members in a klavern for 20 years, is of course not presented.


This reminds me of the Jena 6 bruhaha, which also seemed design to take down Obama. He's supported by his powerful backers (to include Congressional Democratic leadership) because he's unusually weak organizationally, and thus will have to rely on existing power centers. The current episode of the Wright series seems to emphasize this weakness.