I watched a bunch of those clips.
Jeremiah Wright is not insane.
He does, however, know a lot of things that fall under one of the main categories of Forbidden Lore: your own country's historical misdeeds. And by the public's standards, repeated exposure to Forbidden Lore has driven him "insane." As a matter of fact, I've heard nothing so far from pastor Wright that I haven't said myself. Most of it, in this blog. If you have been reading this blog for a long time and paying attention, you should be able to defend every single one of them. None of the history that pastor Wright talked about in those video clips, or that I've talked about in this blog, is particularly secret. The parts that once were, those secrets got "blown" at least a decade ago. Nor is he in any legal trouble for saying them, nor I for writing them, and neither one of us are going to end up in Guantanamo Bay for calling them to your attention. No, what makes these things "forbidden lore" is that they're the kind of things you think, mistakenly, that your newspaper, your TV news shows, your history teacher, and so forth would have told you about if they were true. So they must not be true.
That all those people would have "conspired" to keep you in the dark about history that you really ought to know about if it were true seems implausible to you. And if it were an overt secretive conspiracy involving all the people who ought to have told you these things and didn't, yes, it would be a logically impossible conspiracy. Some people do get obsessed with trying to figure out how such a conspiracy could have really worked, come to really foolish false conclusions, and actually make themselves not just socially insane but actually clinically insane, paranoid psychotic, looking for evidence of the vast conspiracy that made so many people lie to them. But no actual conspiracy is needed, not when everybody in America who counts as "sane" shares one important common interest: they want you to be proud of your country, and they think that means that you have to be proud of everything America has ever done or else you won't be. So if there is anything they know that they know would make you ashamed of your country if you knew about it, they mostly won't tell you. The reason that none of this stuff stays secret is that there still are journalists who merit the name, in America and elsewhere, who think that you can still be proud of America and what it stands for but you need to know this stuff. All of it's seen print, at least once. But the public, who just plain don't want to know it (there's that "forbidden lore" angle again), stayed away in droves, and those who accidentally heard it forgot it as fast as possible, so that they can stay "sane."
One more thing about this caught my attention. Here's one of the things that Senator Obama said about this in his appearance on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Friday night. (If you're looking at the video clip on the Countdown website, which thanks to MSNBC's crappy web design I can't link directly to, it starts at roughly the 4:40 mark, to about the 5:25 mark.)
Now, one thing that I do hope to do, is, to use some of these issues to talk more fully about the question of race in our society. Because part of what we're seeing here is, Reverend Wright represents a generation that came of age in the '60s. He is an African-American man who, because of his life experience, continues to have a lot of anger and and frustration, and will express that in ways that are very different from me and my generation, partly because I benefited from the struggles of that early generation. And so part of what we're seeing here is a transition from the past to the future. And I hope that our politics represent that future.You know that argument that came up in black America, egged on by right wingers, over whether or not Barack Obama is "really black enough" to represent black America? If Barack Obama thinks that the only black men in America who grew up being called niggers were the ones who grew up in the 60s? If Barack Obama thinks that the only black men who get pulled over for Driving While Black and get patted down by police everywhere they go are those who grew up in the 60s? Then maybe he did grow up in a privileged (and largely outside-the-US) environment. Maybe the man really does need a wakeup call. Maybe he doesn't need to be repudiating Jeremiah Wright. Maybe Jeremiah Wright needs to be repudiating Barack Obama. Maybe Reverend Jeremiah Wright has more call to be ashamed of Barack Obama than Barack Obama has to be ashamed of Reverend Wright.
Because unless he's pandering to white ignoramuses who think that pastor Wright is "obviously insane" to blame the CIA's illegal war in Nicaragua for the crack cocaine epidemic, that he's "obviously insane" to think that the US's own CIA were the ones who originally trained al Qaeda and the Taliban in terrorism and sponsored their terrorist attacks against the then-pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, that pastor Wright is "obviously insane" to think that Hillary Clinton can't fully understand the indignity of being called a nigger the whole time you're growing up or the indignity of being constantly pulled over and searched by police when you're doing nothing wrong because those things have never happened to her, that pastor Wright is "obviously insane" to think that America will be judged harshly by God for explicitly racist drug war policies, unless the people who think those things are people that Obama is dishonestly pandering to in order to allay their bigoted fears? Then that man needs a good, hard wake-up call. Because if he agrees with white ignoramuses and bigots that those ideas are all "crazy" and that only "crazy people" are angry over them, then I'm not ashamed of Obama for what his pastor preached, I'm ashamed of him for not believing it when he was told.
(Damn it, I didn't set out to be famous for writing about race. Telling the truth about race in America is turning out to be my version of taping bacon to the cat. One of the things that's driving up my in-bound link count lately is the last set of things I wrote about race in America. And in every single blog that linked to it, the commenters on those blogs have entirely justifiably pointed out that none of what I'm saying about race is new, or original, or even particularly controversial to professional historians. It saddens me that so many people think it is. To quote a line from one of my all-time favorite comic book limited series, Steve Darnall and Alex Ross's U.S., when a dilapidated and confused Uncle Sam asks a symbol of black America why he's tormenting him with memories of American slavery and racism, "Because you need to know! That's why! Because you have a tendency to forget these things.")