Monday, March 17, 2008

Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, religion, race and the political dance... The three lessons of Pastorgate...

The Barack Obama / Jeremiah Wright controversy's narrative is reaching its denoument for most of the world, although some of the more fearful and fear-mongering among us may continue to pound the story for a while longer.

Although the story isn't yet 100% complete, we can skip ahead just a few pages to study the lessons it teaches.

The Moral(s) to the Story

1. We don't understand religion in America very well.

The Unitarian and the evangelical Christian have very different views of what religion is all about. The Hassidic Jew and the cafeteria Catholic have very different outlooks on faith and membership to a religious group. Rod Parsley and anyone who embraces Islam are on very different wavelengths. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, a lot of the "Obama's militant preacher" crap is being offered with a certain perspective in mind. We hear from fundamentalist Christians who "can't understand" why a guy would stay in a church with a pastor "like that". We hear from more moderate, and predominantly protestant, voices who have a vision of what church membership means that probably doesn't mirror the way many people think. The outcome? The Wright stuff gets twisted into something it isn't, blown a little out of proportion, and still isn't treated seriously.

The religious perspective divide includes a black/white dimension, too. If you read anything more about Obama and Wright, check out these two articles. It may change your perspective on why Wright says the things he says, the context in which he says them, and why a parishioner might not consider them all that inflammatory.

Charles Coulter at the KC Star has a great piece on the topic. His little First Amendment argument at the beginning is silly, but the rest of the article is a great read. Here's an excerpt:

Rev. Wright has not said anything that has not been said or is not being said in bars, poolrooms, barber shops, hair salons or anywhere else more than three black people gather.

And don't fool yourself. It's not just the black urban poor, those without jobs, education or hope, who express these comments. Many members of the black middle class have the same sense of history; the same sense of anger.

Deborah Mathis at BlackAmericaWeb provides some interesting perspective, too. In part, she writes:

In a fair world, Obama would be able to elaborate about the black perspective and thereby give some context to Wright’s comments and the facts of black expression.

But, then, in a fair world, there would be no racial divide to bridge. Of course, Obama’s detractors would never consider that.

These two articles are the part of the Wright controversy you aren't hearing about from most news sources. Even if you don't agree with Coulter and Mathis, they're worth reading.

2. Race is still a big deal.

A few short weeks ago, it almost felt like the USA was proving that it had a great deal of progress in terms of race, racism and race relations. We had a black guy of mixed heritage leading in the polls and no one was saying anything about it.

Yeah, we obviously still had our issues with those of Latin origin and those darned Muslims, but it was starting to seem like we had that whole black/white thing resolved.

Not quite. The Wright thing is a HUGE reminder of the black/white divide. Not only are whites "not getting it" with respect to black churches, many people are expressing reactions that don't seem to understand the nation's racial history. You have those who foment racism without saying the "n word" pretending as if they're colorblind while they intentionally hit the right buttons to make white folk just a little bit nervous, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, you have hypersensitive folk on the other side of the table finding racism where it probably doesn't even unintentionally exist.

Then you have the outright crazies, but that's another story. They're definitely out there, but I think their most influential days are long behind them. Nonetheless, they're stirring the shit pot so everyone can get a whiff.

We've got a long way to go when it comes to race. The Wright stuff proves it and you're gonna see a lot more of it in the coming months after Obama officially gets the nomination. I'm not just talking about McCain-backers coming down on Barack, either. This is going to cut both ways and no one is going to be able to pretend that we're running around inside the MLK dream.

3. Barack Obama isn't perfect.

I liked Obama's responses on the Wright question, for the most part. In fact, a lot of what he said wasn't much different than my own perspective on the matter. However, he did do one thing I didn't like. He acted like a pretty traditional politician.

First, he denounced all of Wright's "controversial" statements. That's a sensible thing to do when you're on a hot seat, but I don't think it's completely honest. Many of the "controversial" Wright statements aren't really, at their core, all that horrible. Sometimes, it's more about "how you say it" than it is about "what you say". Explaining the difference, however, isn't always politically feasible (or at least easy enough to justify when your objective is winning an election). I think Obama copped out a little bit in his across-the-board reaction to those who disagreed with Wright's sentiments.

Second, Obama parsed his language like a pro. He made sure we knew he wasn't in the pews when Wright was yelling "God damn America", but he sort of left some wiggle room when it came to the "did you know the guy said this sort of thing" question. That's because he probably DID know about Wright's more "radical" harangues but didn't want to concede it because of the nature of the media coverage. He probably felt it was too challenging to explain why those comments might not have been all that controversial within the walls of Trinity United.

So, he took the easy out: Repudiate while leaving room for interpretation. It's probably smart in some ways, but it's also very old school from a guy who's running on a "new politics".

Barack isn't perfect. Usually the recognition of massive personal imperfections comes long before anyone runs for the office. In Obama's case, however, it's hitting him late, so it feels like news. Me? I'm still backing the guy, though I wish he would have been willing to take the harder and more intellectually honest route on this one.


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  1. I'm actually just fine with Obama and his more inclusive attitude toward Reverend Wright and every crazy motherfucker out there who needs leadership as much as the next guy.

    Having said that, there is no excuse for Reverend Wright's angry black man routine. Reverend Wright is a bit of a hate-monger. I know Jesus freaks aren't supposed to be, but Pastor Hagee proves that hatefulness and ugliness have always found cover in religious clothing, even, ironically, in the house of a guy who was crucified for a message of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Most Christians conveniently forget that message, much of the time, I'm learning, because it takes work and its just too much for them to take the values they preach seriously, sometimes. Admitting that is understandable; pretending like its the message of the Son of God is more than a little bullshit. And that's what Jeremiah Wright was doing, both in the context of a Christian church and in the context of the African American community.

    I don't carry much truck with the "I'm black and the world shits on me therefore I'm angry and hateful" line of reasoning any more than I carry truck with the "I'm white and poor and stupid and the world shits on me therefore I kind of understand Timothy McVeigh."

    Fuck you, I say. The world shits on all of us. But you want to fuckin' twist that into "so I can kind of understand why a motherfucker wants to kill some people," which is exactly the line of reasoning Reverend Wright was sharing in his 9/11 statements, and you have just brilliantly articulated the rationalization for every small and mass murder ever fucking committed. Do we not think Hitler was hateful and angry about the treatment of the Germans after World War I (a war they with Austria-Hungary were the primary aggressors in, by the way, a convenient fact of history that Hitler and his lot ignored). What do we think is the rationalization fueling Al Queda and Hamas and other bullshit murder of innocents around the world. Hate has a way of finding its way to our doorstep, especially when we rationalize it rather than calling it what it is.

    The whole world needs inclusive leadership that cares about even those of us who engage in this bullshit. But people like Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee also need to hear the criticism for their ugly words and behavior. And if they can't handle that, then maybe they need to stop taking hateful public political stances.

    Whites get together and say all kinds of ugly things. I'm not sure why when black people do this, I should swoon and romanticize their behavior. What white and black people have in common is that noone, it seems, wants to take responsibility for their behavior and yet everyone can see the sins of those they don't identify with. Come to think of it, that was one of the central messages of that dude Jesus: that we see the splinters in the eye of our neighbor before we see the beams in our own eye. Kind of inconvenient for Reverend Wright and Reverend Hagee. Then, again, these aren't the first two Christian ministers in the world who have found Jesus' teaching inconvenient to their uglier and more self-righteous attitudes about the world. They get big luxurious churches and ministers' salaries and all Jesus got was that lousy crucifixion. Sucks for Jesus, I suppose. But I think that dude may have been onto something.

    That's the biggest reason I can't identify which any ideology anymore, John. Because I got tired of carrying truck for these kinds of assholes and pretending like they weren't assholes. I have no interest in taking up for those murdering Hamas and Islamic Jihad sons-a-bitches. I got no love for Fidel Castro or the Chinese government. And I have this quaint notion that black people who are hateful to others should be just as responsible for their hatefulness as anyone else. And I don't give a shit, anymore, that how many years of oppression they have to rationalize what assholes they are. Be a man. Take responsibility. And, in the meantime, stop pretending like the bullshit is Jesus' message, because it's kind of the exact-fucking-polar opposite, if we just looked at it honestly.

    I'm sure Jeremiah Wright has done some good things. Hell, Hezbollah's done some good things. Most assholes in the world have done some good things. But that doesn't make the asshole stink go away. What makes that go away is taking responsibility for the bullshit.

    And that is a form of courage that all Americans are finding in short supply these days.

  2. I think the two articles I referenced are good for giving "explanations" as opposed to "excuses".

    Also, though the world certainly shits upon us all, it does tend to level more stench on some of us than others.

    That doesn't justify a victim mindset. That doesn't justify a jihad. It does, however, put a burden on all of us to do a little bit better.

    Sometimes, the rage is a symptom. It doesn't come about by accident and claiming that individual efforts to overcome the rage will solve the problem tends to mask underlying structural inequalities.

    I wouldn't say you gotta sing God Damn America on behalf of our oppressed AA brethren. It does, however, make sense to understand why some of them are signing it in the first place.

    Some of that stems from the weak line of reasoning you mention. A precursor, however, maybe that the shit falls harder and more frequently on some groups than others.

    John Brown of Kansas

  3. I do understand that some people get shit on more, John, though this isn't Jim Crow America, anymore.

    Having said that, if the world shits on me and I say, "Those 3000 people died for good reason because the world shits on me," I'm an asshole and I need to say I'm sorry, at the very least. I haven't heard Jeremiah Wright say he's sorry in any of the interviews I've seen with him. That's a little concerning, in and of itself.

    But, John, John Hagee says, "The world shits on Christians," which it very often does, especially in non-Christian-dominant parts of the world, and then can rationalize, "That's why I'm such a hateful cheerleader for Christ," which is, of course, bullshit, and should be called as such.

    When I was ten, that was more reasonable, and even then I was responsible for my behavior. When I'm in my fifties, it's just lame and it is the essence of victim mentality.

    I guess that's a general issue I have with people, right now. My history involves pain, therefore every asshole thing I do in the present and future is attributable to my past rather than something I need to take responsibility for.

    Everybody's history involves pain, for goodness sakes. If everybody reasoned like that, this world would be a much shittier place to live. And to the extent that people reason this way, they make the world shittier for it.

    And there is a reason why people who don't reason like this are, generally, at the top of their respective games. Because carrying around that kind of baggage wastes a lot of energy that could be spent on doing something more constructive or useful with your time. And, in the meantime, it's meanspirited to everyone else around you. And having dealt with all kinds of people holding onto their baggage only to rationalize why it makes them such a shithead, I have very little patience with this logic/rationalization, anymore. I've listened to it quite enough, at this point - I have to listen to it daily, John - and it is bullshit and it is generally used by assholes to make excuses for what assholes they are.

    I don't doubt that Jeremiah Wright hasn't done good things in the world or that he couldn't be a better guy and less of an asshole. I just don't see any use, including for his sake, to defend him rather than just saying, "He's human. He has said some really stupid and hateful shit. And the truth is that he should say he's sorry for some of that shit, just as he expects America to take responsibility for its treatment of African Americans, which it most definitely should. But the truth is that Martin Luther King did not say, "Everyone gets a pass when they fuck up if they are black." He said he looked forward to a day when people were judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

    I don't say this as someone who has lived a perfect life, John. I say this as someone who has screwed up much more than my share. And even while I was screwing up I knew that it was not good for me to try to defend my screwing up rather than just owning up and taking responsibility.

    I do understand, from experience, that it can be very difficult to own up when you get called out in public. So I have sympathy for the Reverend, in that sense. Having said that, he said some pretty hateful shit.

    I have had pretty angry exchanges with various radical activists over the years for comparable stuff. I've listened to a radical professor say that sympathy for 9/11 victims was inauthentic sentimentality - for which I promptly yelled across the room that he was full of shit; not my proudest moment, but I sure as hell felt real pain and anger over 9/11, and was feeling it at that moment, as his comments brought those feelings to the surface - and I've listened to a radical activist tell me that the deaths of innocent Israelis was worth a better land deal in Palestine - which also prompted an angry exchange about an honest peace agreement versus murderous blackmail for negotiation purposes and the value of human life that I think was lost on that asshole who, I'm convinced, would have murdered his own grandmother if he thought that the Palestinians could have just gotten a bigger slice of Jerusalem.

    My experience with the radical project, for more committed radicals as opposed to those who flirt with radicalism as a part of their political experience, is that it rationalizes its own hate because it's always assuming bad faith, nepharious intentions and corrupt values on the part of the other side. And the sad irony of the whole thing is that not only is this not true in any meaningful way, but usually radicals are far more guilty of the kinds of hateful, ugly treatment of people that they are so convinced is to be found on the other side - on the left, on the right, in America or wherever the fuck they work their way through life.

    Andrea Dworkin was far more hateful to people than most people, in real life, are towards one another. David Horowitz is far nastier to people than most people are, left, right, or nothing or something in between. The Black Panthers committed many more overt crimes against Americans than most individual whites were responsible against black people, though the denial of voting rights and civil rights are pretty serious bad things to happen to a people. But most white people were more decent people than the Black Panthers, is the truth. They were thugs. They murdered their secretary, Betty Van Patten. And I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg with that crew.

    And yet these same assholes will act like somehow everyone should look to them and say, "They are the righteous ones. They are the true believers. If only I can believe so truly and righteously."

    It's the biggest fuckin' hoax that has ever been carried out on politically-minded people in the history of democratic and not-so-democratic politics. It's a big sham, is what it is, and people like Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee are its representative sham artists.

    I appreciate any good that Jeremiah Wright has done. I appreciate all the good that Hezbollah has done, too, I suppose. I guess. But I'm not going to pretend like somehow good that is done to prop up self-righteous and hateful attitudes towards people is really the same thing as good that is good by more genuinely good and decent folks. Wright's not Hezbollah. But neither is Hagee. And neither of them have churches that I would be attending long.

    I do think it's relevant to understand such people, John, and understand why they behave the way they do. I want to understand people who support Al Queda and why they support such hate, as well.

    But I guess, at some level, my attitude is we all have work to do. And if Jeremiah Wright wants to be treated as a grown up and an equal then he needs to act like a grown up and an equal and say, "I'm responsible for my bullshit just like the next guy. And I don't get a pass for my hatefulness just because Jim Crow existed 30 odd years ago. We're all looking to the present and to the future. And I have a responsibility for that, as well. And if I can't do that, then I should stop pretending like I have a more decent message than I really have."

    That's what I respect about King. He didn't ask people to give him a pass. He set the standard. He set it really fuckin' high. Higher than most people, black or white, were willing to hold themselves to. And I don't even agree with everything that King said (I used to share his opposition to Vietnam, more, but the more I've looked at that situation, the more I'm convinced it was more complex than King appreciated. And I don't think the best message to poor trash workers is to organize. I think the better message is, "How do we turn our efforts into something that involves more ownership and which makes substantially more money for everyone rather than a couple extra dollars and some better benefits from a labor action.") Having said that, King at least made constructive efforts that were not anchored in hate. That's why he is, rightly, recognized as the stronger civil rights leader. Because he was. And this is why he was stronger, which is exactly what he and Ghandi argued, rightly.

    John, if Jeremiah Wright was a right wing zealot telling you how bad Christians have had it and that when the Oklahoma City Federal Building was blown up that this was payback, or whatever parallels would be appropriate, for America's treatment of the unborn, etc., etc., etc., you'd be all over his ass. And for good reason. Because that would be a bunch of bullshit. There's no excuse for the Oklahoma City Building bombing. That was a murder of innocents by homocidal maniacs who couldn't handle the fact that their arguments were weak, on many issues, and not getting traction, and that any stronger arguments they might have needed to take place in democratic discussions and circles and nobody was going to listen to mass murder as persuasion.

    And Jeremiah Wright needs to hear the same kind of constructive criticism - not criticism that is meant to "get" him or anyone else - and if he can't take responsibility for what he said, then he can deal with people not trusting him.

    I don't think Obama should swear him off, either. I take friendship and loyalty really fuckin' seriously. But if you have a friend who is saying that 9/11 is payback for whatever, they need to hear that they are full of shit and that 3000 people got murdered and their families don't need to hear such bullshit excuses for that bullshit. That's what good friends should say to one another. I'd say that to you. I assume you'd say that to me. And, if Barack really cares about Jeremiah as a friend, he needs to say to him, "Dude, why are you saying such ugly bullshit? How in the hell does that help one African American, one American, or one person, period, for that matter? Don't you think you're letting your anger with the White Man get a little carried away, here? Don't you think we can expect better than that from ourselves if we are going to be some kind of model to African Americans for what it looks like to be a successful, proud, decent, thoughtful member of our community and our country? And isn't that the point, really?"

    That's what I would say to my friend. I wouldn't swear him off because I don't swear anybody off, really. But that doesn't mean I have to put up with their shit when they're being hateful. And that's what a real friend should do, I think. And that's what I think Barack should do with his friend, Jeremiah.

    That kind of anger and hatefulness is not good for black folks, is the truth. It doesn't get anyone anywhere. And I don't care how much we can come up with reasons for why it might be justified. I gotta listen to that shit all the time. And every time I hear it in one of the schools I work in, I think or say, "What are you going to do with your life? That is the question. What kind of person are you going to be? Are you going to be the kind of person who wallows in that stuff and makes the world worse for all of that or are you going to be the kind of person who rises above it and does something really valuable, good and decent with your life? Because if it's not the latter, it's kind of a waste of your and my time, is the truth. But more your time. Because you gotta live with you while you're full of all of that bullshit. Maybe consider something better."

    It is all that bullshit, John, that is dragging down African American communities, right now. And if you doubt that, you should talk with leaders in the African American communities with more positive visions. It is one of the single most discussed issues in urban African American communities: all the negativity that drags down the community. I must have heard people talk about it a hundred times, at least, last year, at Eisenhower. Especially my very decent African American vice principal and the best vice principal, on merit, there at Eisenhower, Ms. Toomey and most of the black teachers I spent time with. I felt much more comfortable with the black teachers, generally, at Eisenhower, than the white teachers, is the truth, because we had similar outlooks on issues of race and poverty and the ways that punitiveness in the society was undermining the opportunities of young black folks; but, mostly, because unlike most white teachers and white people, I did not and do not condescend my black colleagues and treat them as people I have more in common with than different.

    And, as such, I expect black people to behave like decent folks just like everyone else. Especially a preacher, a pillar and authority figure in the community. Someone like Wright has an especially important responsibility, not just a built-in pass.

    Teachers and cops and all kinds of people are in the same boat. So I do understand that this can be an impossible burden to meet, sometimes, and very much appreciate the need to cut such people plenty of slack to be regular human beings, too, and not just pillars of the community.

    But a regular friend or neighbor, I think, John, can come back after saying some of the shit that this guy has said and say, "OK. Maybe I was kind of full of shit. I'm sorry. I'm not perfect. I'm a human being. And sometimes I get lost in my self-righteous anger and I fuck up too."

    I don't think that's too high a burden to expect of the Reverend. I hope he doesn't think that's too high a burden to expect of his flock, because I don't know what else he thinks is going to move people forward who he and Barack have to know, as much as anyone else, are a function of of many of their own bullshit behaviors often much more than any legacy that Jim Crow had. And if not, then they are really fucked. Because Jim Crow is gone. But much of the dysfunction in urban African American communities remains. So if we're going to effect change in these areas, trying to get rid of Jim Crow a second time looks like a losing strategy to me.

    Barack's message - "Yes we can" - is much more helpful, here, though more independent thought and taking education and its opportunities seriously and people figuring out life for themselves is going to have to be a big part of this mix much more than any preaching on anyone's part. Educated white people know they can't rely on moving rhetoric to get their lives in order. So there is no reason for us to tell black people that they should expect less for themselves.

    The big question for communities like the one Reverend Wright serves is, "How many people are going to take those more sustainable values of a liberal education, independent thought, responsibility for choices and one's life, and all of the values and virtues that make for a better, more successful, more decent life seriously and create the kinds of lives they fantasize about but often have very little actual understanding (and, too often, motivation) to create for themselves?"

    I hope it's a lot. But the truth is that change will occur slowly. and it will occur more slowly the less we talk about responsibility and those other values and the more we keep delving into that bottomless pit of grievance and victimhood. That is the problem in urban black communities, right now, not the solution. And once we and Reverend Wright get that figured out - as Reverend Eugene Waters has figured out with an enormous amount of success in Boston - the more people are going to create lives of value that they can be proud of and help to end this cycle.

    "Yes we can" can be more than just a slogan if people like Reverend Wright can set a better example and say, "You know what? It makes more sense for me to put away the angry black man routine and get more fucussed on what people can do, substantially, to create lives they love and want and sustainably support them than it does to keep replaying bad reruns of the 60's and so many of its failed efforts to create the kinds of opportunities I want to see for people. Maybe I should lead by setting a better example, on this one, rather than just railing at the white man. Maybe that might do some more actual good, which is really my goal."

    I'm pretty confident that that would do more actual good, John. And after many years of swimming in these circles, I have less and less patience for the routes that undermine real progress for such communities and which offer people so little real good for their lives.

    That's why I got into this work, John. And it's why I have been losing my patience with all of the stupid, defensive means of obscuring these more fundamental issues and changes that need to take place in peoples' lives that no amount of railing at the man will ever achieve.

    You can say that a black man or woman can't succeed in America. And then Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Tiger Woods, a million professional athletes, musicians, and actors, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, and a million successful black people in America can call bullshit on that idea. And lots of black people will say, "But those people are just acting white. They got all the opportunities because they got close enough to whitey that they got the breaks." And those people should say, rightly, "Bullshit. We got here because we worked our asses off and we got smarter and took our educations and our ambitions seriously and we created something for ourselves that you, like every other American, can create for yourself as well, if you will only figure out what life it is that you say that you want and go create it. And until black people do that, whining about it will only contribute to their own lack of self-confidence and sense of victimhood which can only be addressed by each person moving above and beyond such bullshit. And if you can't do that, then there is not a damn thing that anyone will be able to do for you."

    And that will just be the facts, Jack. Black people, like women, and every other "oppressed" group in America can sit back and bitch about structural inequalities all they want and some of them will make a good living writing such stuff. But until they go and do something constructive in the world, none of it will mean jack shit except as some conversation that they have with their friends about why they didn't make it or their family members or friends didn't make it. And the truth, generally, at this point, is that everyone who doesn't offer up the better ideas complains that they weren't taken seriously because of some conspiracy against them. But the truth is that, generally, they were not contributing enough of much value to the world and so they didn't get rewarded for what they didn't contribute.

    That is something for me to keep in mind while I bitch and moan about my own choices, aspirations, existence, John. If I don't make it, especially as a very well educated white guy from a family that was poor while I was growing up but is plenty affluent, now, it's my own goodamn fault and there is no amount of conspiracy that will ever get me out of that one. That's an important reality/ego check for me, John. I'm glad I got this chance to reflect on that, because it reminds me that I take trips on the self-pity wagon, myself, too, and that isn't good for anyone. And as someone who grew up in a poor neighborhood and has spent an enormous amount of my time in poor neighborhoods, since, it is something that I learned a long time ago was good for noone, especially the people who engage in it. And if we doubt that, we should ask Hillary Clinton how far it's getting her, these days. Versus a Barack Obama, who has taken the high road and which is paying dividends for him, right now.

    I better get to bed, John. I can't believe I'm up this late:).

    Talk with you soon, dude.


  5. As I follow the Wright coverage for just my first few minutes of checking out news coverage, this morning, John, I have to wonder...

    What are Obama and Clinton and McCain doing about Iraq, again? Why do they have better proposals? How do they answer their critics' concerns? How do their plans avoid as much death and hardship by both Americans and Iraqis, as much as possible?

    Or, if we prefer, what are their plans for dealing with questions of poverty? Why are their ideas on education, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and other such efforts better ideas than their rivals? What are the best ideas on these questions, independent of the candidates? Where are we moving forward on these questions?

    Every time we have an opportunity to have a real discussion about these questions, we keep getting lost in these stupid, self-righteous detours.

    I'm tired of it.

    We can use this situation to have a real discussion about race (I think you and I are doing that, John). But a lot of people are using this situation to handicap the Presidential race.

    And in the big picture, who gives a shit? Isn't the race discussion or the poverty discussion or the Iraq discussion more important than how the election is handicapped in the moment? Aren't all of our attitudes and choices on race, poverty, and Iraq as if not more consequential than handicapping this race? Shouldn't the Presidential candidates, of all people, be engaged in a substantial discussion of race, poverty, Iraq, or whatever?

    These detours bother me because they are responsible for the cynicism and the lack of discussion about better ideas to address these issues. And they feed it, because the underlying assumption is always, "I know what the best ideas are and I don't need to discuss them with those assholes over there because they couldn't possibly know because they don't agree with me." It's the most beautiful and destructive form of circular reasoning that has ever and perpetually articulated by people of every generation. My group knows better than your group. My group can beat up your group. Drives me the fuck up a wall. And it leads nowhere, to boot.

    I'm tired of the handicapping overwhelming the substance. It's not good for us. And it gets us nowhere.

    We can do better than this.

  6. To Barack's credit, he addresses my last comment in his speech. It was a nice speech. I realize every time I listen to Barack that I disagree with him about a lot. But I do think that an election between him and John McCain would produce a more honest debate/discussion. If that discussion were to stay on the level that Barack took that speech, we'd be on a good path. And his ability to call out the distractions could prove useful this election.

    Most of those distractions, I think, are the function of bitterness and cynicism produced by ideological sanctimony with people "sure" that they have all the right answers and having given up, subsequently, on engaging those who disagree with them, convinced it is a waste of time and settling, instead, for an election that just gets people elected who agree with them more. It's such a stupid substitution for more real, engaged, open-ended, open-minded, open-hearted discussion and debate. And Barack does a brilliant job of calling it out in that speech and presenting Americans with a choice of engaging in that same stupid media/election cycle or having more substantive discussions about policy matters. That doesn't guarantee a Barack win or a Democratic win. But, then again, honest debate is not meant to guarantee anyone the win except for those who genuinely have the better ideas. And noone has those all the time.

    It was a nice speech to try to cut through all that bullshit and did a nice job of doing the same on race issues.

    I'm still not voting for him till he stops pressuring/talking about pressuring for a pullout. But it's a step forward for all of us to engage the conversation more honestly. That's actually why I won't vote for a Democrat who pressures for a pullout. Because I want an honest debate. And that clearly has muddled and fucked up an honest debate on this question. But Barack's helping us make some baby steps in the right direction. Let's hope they take.