March 21, 2008

Does context matter? Not to the "minds wide shut" demographic

In light of the firestorm over selected excerpts from a very few of Obama's pastor's sermons, I've realized that something very disingenuous and false was going on.. .a swiftboating to say the least.

First of all, there were only tiny clips, taken out of context, which contained only the phrases someone felt would be the most inflammatory. American media and the public they so badly serve would soon boil even those short sound bites down into only three words, "God damn America.", as if that's all they needed to hear.

And for many, those who have gotten into the habit of mindless and ignorant nationalism, dismissing and attacking out of hand anyone who even appears to question the actions of our government, past or present, that's all they care to hear.

But I'm trying to be more Obama-like by trying to have faith that people are smarter than they are often given credit for. (and trust me, I started out feeling that way and people overwhelmingly convinced me otherwise, it's hard to get it back.)

So in the knowledge that there's some people out there who are honest enough to care what the facts actually are and take the effort to find them out and then make up their own mind, I'd like to post an example of what Rev. Wright was preaching about in one particular instance, complete with the context that the American people have not been provided.

This is from an article on a CNN blog by CNN Contributor Roland Martin.

The article contains more background, but below are the actual words of Rev. Wright during his sermon containing the "chickens coming home to roost" phrase which when played endlessly convinced many he was some sort of evil person who hated America itself.

Martin notes,
One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned “chickens coming home to roost.” He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That’s what he told the congregation.

He was quoting Peck as saying that America’s foreign policy has put the nation in peril.
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

He went on to describe seeing the photos of the aftermath of 9/11 because he was in Newark, N.J., when the planes struck. After turning on the TV and seeing the second plane slam into one of the twin towers, he spoke passionately about what if you never got a chance to say hello to your family again.

“What is the state of your family?” he asked.

And then he told his congregation that he loved them and asked the church to tell each other they loved themselves.

His sermon thesis:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

This doesn’t explain anything away, nor does it absolve Wright of using the N-word, but what it does do is add an accurate perspective to this conversation.

The point that I have always made as a journalist is that our job is to seek the truth, and not the partial truth.

I am also listening to the other sermons delivered by Rev. Wright that have been the subject of controversy.

And let me be clear: Where I believe he was wrong and not justified in what he said based upon the facts, I will say so. But where the facts support his argument, that will also be said.

Is that something so heinous, so dangerous and radical, so offensive, that a presidential candidate should be damned by association?

Thanks for the pointer to a loyal reader.


At 3/22/2008 4:21 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...


Down in the Basin, I already wrote that I thought it was unfair to hold Wright against Obama and I stand by that.

Certainly, there is commonality to the "Chickens coming home to Roost" word picture. Peck, however had given no such interview before the Wright sermon. I'm not sure that's a big deal. Preachers set up outside quotes all the time, just like they set up straw men all the time. Still no big deal. I think the thing that has the talking heads' panties all in a wad is that the "Chickens.." word picture was formerly used liberally by the estimable Malcolm Little, a/k/a "Detroit Red", a/k/a Malcolm X. This makes folks uncomfortable.

Even at that, the thing folks have to understand is that Little, disclaimed the "America will get hers" philosophy after experiencing the Hajj and accepting Islam (as opposed to the American Black Muslim Movement)as his personal faith. Inconveniently, that got him killed.

I understand your "context" argument and it has merit. I'm not sure it matters. Wright was expressing suspicion about the motives and truthfulness of the Corporate Body known as the U.S. Government. I don't know that that's a racist position. There are a whole lot of white guys wearing camo and crawling around in the pine timber of Northern Michigan and Southern Missouri with their weapons and an identical belief system.

Notice in the clips that one of Wright's speeches features him wearing a tux. I think it was in Oakland. I doubt that was a SERMON. Yeah, I didn't like the USOFKKKA thing there but he's got a right to his political opinion when he's doing public speaking. Don't think BObama is touched with responsibility for that.

Now, Roland Martin's defense of Wright lives in a tree. To say that claiming the US invented HIV to do genocide against black people is not the same thing as the infamous "Tuskegee Project". The wackiness of that really can't be defended. But is not for Obama to defend. Roland treating that as a spoken typo is simply disingenuous. I'm not really sure why RM is in such a full panic about this, but he certainly is.

FWIW, I thoroughly disagree with you about the Monday Philadelphia speech. Well delivered, too many layers and ultimately self-serving. In effect said "Fortunately, there is a way out of this ugly situation. All we have to do is vote for me.." Freely admitted, I saw it through the eyes of Clinton loyalist. Still I thought it was Cheap Trick Tours Again.

Finally, speaking about no black folks in particularly, If I hear "You must understand the Black Church to understand these statements..." again, I'm gonna hurl! Right. Like Black Ministers are the only ones who say goofy, over-the-top things for effect.

Wright was a no-hitter from jump street. The way folks have reacted to it, from Sean Hannity to Roland Martin to Donna Brazille to scared-to-death-devoid-of-original-thought-washington-posterboy Gergen has been instructive.

Continued Success. My two cents.

At 3/23/2008 2:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are black you are RACIST that’s that. Seen it every step of the way. If you disagree with me ask yourself this, when was the last time something happened to a black by ANY other race and the black person was actually wrong; in your opinion? When was the last time the black wasn't completely perfect and a victim? Especially if what happened to them did in fact happen to them while committing a crime. You dont wait for the fact to see what happened. You wait for the facts to pervert everything to your argument. Even when others tell you your wrong. As a matter of fact when was the last time someone of another race told you, you were wrong and it WASN'T because they were racists? Just for the record, who on God's green Earth put blacks in charge of deciding who qualifies as a racist and who doesn't. The MAJORITY of blacks don’t have any say in their own lives. Ask them they'll tell you, it's all the White Man & the Jews. These are the people you want deciding who qualifies as what and who doesn’t. I say it should be the majority of America making this decision. Unfortunately majority usually equals "White" and therefore obviously EVIL. This is Democracy. Majority rules is the actual definition of Democracy. MINORITY RULES is the definition of FASCISM!!!! Just cause your black doesn’t mean you can’t qualify as a Nazi. that’s what the Nazis were………. Fascists.
America believed Hitler would eventually attack the USA. He didn’t but his beliefs and way of life did.
Now remember the most important part of all of this, if you are black, all you have to say is the White Man is the real racist here. That’s all you have to say to be right

-Tyler Goines

At 3/24/2008 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good spin Dope. The fact is that this guy is/ was a lightning-rod and Obama knew it.

Wright was a known racist and anti-American/ anti-government guy for years.

This is why Obama un-invited him from the Springfield announcement 18-months ago.

Keep trying to spin though. The fact, based on polls, is that few believe the pro-Obama spin and this is indeed hurting Obama in a major way.

The question is - will it last and how much will this affect him in November.

At 3/24/2008 8:14 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Makes sense to me. Thanks.

At 3/24/2008 8:16 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Nice to see they let you play on the computer during your weekend pass.


At 3/24/2008 8:23 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:07

You're so tedious.

Your entire argument stands on spouting, "Wright was a known racist and anti-American/ anti-government guy for years."

Who told you that? Steve Doocy on "Fox & Friends"?

That statement isn't the truth or even close, so in effect, your entire statement is bullshit.

Of course, you could show us a source or some sort of credible evidence that Wright is some sort of anti-government racist and has been for years.

But you can't because you're making shit up or grossly exagerating at best.

Of course, Rev. Hagee has been an anti-Catholic bigot and lunatic end-times screw-ball for decades.

And it came out a few days back that McCain actually came to him and asked for his endorsement.

One guy seeks the endorsement of a lunatic that advocates nuclear anhiliation of Iran to fulfill his armageddon fantasies, and another attends a church where the preacher said somethings that not everyone believes, then condemns the statements and clearly states that he in no way shares those views.

Yet the first situation gets next to no attention while the second is being breathlessly covered around the clock for days.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

Thanks for playing.


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