Everyone has been asking me what I think of Jeremiah Wright now. And to be honest, I’m disappointed. He had a chance to use his moment in the media spotlight to explain both the black church, about which white America is woefully ignorant, and the risky but important business of prophetic preaching in a church that has all but forsaken this biblical tradition.
Instead, he seems more driven by ego now than by indignation, and he surely knows that those at Fox News love every minute. They are who brought him out of obscurity and into the spotlight in the first place for exactly this purpose: to destroy the candidacy of Barack Obama. He can beat John McCain, and they know it. For America’s vast right-wing conspiracy, Wright is the Willie Horton of our time, the face of the angry, dangerous black man.
Having said this, I am much more frustrated with the American media machine than I am with Wright, who isn’t running for anything. For one thing, right-wing ministers have condemned the sins of America in every imaginable way, but they did it on behalf of Republicans (and at the expense of gays). And, if Wright is guilty of an inflated ego, and loving the sound of his own voice, surely Bill O’Reilly would not dare say so, nor would most of the stuffed shirts and talking heads in Washington.
If you want to be scared to death, don’t waste too much time on Wright. Consider instead what it means that the media can engineer a crisis through guilt by association, and then ride it all the way to a victory for the woman they hate more, but fear less: Hillary Clinton.
They have loads of juicy file tape on her husband (we’ll have to watch him hug Monica Lewinsky a million more times), and they can call Clinton a hypocrite for flip-flopping on the war. Only Obama made it clear from the beginning that this war was a tragic mistake, and the Republicans don’t want an Obama-McCain debate to happen ” not now, not ever.
What they want you to do is obsess over Wright, not become better acquainted with the community of compassion that is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (where a congregation, not just a pastor, inspired Obama to become a Christian). What they want you to do is discuss whether or not when Obama recently scratched his head with his middle finger during a speech, he was secretly flipping off Clinton.
Because if you, the voter, will just stay perpetually distracted, and emotionally distraught, arguing over flag lapel pins and the meaning of the word “bitter,” Big Brother can keep you from discussing the rape of America by big oil, the breathtaking criminal activity of the Bush administration, and the hard rain that’s about to fall on this economy.
The real threat to America doesn’t come from a minister who says outrageous things (or painfully true things either), but from candidates who refuse to take the rhetorical “Fifth.” From now on, if any candidate wants to establish who is the real patriot, he or she should answer any question about trivial nonsense this way: I refuse to answer on the grounds that doing so makes me an accessory to the self-incrimination of my country. Ask me a real question about a real issue, and I’ll try to give you a real answer. If I don’t, vote for my opponent.
Just imagine how much shorter the interviews would be, and how much more important. Some 24-hour cable news networks might go under, of course, shutting down their silly, stupid, shallow excuse for journalism. This, however, will only serve to prove that God exists, that she’s a black woman, and she is not happy.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University. His sermons can be heard at 9:30 a.m. Sundays on KOKC-AM 1520.