I wonder if, after finally sitting down and slowly reading Democratic presidential frontruner Barack Obama’s speech on race, I will have anything more to say than I have already said. When I read certain passages, it strikes me that the Illinois Senator does have something to say, but that he dodges the real issue, that is, he fails to explain why he never challenged his pastor for his crazy comments.
As Lionel Chetwynd put it today in a must-read “letter” to the Senator on Pajamas: “That is the teaching opportunity I hoped you would evoke: not explaining Wright’s outrage to me, but explaining his outrageousness to him.” To me, that failure signals a man who is not ready for the presidency. (The problem for the Democrats is that this item item in today’s reminds us that neither is his only remaining opponent for their party’s nomination.)
We all have friends, mentors even, whom we admire on any number of issue, but have some significant flaw. We may admire her ideas on mythology, yet decry her politics. We may like someone’s writing style and economic arguments, yet object to his sexual behavior. We may find someone to be a tremendous conversationalist and loyal friend except when he drinks too much (which happens on all too many occasions).
Or, in my case, you have a rabbi with a deep commitment to the traditions of our faith and an ability to draw profound insights from weekly Torah readings, yet who, in a Yom Kippur sermon, misrepresents the President’s policies on torture. Perhaps, I should have raised my objection with the rabbi. Instead, I left the synagogue.
A couple months ago, I learned that a friend of mine opposed Obama for all the wrong reasons — he didn’t think a black man should be president. As soon as he raised the issue of the Senator’s race, I challenged my friend on his bias. I don’t know if I succeeded in changing his mind for we soon changed the subject. It would have been easier to remain silent.
Sometimes many of us, most of us perhaps, don’t call our friends on their flaws because we appreciate other qualities of them. Perhaps, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright had a gift for explaining Christian doctrine to his parishioners and articulating how subscription to the tenets of this faith help an individual lead a richer life. It seems Obama found comfort and inspiration in his pastor’s teaching.
So inspiring did he find the pastor’s theology that while he may have grimaced when heard the pastor’s angry diatribes, he remained silent. That Barack Obama was silent does not necessarily reflect poorly on the man nor does it suggest he agrees with his pastor’s dark vision of America, but it does raise serious questions about his ability to lead.
If he wants to be President of the United States, shouldn’t he challenge a man close to him who regularly denounces the great nation he wants to lead?
I know I’m repeating a point I have made in previous posts (e.g., here and here), but it is a point which bears repetition. For me (and for Stephen Spruiell, Lionel Chetwynd and others as well), the issue is not so much what Senator Obama said in his speech, but what he didn’t say to his pastor. Do we want a man as President of the United States who can’t challenge the bigotry of his own friend?