Pastor Wright, It’s Time to Dance with What There Is

jeremiah-wright.gifSo let’s see now. We’ve had the flag pins, the “bitter” bit, some moldy-oldie urban guerrilla nobody ever heard of, and now, the rather large, open, and self-involved mouth of Pastor Jeremiah Wright. And THAT is what’s stamped “URGENT” at this late date in presidential primary season.

This, while we also have gasoline at four-plus dollars a gallon; four thousand-plus American troop deaths in Iraq; a war that only grows worse with no end in sight; a surge that isn’t working but is making us less safe; 47 million Americans without health insurance; millions of others facing foreclosure, possible homelessness and bankruptcy; habeas corpus still M.I.A.; torture as our newest export (and a president and his most elite inner circle members who planned and approved it); and a drowned Southern city that’s still waiting for resuscitation.

We also have the prolonged and nagging inequities that African-Americans and women of all colors still have to cope with to this very day – issues that legitimately need and deserve to be addressed. And we finally have a legitimate candidate uniquely positioned to reach across long-running racial divides and make an impact for the better. Yet we’re still stuck on the cheap thrills and spills, and one hugely overinflated ego.

I’m glad Barack Obama finally said “Enough!” and expressed real outrage about the inflammatory statements of Pastor Wright. I wish the Reverend would stop trying to make things worse. He’s had plenty of legitimate points to stress through the years. Any mature, intelligent, discerning, and fully honest American who listens objectively to his entire speeches instead of hyperventilating over a few incendiary clips taken out of context would see this. They’d even find a lot with which to agree, even if reluctantly. But Wright has been overdoing it. And his excesses are threatening to shoot his own activism – and Obama’s campaign – in the foot.

This whole mess reminds me of a couple of lines delivered by the late Lee Remick in a 1980 film called “The Competition.” Remick played an elegant older woman/teacher/mentor to Amy Irving’s ingenue piano prodigy. Irving’s character was dating a competitor (played by a much younger and sexier RIchard Dreyfuss) in a prestigious international piano competition. Irving won, but at the post-contest party, she laid low and played wallflower rather than approach Dreyfuss for a dance for fear that he just wouldn’t be able to cope or understand. Seeing her sad-sack posture, Lee Remick gently scolded: “it’s going to take 100 years for nature to evolve the kind of man you have in mind. In the meantime, get out there and dance with what there is!”

My point is this: Okay, fine, Barack Obama isn’t perfect. Perhaps he’s not the avenging angel that Jeremiah Wright would prefer – arriving on some blazing chariot with fiery sword, slaying every dragon that’s stalled the long slow climb upward to full equality for African-Americans – Right This Minute!!! That’s not going to happen. But never before in our whole history have we been closer to that – than we are now. Never before have we had a genuinely viable black candidate for President. Never before have African-Americans seen a realistic and practical way into the Oval Office, and not just as visitors, either.

Maybe Pastor Wright is trying to drive home a point, or to provoke, or just brazenly to hog the spotlight. Whatever his motives, all he’s really doing at this point is peeing in the pickle barrel. He’s reversing all the positive work he’s tried to do over the decades, and threatening to derail the one campaign that actually could address some of the issues that most grievously beset the black community as well as the poor, and the disenfranchised of all stripes.

Pastor Wright, PLEASE don’t add more insult to injury. We’ve already had more than enough, as a nation. If you won’t listen to cooler heads, at least consider what Lee Remick told her young protege in that movie. It will take nature at least another 100 years to evolve the kind of revolutionary you have in mind. So in the meantime, get out there and dance with what there is.

Published by the LA Progressive on April 29, 2008
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