Wednesday, April 30, 2008


God Mildly Scold America

It's just as mawkish and calculated when the media does it, too.

So, as we all know, Obama finally separated himself from Rev. Wright to a degree that maybe, maybe the media won't go into an instant feeding frenzy every time he opens his damn mouth (but I kinda doubt it; I fully expect to see the usual stable of paid right wing pundits debating whether or not Obama's done enough to distance himself from Wright in a week's time). Not that I can't blame him; the minute a trusted ally starts talking AIDS conspiracy theories, there's a need to get out before the circular firing squad closes in.

But I'd like to talk about why we're all talking about Wright in the first place, and not, say, Hagee (besides, well, the obvious). The clip that has been hammered into our skulls. The one where Wright shouts, "God damn America!" If you'd listen to the news, you'd think he'd just randomly decided to get his Fred Phelps on. The phrase, while a rather poor choice of words, came as part of a recognition that America has, as a nation, done some pretty shitty things.

There are things we, as a nation, refuse, or at least politely decline, to face. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. John Adams was responsible for one of the worst abuses to civil liberties in the history of our nation (name one other time when any speech, any speech critical of the government, was grounds for imprisonment). Andrew Jackson, the guy on our $20 bill, defied the will of the Supreme Court to carry out an action that turned into a genocide.

Today's obviously no bed of roses, either. It's become public knowledge that the President of the United States had a hand in choosing what torture techniques would be used on detainees. But such a story gets politely ignored, while everyone focuses on Obama accurately describing a marginalized populace as "bitter" like he shat on a kitten. We don't even call it torture anymore in the news; we call it "enhanced interrogation techniques."

But there's this story we like to tell ourselves: that America is awesome, righteous, the land of the brave and the home of the free. I, too, believe that it can be these things. But for us to truly assume this legacy, we need to realize that we have our monsters as well as our heroes.

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