Apr 1, 2008

Wright Choice

barack obama's recent speech in response to his ex-pastor jeremiah wright's scathing attacks on the nation, its exploitative & purely callous foreign policy & racism, among other things, reads like one of the best essays i have come across on a subject which is explosive & has the power even today to ignite & incite like few things can. most columnists, editors have lauded obama for his nuanced perception, the sincerity of his vision of unity that forms the cornerstone of much the man does & says, and the neatness with which he dissects the fundamental truth that there is no one living in the united states today who is completely untouched by racism - black or white, hispanic or muslim, bangalore coder or Filipino nurse.

in fact, as he was preparing to run for prez, obama must surely have known that wright's inflammatory sermons & his close ties with the senator would return to haunt him. no way could he have avoided wright & all that his name is associated with, when he decided to adopt the name of one of the pastor's sermons 'the audacity of hope' as the title of his book. therefore, to praise obama now because he hasn't publicly denounced wright is a little silly. the time to do so is long past. the Illinois senator has to walk a tight rope between portraying himself as 'not merely black' & 'not black enough'. denounce wright & he'd lose any hope of favor from the latter group. that wouldn't be the right choice. remember how the black policeman (don cheadle) who made it the world despite being from the projects & having an alcoholic mother in paul haggis' 'crash' is never forgiven by his own precisely because he made it, because he didn't turn towards crack like the others, because he joined the police who'd routinely harass & live off the black gangs in bronx. to be segregated must be intolerable, more so when it is amongst one's own & surely obama would never want to risk that.

finally, despite tomasky's
brilliant & incisive piece on the ramifications of obama's speech, i'd like to differ with him. at a time when its image in the outside world is in shambles, its economy in ruins over the mortgage crisis & iraq a perpetual albatross around its neck, every u.s. citizen is eager for some scope for redemption or personal grace. as obama's speech reminds them of the sins of their fathers, the founding fathers even (he actually calls the declaration of independence 'incomplete'), his candidacy offers them a chance to right centuries of wrong, to salve the conscience by finally embracing one who isn't their own, to show the world that america is capable of nurturing the 'other' & not just the 'self'. if anything, the whole wright controversy has given obama a platform to poke white voters in the ribs & jolt them out of their indecision.

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