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Truth Time: Wright Is Right


Okay, folks. It's truth time.

Barack Obama has now weighed in on the Jeremiah Wright nontroversy in exactly the manner that I expected him to, I've got something to say about about the whole thing: Jeremiah Wright is right.

This country was founded by landowning (read: affluent) men of European descent for landowning men of European descent. I love Thomas Jefferson. He was a brilliant political philosopher. But when he wrote "All men are created equal" he didn't mean it the way I take it. He wasn't talking about the rights of all men. He certainly wasn't talking about the rights of women. The man owned slaves.

This country was built on the backs of African slaves on land that was robbed in the slaughter of Native Americans. I'm sorry if this offends your bourgeois sensibilities as it isn't the totally awesome, God-fearing, flag-waving, USA #1!!!1 narrative that we teach to school kids, but it is historical fact.

America is a work in progress. It took people like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas to read deeper into the philosophies that birthed this nation. They realized that the rich, white men so many of us proudly call our Founding Fathers had only scratched the surface. And so they joined what would become a larger tradition: the fine American tradition of dissent. One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation this country was still segregated. Restaurants, buses, schools, drinking fountains and bathrooms. Again, it took leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to see that "separate, but equal" was a ruse and that it represented a reading of these ideas that sold them short entirely. And some of these people were told they were too bombastic, too loud and too angry. It took leaders like Bobby Kennedy to see that their anger was well justified and long overdue.

We've come a long way since 1776. In many ways, America still represents some of the best hopes of this dream of human liberty. But we are not perfect. We have not yet arrived at our destination. And this country is still largely controlled by rich, white men. You can say, if you wish, that Jeremiah Wright is too loud and too angry, but you cannot say that he is wrong. I've been astounded by all of the people on this so-called progressive forum that seem to be held aghast at these ideas. I thought that progressives knew that the Iraq War was predicated on lies. I thought that progressives knew that unilateral support for Israeli policies with respect for Palestine was a source of difficulties in our nation's relationships in the Middle East at large. I thought that progressives knew that 9/11 didn't happen because they hate us for our freedom, but because of a complex history of these relationships that go back at least 50 years if not back through the better part of the 20th century. I thought progressives knew that entering the halls of power isn't easy if you're not a white man.

Let me be clear on this: This is only a problem for Barack Obama in that there are still a lot of pinheads around that don't understand that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. And he'll distance himself from it because he has to and because Wright's style isn't his. It's not how Obama rolls. But there's nothing untrue about Wright's statements in and of themselves.

This is a picture that I like to look at every so often to remind myself of these realities. It's a picture of nine white men beaming over Bush as he signs the "partial birth abortion" ban. It's ten white men presiding over the rights of women. There isn't one woman present here. This is the reality of power in America today. You can squawk all you want about how everything is fair, but that isn't the way it shakes out, now is it?

If America wants to insist on maintaining the status quo so that we can make sure that rich, white men can keep taking advantage, then I say damn America, too. If America wants to insist that no wrong can be done underneath Old Glory, then I say damn America. If America wants to insist that nothing our nation does in the world community will ever come back on us, then I say damn America, but I don't have to because she's already damned herself. The power of the ideas that founded this country was not in the men who codified them. The power lies in the way that they ring to true to all who encounter them, encouraging them to be spread ever wider, ever deeper. It is the touchstone of human nature that we desire to be free. It is this spark that becomes a fire when we realize that we are all locked into this struggle together.

The struggle is not over and maybe it never will be, but don't get confused about Jeremiah Wright. His only crime is being abrasive, but the people who find him most abrasive are the people who have are invented in denying the truth that he speaks.

Copyright 2008 TPM Media LLC

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