As I type this, I am watching the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS here in the United States. It's quite a revelation.
He is wonderful, wise, and brave. He's speaking some harsh but necessary truths. The segments of his sermons knit together by the Clinton campaign and the likes of Fox News are a cynical attempt so sow hatred and discord, to win a political campaign by and through fear. If you have not seen this interview, you owe it to yourself and your country, if you are at all interested in justice, honesty, healing, and truth, to watch it all the way through.
He's absolutely right about the fact that the United States of America was founded through injustice and ugly acts against Native Americans and African slaves. Why is this so hard to absorb? If a nation cannot face the truth about the past, it's not likely to survive the challenges of the future.
In the last few years, it has pained me a lot to see friends and family rejoicing at the bombing of Iraq, at the killing of Palestinians, and the criminal torture of people at Guantanamo and in other legal black holes constructed and maintained by the US government across the globe. We don't even know the full dimensions of this yet.
I'm horrified that family members and friends love the program "24" and celebrate its hero, the fictional character of Jack Bauer. I've probably forgotten more about the history of US foreign policy and the extent and severity of violations of international humanitarian law in the Middle East than most of my family and friends will ever know. Yet my views are considered whacky. The delusions that sustain our body politic, the myths that we cling to in the face of reality about our history and our current world role, and the dangers that lie therein, never cease to stun me. We have to push beyond the imposed boundaries of "thinkable thought." For years, I've experienced at a visceral and daily level how important this is with respect to US involvement in the madness, injustice, and suffering in the Middle East. Speak about this too much publicly in the US and you'll hear from colleagues that it's not good for one's career to voice these perspectives.
Self-censorship is the by-word of academe and journalism where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned. I refuse to shut up. There are so many parallels with the injustices against Native Americans and African Americans in the Middle East today. Rational, open-minded, and intelligent discussion of perspectives other than those we are permitted to think, see and say in these United States might help us get past a lot of harm and hell. But then, it took about a century for people to realize that African Americans had been treated worse than animals here in the US. Hatred, racism, and violence of all kinds are enabled by implicit assumptions that we ignore at our peril, whether we are taking on domestic or foreign policy challenges.
I am very grateful that Bill Moyers, who represents the very best of American journalism, had the guts, gumption, and sense of responsibility to interview Rev. Wright and look at the story behind the story, to ask questions and examine contexts. That's what sane, responsible, intelligent CITIZENS of a democracy are supposed to do: assume nothing; question authority; look beyond the spin and B.S. and ask "whose interests are being served by presenting history in a particular way?"
I agree with Barack Obama that the United States is at a very dangerous intersection. We have to look in all directions if we want to take the route that will lead us out of the darkness we've wandered into. That means looking in places and in directions we are usually happy to ignore and dismiss, and seeing what is there, not just choosing a narrow field of vision and insisting to ourselves and others that this is the only view, the only perspective, that one can possibly have or take.
And after watching this program tonight, I am more certain than ever that the Clinton campaign has sullied itself with the worst aspects of American history and politics. If they win, it will not be simply a loss for Barack Obama, but a loss of our better angels and the loss of a chance to take the right turn at a dangerous fork in the road, after taking (or being taken along) some very wrong turns over the last eight years.
Laurie King-Irani is the North American Coordinator of the International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila ( ICJVSS)