Sometimes our degraded press prefers the prediction to the event itself. I'm talking about Jeremiah Wright's interview with Bill Moyers. It aired last Friday night and to my mind was one of Bill's best interviews. Rev. Wright was talking to someone in his own metier. Moyers is also ordained, is a great speaker and cares deeply about social justice. So it was an equal interviewing an equal -- so seldom the case on television.
Bill Moyers nevertheless pushed Wright hard, raised all the questions Wright's out-of-context sound bites have aroused and played lengthy excerpts from his sermons. I was inspired. This is a pastor I'd listen to on a Sunday instead of namby-pamby Tim Russert or the various screaming clubs on network TV.
Wright seems utterly sincere to me. He strikes me as having a true spiritual calling. When he says, "America's chickens have come home to roost," I can't fault his logic. Haven't we been squandering hard earned taxpayer money on overseas adventures while we starve poor children? Haven't we been supporting dictators while prating of democracy? Haven't we been enriching profiteers at the expense of health care and education? You betcha.
A week ago I told my audience in Rome that in the last several years, I've been ashamed to be an American. A cheer went up from the amphitheater. It was such a relief, audience members later told me, to hear an American speak the truth for a change.
The Italians may have voted for Silvio Berlusconi, but they don't think George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been good for America or the planet. Like most Americans, they would love to see them gone. So would Italians. Italians love American and feel pain when we slide away from the great ideals our Constitution and Bill of Rights have given the world.
Italians feel they have a stake in America. It's interesting to hear how thrilled they are by New York. When I say "sono New Yorkese" (I'm a New Yorker), they are delighted. And they also love LA and Chicago and Miami. Many Italians commute between New York and Rome, LA and Milan, Miami and Florence. They can't vote in the US but you'd never know that by how interested they are in American politics. They love our great 18th century traditions -- sometimes more than we.
So where's the discussion of Jeremiah Wright's real calling? You can't find it. Our idiotic press prefers to play orphaned excerpts and force Barack Obama to apologize for words he never spoke. What is this apology stuff? Everyone has to apologize for their pastors, their doctors, their mothers, their fathers, their churches, their social affiliations. Why? Apologies are cheap. Inspiration is hard to find.
Just because a man is inspired by his pastor doesn't mean he agrees with every word his pastor says. Duh. Even a moron knows that. But inspiration remains important. And you will never be inspired by running stuff out of context and playing gotcha.
Our press has become a sea of triviality, meanness and irrelevant chatter.
God knows inspiration is always welcome. Moyers and Wright gave us that on Friday night.
Erica Jong is the author of eight novels including the new novel Sappho's Leap.
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