Fight crazy talk with some sanityWhat is it about President Obama that drives some people crazy? Take, for example, his former pastor. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news again. This time he’s apologizing.
By: Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
What is it about President Obama that drives some people crazy? Take, for example, his former pastor. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news again. This time he’s apologizing.
On Thursday, he found himself apologizing for a comment he made on Wednesday where he blamed “them Jews” for keeping him away from the president. Now Wright says he had meant to refer to “Zionists” and not all Jews.
In a walking interview Wednesday with a reporter for Virginia’s Daily Press, Wright was asked why he thought Obama had not talked to him. My guess is that the snub has something to do with how Wright’s inflammatory remarks almost scuttled Obama’s presidential campaign. But Wright found other parties to blame.
“He’s got to do what politicians do,” the retired pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ said. “And the Jewish vote, the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) vote that’s controlling him, that will not let him send representation to the Darfur Review Conference, that’s talking this craziness on Israel because they’re Zionists, they will not let him talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza — the ethnic cleansing of the Zionists is a sin and a crime against humanity.”
When Wright apologized for his “them Jews” remark on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Make It Plain” with Mark Thompson, Wright said he misspoke. Maybe, but I think Wright slipped over the line. There’s a clear line between legitimate criticism of Israel’s politics and a sweeping conspiracy theory that smears an entire ethnic group.
In fact, Wright’s remarks sound all the worse because of their timing. They sound eerily — and ironically — similar to the rants of James Wenneker von Brunn, 88, the white supremacist who is charged with killing Stephen T. Johns, a black security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — on the same day as Wright’s original remarks.
Take, for example, this passage from Brunn’s notebooks quoted in an FBI affidavit: “The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America’s money. Jews control the mass media. The First Amendment is abrogated — henceforth.”
Hatred of blacks and Jews “ate him alive like a cancer,” a woman identifying herself as von Brunn’s ex-wife said of the alleged gunman, according to the New York Daily News. That’s what bigotry can do to you. Scapegoating other groups and invisible conspiracies can be emotionally satisfying for some tortured souls, but it provides no real answers. It only leads to further madness. That’s important to the sane world as it tries to make sense of the recent string of high-profile violence and alleged plots from opposite edges of the lunatic fringe. On one side we have far-right fanatics whose heads swarm with paranoid conspiracy theories. On the other we have domestic Islamic extremists, many of them converts, whose heads stew with angry perceptions of U.S. policies abroad.
A tragic example of the latter appears to be another recently alleged homicidal terrorist, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, formerly Carlos Leon Bledsoe. The recent Muslim convert is charged with fatally shooting one soldier and wounding another outside an Army recruiting booth in suburban Little Rock, Ark., on June 1.
He told police that he targeted soldiers because he was angry about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “what U.S. policies toward Muslims had done in the past.” Never mind the thousands of U.S. soldiers who also have fought and died on behalf of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kosovo and other countries.
I would never call for limits on the free-speech rights of those with whom I disagree. But the persistent threat of armed and bitter lone-wolf fanatics like Muhammad and Brunn make it incumbent on the rest of us to denounce loose paranoid talk by leaders who should know better. I put Rev. Wright in that territory. He loves to act out for cameras and microphones from time to time, but his antics have only hurt his reputation, just as they almost sunk Obama’s presidential candidacy.
Right-wing commentators and talk show hosts have taken a lot of fire from critics who say their excessive Obama-bashing fueled Brunn’s hate. Some of that criticism is justified. But so is the criticism from the other side that holds liberals accountable for the loose talk that emits out of their own side of the lunatic fringe. It’s time for both sides to fight crazy talk with a heavy dose of sanity, as long as we can still find some.
(E-mail Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)
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