The Barack Obama-Pastor Wright Controversy
|Ken Bobu||March 24th 2008|
Presidential candidate Senator Obama is in a pickle. His years of affiliation with his pastor have put him center stage in a controversy arising from the pastor’s unbridled and passionate rants which run contrary to public opinion (and common sense for that matter), and that same pastor’s complex relationship with an even more controversial Black Muslim, Mr. Farrakhan.
Granted, Senator Obama’s recent speech on the controversy has clarified many of his points of view on this subject, but his detractors remain dissatisfied with his retaining a relationship of any kind with his now former pastor. Their argument is a wonderfully crafted triple straw man argument that asserts that because he didn't distance himself personally from the pastor, who in turn peddles hatred and seeks commonality with Farrakhan; Ergo Obama is an anti-US black separatist Farrakhan-loving-black-Muslim.
It isn't so, and intellectuals know it. Everyone who heard the entire speech knows it.
There are some who suggest that until now, Senator Obama had successfully managed to keep his race out of the contest for the White House. But now having said that he could no longer disown his pastor than he could his black community, he had himself now identified himself as the “black” candidate. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there were one: First you attack the candidate because of the self-proclaimed and vocal “blackness” of his friends, then when the candidate distances himself from their remarks but not from his friends, you by proxy force him to defend his color, thus making him the black candidate.
Here again, it isn’t so, and everyone should know it.
Barack Obama is our candidate precisely because he is not willing to accept others defining who he is, or what he believes in. He has at no time exhibited any of the manifestations his pastor, or Mr. Farrakhan so vociferously propagate. In fact, he strides (despite his youth) with the confidence of a Nelson Mandela into the fray and recognizes not only that this dispute will not disappear with one speech, but most assuredly it will not end if his opponents are successful. The points he makes are valid, and for us supporters to follow the calls to abandon his candidacy now would simply provide fuel for the very points his friends make. And that can only serve to perpetuate their deeply rooted sense of inequity.
Yes – Obama’s spiritual leader is a flawed man, who has embraced many views that repulse patriotic and pious Americans. Yet these angry and hate-filled views have helped Senator Obama form a vision for a better American in which the root cause of the views themselves is addressed rather than their existence as a process of thought. Again, the experience of Mandela demonstrates the rare but possible nature of this capacity.
His speech was the first step in a process of healing our nation that many of us whom consider ourselves supporters understand and appreciate. For us one concept is clear: Obama doesn’t celebrate hatred or divisiveness, he understands the illness and wants to cure the patient, not just mask the symptoms, like his opponents do.
Kenneth Bobu, a veteran of the U.S. Naval Security Group, writes on national and international issues.