Obama and Wright: Who They Were Is Not Who They Are

There is nothing the Democratic Party and their advocates in the media desire more than for society to forget all about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Many suggest that the time has come to "move on." Michelle Obama urges the public to return its focus to "issues like the economy and health care." Soon we may hear that the whole matter "is so April 2008." Yet the relationship between Wright and Senator Barack Obama remains pertinent for several reasons, one of which is the misleading attempt on both of their parts to sanitize history.

In Wright's case, he claims that his military service somehow inoculates him from charges of anti-Americanism. When asked during an appearance at the National Press Club about his feelings for his country, he said: "I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels. I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?"

This won him applause from a highly partisan audience, which is not surprising as the media regularly accepts fallacious arguments for gospel. However, his response was nothing more than a false analogy based on the deceptive pretense that past is present. Wright's words assume that the would-be Sherpa -- who dubbed our nation "the U.S. of KKK-A" and further denounced the land that made him rich and famous with statements like "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human; God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme" -- is the same young man who volunteered to defend our shores nearly fifty years ago.

Of course, the Reverend Wright of today bears no more relation to the lad who affixed his name to Uncle Sam's contract than he does Donald Rumsfeld. His hostility towards our nation is so evident that even the artful omitters and dodgers of the commentariat have desisted in their attempts to rationalize his diatribes. In my view, the reverend's record of lambasting America for crimes committed, crimes exaggerated, and crimes entirely imagined takes precedence over any youthful flirtations he had with patriotism.

To fantasize that one's essence and psyche remain static throughout the lifespan is patently absurd. Such an explanation is disproved by historical events and personal experience. That Wright has any appreciation for America -- a nation hallowed by the world's poor and oppressed -- has long since been dispelled. Senator Obama's spiritual mentor now assesses our past through the eyes of Howard Zinn, and darkness is flamboyantly stroked over light at every opportunity.

In 2008, minority groups are totally free from state-sponsored oppression and the only type of permissible discrimination is that practiced against white and Asian males -- "social justice" by "affirmative action" -- but this eventuality is immaterial to Reverend Wright. The Tinley Park millionaire can only acknowledge the reality of sin, whereas a present featuring a parishioner as president is but an illusion.

To racialist advocates, Bull Connor and his dogs lie waiting forever round every corner. Jim Crow is long dead but you would never know it from their utterances. Moreover, that segregation occurred in only a small subsection of America and was opposed by the general population is but a meaningless footnote to them.

The appropriate question to ask in regards to Wright is not, "Did he once serve his country?" Rather, it is, "Would he do it again if given the chance?" Clearly, to pose the question is to answer it. One who posits that "racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run" would never lift a finger to defend it.

That time alters all things including outlook and personality is likewise suggested by Senator Obama. Last month he made use of the same fallacy as a means to combat allegations of elitism. Recall his infamous "bitter" comments in San Francisco. There, with a countenance reminiscent of an anthropologist describing the Yanomano, he explained to well-heeled donors why members of small industrial Midwestern towns cling to religion, guns, and a disdain for diverse peoples as if they were opiates.

Upon being rebuked for doing so he shrugged off insinuations that he was an upper-class elitist via the issuing of a false analogy: "I wasn't born into a lot of money. I didn't have a trust fund. I wasn't born into fame and fortune. I was raised by a single mother with the help of my grandparents. My mother had to use food stamps at one point."

Although factually accurate, his justification is entirely superfluous. Some adults may be trapped by the circumstances of their birth, but assuredly Barack Obama is not one of them. Just as with Wright, the rich man we see ubiquitously on news loops has evolved (or devolved) significantly since his early days. Senator Obama is more Hyde Park, Columbia, and Harvard than Kansas.

As an adult he chose the Leviathan, and the unions and lobbyists who swim alongside it like remoras, against the common man. Senator Obama may boast of "Change We Can Believe In," but his brand of statism will make a dour economic forecast infinitely worse.

"Together We Can" is not an empty platitude. It promises salvation which is about as new as Karl Marx. The only "change" will be if Obama succeeds in convincing citizens to stop worrying and finally learn to love an ever-expanding government. "Together with Barack" amounts to forging the kind of reform championed by clerks at the Post Office and Department of Commerce.

Who but a new millennium elite would examine a three-trillion-dollar federal budget and conclude that raising taxes was the best way to finance it? Out of five thousand federal programs, Senator Obama is so far removed from daily struggle that he cannot identify a single initiative worthy of "sunsetting." If he himself ever had to wait in lines or traverse acres of red tape, then he would be (at least slightly) inclined to declare war on pork and slash wasteful programs.

Clearly, Senator Obama's past is not his present, and neither is mine. Albeit painful to admit, in 1988 I cast a ballot in the Michigan Democratic Party primary for Jerry Brown and voted for Michael Dukakis in the general election. Nobody tricked or coerced me into doing so. My decision stemmed from free will and family tradition.

My father came of age during World War II and believed in Franklin Delano Roosevelt more strongly than he did God. He instructed his only son that "Democrats care about the poor but Republicans care only about the rich." I took him for his word. Armed with this providential wisdom -- and an 18-year-old's self-absorption -- I told all who would listen that I was a Democrat.

As a college sophomore, some activists gave my friend Grange and me a couple of Dukakis/Ferraro signs. We traveled to nearby Shaker Heights and stood on a Saturday afternoon informing passersby that we "liked Mike." Our knowing nothing about the candidate or never seriously contemplating affairs of state proved no barrier to pretension. "Feel, don't think" was our unspoken motto and Michelle Obama would have been proud. Two decades later I ascertained that my father -- while a very learned man -- possessed knowledge about a plethora of subjects, but politics was not one of them.

Thus, is it fair to say that who I am today is who I was in 1988? Of course not. Those familiar with my work would scoff at such a notion because it would imply that I remain a leftist. As with Reverend Wright, the views I had as a youth do not correlate with those of the present. The decisions of my adolescence probably embarrass me in the same fashion that his do. Just as with Barack Obama and his humble origins, our situations reveal that the child is not always the father of the man.

Bernard Chapin wrote Women: Theory and Practice and Escape from Gangsta Island, along with a series of videos called Chapin’s Inferno. You can contact him at [email protected]