Sunday, 30 March 2008

The Truth In Rev Wright's Remarks

I missed the start of the whole Rev Wright debate last week but according to a US/UK radio phone in i listened to last night, the furore is not dying down.
The potentially blasphemous "God Damn America" quote seems to be upsetting the religious portion of those outraged but everyone else is buffeting him for being 'Un-American' for his quote concerning Sept 11th and chickens coming home to roost.
"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost" he said.
This was a view i heard over and over again following that day in 2001, even while it was still going and we stood watching the terrible events unfurl on the TV screen, the feeling was that it was horrific but not unexpected.
No country is faultless, my own country has an abhorrent history dripping in other peoples blood and we should be able to stand up and say when we think our country is wrong without being labelled unpatriotic.
So was Rev Wright right?
The vast majority of citizens will bristle indignantly when confronted with a brutal, honest, historically accurate truth, which contradicts the cosy view they have of their country.
It is undeniable that the US has not always been on the side of right, and has committed some horrific acts against humanity.
The best answer would be to look at why America was attacked on 9/11, and to avoid making those same mistakes again so there has to be a change from the politics and policies of the past.
So yes it was chickens coming home to roost after decades of mistreating others and concocting tales to start another war immediately afterwards which has resulted in a million plus deaths and setting the majority of the rest of the world against you is not going to see Americas image improve anytime soon and why the 2008 election is so important for America.


Noah "Nog" M. said...

The devil is in the details in these things.

First and perhaps most important, what is "America" in the sense that Mr. Wright is speaking of it? "Nations" are massive vague things that could have hundreds of meanings.

I have on occasion used "America / The United States" in reference to some platonic form of "Republic/Nation of Freedom" but this "ideal" has obviously never existed. Sometimes "America / The United States" is used in reference to "George Bush". In the former case, the "God damn America" would be something that I'd hit a man over whereas in the case of the latter, well... "God damn America!".

And of course it gets messy and confused when some unwise person decides to equivocate the two so that "God bless America qua the Perfect Republic" means "God bless America qua George Bush the mortal man". Then the fellow will call me a liar when I say "God bless America" and I'll have to argue the point. Sometimes we even have to give up the old definition and make a new one and this seems to often cause messes where the conquerors of the word want the power of the old meaning and the new term rebels have to explain that "hating America" is actually "truly loving America" in the old terms.

-Second, I think that Mr. Wright's true sin here is very common and very problematic one. He and many other American "ministers" and other sorts of American politicians seem to appeal to empty Sophistry through "power words" and "straw men". It's entertaining but I don't know that I'd call it "the cold hard truth". He's just being a showman.

I'd see this more as an indication of spiritual bankruptcy in Obama than anything like racism or "anti-Americanism". But it isn't as if the Dali Lama is running and some candidates (Clinton, McCain) are vastly more spiritually rich than others (Obama, Romney).

Lucy said...

I am out on a limb a bit here nog because i wasn't around to hear the start of this and i am not sure of the context in which he said it so i am purely going on the 'interpretation' of it according to what i heard on the radio phone in.
The jist was overwhelmingly 'he is being un-american' which did strike me as strange because it was if every person was unaware, or at least willfully ignoring, their own nations unpalatable bits of history.

Dismal Soyanz said...

"Un-American". Hmmm

When I was living in Australia, the debate on "(Un)Australian" behaviour was kicking off.

Fortunately in NZ the term "UnKiwi" or "UnNew Zealand" doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily - saving us from this rather silly debate.

What's that phrase - patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel?

If someone who loves their country cannot criticise it, who can? This belief that patriotism must blind us to the faults of our ancestors is ridiculous and is precisely the head-in-the-sand attitude that means our species will continue to feed on itself until there is no-one left to devour.

annie said...

(speaking for myself,of course) the last 8 years have felt pretty god damned bad. and that is putting it quite mildly. maybe god didn't damn america, but dumbya sure did.

David G said...

Because of their extreme indoctrination, Americans as a whole find honest self-examination impossible. And, in the main, they really hate outsiders who tell them the truth. They shoot messengers for breakfast!

So here is America, led by madmen, leading the whole world down the garden path towards destruction while its citizens run about like headless chooks. They don't know what to do to fix their corrupt political system but they don't want anyone to question their inaction.

Beats me!

Anonymous said...

did anybody in the world trade center deserve the rotten scum flying air planes into buildings. Or as Wright, OBama and Malcolm X would say the chickens are coming home to roost.

Cheezy said...

Anonymous: Suggest you read 'Blowback' by Chalmers Johnson. The term was actually used by the CIA, in order to describe the unintended results of American policy overseas. (And I'm sure most people in the CIA wouldn't think that the people who died on 9-11 deserved it)...

There's no logical/ethical contradiction in outlining the foreign policy that played a hand in causing 9-11 to happen, while at the same time not exonerating the actual perpetrators... and, rather more obviously, not for a second thinking that 9-11 wasn't a terrible human tragedy.

Giving a reason why something happened is not the same thing as giving an excuse... yet many people like to pretend they're the same thing. If it suits their political agenda.

Noah "Nog" M. said...

If you tallied up the 300 million some odd folks in the states and made some giant absurd aggregate of'em, you'd find a pretty damned good bunch.

My problem with "America" isn't so much that "it" is evil and bad. Maybe I'm partial, but "we" haven't given up the "greatest" crown in economic prosperity and influence, military might, industrial and innovative strength, or individual liberty quite yet. I don't see a huge bunch of folks anywhere else who have much of a claim to being "better than the Americans" or whatever.

What I see as the great problem "we" are having is that we could be doing so much better and that "we" know better and "we" are breaking our own rules. Instead of doing what "we" should be doing "we" try relentlessly to make every mistake made by everyone else and then try to make up some new ones of "our" own.

And for once, let's do what the British do. When we finally wore them down in the Revolution, they called it quits and left us pretty much alone. Did we make terrorist training camps here and invade Scotland to make it some crazy haven of republicanism? No. A lot of good can come from "cutting and running". We saved the British from speaking German and perhaps the Iraqis will become some great power and save the States from speaking Canadian or something.

Not that absurd aggregates make sense anyways. I'm not convinced that "nation name X" is much of anything more than a rhetorical device for blind faith or hatred.

Don said...

Wright chose bad examples.

state terrorism against the Palestinians

Standing with the Israelis while they defend themselves from persistent terrorist attack by a people bound and determined to push them into the sea is hardly an unequivocal wrong. I don't mean to tar all the Palestinians -- the vast majority are good people as are most all people. But they have been cursed with leadership far more disastrous to their interests than even Bush could be to ours. (This isn't to ignore the Israelis' aggressive tactics and lapses in judgment, but let's keep the big picture. The U.S. has never stood for the elimination of the Palestinians.)

and black South Africans

I am frankly ignorant as to what he is talking about here. The U.S. was among those who isolated South Africa for its practices of apartheid. Perhaps we weren't aggressive enough -- worked with them, rather than sought to isolate them further? I don't know. But it wasn't us that awarded de Klerk a Nobel.

It is entirely impossible to be a significant actor on the world stage and not be faced with decisions that offer a choice between immoralities. It is also a fact that the U.S. is led by human beings who make mistakes and make decisions based on strange combinations of self-interest, honor, and fear. Even the "best" things we did (end slavery, help win WWII, etc.) were heavy with horrific mistakes and unjustifiable massacres. For someone to criticize the country is fine (and aye patriotic enough), but to do so without any sense of historical context becomes entirely self-serving.

I don't care about "patriotism" or being "un-American" or any of that nonsense, but it is a problem that a potential President a) never had the moral courage to speak against a man who was pandering to his congregation's preference for wild conspiracy theories (playing to the audience, as successful preachers do); or b) that he hasn't the cajones to admit now that he actually was aware of those rantings and chose (for possibly good reasons) to ignore them; or c) to explain how he could go to a church for twenty years and never really know what was going on. Seems to me one of those three is true, and none say much for the man.

I hope this doesn't come off as weirdly racist or something, but what the hell: I've always hoped for a black President, but we'll do better with someone who is not such a Clintonesque equivocator and who is actually descended from slaves (the latter point having a stronger healing potential imho).

Jefe said...

First of all, the term "unAmerican" is a favorite of right-wing media whores like O'Reilly, etc., and should not be taken seriously. The most unAmerican thing I can think of is calling someone unAmerican for STATING AN OPINION. Yet it happens all the time. Second, David G., your sweeping generalizations of Americans completely negate any validity your points may have.

David G said...

Jefe, checkout my Australian-American Alliance post. You might just get a few clues as to what Americans are thinking!


Cody Bones said...

Just a wild thought Daniel, but I'm thinking Jefe has a pretty good idea as to what Americans are thinking.


Daniel said...

Cody, indoctrinated persons have little or no idea why they think the way they do! Hint: it's programmed into them!


Don said...

I just read david g's cited post. I thought for satire it was in need of more humor. Unfortunately it's not satire. The gentleman needs to remember that the opinions of 90% of a small self-selected pool is still the opinions of a small self-selected pool. I've read Commondreams -- it's reflective of a particular outlook and like any focused outlook (left, right, or slanted sideways) it attracts a lot of people who really do not know very much and lack perspective.

To return to topic, you cannot know America and claim any sort of indoctrination has taken place. If all you know are our various media and certain online communities, then yes, you will be tempted to take that illusion as fact. Rest assured, most people know they are poorly served by these things, but it's an open market, and advertising dollars do not follow the unglamorous truths that most people already understand.

Or am I merely responding to my programming?

Cheezy said...

DavidG/Daniel... You quite blithely refer to the "indoctrination" of an entire nation (of 300 million people), and by implication cast yourself as someone who can see through this indoctrination and therefore someone with some great knowledge about world affairs... but you conspicuously fail to demonstrate any of this knowledge on these threads. All I see are very general criticisms of the US government, who you then seamlessly (and quite wrongly in so many cases, not to mention rudely) conflate with the population as a whole. Don't know if you've noticed, but Bush isn't exactly Mr Popularity in the States at the moment).

Ha. Funny vid.

Anyway, if you're in possession of some great truths that poor 'indoctrinated' Fox-watching Americans do not have access to, then maybe you should tell them to them/us, instead of just making sweeping generalisations about people who you don't know...? Just a thought.

Jefe: I agree that "anti-American" is a massively overused term, but don't you think 'the shoe fits' someone around here?

David G said...

CheezyJoe, methinks you both protesteth too much!

Cody Bones said...

I'm curious Daniel, how can I break out of this "programming" and where did it come from? Did it happen in my sleep, or does my nightly dose of Fish Oil contain mind control nanobots that are working their sinister plan as we speak? Might you recommend a good reeducation camp where I might be reprogrammed, I mean educated as to your way of thinking? The only one I know of is in North Korea, and they aren't even taking reservations, they are so backed up. Unless you know the right people it's so hard to get in these places.

BTW, I do love your "I'm right, your wrong, therefore I'm smart, and your so programmed as to be blinded by my brilliance." shtick. It seems to have been so successful for you, I might try to incorporate it into my parenting skills. I tried the whole Jesuit Logic/Critical Thinking thing, but I think I like your way better, seems easier too.


Anonymous said...


Mr. Wright said a lot of things. The opinion of some people that they are "unamerican" is only germane for 2 reasons.

one - he appears to be a close confidant of a serious presidential candidate. Mr. Wright has the right to have his opinions whether they are based in fact or not. Mr. Obama has the same right. Voters also have the right to call people "unamerican" and they have the right to base their vote on whatever data they decide to latch on to - fact or not. In my opinion, the furor here is over the undecided voters. 99% of democrats will vote for the Dem candidate (Obama). 99% of repulicans will vote for McCain. Who will the few undecided people vote for? The people that lean toward nationalism may swing to McCain if they think Mr. Wright's opinions in some way reflect Mr. Obama's opinions.

two - hate speech is a factor. In the U.S. there is an insane scrutiny of every word and action if you are anglo (and double so if male) for overt and even implied bias. The result is typically very public thrashing with severe consequence. I remember a mid-level administrator in the attorney general's office (I think) getting fired for using the word nigardly (sp?). Mr. Wright is perceived by many people to have used hate speech. They want the same scrutiny and impact that is brought down on some Americans to be brought down on all Americans. Some believe that Mr. Wright has earned that scrutiny.


Jefe said...

"don't you think 'the shoe fits' someone around here?"

Very good point, Cheezy. I guess I should have been more specific: Americans referring to Americans as unAmerican is unAmerican!

David G said...

Cody, could I suggest the following. Repeat 100 times a day:

1. Americans are NOT the greatest race of people on earth, I repeat NOT.
2. America's Constitution is as flawed as that of all other countries.
3. America is not the top nation on the planet merely the most greedy and warlike.
4. Americans are no better at doing things than anyone else, it's just they use steroids.
5. God does not bless America or think its inhabitants are special. God is a figment of human imagination.
6. As an American, I'll try really hard to listen to people from other countries because they might actually know more than I do.

That'll do for a start. Cheers.

P.S. Be warned: to get rid of from-birth indoctrination takes a long, long time.

Noah "Nog" M. said...


1) You're right. There is no "one race" that makes up the "American People". Being an American has nothing to do with race.

2) You're on to something again. "We" don't have a constitution anymore so it logically follows that the one "we" have is flawed.

3) Again, you're on to something. The United States are "better" because they realize that "greed" and "war" are contradictory things and that win-wins get them more than win-loses. "The Americans" always tend to do better when they stick to acting "like Americans" than they do when they try to be like European Imperialists or Levant Theo-Fascists.

4) Better by birth? No. Better because of a strong virtue of creativity? Yes.

5)...Theology is a big subject.

6) Could you repeat that?


Cheezy said...

David: Your little list indicates to me that you are presuming that Cody has certain attributes based solely on his nationality. In this respect, you would appear to resemble those who you profess to hate e.g. the neocons who can't tell Arabs apart.

It's a very ignorant thing to do.

David G said...

Cheezy, I know that Cody has certain attitudes that are the result of heavy, nationalistic indoctrination. And I know that he is not alone.

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know this. The evidence is there for all to see (but not the ignorant).

The Germans, prior to their grab for control of the world, were also heavily indoctrinated but would have denied it.

Cody Bones said...

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in. ..."

I can't seem to stay away from you Danny, it's like a bad car crash that I have to slow down and watch.

You claim to know me, you bigoted prick, so tell me, what are my "attitudes" that you refer too? I'll let you in on a few

1. Despising someone who claims "Jews are not human" That was you Danny boy

2. Ridiculing someone for writing blanket statements about the "lockstep" attitudes of 300 million people. You in a nutshell David.

3. Calling you out as to your prejudices about everyone and anyone who doesn't agree with you. Got it in one. Utopia my ass.

David G said...

"Utopia my ass."

I think you've got your head in yours, Cody!