Monday, April 28, 2008

The Wright Stuff

CNN has finally done some journalism on behalf of the public good by showing Rev. Jeremiah Wright's speech in its entirety, with plenty of commercial interruptions, to the Detroit branch of the NAACP. I promptly re-upped my membership. I found, on the one hand, that Rev. Wright can be just as sanctimonious and pedantic as most ministers, (Father Farkin, Padre Patro, and Rabbi Greenstein excluded), but in the context of an entire speech, he can be fascinating as well. The general theme was, "A Change Is Gonna' Come." How can you dislike someone who quotes from one of Clarksdale, Mississippi's finest poet laureates, Sam Cooke? The speech, though fiery and uncompromising, went a long way toward shaving the devil horns from Wright's head. And if you listened through the bombastic, roof-raising, preachers' style of oration, what Rev. Wright said was entirely conciliatory.

The Reverend pointed out that change will come when we alter the way we think of one another and come to realize that, "different does not mean deficient." He pointed out many differences inherent in African and European cultures, including the European tendency to keep rhythm on the 1st and 3rd beat, while people of African heritage clap on the 2nd and the 4th, but it's merely different, not deficient. I disagree with the Rev. on this point. I believe white people who clap on the one and three are inherently inferior and hopelessly Caucasoid, while the two and four are the enlightened beats of life. Other examples using various regional speech sounds and studies showing differences in learning patterns between the races were enlightening, and Rev. Wright can be very funny while making his points. His theatrical comparisons of the Michigan State marching band with the band from Florida A&M were worthy of a Cosby routine. Some pertinent observations were that whites do not understand the nature between the Black church and the community, and that Arabic is not a religion, but a language, as he repeated the name Barack Hussein Obama again and again, as if to exorcise it of negative connotations.

The audience of 10,000 was appreciative of Wright's digs at the mainstream media's obsession with his viral remarks, but emphasized the change that's coming "when we are committed to changing the way we look at one another," and understand that "difference is not deficience in all children of God." Of specific interest to me was Wright's statement that "We should understand that we are people of faith who share this planet with people of other faiths," and "We should commit ourselves to change the way that Christians treat Jews." That's quite a distance from the Christian Supremist teachings of John Hagee and his homophobic extremism. I believe that Barack Obama, as a young community organizer on Chicago's south side, joined an activist church where the congregants were the people he worked with, and the charismatic minister appeared, much as he did tonight, like an intelligent and insightful man and someone who would be interesting to know.

Reverend Wright will address the National Press Club later today, where I'm sure the audience won't be nearly as friendly, but I am happy that he has begun to speak in public again. Although he was introduced to the NAACP audience as "the hottest brother in the country," the more he speaks, the more he begins to sound just like another television preacher, and unless he starts asking God to damn America again, the average viewer will grow bored as quickly as an atheist in church. Like Hillary says, you choose your pastor, so you may as well pick one that keeps you awake. Personally, I miss Doctor Gene Scott in his funny hats, chomping on a cigar and cussing into the camera. Now play "I Wanna' Know," and you people in Indianapolis better phone in your damned pledges or I'm going to pull the plug on the satellite. Now get out there and speak your mind my brother, and Wright on.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ben Her

I guess we can pry that gun out of Charlton Heston's hands right about now. Hillary Clinton has picked up the mantle for him. The mayor of Philadelphia, a Clinton supporter, has proposed sweeping new laws to get the most lethal automatic weapons off the streets, and at the same time, Hillary is making speeches about learning to shoot out back of Grandpa's barn. Is it too far-fetched to imagine her showing up next in a camouflage pantsuit and orange vest with something dead strapped to the hood of her pick-em-up truck? This woman, who has been a sponsor of gun restrictions in the past, is suddenly praising Pennsylvania's rich gun culture that has been passed down from father to son. Hell, my great-grandfather used to shit in an out-house until they invented indoor plumbing. Killing animals in the wild should have gone the same way, but someone forgot to tell the hunters about that new thing, the grocery store. I suppose snuffing out wildlife was just too damn much fun for the "gun culture" though, so they decided to call it "sport." Only, the mayor of Philadelphia says he's just tired of people getting shot.

Has anyone but me noticed the two movies set in Pennsylvania that Hillary is re-enacting? She began her campaign invoking "Rocky," but it has rapidly turned into "The Deerhunter." Set in rural Pennsylvania and seeminly going on forever, a group of young patriots go to Vietnam and come home bitter. "Fuckin' A." They gather in the local bar to knock back shots of whiskey with beer chasers, but they only succeed in getting drunk and more bitter. Hillary knocked down a Crown Royal yesterday along with a frosted mug. The last presidential candidate to do that was U.S. Grant. They tried to persuade her to have a few more, but her assistant interceded and reminded everyone that when Hillary gets a buzz on, she goes on and on about Bill and his women and hallucinates about being under sniper fire. But she was at the bar and the cameras were on, so she took it like a man. I'll bet the last time Hillary took a shot of straight whiskey was Jan. 17, 1998, right after she read the Drudge Report. If this campaign continues much longer, the movie will morph into "Misery," with Hillary starring as Kathy Bates and Obama as James Caan.

The only thing "bitter" Obama said about people in small towns abandoned by their government was the truth. The mainstream media is hyperventilating over this as if it matters. If it gets a six point or a ten point win for Hillary in the Pennsylvania primary, it will be forgotten by the time the media focuses on Obama's twenty point lead in North Carolina. Still, it amuses me to see the Clintons, who attempted to portray Obama as a House Negro in South Carolina, now try to paint him as an "elitist," out of touch with the average Joe or Jane. The last time Hillary Clinton held a job without government support was as a lawyer for the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock. Then for the next twenty-odd years she was, in turn, First Lady of Arkansas and then of the United States, with no official duties other than those delegated to her by her husband. Being stoic under public humiliation won her a New York senate seat, and her voting record, which would make a liberal gag, is supposed to win her the affection of the working man. But her tax return says the Clintons made $104 million in the last few years. That beats minimum wage. It also beats someone who only recently finished paying off their student loans.

Perhaps attending Harvard makes you an elitist. If so, I know several and am related to a few. Hillary did go to Yale, and took a shot at Harvard man Al Gore during CNN's "Compassion Summit," where Clinton alternated between personas resembling Our Lady of Fatima and Linda Blair. Bill's been unleashed and back on the stump reminding voters that his wife may be 60 and forgetful, but she's a woman of the people. By the time the Pope arrives, she'll be a Catholic. This primary can't get here quickly enough for me. I have Clinton fatigue and I'm ready for Hill and Bill to pack up the magic show, face reality, and stop doing the Republicans' dirty work for them. The dismissal of Mark Penn as her advisor for lobbying for a trade deal she opposes may have stopped him, but what about Bubba, who's accepted nearly a million dollars from the government of Columbia for pushing for the same deal?

If you'll allow me a boxing analogy, I'm reminded of the great Cuban welterweight of the early 60s, Benny "Kid" Paret, who died in the ring at the hands of Emile Griffith. In fact, it was the first death shown on live TV until Lee Harvey Oswald came along. In the twelfth round, Griffith pummelled Paret unconscious, but his body was held up by the ropes and before the referee finally stepped in, Griffith had hit him thirteen more times. Paret's lifeless body slumped into a comatose crouch and he died of his injuries a few hours later. The referee said that Paret was known for absorbing punches, but in his previous bout, he had fought the great Gene Fullmer and was knocked down three times while taking a brutal beating. Some boxing analysts say that Paret would not have been murdered in the ring had not he first been softened up by Gene Fullmer and then rushed into the championship fight. In my analogy, Hillary is Gene Fullmer, Obama is Benny "Kid" Paret, and John McCain, playing the part of Emile Griffith, is waiting in the wings. Griffith was a haunted man and never the same after the Paret fight. In this case, though, we can prevent a foreseeable tragedy. Unlike referee Ruby Goldstein, who stepped in too late to save Benny Paret, we have the power to say, "Enough!" and stop this foolish fight before it becomes fatal. It's time for Hillary to hang up the gloves.