19 March 2008

Vote for Ashley Not Obama

I wasn't able to listen to Obama's speech live. I am sorry I missed it but I am grateful for the internet where transcripts of his speech can be found here . Limited analysis can be found in several places. A sampling of them are here, and here, and here. And of course YouTube has posted the speech. I am sure it's gone viral by now. Since I have earlier posted that Obama's church affiliation matters, it seems only fair to me to comment on what he's done to address the issue.

My first reaction to the speech was to want to applaud his writing staff and then I read that Obama has written the speech himself. The compliment stands. He did a great job of trying to diffuse and distance himself from the controversy. He delivered the message with poise and charm. What he failed to do was address the core problem of the double standard I pointed out earlier and as such, he is no more trustworthy now than he was prior to clarifying his position.

Look, I do not dislike the man. I am not trying to bash him personally. I want to point out the inconsistency with his profession of faith and his actions. He talked about his pastor's anger at having been treated poorly because of his race. I do not doubt that by the world's standards the man has every right to be angry. Wright is a pastor, a man of God and therefore has no such right, real or perceived, to be hateful. That doesn't mean he is without recourse. He has every right and responsibility to do his part to end racism by preaching the truth. The gospel is what sets men free, not hyperbole and rhetoric. Wright's anger is not just "counter productive" it is sinful and should not be tolerated or condoned by God's people!

Obama's intimation that his association with Wright is a distraction that will continue our country's stalemate about race is a straw man argument that should be burned to the ground. It is exactly because we are being asked to gloss over this issue that the infection will continue to rot and grow. You cannot repudiate someone's words and actions while trying to justify or condone them. It still shows me a lack of true conviction and willingness to do what is right. You cannot end racism by condoning 'black anger' even while your lips keep saying the words like repudiate.

I just about fell out of my chair when Obama intimated that we all have heard things from our pastors that have made us cringe and yet we still listen to them. I have to agree, but only partially. My pastors have made me cringe. Each time they held up a mirror in one hand and God's standard in the other and I see where I fall short, I cringe. I have never and would never sit and let a pastor use his anger to spew venom and remain silent about it. I wouldn't remain associated with a church that continued to allow it. I hope with all my heart that God would never allow me to remain silent when such a deplorable thing was being done. I certainly wouldn't offer things like "he is always respectable to white people when talking to them face to face" (my paraphrase).

Obama's speech ended with a touching story about one of his staffers. The story is touching, Obama's commentary about it sealed the deal for me. He has an utter lack of ability to see this race issue clearly. I cut and pasted this from the transcript of his speech. I have used a different font and the red text is what makes me crazy. Here it is :

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today — a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

Has the senator taken leave of his senses? Does he really believe that Ashley might have blamed her mother's cancer or lack of health benefits on black welfare recipients or illegal immigrants? Or is he telling us that white people all think so illogically that they might make a connection between the two? Does he think that Americans are just that gullible as to believe his assessment of what Ashley might have done? Or is he simply willing to do anything to try and make himself look better? Talk about a distortion of racial issues. What a pity that a man who professes Christ and to whom much has been given in the way of opportunity, can only offer this nonsense.

I may disagree with her politics, but at least Ashley is willing to sacrifice to do the right thing. I say we vote for her.

No comments: