Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Reverend Wrong


I think I got too excited, too fast. I really enjoyed the speech that Wright gave at the Detroit NAACP. It was energetic and spoke on race in a way that we rarely hear on national television in this era. I thought he was ready to come out and show his intelligence and his humor and put the vitriol in the past.

As I thought about it today, I realized that I might be wrong. I read the excellent Washington Post Assistant Editor Eugene Robinson talking about how Wright was making a caricature of the Black church and trying to speak for a broad group of people as if they were all the same. My own feelings about race began to bubble up and I realized he was right. Robinson put the "different, not deficient" remarks into a more balanced and representative perspective and in doing so put Wright back in his own ideological wing. I felt a bit remorseful that I'd written so glowingly about his speech, since I think it was a bit too showy for the point he was trying to make. The humor was great for easing some of the tension surrounding him, as a political football, but in the end this is no MLK. The dignity of MLK transcended race, gender, nationality, and ideology. Wright's demeanor transcended the pettiness of the cable television journalism, but not all that much else.

Then, I see today that Wright was at the National Press Club tossing Obama under a bus, while hocking his book. Obama turned around and tossed him back under a bus of his own, finally cutting him off in a way that many had been calling for all along. I wasn't one of those people, but I see why he's been forced to do it at this point. Wright's a self-promoter and a showman. He may be a legitimately good man of God, and an inspiration to the people of Chicago, but he has a little of the celebrity in him too. He seems to relish the chance to be up in front of people. For a little context, MLK was said to be hopelessly shy and reluctant to promote himself. He found the courage to defeat that shyness and used his pulpit for social justice.

It's unfortunate. Had Wright come out with a message of strength in the face of the tabloid nonsense, but used his opportunity to calm the fire, unite people, and take advantage of his clear intelligence, we'd all be better off. All he's done is make another spectacle and ruin a relationship with a member of his flock that could have worked with him to do tremendous good. It's something for all of us to be sad about...

1 comment:

mike's spot said...

its okay mike- you get way too excited to give a guy like wright a chance.

I relish in his screw ups. We both fail.