Posted 04/30/2008 ET
"A change is comin." Over the past few days, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright has pretty well hit us over the head with that declaration. During his current incendiary but brutally honest "Pastor Ambition Tour," he has proclaimed that "a change is comin'. I can feel it." I say "brutally honest" because despite what you may think of Reverend Wright, he tells you exactly what he thinks, and he means what he says.
Sure, he changes his tone based on his audience: to white audiences (Bill Moyers, the National Press Club), he's a bit quieter, softer-spoken, and he doesn't drop his "g's." To black audiences, he's a podium-slamming, fist-pounding, neo-segregationist with a penchant for mocking white people.
But regardless of how it's delivered, his message is the same: black liberation theology, which demands an "apology" for slavery from the current generation, formal U.S. government prostration, and ultimately, reparations. And that, of course, is just the beginning. The list of grievances to be redressed is lengthy, with new insults added all the time.
Wright doesn't profess to believe in anything else. He doesn’t dress up his beliefs in gauzy gobbledygook or pretend to be anything other than what author Shelby Steele calls a “challenger.” In that sense, he's much less a dissembler than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
This doesn’t mean he’s not a good politician. He often pulls off deft deflection moves better than the candidates for president. When he addressed the criticism leveled at him, he said that it wasn’t an attack on him but an attack on the “black church.” That response was a rallying call for blacks to unite against white America, and against those of any race who might raise legitimate questions about what Wright means when he talks about “change.”
It is clear from his sermons and from his speeches (now that we’ve had the “benefit” of hearing his words in their “context”) that Wright’s view of “change” means characterizing America as a villain: for slavery, for economic imbalances, for the Iraq war, and on and on. He means to get Americans off the idea that this country is a force for good in the world, even when we execute noble intentions imperfectly.
He means that because of this moral ineptitude, we should relinquish our dominant power and become just one of many, with Africa (in itself a moral “good” by virtue of its bad-government-inflicted poverty) and the rest of the third world leading the way.
He means that blacks should hold a superior place in America, rather than an equal one, and that their race alone (coupled with their history) should grant them this privileged place. (This, of course, is a deliberate manipulation of what Steele labeled “white guilt.” Wright knows how to manipulate it even more deftly than Al Sharpton.)
He means that in order to enforce this new order, America should be structured along socialist principles, with thoroughgoing wealth redistribution and command economics. Our foreign policy will accommodate countries that have such systems, such as Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, and our so-called “enemies,” such as Iran, Syria, and the Taliban, will know that while we may not be sympathetic to them, we will no longer challenge them.
This is a partial recap of Reverend Wright’s view of “change.”
Which brings us to his longtime spiritual and intellectual student. Everywhere he goes, Obama is greeted by supporters hoisting placards and gymnasiums and podiums festooned with HIS central theme: "Change We Can Believe In."
After hearing Wright define exactly what he means and what he thinks, it is now impossible for the candidate to continue to dodge telling us exactly what HE means and what HE thinks. Wright's speeches are a call for specificity from Barack Obama. The days of allowing Obama to leave himself as an undefined, vague, "Hope, Unity, and Change Guy" must end.
It is now incumbent on Obama to tell us what HE means by "change."
Senator: you sat at Wright’s feet, absorbing his teachings like a sponge for 20 years. Is your interpretation of "change" the same as Wright's? How does Wright's version of "change" agree with yours? Or differ from yours?
By the way, Senator, what IS your version of "change?"
Unless you tell us, Senator, specifically and with great detail, what YOU mean by your call to “change,” we can only assume that your agenda looks like Wright’s agenda. After all, you said you could “no more disown him than” you could “disown the black community.” You also said that Wright is “a part of you.” OK: which part?
How can we vote for "Change We Can Believe In" when you won't even tell us what, exactly, we are "believing in?"
|Monica Crowley, Ph.D., is a nationally syndicated radio host and television commentator. She has also written for The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and The New York Post. www.monicamemo.com|