President Obama recently exhorted followers to get out and vote; he called it the best “revenge.” It is a disturbing comment. Revenge against whom? Revenge for what?
Obama urging supporters to seek revenge at the polling place makes sense in the context of his long and formative relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright – a relationship that the president shucked off on his trip to the Oval Office, and that the media considers poor taste to question – but one that by some accounts deeply impressed the aspiring young lawyer.
Barack Obama met Reverend Wright in 1985, at age 24, seven years before he married Michelle. Obama was an ambitious community organizer; Wright provided access to Chicago’s prosperous black community and gave Obama’s political career a leg up. After Obama lost his first campaign- for a Congressional seat – it was Wright who convinced him to stay in the game.
According to Edward Klein in his book, The Amateur, Wright preached Black Liberation Theology, which portrays blacks as victims of white America. He also preached Marxism, seeking to correct what Wright on the church’s website described as “economic mal-distribution.” As Klein points out, when an unguarded Obama talks of “spreading the wealth around,” he is channeling the teachings of his long-time pastor and mentor.
Obama’s admiration for Wright is unquestioned; a faithful attendee for some 20 years, he and Michelle donated $22,500 to Trinity United Church of Christ in 2006. Only when Wright’s shocking anti-American and anti-white sermons threatened the careful post-racial and moderate portrait his handlers had created for him did Obama walk away from his pastor.
And walk away he did – sprinted might be a better description -- after Rolling Stone magazine published a piece revealing the firebrand sermonizing of Reverend Wright, who decried how Americans believe in “white supremacy and black inferiority and believe in it more than we believe in God…”
Obama’s relationship with Wright was mostly ignored by the media until 2008, well into the primary battle with Hilary Clinton, when liberal hearts were torn. ABC News finally broadcast an especially loathsome sermon by Wright, in which the pastor uttered his infamous “Goddamn America!” Other clips showed Wright accusing the U.S. of bringing about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 through its support of “state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans” concluding that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost!”
The oppression theme spun by Wright from the pulpit is echoed in President Obama’s “Dreams from My Father.” There is no question that his father’s anti-colonialist politics impacted his son’s worldview. He describes with obvious dislike the vestiges of Colonialism he witnesses in Kenya, even resenting the tourists that buoy the country’s economy. He finds them “an encroachment”, displaying a “confidence reserved for those born into their imperial cultures.”
Hinting of how he views the hardship he labors under, he describes the freedom of living in Kenya: “the freedom that comes from not feeling watched, the freedom of believing that your hair grows as it’s supposed to grow…here the world was black…you could discover all those things that were unique to your life without living a lie or committing betrayal.”
Obama thought that Kenya “offered to re-create an age when the lives of whites in foreign lands rested comfortably on the back of the darker races…” His antipathy to Great Britain, symbol of the colonial past – best expressed by his return of Winston Churchill’s bust long resident in the Oval Office – appears to reflect this simmering sense of injustice.
Another echo is the oft-repeated notion in this campaign that Obama “disdains” Mitt Romney. The word bubbles up frequently, raising uncomfortable questions. Candidates often dislike each other; that goes with the territory. But disdain suggests feeling superior. One has to wonder – what is it that Obama feels superior about?
You may not like Governor Romney’s politics, but it is hard to disdain the man. He is clearly a devoted husband and father, and the stories of his (mostly anonymous) good deeds are plentiful. He has been extremely successful – in a highly competitive business environment, in turning around a scandal-ridden Olympics, in governing a blue state. By contrast, Barack Obama had few credentials when he ran for president; a community organizer whose mark on his community was anything but profound, a legislator who left no tracks, and a Harvard Law Review head who never wrote a scholarly article.
Obama’s disdain for Mitt Romney is surely suggested by his lack of preparation for the first presidential debate; he thought he didn’t need to practice, so low was his estimation of his rival’s ability. The outcome was a disaster for the president; if Romney wins this hard-fought election, that debate will be blamed.
Is Obama disdainful of Mitt Romney because he considers his own path to have been the more arduous of the two? Surely one can only draw such a conclusion if one views the obstacles placed in the way of a young black man – obstacles erected by white people – truly daunting. They may well be huge, but Obama overcame them handily. He certainly should not need “revenge” from the polling place, and ascribing to others that urge seems demeaning and undermining. The logic may be clear, but the viewpoint behind it is truly discouraging.