Thursday, April 17, 2008

Careful who you associate with

Should we judge a candidate for high office by the company he/she keeps? Cousin Mark observes:

It does some (sic) strange to me that Obama has to take responsibility for anything anyone he's ever met has said.

There is some unfairness here. He is being smeared with his association with William Ayers, who as a member of the Weather Underground was a domestic terrorist, though it seems the association is tangential. They served on a board of directors together.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is an entirely different issue. There is clearly a close association between the Senator and the Reverend. Senator Obama was a member of the Reverend’s church for twenty years. It seems fair to wonder how the Senator could continue this association given the inflammatory things said in that church. Cousin Mark and I have both disassociated ourselves from religion that we find objectionable. This does not make us better than Senator Obama, but it begs the question why didn’t he leave this church and join another?

In an election the candidate needs to nuance his message for various audiences, this makes it difficult to know the real truth about character. That is why we have to look at the people that the candidate associates with. This is not unfair; it is the only way to get a true gauge of the person’s true self. It applies across the board, to left, right and center.

All I can say is that I might not have raised the issue with Rev. Wright himself, but I would not have been back in that church if he were preaching values I did not share. Life is too short to listen to objectionable crap every Sunday. I even bet there are many black churches in Chicago where the minister does not preach hatred of American, whites and western culture. That is why this issue won’t die. People just don’t understand how a person could continue to support, spiritually and monetarily, a man with whom he disagrees.


Cousin Mark said...

Hey there J.R.! Your town is getting a lot of media coverage right now!

I think on the Rev. Wright issue, personally I believe that this is one of those areas where the African-American community and white America have a big disconnect. Talking to my African-American friends and Obama supporters here in Houston, I don't think they find the Rev. Wright comments very controversial, and they have heard that kind of rhetoric in their churches. Historically, the church was where they could give voice to their grievance and anger with a racist society. And remember, this country and especially the south was explicitly discriminatory not that long ago (40+ years ago). So to expect African-Americans, especially of Rev. Wright's generation, not to harbor bitterness with America, is expecting a lot. (P.S. even today if you think "driving while black" or "driving while white" are equivalent I've got news for you).

Now, to the question, should Obama have been a member of that church and listened to Rev. Wright? My thought is that Obama wanted to get involved in his community as an avenue to elected office. Also, maybe he wanted to learn about that side of his cultural makeup in more detail. He may not have agreed with everything he heard, but he wanted to listen to it.

I listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity sometimes. I don't agree with them, but I want to know what they are thinking. Granted, that is not the same as being a member of that church.

Anyway, I have rambled a lot and I need to get to work! Bottom line for me is, I am not sure if his membership in that church bothers me. But I am fairly sure it's going to be a problem for him electorally.

J.R. said...

I understand all of that, but racism is declining by the generation. Certainly our generation is less racist than previous ones, and the boy's generation is almost oblivious to race. It will be nice when we reach that level.

The problem is the perception. Sen. Obama was originally post-racial and I believed that. Then Sen. Clinton and, more specifically, her future ex-husband painted him as a black candidate. The Rev. Wright exposes that to be somewhat true. Sen. Obama cannot run as a black candidate and win. Middle American does not want a President who represents 12% of the population, they want a President who represents the whole country. As the old saying goes it doesn't play well in Peoria.

cousin mark said...

There are a lot of interesting elements involved in this election on the Democratic side.

You have Hillary, the first serious woman candidate for President, but she has all the "baggage" from her past and Bill's. I think Bill has been horrible in this campaign by the way.

Then you have Obama who at first did not have the overwhelming support of the African-American community, but then when he did well in Iowa they came over strongly to him. But is the fact that he now has overwhelming black support and is himself black going to turn off a large segment of white voters? Obama is not Condi Rice, he is a Democrat after all.

What about black vs. hispanic hostility? My friend Lawrence Romero certainly did not vote for Obama in the primary!

Then you have the generational thing that you mentioned. As we can see in our own family, there is a different look and attitude in the younger set compared to our parents generation. This is playing out in this year's election as well.