Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chris Floyd: The Torture Election

I'm still hampered by injury; while I'm recovering, blogging poses several difficult questions. One of the few answers I can find goes like this:

Many of my readers are reading Chris Floyd every day already. If you're not one of them, please take the hint!

Floyd's most recent piece is brilliant, as always ... but maybe a little bit more so this time. Here it is, in full and by kind permission, with a cold comment or two along the way.

The Torture Election
As the presidential horse race grows more frenzied and absurd -- Flag pins! Bowling! Obliteration! -- it is important to keep in mind what the election is really about: torture.

Specifically, the use of torture as an openly admitted, formally recognized instrument of national policy, approved at the highest level of government. The Bush Administration has now dropped all pretense that it is not engaging in interrogation techniques and incarceration practices long recognized by both international and U.S. law as blatantly criminal. What's more, the Administration boldly asserts that the president can simply ignore laws prohibiting torture if he feels that circumstances warrant the use of "interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law," the New York Times reported over the weekend.

(The Washington Post had a similar story -- similarly buried deep inside the paper. A brazen declaration of presidential tyranny -- in the service of torture, no less -- was considered worth mentioning somewhere in the "papers of record," but obviously not worth making a big fuss about.)
The key words here are "openly admitted" and "formally recognized". Torture as an instrument of national policy runs deep in our history. So do death squads, for that matter, and subversion of democracy. Most of that history, of course, has been hidden from American eyes; but nothing is hidden from the "locals". The "recipients" of our "generosity" always know about the "collateral damage".
Torture is at the very heart of the Bush presidency, the most quintessential manifestation of its governing philosophy: a "Commander-in-Chief" state, where presidential directives can override any law in the name of "national security." The use of torture demonstrates that not even the most heinous crimes -- including techniques used by Nazi sadists and KGB brutes -- are beyond the pale of the "unitary executive's" arbitrary will. On the basis of this authoritarian power -- established through a series of presidential orders and "legal" opinions by appointed lackeys -- many other crimes can be "justified": aggressive war; kidnapping and rendition; indefinite detention; secret prisons; warrantless surveillance; even the "extrajudicial killing" of people the president designates as terrorists or terrorist "suspects."
In keeping with the simultaneous perversion of language and culture, it's misleading to refer to systematic torture as an "interrogation technique", "enhanced" or otherwise.

Unlike what you see on "24", or what you hear when our unelected representatives discuss the "merits" and "necessity" of "enhanced interrogation", torture is not typically used to extract information. This is the conclusion drawn by the legal team at Seton Hall which has been studying unclassified DoD records, based on the finding that most of the detainees in Guantanamo were "interrogated" once a month on a regular schedule.

If you had a detainee in your custody who you thought had information that could prevent an imminent terrorist attack, and you only interrogated him once a month, you'd be derelict in your duty. And it's very unlikely that you'd remain in your position. So let's be clear about the Bush administration's use of torture: it's an instrument of dominance and control, it's a tool of humiliation and degradation, it's a source of sadistic pleasure, and if openly proclaimed it has a chilling effect on domestic dissent. But it's not a source of actionable intelligence.

Indeed, under the Bush administration, no "intelligence" is "actionable" anyway, nor is it intended as such. Each bit of "intelligence" is simply a public relations item, fixed around a previously determined policy. And torture helps to produce even more public relations items. So they have all these reasons -- in their eyes -- to do it, and no reason -- again in their eyes -- not to do it.

The "logic" is simple: unencumbered by moral and ethical questions about deliberately and needlessly inflicting pain and fear on defenseless and possibly innocent people, the torturers just ask themselves: "Can anybody stop me?"
The highest officials of the Bush Administration have gone to enormous lengths to twist, pervert and destroy legal precepts that have been in force in Anglo-American law for centuries -- precisely because they know that their policies are criminal under any reasonable understanding of the law. Bush, and the likely prime mover of the torture regime, longtime authoritarian Dick Cheney, were told at the very beginning that the policies they were instigating would leave them and their minions open to criminal charges. That's why the Administration's legal hacks have devoted so much relentless attention on subverting the Geneva Conventions, which are incorporated into and have the full force of American law.
And this is why the Bush "legal" approach is at once so brilliant and so dangerous: if an act recognized worldwide as heinous can be excused based on the proclaimed intention of the perpetrator, then all rules are off, for selected perpetrators.
Bush and his minions know that if the rule of law is ever restored -- even partially and imperfectly -- they will be rightly be subject to prosecution, imprisonment and possibly even execution.
Execution seems most certain in my cold view; it also seems pitifully inadequate, even though the number of minions who would be endangered by such a restoration of law is almost impossible to overestimate.
And this is why torture is the core issue -- perhaps the only real issue -- in the presidential campaign. Iraq is not really an issue; whoever wins, the war will go on, in one form or another. Even under the so-called withdrawal plans of the "progressive" candidates, Americans will be killing and dying in Iraq for years to come. As for the economy, by their own admission none of the presidential aspirants will do anything more than tinker around the edges of the present rapacious system -- an unholy marriage of crony capitalism and corporate socialism that has devastated America's communities, left millions with harsher, diminished lives, corrupted civic society and degraded and homogenized American culture. For the elite factions that thrive on war profits and the brutal economic structure, none of the candidates represents a serious enough threat for any action -- beyond the usual lying, sabotage, vote-rigging and media manipulation to get their favorite into power, of course.

But torture is a different matter. Consider how many very powerful people -- and hundreds of their minions -- face very serious charges if the next president decides to apply the law. Will they really allow this to happen? Or even risk allowing this to happen?

Right now, the torturers control the military and the security apparatus, including many secret forces and units that we know little or nothing about. They have already used these assets to launch a war of aggression, to instigate a system of torture, to spy without restraint on the American people, and to imprison anyone in the world they claim is a terrorist. Why should we imagine that they will draw the line at using these assets to save themselves from prison -- or the poison needle?
Several wars of aggression, now that I think about it. It has seemed to some people -- and it still seems quite possible to me -- that they might even use these assets to stage "another 9/11" in order to prevent another "democratic" election.
It would seem then that the Bush Administration has only two choices: cut a deal with the candidates on torture -- or eliminate them from the race, one way or another.
A potential third choice then would be to eliminate the election itself. But this would be a drastic step which might engender resistance. It may be difficult to imagine whence or from whom such resistance might come, but surely a smoother path to absolute tyranny must seem safer and more secure to the tyrants. So it stands to reason that they would try to hold an "election" if at all possible, under carefully controlled conditions, of course.

If they lost control of the conditions, the balance might tip differently. But for now, at least, it seems we ought to pay attention to the candidates.
It goes without saying that John McCain will do nothing but revel in the authoritarian powers brought into the open by Bush; certainly it is inconceivable that he would ever prosecute the instigators of the Bush torture regime. Thus the focus here falls on the winner of the Democratic nomination.

It is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton who will have to come to terms with the Bush team on torture. (If they have not already done so, that is. Given the intimate, growing personal ties between the Bushes and the Clintons, one could plausibly surmise that Clinton at least has already signalled her benevolent intentions on this point. But perhaps not. The true relations of our ruling families remain forever obscured from the rabble. Meanwhile, Obama is clearly leaning in the "right" direction, as noted here, although he retains a little wiggle room; perhaps he's not yet sealed the deal.)
It may still be possible to imagine Barack Obama as a "stealth candidate" -- something like George W. Bush in reverse. As you may remember, Bush promised to be "a uniter, not a divider" who would run a "humble foreign policy". We now know that his intention was just the opposite. And it may be true that Bush never would have been elected if the electorate understood what he really wanted. (He was never legitimately elected anyway, but who's counting?)

For a while four years ago I entertained fantasies of John Kerry as a stealth candidate. "It's all tactical," I told myself. "He's trying to outflank Bush on the side of more war because he thinks he can win that way. Then he'll stop the war." But it was always obvious that Kerry meant what he said. He didn't want to end the war. He didn't even want to win the election. Kerry as a "stealth candidate" had been a foolish if hopeful illusion.

This time around, Barack Obama doesn't seem particularly committed to restoring the rule of law or holding the Bush administration accountable for obvious crimes against the nation and against humanity. Why is this? Is it because he really doesn't care? Or is it because he's a "stealth candidate" who knows he can't speak freely about anything this serious and remain a viable and visible presidential candidate?

But what if he wins? Will he then reveal a different agenda? In other words, is Barack Obama secretly riding in on a white horse? Chris Floyd doesn't imagine him coming to the rescue of the republic anytime soon.
In the most benign scenario for these negotiations, perhaps some small fry will be offered up as a PR sop for the victor. Just as Scooter Libby took the fall for Karl Rove (in another obvious backroom deal), we might see John Yoo or that despised putz-for-all-seasons, Doug Feith, put on trial, while Bush, Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice and the other "principals" go free.

But it is much more likely that any acknowledgement of criminality will be unacceptable to the torturers. It would establish a principle -- or rather, re-establish a principle -- that would forever leave them open to future prosecution.
And this is precisely the point. They have gone so far to defeat the rule of law -- and to discredit the notion that the rule of law is a good thing -- that they would earnestly wish to avoid seeing it take root again in any form -- on principle and as a matter of existential necessity.
So again, we come down to a stark choice for the Democratic candidate: either agree to "move on" from "bitter partisan rancor" over "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- or else. There are of course several ways to eliminate someone from public life; the tools have been refined somewhat since the days when "lone gunmen" stalked the land, removing inconvenient figures.
Is Obama thinking like this, too? Does he imagine he could become president by slipping under the radar with secret plans to make all the criminals accountable after his inauguration? And if so, what then? With such "treasonous" ideas, how long could he stay in the Oval Office? How long could he stay alive?

Those audacious enough to harbor some hope may be working overtime by now.
But given the proven nature of the Bush team -- and the dire consequences they face from any normal, rightful application of the law -- we should assume that they will do whatever it takes to escape those consequences.

And that's why torture is the decisive issue of this campaign. But this decision will not be in the hands of the voters; it will be made -- as most of the decisions that govern our lives are made -- in the inner sanctums of elite power.
And that means, unless I am much mistaken, that the key decisions are already made.

We would never have been led down this evil road if we were meant to turn back.

Oh no. The big decisions were made years ago. All the rest has been implementation.

Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club, April 28, 2008

Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. (now retired) spoke at the National Press Club on Monday. We have the transcript, courtesy of the New York Times; the video is embedded in six segments below.

UPDATE: If the embedded videos don't work (as they sometimes don't), you can watch the entire speech on one page here.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Over the next few days, prominent scholars of the African-American religious tradition from several different disciplines -- theologians, church historians, ethicists, professors of the Hebrew bible, homiletics, hermeneutics, and historians of religions -- those scholars will join in with sociologists, political analysts, local church pastors, and denominational officials to examine the African-American religious experience and its historical, theological and political context.

The workshops, the panel discussions, and the symposium will go into much more intricate detail about this unknown phenomenon of the black church...


... than I have time to go into in the few moments that we have to share together. And I would invite you to spend the next two days getting to know just a little bit about a religious tradition that is as old as and, in some instances, older than this country.

And this is a country which houses this religious tradition that we all love and a country that some of us have served. It is a tradition that is, in some ways, like Ralph Ellison's the "Invisible Man."

It has been right here in our midst and on our shoulders since the 1600s, but it was, has been, and, in far too many instances, still is invisible to the dominant culture, in terms of its rich history, its incredible legacy, and its multiple meanings.

The black religious experience is a tradition that, at one point in American history, was actually called the "invisible institution," as it was forced underground by the Black Codes.

The Black Codes prohibited the gathering of more than two black people without a white person being present to monitor the conversation, the content, and the mood of any discourse between persons of African descent in this country.

Africans did not stop worshipping because of the Black Codes. Africans did not stop gathering for inspiration and information and for encouragement and for hope in the midst of discouraging and seemingly hopeless circumstances. They just gathered out of the eyesight and the earshot of those who defined them as less than human.

They became, in other words, invisible in and invisible to the eyes of the dominant culture. They gathered to worship in brush arbors, sometimes called hush arbors, where the slaveholders, slave patrols, and Uncle Toms couldn't hear nobody pray.

From the 1700s in North America, with the founding of the first legally recognized independent black congregations, through the end of the Civil War, and the passing of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, the black religious experience was informed by, enriched by, expanded by, challenged by, shaped by, and influenced by the influx of Africans from the other two Americas and the Africans brought in to this country from the Caribbean, plus the Africans who were called "fresh blacks" by the slave-traders, those Africans who had not been through the seasoning process of the middle passage in the Caribbean colonies, those Africans on the sea coast islands off of Georgia and South Carolina, the Gullah -- we say in English "Gullah," those of us in the black community say "Geechee" -- those people brought into the black religious experience a flavor that other seasoned Africans could not bring.

It is those various streams of the black religious experience which will be addressed in summary form over the next two days, streams which require full courses at the university and graduate- school level, and cannot be fully addressed in a two-day symposium, and streams which tragically remain invisible in a dominant culture which knows nothing about those whom Langston Hughes calls "the darker brother and sister."

It is all of those streams that make up this multilayered and rich tapestry of the black religious experience. And I stand before you to open up this two-day symposium with the hope that this most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church.


As the vice president told you, that applause comes from not the working press.


The most recent attack on the black church, it is our hope that this just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.

Maybe now, as an honest dialogue about race in this country begins, a dialogue called for by Senator Obama and a dialogue to begin in the United Church of Christ among 5,700 congregations in just a few weeks, maybe now, as that dialogue begins, the religious tradition that has kept hope alive for people struggling to survive in countless hopeless situation, maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o'clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America.

We have known since 1787 that it is the most segregated hour. Maybe now we can begin to understand why it is the most segregated hour.

And maybe now we can begin to take steps to move the black religious tradition from the status of invisible to the status of invaluable, not just for some black people in this country, but for all the people in this country.

Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.

That is my hope, as I open up this two-day symposium. And I open it as a pastor and a professor who comes from a long tradition of what I call the prophetic theology of the black church.

Now, in the 1960s, the term "liberation theology" began to gain currency with the writings and the teachings of preachers, pastors, priests, and professors from Latin America. Their theology was done from the underside.

Their viewpoint was not from the top down or from a set of teachings which undergirded imperialism. Their viewpoints, rather, were from the bottom up, the thoughts and understandings of God, the faith, religion and the Bible from those whose lives were ground, under, mangled and destroyed by the ruling classes or the oppressors.

Liberation theology started in and started from a different place. It started from the vantage point of the oppressed.

In the late 1960s, when Dr. James Cone's powerful books burst onto the scene, the term "black liberation theology" began to be used. I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone, nor do I in any way diminish the inimitable and incomparable contributions that he has made and that he continues to make to the field of theology. Jim, incidentally, is a personal friend of mine.

I call our faith tradition, however, the prophetic tradition of the black church, because I take its origins back past Jim Cone, past the sermons and songs of Africans in bondage in the transatlantic slave trade.

I take it back past the problem of Western ideology and notions of white supremacy.

I take and trace the theology of the black church back to the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and to its last prophet, in my tradition, the one we call Jesus of Nazareth.

The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive.

It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors.

The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel.

The prophetic theology of the black church during the days of segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and the separate-but-equal fantasy was a theology of liberation.

It was preached to set African-Americans free from the notion of second-class citizenship, which was the law of the land. And it was practiced to set free misguided and miseducated Americans from the notion that they were actually superior to other Americans based on the color of their skin. The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient.

Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European and European music. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient; it is just different.

Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient; it is just different. It is not bombastic; it is not controversial; it's different.


Those of you who can't see on C-SPAN, we had one or two working press clap along with the non-working press.


Black learning styles are different from European and European- American learning styles. They are not deficient; they are just different.

This principle of "different does not mean deficient" is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. It is a theology of liberation.

The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation, which is also rooted in Isaiah 61, the text from which Jesus preached in his inaugural message, as recorded by Luke.

When you read the entire passage from either Isaiah 61 or Luke 4 and do not try to understand the passage or the content of the passage in the context of a sound bite, what you see is God's desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.

God's desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

God's desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.

This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church. These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the black religious experience from the days of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen, Jarena Lee, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, and Sojourner Truth, through the days of Adam Clayton Powell, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Cornell West, and Fanny Lou Hamer.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have been at the very core of the United Church of Christ since its predecessor denomination, the Congregational Church of New England, came to the moral defense and paid for the legal defense of the Mende people aboard the slave ship Amistad, since the days when the United Church of Christ fought against slavery, played an active role in the underground railroad, and set up over 500 schools for the Africans who were freed from slavery in 1865.

And these two foci remain at the core of the teachings of the United Church of Christ, as it has fought against apartheid in South Africa and racism in the United States of America ever since the union which formed the United Church of Christ in 1957.

These two foci of liberation and transformation have also been at the very core and the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ since it was founded in 1961. And these foci have been the bedrock of our preaching and practice for the past 36 years.

Our congregation, as you heard in the introduction, took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.


Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.

Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years.

Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.


Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter's unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending...

(APPLAUSE) ... while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.


Our congregation has had an HIV-AIDS ministry for over two decades. Our congregation has awarded over $1 million to graduating high school seniors going into college and an additional $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund, and the six HBCUs related to the United Church of Christ, while advocating for health care for the uninsured, workers' rights for those forbidden to form unions, and fighting the unjust sentencing system which has sent black men and women to prison for longer terms for possession of crack cocaine than white men and women have to serve for the possession of powder cocaine.

Our congregation has had a prison ministry for 30 years, a drug and alcohol recovery ministry for 20 years, a full service program for senior citizens, and 22 different ministries for the youth of our church...

... from pre-school through high school, all proceeding from the starting point of liberation and transformation, a prophetic theology which presumes God's desire for changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, changed lives, changed hearts in a changed world.

The prophetic theology of the black church is a theology of liberation; it is a theology of transformation; and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation.

The Apostle Paul said, "Be ye reconciled one to another, even as God was in Christ reconciling the world to God's self."

God does not desire for us, as children of God, to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other, or put each other down.

God wants us reconciled, one to another. And that third principle in the prophetic theology of the black church is also and has always been at the heart of the black church experience in North America.

When Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were dragged out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, during the same year, 1787, when the Constitution was framed in Philadelphia, for daring to kneel at the altar next to white worshippers, they founded the Free African Society and they welcomed white members into their congregation to show that reconciliation was the goal, not retaliation.

Absalom Jones became the rector of the St. Thomas Anglican Church in 1781, and St. Thomas welcomed white Anglicans in the spirit of reconciliation.

Richard Allen became the founding pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the motto of the AME Church has always been, "God our father, man our brother, and Christ our redeemer." The word "man" included men and women of all races back in 1787 and 1792, in the spirit of reconciliation.

The black church's role in the fight for equality and justice, from the 1700s up until 2008, has always had as its core the nonnegotiable doctrine of reconciliation, children of God repenting for past sins against each other.

Jim Wallis says America's sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for. Repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one other -- Jim Wallis is white, by the way...


... being reconciled to one another, because of the love of God, who made all of us in God's image.

Reconciliation, the years have taught me, is where the hardest work is found for those of us in the Christian faith, however, because it means some critical thinking and some re-examination of faulty assumptions when using the paradigm of Dr. William Augustus Jones.

Dr. Jones, in his book, God in the ghetto, argues quite accurately that one's theology, how I see God, determines one's anthropology, how I see humans, and one's anthropology then determines one's sociology, how I order my society.

Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means "God with us," if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.

My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.

And I order my society where I can worship God on Sunday morning wearing a black clergy robe and kill others on Sunday evening wearing a white Klan robe. I can have laws which favor whites over blacks in America or South Africa. I can construct a theology of apartheid in the Africana church (ph) and a theology of white supremacy in the North American or Germanic church.

The implications from the outset are obvious, but then the complicated work is left to be done, as you dig deeper into the constructs, which tradition, habit, and hermeneutics put on your plate.

To say "I am a Christian" is not enough. Why? Because the Christianity of the slaveholder is not the Christianity of the slave. The God to whom the slaveholders pray as they ride on the decks of the slave ship is not the God to whom the enslaved are praying as they ride beneath the decks on that slave ship.

How we are seeing God, our theology, is not the same. And what we both mean when we say "I am a Christian" is not the same thing. The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God's children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation, who need to be reconciled as equals in order for us to walk together into the future which God has prepared for us.

Reconciliation does not mean that blacks become whites or whites become blacks and Hispanics become Asian or that Asians become Europeans.

Reconciliation means we embrace our individual rich histories, all of them. We retain who we are as persons of different cultures, while acknowledging that those of other cultures are not superior or inferior to us. They are just different from us.

We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred, or prejudice.

And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God's children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.

Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.

Thank you for having me in your midst this morning.


MODERATOR: We do want to get in our questions. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

I do want to repeat again, for those of you watching us on C- SPAN, that we do have a number of guests here today. And so the applause and the comments that you hear from the audience are not necessarily those of the working press, who are mostly in the balconies.

You have said that the media have taken you out of context. Can you explain what you meant in a sermon shortly after 9/11 when you said the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself? Quote, "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

REVEREND WRIGHT: Have you heard the whole sermon? Have you heard the whole sermon?

MODERATOR: I heard most of it.

REVEREND WRIGHT: No, no, the whole sermon, yes or no? No, you haven't heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question.

Well, let me try to respond in a non-bombastic way. If you heard the whole sermon, first of all, you heard that I was quoting the ambassador from Iraq. That's number one.

But, number two, to quote the Bible, "Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever you sow, that you also shall reap." Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.


MODERATOR: Some critics have said that your sermons are unpatriotic. How do you feel about America and about being an American?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels.

I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?


MODERATOR: Please, I ask you to keep your comments and your applause to a minimum so that we can work in as many questions as possible.

Senator Obama has -- shh, please. We're trying to ask as many questions as possible today, so if you can keep your applause to a minimum.

Senator Obama has tried to explain away some of your most contentious comments and has distanced himself from you. It's clear that many people in his campaign consider you a detriment. In that context, why are you speaking out now?

REVEREND WRIGHT: On November the 5th and on January 21st, I'll still be a pastor. As I said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.

And why am I speaking out now? In our community, we have something called playing the dozens. If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition, and my grandma, you've got another thing coming.

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

REVEREND WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers' show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we're going to build a future for our children, whether those people are -- just as Michelle and Barack don't agree on everything, Raymond (ph) and I don't agree on everything, Louis and I don't agree on everything, most of you all don't agree -- you get two people in the same room, you've got three opinions.

So what I think about him, as I've said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out, how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That's what I think about him.

I've said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks, all black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, "You don't tell me who my enemies are. You don't tell me who my friends are."

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color.

MODERATOR: What is your motivation for characterizing Senator Obama's response to you as, quote, "what a politician had to say"? What do you mean by that?

REVEREND WRIGHT: What I mean is what several of my white friends and several of my white, Jewish friends have written me and said to me. They've said, "You're a Christian. You understand forgiveness. We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected."

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever's doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they're pastors. They have a different person to whom they're accountable.

As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do.

I am not running for office. I am hoping to be vice president.


MODERATOR: In light of your widely quoted comment damning America, do you think you owe the American people an apology? If not, do you think that America is still damned in the eyes of God? REVEREND WRIGHT: The governmental leaders, those -- as I said to Barack Obama, my member -- I am a pastor, he's a member. I'm not a spiritual mentor, guru. I'm his pastor.

And I said to Barack Obama, last year, "If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people." All right? It's about policy, not the American people.

And if you saw the Bill Moyers show, I was talking about -- although it got edited out -- you know, that's biblical. God doesn't bless everything. God condemns something -- and d-e-m-n, "demn," is where we get the word "damn." God damns some practices.

And there is no excuse for the things that the government, not the American people, have done. That doesn't make me not like America or unpatriotic.

So in Jesus -- when Jesus says, "Not only you brood of vipers" -- now, he's playing the dozens, because he's talking about their mamas. To say "brood" means your mother is an asp, a-s-p. Should we put Jesus out of the congregation?

When Jesus says, "You'll be brought down to Hell," that's not -- that's bombastic, divisive speech. Maybe we ought to take Jesus out of this Christian faith.

No. What I said about and what I think about and what -- again, until I can't -- until racism and slavery are confessed and asked for forgiveness -- have we asked the Japanese to forgive us? We have never as a country, the policymakers -- in fact, Clinton almost got in trouble because he almost apologized at Gorialan (ph). We have never apologized as a country.

Britain has apologized to Africans, but this country's leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I'm not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, "Does this hurt? Do you forgive me for stepping on your foot?" if I'm still stepping on your foot.

Understand that? Capiche?

MODERATOR: Senator Obama has been in your congregation for 20 years, yet you were not invited to his announcement of his presidential candidacy in Illinois. And in the most recent presidential debate in Pennsylvania, he said he had denounced you. Are you disappointed that Senator Obama has chosen to walk away from you?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Whoever wrote that question doesn't read or watch the news. He did not denounce me. He distanced himself from some of my remarks, like most of you, never having heard the sermon. All right?

Now, what was the rest of your question? Because I got confused in -- the person who wrote it hadn't...

MODERATOR: Were you disappointed that he distanced himself?

REVEREND WRIGHT: He didn't distance himself. He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American. He said I didn't offer any words of hope. How would he know? He never heard the rest of the sermon. You never heard it.

I offered words of hope. I offered reconciliation. I offered restoration in that sermon, but nobody heard the sermon. They just heard this little sound bite of a sermon.

That was not the whole question. There was something else in the first part of the question that I wanted to address.

Oh, I was not invited because that was a political event. Let me say again: I'm his pastor. As a political event, who started it off? Senator Dick Durbin. I started it off downstairs with him, his wife, and children in prayer. That's what pastors do.

So I started it off in prayer. When he went out into the public, that wasn't about prayer. That wasn't about pastor-member. Pastor- member took place downstairs. What took place upstairs was political.

So that's how I feel about that. He did, as I've said, what politicians do. This is a political event. He wasn't announcing, "I'm saved, sanctified, and feel the holy ghost." He was announcing, "I'm running for president of the United States."

MODERATOR: You just mentioned that Senator Obama hadn't heard many of your sermons. Does that mean he's not much of a churchgoer? Or does he doze off in the pews?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I just wanted to see -- that's your question. That's your question. He goes to church about as much as you do. What did your pastor preach on last week? You don't know? OK.

MODERATOR: In your sermon, you said the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. So I ask you: Do you honestly believe your statement and those words?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Have you read Horowitz's book, "Emerging Viruses: AIDS and Ebola," whoever wrote that question? Have you read "Medical Apartheid"? You've read it?

(UNKNOWN): Do you honestly believe that (OFF-MIKE)

REVEREND WRIGHT: Oh, are you -- is that one of the reporters?

MODERATOR: No questions...


REVEREND WRIGHT: No questions from the floor. I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't -- based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.

In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the -- one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non- question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.

So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.

MODERATOR: You have likened Israeli policies to apartheid and its treatment of Palestinians with Native Americans. Can you explain your views on Israel?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Where did I liken them to that? Whoever wrote the question, tell me where I likened them.

Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another.

Have you read the Link? Do you read the Link, Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding, where Palestinians and Israelis need to sit down and talk to each other and work out a solution where their children can grow in a world together, and not be talking about killing each other, that that is not God's will?

My position is that the Israel and the people of Israel be the people of God who are worrying about reconciliation and who are trying to do what God wants for God's people, which is reconciliation.

MODERATOR: In your understanding of Christianity, does God love the white racists in the same way he loves the oppressed black American?

REVEREND WRIGHT: John 3:16, Jesus said it much better than I could ever say it, "for God so loved the world." World is white, black, Iraqi, Darfurian, Sudanese, Zulu, Coschia (ph). God loves all of God's children, because all of God's children are made in God's image.

MODERATOR: Can you elaborate on your comparison of the Roman soldiers who killed Jesus to the U.S. Marine Corps? Do you still believe that is an appropriate comparison and why?

REVEREND WRIGHT: One of the things that will be covered at the symposium over the next two days is biblical history, which many of the working press are unfamiliar with.

In biblical history, there's not one word written in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations that was not written under one of six different kinds of oppression, Egyptian oppression, Assyrian oppression, Persian oppression, Greek oppression, Roman oppression, Babylonian oppression. The Roman oppression is the period in which Jesus is born. And comparing imperialism that was going on in Luke, imperialism was going on when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that the whole world should be taxed. They weren't in charge of the world. It sounds like some other governments I know.

That, yes, I can compare that. We have troops stationed all over the world, just like Rome had troops stationed all over the world, because we run the world. That notion of imperialism is not the message of the gospel of the prince of peace, nor of God, who loves the world.

MODERATOR: Former President Bill Clinton has been widely criticized in this campaign. Many African-Americans think he has said things aimed at defining Senator Obama as the black candidate. What do you think of President Clinton's comments, particularly those before the South Carolina primary?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I don't think anything about them. I came here to talk about prophetic theology of the black church. I'm not talking about candidates or their positions or their feelings or what they have to say to get elected.

MODERATOR: Well, OK, we'll give you a church question. Please explain how the black church and the white church can reconcile.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Well, there are many white churches and white persons who are members of churches and clergy and denominations who have already taken great steps in terms of reconciliation.

In the underground railroad, it was the white church that played the largest role in getting Africans out of slavery. In setting up almost all 40 of the HBCUs, it was the white church that sent missionaries into the south.

As I mentioned in my presentation, our denomination all by itself set up over 500 of those schools. You know them today as Howard University, Fisk, LeMoyne-Owen, Tougaloo, Dillard University, Howard University.

So they've done -- Morehouse, Morehouse. Don't forget Moorhouse, Spelman -- that white Christians have been trying for a long time to reconcile, that for other white Christians to understand that we must be reconciled is to understand the injustice that was done to a people, as we raped the continent, brought those people here, built our country, and then defined them as less than human.

And more Christians, more of us working together, not just white Christians, but whites and blacks of every faith, ecumenically working together.

Father Flagger (ph), by the way, he might be one of the one...


... models out what it means to be reconciled as brothers and sisters in Christ and brothers and sisters made in the image of God.

MODERATOR: You said there is a lack of understanding by people of other backgrounds of the African-American church. What are some of those misunderstandings? And how would you purport to fix them, particularly when some of your comments are found to be offensive by white churches?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Carter Godwin Woodson, about 80 years ago, wrote a book entitled "The Miseducation." I would try to fix it starting at the educational level in the grammar schools, as Dr. Asa Hilliard did in his infusion curriculum, starting at the grammar schools, to tell our children this story and to tell our children the true story.

That's how I go about fixing it, because until you know the true story, then you're reacting to my words and not to the truth.

MODERATOR: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me." Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Jesus also said, "Other sheep have I who are not of this fold."


MODERATOR: Do you think people of other races would feel welcome at your church?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Yes. We have members of other races in our church. We have Hispanics. We have Caribbean. We have South Americans. We have whites.

The conference minister -- please understand the United Church of Christ is a predominantly white demonstration. Again, some of you do not know United Church of Christ, just found out about liberation theology, just found out about United Church of Christ, the conference minister, Dr. Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman, and her husband, not only are members of the congregation, but on her last Sunday before taking the assignment as the interim conference minister of California, Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, a white woman stood in our pulpit and said, "I am unashamedly African."


MODERATOR: You first gained media attention, significant media attention for your sermons several weeks ago. Why did you wait so long before giving the public your side of the sound bite story?

REVEREND WRIGHT: As I said to Bill Moyers -- and he also edited this one out -- because of my mother's advice to me. My mother's advice was being seen all over the corporate media channels, and it's a paraphrase of the Book of Proverbs, where it is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

The media was making a fool out of itself, because it knew nothing about our tradition. And so I decided to let them make a fool as long as they wanted to and then take the advice of Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Lies, lies, bless the lord. Don't you know the days are broad?"

Don't make me come across this room. I had to come across the room, because they start -- understand, when you're talking about my mama, once again, and talking about my faith tradition, once again, how long do you let somebody talk about your faith tradition before you speak up and say something in defense of -- this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright.

Once again, let me say it again. This is an attack on the black church. And I cannot as a minister of the gospel allow the significant part of our history -- most African-Americans and most European-Americans, most Hispanic-Americans, half the names I called in my presentation they've never heard of, because they don't know anything at all about our tradition.

And to lift up those -- they would have died in vain had I just kept quiet longer and longer and longer and longer. As I said, this is an attack on the black church. It is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill, Chelsea. This is about the black church.

This is about Barbara Jordan. This is about Fanny Lou Hamer. This is about my grandmamma.

MODERATOR: Do you think it is God's will that Senator Obama be president?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I said I would offer myself for candidacy for vice president. I have not offered myself for candidacy of God. I can't presume to know what God would want.

In my tradition, however, what everybody has been saying to me as it pertains to the candidacy is what God has for you is for you. If God intends for Mr. Obama to the president, then no white racists, no political pundit, no speech, nothing can get in the way, because God will do what God wants to do.

MODERATOR: OK, we are almost out of time. But before asking the last question, we have a couple of matters to take care of.

First of all, let me remind you of our future speakers. This afternoon, we have Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, who is discussing trading up movies in the global marketplace. On May 2nd, Bobby Jindal, the governor of the state of Louisiana, will discuss bold reform that works. On May 7th, we have Glenn Tilton, CEO, United Airlines, and board member of the American transport association.

Second, I would like to present our guest with the official centennial mug and -- it's brand new.

REVEREND WRIGHT: Thank you. Thank you.

MODERATOR: You're welcome. And we've got one more question for you. (APPLAUSE)

We're going to end with a joke. Chris Rock joked, "Of course Reverend Wright's an angry 75-year-old black man. All 75-year-old black men are angry." Is that funny? Is that true? Is it unfortunate? What do you think?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I think it's just like the media. I'm not 75.



MODERATOR: I'd like to thank you all for coming today.
I welcome your comments.

Jeremiah Wright At The NAACP Dinner, April 27, 2008

Barack Obama's former pastor speaks.

Watch, listen carefully, and decide for yourself what you think.

UPDATE: The transcript is below, courtesy of CNN.
The NAACP has an incomparable record. It has the longest list of achievements in the history of this country as being the undisputed champion in the fight against discrimination, racial prejudice, and unjust public policies, which have caused people made in the image of God to be treated as less than human or treated as second-class citizens.

In its early days, the NAACP and the black church in the United States of America were seemingly joined at the hip in the fight against injustice and the fight for equality on behalf of all people of color.

Many local chapters of the NAACP were started in black churches. Hundreds of black churches. The NAACP's fight for justice and freedom, however, is not limited to the concerns of the black church, historically or contemporaneously. And when the truth is told, as Paula

Giddings does so powerfully in her book "When and Where I Enter," there were times when the NAACP had to drag some timid black preachers along kicking and screaming as in the Montgomery bus boycott designed by the NAACP, not the SCLC.

Throughout its 99-year history, the NAACP has been built by people of all races, all nationalities, and all faiths on one primary premise, which is that all men and women are created equal. The nation's oldest civil rights organization has changed America's history. Despite violence, intimidation, and hostile government policies, the NAACP and its grassroots membership have persevered.

Now, somebody please tell the Oakland county executive that that sentence starting with the words "despite violence, intimidation, and hostile government policies" is a direct quote from the NAACP's profile in courage. It didn't come from Jeremiah Wright.

Otherwise, he will attribute the quote to me and continue to say that I and am one of the most divisive people he has ever of heard speak. When he has never heard me speak. And just to help him out, I am not one of the most divisive. Tell him the word is descriptive.

I describe the conditions in this country. Conditions divide, not my descriptions. Somebody say "Amen." If you can't say "Amen," you're too mad, just say "Ouch."

The NAACP is nonpartisan. The NAACP is not beholden to, controlled by, or partial to any one faith tradition. The NAACP says proudly that it is a compound of people of all races, all nationalities and all faiths.

And it is for that reason that I am especially grateful to Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony and the Detroit branch of the NAACP for honoring me by having me address their 2008 theme "A Change is Going to Come."

One of your cities' political analysts says in print that first just my appearance here in Detroit will be polarizing. Well, I'm not here for political reasons. I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many in the corporate-owned media have made it seem as if I had announced that I'm running to for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office. I've been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I'm not tired yet.

I am sorry your local political analysts and your neighboring county executives think my being here is polarizing and my sermons are divisive, but I'm not here to address an analyst's opinion or a county executive's point of view. I am here to address your 2008 theme, and I stand here as one representative of the African American religious tradition which works in concert with other faith traditions, believing as we work together that a change is going to come.

On that point, about other faith traditions, in addition to Pastor Anthony, Pastor Nicholas Hood, Pastor Charles Adams, Pastor William Revelli, Pastor James Perkins, Pastor Wilma Rudolph, Pastor Holly who is suffering from a stroke, Father Michael Flager, Father Jeremy Tobin, Pastor Dee Dee Coleman, Dr. Georgia Hill and Rev. Lonnie Peek. I would also like to thank Sister Melanie Maron, the former executive director of the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Committee and the current executive director of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Jewish committee. I would like to thank my good friend and Jewish author Tim Wise for his support, and I would like to offer a special "shookran" to Imam Muhammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights for his courage, his conviction and his support.

The support of the Jewish community, the Muslim community, and the Christian community, Protestant and Catholic, is in concert with the credo of the NAACP and a definite sign that a change is definitely going to come. An additional special thank you is offered to Soledad O'Brien for CNN's outstanding "Black in America" and my long-term friend Roland Martin.

I believe that a change is going to come because many of us are committing to changing how we see others who are different.

In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as somehow being deficient. Christians saw Jews as being deficient. Catholics saw Protestants as being deficient. Presbyterians saw Pentecostals as being deficient.

Folks who like to holler in worship saw folk who like to be quiet as deficient. And vice versa.

Whites saw black as being deficient. It was none other than Rudyard Kipling who saw the "White Man's Burden" as a mandate to lift brown, black, yellow people up to the level of white people as if whites were the norm and black, brown and yellow people were abnormal subspecies on a lower level or deficient.

Europeans saw Africans as deficient. Lovers of George Friedrich Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart saw lovers of B.B. King and Frankie Beverly and Maze as deficient. Lovers of Marian Anderson saw lovers of Lady Day and Anita Baker as deficient. Lovers of European cantatas -- Comfort ye in the glory, the glory of the Lord -- Lovers of European cantatas saw lovers of common meter -- I love the Lord, He heard my cry -- they saw them as deficient.

In the past, we were taught to see others who are different as being deficient. We established arbitrary norms and then determined that anybody not like us was abnormal. But a change is coming because we no longer see others who are different as being deficient. We just see them as different. Over the past 50 years, thanks to the scholarship of dozens of expert in many different disciplines, we have come to see just how skewed, prejudiced and dangerous our miseducation has been.

Miseducation. Miseducation incidentally is not a Jeremiah Wright term. It's a word coined by Dr. Carter G. Woodson over 80 years ago. Sounds like he talked a hate speech, doesn't it? Now, analyze that. Two brilliant scholars and two beautiful sisters, both of whom hail from Detroit in the fields of education and linguistics, Dr. Janice Hale right here at Wayne State University, founder of the Institute for the study of the African-American child. and Dr. Geneva Smitherman formerly of Wayne State University now at Michigan State University in Lansing. Hail in education and Smitherman in linguistics. Both demonstrated 40 years ago that different does not mean deficient. Somebody is going to miss that.

Turn to your neighbor and say different does not mean deficient. It simply means different. In fact, Dr. Janice Hale was the first writer whom I read who used that phrase. Different does not mean deficient. Different is not synonymous with deficient. It was in Dr. Hale's first book, "Black Children their Roots, Culture and Learning Style." Is Dr. Hale here tonight? We owe her a debt of gratitude. Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks.

And in so doing, we kept coming up with meaningless labels like EMH, educable mentally handicapped, TMH, trainable mentally handicapped, ADD, attention deficit disorder.

And we were coming up with more meaningless solutions like reading, writing and Ritalin. Dr. Hale's research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America. Back in the early '70s, when Dr. Hale did her research was based on left brained cognitive object oriented learning style. Let me help you with fifty cent words.

Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. From the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape to the solitude in a carol in a PhD program stuffed off somewhere in a corner in absolute quietness to absorb from the object. From a block to a book, an object. That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.

African and African-American children have a different way of learning.

They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person. Some of you are old enough, I see your hair color, to remember when the NAACP won that tremendous desegregation case back in 1954 and when the schools were desegregated. They were never integrated. When they were desegregated in Philadelphia, several of the white teachers in my school freaked out. Why? Because black kids wouldn't stay in their place. Over there behind the desk, black kids climbed up all on them.

Because they learn from a subject, not from an object. Tell me a story. They have a different way of learning. Those same children who have difficulty reading from an object and who are labeled EMH, DMH and ADD. Those children can say every word from every song on every hip hop radio station half of who's words the average adult here tonight cannot understand. Why? Because they come from a right-brained creative oral culture like the (greos) in Africa who can go for two or three days as oral repositories of a people's history and like the oral tradition which passed down the first five book in our Jewish bible, our Christian Bible, our Hebrew bible long before there was a written Hebrew script or alphabet. And repeat incredulously long passages like Psalm 119 using mnemonic devices using eight line stanzas. Each stanza starting with a different letter of the alphabet. That is a different way of learning. It's not deficient, it is just different. Somebody say different. I believe that a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see other people who are different.

What Dr. Janice Hale did in the field of education, Dr. Geneva Smitherman did in the field of linguistics. Almost 25 years ago now, Dr. Smitherman's book published by Wayne State University talking and testifying the language of black America taught us the same thing. Different does not mean deficient. Linguists have known since the mid 20th century that number one, nobody in Detroit, with the exception of citizens born and raised in the United Kingdom, nobody in Detroit speaks English. We all speak different varieties of American. If you don't believe me, go to the United Kingdom. As soon as you open your mouth in the United Kingdom, they'll say oh you're from America. Because they hear you speak in American. Linguists knew that nobody in here speaks English, but only black children 50 years ago were singled out as speaking bad English.

In the 1961, it's been all over the Internet now, John Kennedy could stand at the inauguration in January and say, "ask not what your country can do for you, it's rather what you can do for your country." How do you spell is? Nobody ever said to John Kennedy that's not English "is". Only to a black child would they say you speak bad English. Kennedy got killed. Johnson stepped up to the podium and love feel, we just left love feel. And Johnson, said my fellow Americans. How do you spell fellow? How do you spell American? Nobody says to Johnson you speak bad English.

Ed Kennedy, today, those of you in the Congress, you know Kilpatrick. You know, Ed Kennedy today cannot pronounce cluster consonants. Very few people from Boston can. They pronounce park like it's p-o-c-k. Where did you "pock" the car? They pronounce f-o-r-t like it's f-o-u-g-h-t. We fought a good battle. And nobody says to a Kennedy you speak bad English. Only to a black child was that said. Linguists knew that 50 years ago and they also knew number two that every language, including the language of Jesus, Aramaic, was made up of five subsets, pragmatic, grammar, syntax, semantics and phonics and that African speakers of English and African speakers of French and African speakers of Portuguese and African speakers of Spanish in the new world had created languages, not dialect all with five different subsets.

Languages, not Creole or Patois, languages. And Dr. Smitherman compiled the findings of an interdisciplinary research along with her own brilliant findings to show us that the language of black Americans was different, not deficient. She combined the findings of early childhood education, linguistics, socio-linguistics and the pedagogy of the oppressed to demonstrate most powerfully that different does not mean deficient. It simply means what? Different. I believe a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing the way we see others who are different.

What Dr. Janice Hale did in the field of education and what Dr. Geneva Smitherman did in the field of linguistics, Dr. (Eldon) did in the field of ethnomusicology, the field of music. He showed us 40 years ago what Wintley [Phipps] is teaching you for the first time 40 years later. African music is different from European piano music. It is not deficient, it is different. In most school systems today, the way most of us over 40 years of age were taught is still being taught. We were taught a European paradigm as if Europe had the only music that there was in the world. As a matter of fact, if you just say the term, classical music.

Today, most here, use of that term will automatically refer to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and already cited Mozart and Handel. European musicians. From grammar school to graduate school, we are taught in four, four time. That the dominant beat is on one and three. Our band directors, our choir directors, our orchestra director start us off how?

And One, two, three, four. One, two, three. Now, that's the European dominant beat. For African and African-Americans, it is not one and three, it is two and four. I don't have to teach you. Listen to black people clap to this song. Glory, glory hallelujah, you are clapping on beats two and four. If you got some white friends, they'll be clapping like this. You say they can't clap. Yes, they can. They clap in a different way. It's the same fact holds true with six eight time. Europeans stress one, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. Dum dum, dum, dum, dum. The stress is on one and four. Not for black people. When you got six eight time, blacks stress two three and five six.

Listen to this -- blessed assurance, Jesus is mine two, three for, five, six - oh, why are you clapping on the wrong beat? Africans have a different meter and Africans have a different tonality. European music is diatonic, seven tones. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. That's Italian. Europe. In west Africa and south Africa, it is not diatonic, seven tones, it is pentatonic with five tones. Wintley [Phipps] points out that if you want to know black music, just look at the black keys on the piano. Do, re, fa, so, la. Just those five tunes. Those are the only five notes you'll hear and somebody knows the trouble I've seen.

It only uses five notes the same with the river it also uses five notes. That's all. I believe a change is coming. It's not deficient, it's just different.

Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. When you look at and listen to - I'm in Michigan. OK. Here in Michigan, look at and listen to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University bands at halftime. Their bands hit the field with excellent European precision. Da, da, da, da, da, ta, ra, ra.

Now go to a Florida A&M and Gramling Band. It's different. And you can't put that in no book. I believe change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. One is not superior to the other. One is not normal with the other being abnormal. One is not deficient because it doesn't follow the same methodology of the other. It is just different. Different does not mean deficient. Tell your neighbor one more time.

Now, what is true in the field of education, linguistics, ethnomusicology, marching bands, psychology and culture is also true in the field of homiletics, hermeneutics, biblical studies, black sacred music and black worship. We just do it different and some of our haters can't get their heads around that. I come from a religious tradition that does not divorce the world we live in from the world we are heading to. I come from a religious tradition that does not separate the kingdom of heaven that we pray for from the devious kingdoms of humans that keep people in bondage on earth.

I come from a religious tradition that did not hold slaves, but preached against slavery and worked to end slavery. I come from a religious tradition that fought against Lansing like the NAACP, fought against discrimination like the NAACP and fought against skin privilege, fought against apartheid, fought again unfair labor practices, fought against segregation, fought against Plessy versus Ferguson.

I come from a religious tradition that fought for desegregation like NAACP. Fought for equality, fought for human dignity, fought for civil rights, fought for equal protection into the law and fought for the right of every citizen to have quality education regardless of the color of their skin. I also come from a religious tradition that say if you feel excited about something, be excited about it. Don't stand there he has hate speech. Listen to how bombastic he is. Isn't he bombastic? He's stirring up hate.

You love somebody? Yes. Oh how I love Jesus because he first loved me. No. No. No. If you feel it - I come from a religious tradition where we shout in the sanctuary and march on the picket line. I come from a religious tradition where we give God the glory and we give the devil the blues. The black religious tradition is different. We do it a different way. 40 years ago, Dr. Anthony (inaudible) quoted in '68 the Kerner report stated that they were two different Americas. And for

40 years one of those Americas has acted as if they were the only America. But all of that now is in the past. I believe a change is coming. Because many of us are going to change how we see others who are different. I've got to hurry on. I'm taking too much of your time. So let me give you the outline of the rest of this message. You can either fill in the blanks for yourselves or you could wait for my book that will be out later this year.

I believe addressing your theme. I believe a change is going to come because many of us here tonight, at least 11,900 out of 12,000. Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. Number one, many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves. Number two, not inferior or superior to, just different from others. Embracing our own histories. Embracing our own cultures. Embracing our own languages as we embrace others who are also made in the image of god. That has been the credo of the NAACP for 99 years. When we see ourselves as members of the human race, I believe a change is on the way. When we see ourselves as people of faith who shared this planet with people of other faiths, I believe a change is on the way.

Many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different. Number one, many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves, not stepchildren, number two but God's children. Many of us are committed to changing, number three, the way we treat each other. The way black men treat black women. The way black parents treat black children. The way black youth treat black elders and the way black elders treat black youth. We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way the so called haves and have mores, to use Bush's speech writers term. Don't you all think he made that up? The way the have and have mores treat the have notes. The way the educated treat the uneducated. The way those with degrees treat those who never made it through high school. The way those of us who never got caught treat those of us who are incarcerated. Making rehabilitation a priority over incarceration.

We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way we treat the latest immigrants because everybody in here who's not an Indian do be an immigrant. Some of you all came on a decks of ship and some of us came on the bows and hauls of the ship, but we all are immigrants. The way we treat non Christians and folks who don't believe what we believe, we're committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way Sunis treat Shiites, the way Orthodox Jews treat reformed Jews. The way church folk treat other church folk. The way speakers of English treat speakers of Arabic -- Maasalam al hal.

Please run and tell my stuck on stupid friends that Arabic is a language, it's not a religion. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. They are Arabic-speaking Christians, Arabic-speaking Jews and Arabic speaking atheists. Arabic is a language, it's not a religion. Stop trying to scare folks by giving them an Arabic name as if it's some sort of a disease.

Same people thought that the Irish had a disease. When the Irish came here. Did you hear my me O'Malley? O'Reilly? They thought you were - well they might have been might, the way we treat each other, many of us are committed to changing the way we treat each other. The way Christians treat you. The way straights treat gays. We are committed to changing the way we treat each other. And we are committing number four to changing the way we mistreat each other. We can do better, you all. There is a higher standard, you all. We know that and we are stretching to reach that standard. I believe a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see others who are different.

Many of us are committed to changing how we see ourselves. Many of us are committed to changing the way we treat each other. Many of us are committed to changing the way we mistreat each other. And many of us finally are committed to changing this world that we live in so our children and our grandchildren will have a world in which to live in to grow in, to learn in, to love in and to pass on to their children. We are committed to changing this world that's God's world, in the first place. Not ours. And I believe we can do it. It's going to take hard work, but we can do it.

It's going to take people of all faiths including the nation of Islam, but we can do it. It's going to take people of all races, but we can do it. It's going to take Republicans and Democrats, but we can do it. It's going to take the wisdom of the old and the energy of the young, but we can do it. It's going to take politicians and preachers, the government and NGOs, but we can do it. It's going to take educators and legislatures, but we can do it. If I were in a Christian Church, I would say we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. If I were in a Jewish synagogue, I would say is anything too hard for Elohim. If I were in a Muslim mosque, I would say Sha Allah we can do it. If I were pushing one particular candidate, I would say yes, we can.

But, since this is a nonpartisan gathering and since this is neither a mosque, a synagogue or a sanctuary, just let me say, we can do it. We can make it if we try. We can make the change if we try. We will make a change if we try. A change is going to come. Can you feel it? Can you see it? Can you imagine it? Then come on, let's claim it. Give yourselves a standing ovation while the transformation that's about to jump off. A change is going to come.
Your opinions, as always, are most welcome.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jeremiah Wright On Bill Moyers Journal

Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, spoke with Bill Moyers recently. It was Wright's first media interview since the controversy created when short excerpts from his sermons became part of the media's news cycle.

To this observer, Obama's reaction was spectacularly vile -- he made a "major speech" on "race in America" in which he tried to hang on to his relationship with his pastor while distancing himself from the truths the pastor had uttered.

We've discussed much of this previously:

Horrifying: Obama's Brilliant Speech Of Hope And Unity Scares Me Half To Death

The Sermon Obama Repudiated Was One We All Needed To Hear

Excerpt From Jeremiah Wright's "God Damn America" Sermon

Obama's Lies Are Better! (And The Sniper Who Fired At Hillary And Chelsea In Bosnia Was Virtual)

Now for the news: You can watch Wright and Moyers on video at PBS (and a link to the full transcript follows, for the record).

But first, some media commentary that's too remarkable to pass up. ABC News, in a piece called "Obama's Ex-Pastor Resurfaces, at Potential Cost to Candidate", says:
In the PBS interview on the "Bill Moyers Journal," Wright complains that reporters picked sound bites from his sermons with the intent of defaming him and, by association, Obama.
Quite obviously true, and what Obama should have said at the outset. He could then have used the fabricated "controversy" as an opportunity to educate some American voters. But no ...
"At a political event, he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician," Wright told Moyers [photo]. "I continue to be a pastor … He's a politician. I'm a pastor."
The piece quotes National Public Radio senior political analyst Juan Williams:
"If he was a Barack Obama supporter, I think he would pull himself off of the stage at this point."

"If you're with the Barack Obama campaign this morning, you're pulling your hair out."

... calling Obama a politician would have Americans asking "was he simply being politically expedient, or was he being sincere?" during his "race speech" in Philadelphia last month.
This is the question I was answering last month; I never expected to see it in this form.

This comment from Juan Williams strikes me as bizarre:
"I think his manner, his demeanor, comes off being very appealing … but if you actually look at the snippets for what they are, where he's damning America, or the KKK in America, or the white government spreading AIDS in America, it's just so unappealing. At some point it's hard to explain away why the words were coming from his mouth. And then it invites to question Barack Obama's judgment, in sitting there all those years and being part of that kind of, what he calls by his own admission, 'divisive, hate speech,'" said Williams.
Obama called Wright's most controversial statements "divisive" but not "hate speech".

But then again Juan Williams can say anything he wants, apparently. Did he just say damning the KKK in America is "unappealing"? That would tend to prove my point, no? Maybe he'd find it more appealing to support the KKK? Who knows?

If you didn't catch Bill Moyers Journal on TV you can read the transcript or watch the show, and decide for yourself.

Personally I'd vote for Jeremiah Wright in a heartbeat, even though he dares to pronounce unspeakable truths, like the one where he's a pastor and Barack Obama is a politician.

And I'll give him the last words, too:
... we are miseducated as a people. Or because we're miseducated, you end up with the majority of the people not wanting to hear the truth. Because they would rather cling to what they are taught. James Washington, now a deceased church historian, says that after every revolution, the winners of that revolution write down what the revolution was about so that their children can learn it, whether it's true or not. They don't learn anything at all about the Arawak, they don't learn anything at all about the Seminole, the Cheek, Trail of Tears, the Cherokee. They don't learn anything. No, they don't learn that. What they learn is 1776, Crispus Attucks was the one black guy in there. Fight against the British, the terrible. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal while we're holding slaves." No, keep that part out. They learn that. And they cling to that. And when you start trying to show them you only got a piece of the story, and lemme show you the rest of the story, you run into vitriolic hatred because you're desecrating our myth. You're desecrating what we hold sacred. And [what] you're holding sacred is a miseducational system that has not taught you the truth.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bad For Bush: Peace Breaking Out In Pakistan

There have been some interesting developments -- or non-developments -- in the Pakistani sector of the Terror War since the February election in which the party and policy of President Pervez Musharraf were soundly repudiated.

The awful wave of suicide attacks which has plagued the country for the past several years, claiming thousands of lives, has vanished -- into the mists, as it were -- as the new government plays its hand in a very different way.

Rather than trying to bomb the "militants" into submission, the Pakistani government is now letting people go about their lives in relative peace, and presto change-o, the "militants" are suddenly not so militant after all.

As Ishtiaq Mahsud, Riaz Khan and Stephen Graham report for the Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune:

Taliban leader urges halt to violence and Pakistan government talks peace with key tribe
A Taliban commander wanted in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has urged his followers to halt violence as Pakistan's new government steps up peace talks in hopes of turning a rising tide of Islamic militancy.

Followers of Baitullah Mehsud [photo], considered Pakistan's top Taliban commander, distributed fliers in his name around the lawless region on the Afghan border telling his supporters not to break a ban on acts of "hostility."

A copy of the flier obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday warned that those who disobeyed the order would be "strung upside down in public and punished."
Apparently when they say "knock it off!", they're not kidding.
Pakistan has enjoyed a monthlong respite from a wave of devastating suicide bombings blamed on Islamic militants that included the December assassination of Bhutto. The army and the militants have been observing an unofficial cease-fire for more than a month.

The lull follows the election of a new government which has vowed to negotiate with militants who renounce violence and sought to distance itself from the strong-arm tactics of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf, whose influence is fading.
and so on.
Maulvi Umar, a spokesman for Mehsud, told AP that militants across the region were ready for peace if the government met their demands to withdraw the army and release militant prisoners.

U.S. officials have voiced some support for the government's peace initiative, while urging the government to exclude Taliban and al-Qaida figures suspected of orchestrating attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan — and perhaps plotting major terrorist attacks in the West.
Of course this development puts "U.S. officials" in a bit of a spot: they have to say they support any government initiative that appears to reduce terrorism, even while their government's official policy is to instigate terrorism.

For in-the-know "U.S. officials", things must look grim, and the longer the "unofficial cease-fire" holds, the grimmer they will look.

Despite the most fervent wishes of those who would steer the course of history in more extremist directions, Pakistan had an actual election and the people spoke.

And even after all the damage he has done to the rule of law in his country, Musharraf's power is waning, the "war on terror" is fizzling, peace is breaking out in the "lawless frontier regions", and Bush's number one ally in the so-called Global War On Terror is showing how to de-escalate a "crisis" fomented by the previous government.

It remains to be seen whether anything of the sort can happen in the United States.

Pakistan has the advantage of a pro-democracy movement led by the country's lawyers and journalists.

But the U.S. has Predators and Reapers and no compunctions about using them.

If ever there were a situation where a drone needed to drop a bomb to kick-restart a nasty little war, this would seem to be it.

But don't worry -- they didn't get the idea from me!