Friday, March 21, 2008

The Wright Wrath

By Lee R. Haven
Copyright: March 16th, 2008 and March 18th, 2008

At first I went "oh sh---" when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright videos splashed prominently across the mainstream media landscape.

Even a sixties' cynic such as I, a fellow black in the same generation as Barack Obama's former pastor, had been beginning to feel--dare I say--"hopeful" about the possibility of a black guy being president. (I'm looking forward to Michelle, whose quintessential take-no-prisoners' "sista" vibe I just adore, becoming first lady.) However, Wright's fiery criticism of America, I surmised, would surely hurt the brother's chances.

But then, almost immediately, I thought, "Wait a minute, This--the airing of race in America--could be good."

The race to the White House has been largely about race the very moment Obama announced he would run. It has morphed more into the metaphorical 800-pound gorilla in the room the more he grows closer to the Democratic nomination. This explains the joint anti-Obama hysteria by both the right and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

If you have a television, and especially if you have cable, you know what Wright said. I suggest you listen to what he meant, not so much how he said it. Some of the highlights:

American foreign policy, Wright charges, is responsible for 9-11. (His very Malcolm Xish's "Chickens have come home to roost.") Through its agencies such as the CIA, the American government has destabilized what it considered unfriendly--and not incidentally oil-rich--Arab governments. I know, I know. Bush said it was because "they hate our freedoms," but come on. I don't know if Ron Paul is still running on the Republican ticket, but the thrust of his campaign has been to criticize what he calls an "arrogant" America foreign policy that has resulted in such blowbacks as 9-11. True, the media have mainly ignored him, but I've not seen one grill him about this position, at least to the extent Obama's being grilled--about something someone close to him said.

Wright accuses America of sponsoring state terror in South Africa and in Palestine. Frankly, America, until its leaders acquiesced to the inevitable winds of change, was good buds with the South African apartheid regime. In 1986, then Congressman Dick Cheney voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela, a vote I've never read he's since regretted. And even former Israeli Prime Minister and modern day Zionist founder David Ben-Gurion admitted that the Palestinian Arabs were justifiably enraged.

"Were I an Arab... I would rise up against an immigration liable in the future to hand the country and all of its [Palestinian] Arab inhabitants over to Jewish rule." (Shabtai Teveth, p. 171-172)

Wright accuses America of creating AIDS to kill blacks. This may be farfetched to many blacks, including those, like me, who don't instinctively look to conspiracies for answers, but is this not the very government that infected black men in Tuskegee, Ala., with syphilis in order to see how the disease progressed in humans?

So much of what the man said is then, well, true, or at least understandably misdirected. It's my understanding that he even ended the more fiery condemnations--the parts they don't show on television--with the admonitions for his congregants to love those who historically despised them.

Of course, Wright's anger--in its depth, specifically--is generational. He lived through the harsher oppression. As I said, I'm of his generation. I'll be sixty soon. He'll be sixty seven this year. I grew up in Savannah, Ga., where racism was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. That experience is part of me, whether I want it to be or not, and surely reflects my opinions about white people, as his experience growing up in Philly reflects his. Our children, of course, and Obama's almost young enough to be my kid, didn't have to go through as much. Obama, who is of mixed-race parentage, actually spent much of his early life in countries with not as hostile racial environments. But it's not as if white supremacy took a sabbatical when he arrived on these shores. The anger about the still unfair, if not so in-your-face, conditions is there among blacks of all ages--and backgrounds.

Wright's "God damn America"? Many blacks see the country's war on crime, for example, as war on young black males since it is they who disproportionately get arrested and who serve the most jail time. Also, they know the ideas of race hustlers such as Michael Savage, Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh are considered legitimate political discourse.

Look, I know Obama's trying to win something here. I hope he does; I think he'll make a good president. He can't be any worse than what we have and what more bombs-away candidates John McCain and Clinton have promised to be. Obama, then, has decided to dwell mainly on what is positive about America. But the question lurks: How does one change it, truly change it, without confronting its demons too? That doesn't mean you have the thing wallow in its sins. That means, as any mental health professional worth his or her salt will tell you, you have it acknowledge them so it doesn't repeat or continue them. I know the climate we're in, and Obama obviously saw himself with no choice but to distance himself from Wright. The separation, I think, was too severe.

At least initially.

I finished this piece two days before he delivered his landmark speech on race this morning. I come back to it tonight to report briefly, since it deserves an essay of its own, that I liked it very much. I especially liked that he highlighted that too many whites, not just the rightwing, erroneously, and, I suspect, conveniently, have declared resistance to evil as evil itself, a phenomenon he correctly tied to the Reagan years. It was also good that he stressed how much Wright means to him--"family," he called him--and that he talked about the uplift programs the church sponsors. However, he still could have acknowledged the veracity in some of Wright's comments even if all he emphasized in the condemnation was the tone. (I mean, come on, "rich white people" don't run this country?) Political dancing worked for McCain, when anti-Muslim and anti-gay preachers announced their support of him, although I think we know why he has been given a relative pass.

The Obama people's decision to dance around this country's racial history in particular speaks volumes about how they view the average white American's take on blacks--they're OK if they're docile.

Faulkner was correct, you know: "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even the past."
So they should discuss race--openly, honestly, naturally, if only to lessen the chances of its explosion on the political stage as a spectacle that wrath deferred has wrought. I've read blogs recently that contain comments by several whites who, although they might not agree with what Wright said, especially how he said it, acknowledge the truth in some of it and an understanding of his pain. The Obama strategists may find that the real change they are fond of trumpeting may actually include a winnable number of these whites who accept blacks as they are--humans who experience all emotions, including legitimate rage.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I am posting for my father

This is Chantal Rosset posting for Barney Rosset. He is currently in Chiapas visiting his oldest son and will be returning in about a week, with many photos and videos.

Thank you,


Friday, January 18, 2008

Evergreen Review #115

Coming soon!

Our current Issue, Evergreen Review #114

Our new issue is here.

Read the Original Issues of the Evergreen Review

We are happy to tell you that Original Evergreen Reviews
from No.1 to No.20 (1957 to 1961) are available for download
from our website (

The Power and the Glory

In Evergreen Review No. 7, published in the winter of 1959, we presented a selective cross section of recent work by the younger generation of Mexican painters, poets, and prose writers of that time. We were trying to bring America closer to the exciting cultural achievement in Mexico, unlike President Bush, who is trying to close them off with a 700 mile long fence between the two countries. Bush should remember something funny about World War Two: the British built great walls of guns facing the sea to protect India and Singapore, but the Japanese just walked in behind them. Above is one of the poems from that issue.