Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Barack Obama is not a ventriloquist. He does not project his voice into the mouths of dummies. He is not a puppeteer. He does not pull strings from behind the curtain while his creation dances in front of the audience. While Reverend Wright is wrong, we must not confuse his words for those of Obama. We must not see his actions as those of Obama. If we do then it is we who in the final analysis are the real dummies.

This is not to excuse the words of the Reverend. Any rhetoric that divides, any sentiment that brings up old wounds and tries to make them new, is counterproductive and destructive. It is not that we don't recognize that a chasm still exists, that there is much work to be done. It is only that we hope that our actions of today and tomorrow are such that the wounds can begin to close, that the gap that still separates us can be lessened with each passing day.

If we listen to the words of Barack Obama, that is the message that he is delivering to his audience. When he speaks of the hopes for the future, when he speaks of a change in our approach tomorrow, he is speaking not only to ending the war abroad, but to ending the war at home. His is not a message of hatred and bigotry. His is not a lifetime spent in dividing to conquer. His thoughts and his actions are not those of Reverend Wright. His world is not the world of Reverend Wright.

That does not mean that his silence in the face of the rhetoric he must have listened to from his pew in the church was entirely appropriate. I do not suggest that if there are messages being espoused to the public that Barack Obama could have addressed, that he is wholly without blame. I merely suggest that the attempt to blur the line between his words and deeds, and the words and deeds of others, is a very slippery slope and one that is wrong to travel.

This is not to ignore the reality that there are henchmen out there who do in fact do the dirty work for candidates and elected officials. The 'swift boating' of John Kerry by his opponent and his 'allies' left Kerry's candidacy in ruins. The imprint of the hands of a 'higher up' is often all over the actions of their hired guns. But Reverend Wright is not an example off this. His is the language of his pulpit, not of one member of his church. His rhetoric, his fire and brimstone, are not the expression of a member of his congregation, no matter how important that congregant may be.

It would be wrong for us to derail what might be the brightest and the best we have to offer based on speculation and innuendo. Listen to the words of Barack Obama. Analyze his speech in response to the message of Reverend Wright, and then judge. Look at the history of the actions of Barack Obama and then judge. Let us not fall for the easy answers. Let us be critical in our thinking. This is a critical moment in our history, and the times warrant and demand contemplative decisions. If we respond in this manner, no one can ever accuse us of being dummies.

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