March 28, 2008

Just How Nuts Is It Out There?

It's a little disconcerting that 25% of Democrats believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, although, as Jerry Seinfeld once said on a show where he was mistaken for a gay guy, "not that there's anything wrong with that." Nevertheless, it's questionable whether a black man can be elected President of the United States; it's beyond question that a black Muslim cannot be elected President. When facts as basic as whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim are not conclusively understood, one trembles at the prospects for positive change this fall.

At its very basic level, the recent national spasm about the Trinity United Church of Christ and its "firebrand" pastor (a word chosen by the national media to remind us of Sadr in Iraq) was a racist exercise. People have been looking for some "definitive" way to demonstrate that Obama is a "shifty" black man who holds radical beliefs similar to Huey Newton or Eldridge Cleaver and is merely trying to pass as a reasonable Ivy League lawyer who happened to be editor of the Harvard Law Review. So the imputation of Islamism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism was a fairly easy task when the opportunity presented itself, because it was exactly what a lot of people wanted to hear in the first place. A new set of rules developed where if a man was one of ten thousand congregants in a church where the pastor said some things (among hundreds and hundreds of things, many of which were indisputably correct) that offended or were non-mainstream, that congregant was tarred with the same brush. These tactics work because Americans seem peculiarly vulnerable to what statisticians call the "emphasis error;" something is taken out of context and highlighted and the target audience is unable to retain the context and evaluate the point rationally. The scene melts away; all we have left is a vast, empty church, with a pastor yelling, "God damn America," and one lonely black man, Barack Obama in the audience. That Obama wasn't even there that day, that this was one of hundreds of sermons given by Jeremiah Wright, is all forgotten

As an example of this point, consider the case of John McCain and Pastor John Hagee. Who is John Hagee? He's a nut, that's who he is. He claims to be pro-Israel, but what he has in mind, really, is one particular Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. Hagee wants to bring on Armageddon and Jesus's return by fomenting a war between Israel and Iran, nuclear if possible. Something like 80% of all Jews in Israel are going to die in the conflagration, according to Revelations, but it's all good. Has to happen, according to the Pastor, who's written a book on the subject. Some radical right wingers in Israel are okay with Hagee, even if they have to overlook a few of the more disturbing aspects of his character. Such as that he's actually an Anti-Semitic Holocaust Revisionist. Let him say it in his own words:

“It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day….

“How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come…. it rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people.” [Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude To War”, paperback edition, pages 92 and 93].

If Hitler were around to read this, imagine the great comfort it would bring to his conscience, if he had one. If you see a movie like "The Sorrow and the Pity" or "Night Train" or "Shoah" again, you might want to reconsider your sympathy for the Jews during the Holocaust. If Hagee's right, it was merely what they had coming. A baby huddled in her mother's arms, rumbling along in the Polish night in 1944 toward Auschwitz: the little girl's own fault, if I read Hagee right. She shouldn't have been so repulsive and insulting. Shouldn't have broken God's heart. So she became a casualty as part of God's Master Plan for his Chosen People, and Part Two, or Part Whatever, is comin' right up. (Jackie Mason may have nailed it: "Next time, choose somebody else.")

John McCain actively sought and is proud to have the endorsement of John Hagee. You can Google many quotes to that effect. What you can't find are the searching, inquisitorial interviews of Tim Russert and Chris Matthews of John McCain about why he would enthusiastically associate himself with someone like this. Isn't that odd? Hagee's taken some fire for being "anti-Catholic," but never for buying into the Biblical blood libel of Judaism. Yet many assume that Barack Obama must be an anti-Semite himself (his thousand public pronouncements in support of Israel notwithstanding) because a pastor, whose endorsement he does not seek or accept, presides over a church of ten thousand congregants in a church which gave Louis Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award.

This goes beyond a double standard and into the realm of the truly, frighteningly weird. It is one of the occasional glimpses one gets into the dark forces moving like an unseen tide in modern America. If nothing else comes of Barack's candidacy, I commend him on the sublime beauty of the speech he wrote and delivered in response to this "controversy." He asked Americans to be smart and discerning about a complex subject. I give it long odds, but it is better, as the Buddha said, to light candles than to curse the darkness.

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