On Religion, Race, Paranoia and Politics

 Jeremiah Wright: A Man On A Mission 

 A Prophetic Christian


 Race, Religion and the Presidential Campaign

 The Raging debate around what Barack Obama must do to atone for the alleged sins of his pastor, the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright, a man who has come to symbolize everything that scares a clueless white America about outspoken black men, has conjured up mass historical amnesia and denial on the part of millions of white Americans. All of a sudden they are shocked and outraged by the fact that many Afro-Americans, even among the highly educated, view reality differently from them and they just can’t figure out how such a thing is possible; everybody knows the way white folks see things is the way things really are!

Understanding that Amnesia and Denial are mental aberrations does much to help thoughtful Afro-Americans cope white reaction to Reverend Wright. To these irate and self-righteous white folks Reverend Wright is a blasphemer and spawn of the devil, whose unjustified hostility toward white privilege and aggression border on madness, and for whom there can be no redemption.

But as the Afro-Martinican psychiatrist, revolutionary theorist and armed militant in the Algerian revolution, Dr. Franz Fanon, tells us in his classic study of a revolution in progress The Wretched of the Earth, the French colonialist believed the Algerian militants were crazy too.  But when Dr. Fanon began to examine them as a psychiatrist with the French military in Algeria, and listened closely to their stories, he switched sides and joined the Arab revolutionaries.  From this experience he not only came to understand that a collective anger among oppressed people was psychologically healthy, but concluded that injuring or killing your oppressor was therapeutic!

Hence, instead of complaining about his tough talk, white folks should be thanking their lucky stars that Jeremiah Wright is a gentle man of the cloth, because as a former Marine he might have gone off and wreaked havoc like Kevin McVey, a veteran of the first Bush war in Iraq who blew up the government buildings in Oklahoma, or Mr. Muhammad, the former army sniper who shot up all those innocent people down in the Washington D.C. area.

In spite of his public rejection of Dr. Wrights ideas that have come under attack, the howling and untutored mob demands that Barack curse the name of Jeremiah, who is beloved by much of his home constituency in Chicago, and banish the powerful preacher to the netherworld; erasing all memory of the Reverend’s good works the way the Chinese Communists treated ideologically incorrect comrades during the Great Cultural Revolution.   And all because of something he said!  Just like in China or Iran after the Islamic revolution. 

One waits in vain however for any mention of the right-wing white evangelical preachers around John McCain. The legit press and the talk show air-heads remain curiously mum on this guy, despite the fact that an objective analysis of US national security priorities will reveal that the right wing preachers supporting McCain are far more dangerous than Jeremiah Wright. The Reverends John Hagee and Rod Parsley are exhibits A and B.  Any  comparison between Rev. Wright’s statements that have been looped and played ad nauseam with some of the things routinely preached by the Revs. Hagee and Parsley will verify my charge.

What exactly did Reverend Wright say that has so many white Americans up in arms and the brightest lights of the punditocrisy babbling like morons?  Journalists Roland Martin, an election analyst for CNN, has listened carefully to the entire sermon and outlined its major themes in an online article 3/21/08, and early on the picture of Dr. Wright is radically altered in the eyes of the thoughtful reader.  Martin proved an excellent choice to report on this sermon, because on top of being an excellent journalist he is also Afro-American and an ordained preacher.  

The Sermon that is the source of all the angst was delivered on September 16, 2001, five days after the devastating attack by Al Qaeda, and it was titled “The Day of Jerusalem’s Fall.”  After reading Martin’s report I listened to the sermon myself on the link provided by CNN. And I am appalled by the absence of anything approaching objectivity in the press coverage.

I found the sermon to be for the most part true, and I had written a commentary a few days after the 9/11 attack with a similar interpretation of the causes of the attack.  Titled Aftermath of the Disaster: Irony, Fantasy, Denial, Self-Righteous Preachment…But Little Truth, it can still be read online at US Crusade.Com: and there is not a dimes worth of difference between my view of the causes of the event and Rev. Wright’s views.

It turns out that the most often cited comment that enrages white Americans across the board, Wright’s observation that “The Chickens have come home to roost” was really a quote from Edward Peck, a former ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of Ronald Reagan’s Terrorism Task Force.  Rev. Wright makes this abundantly clear in the speech, something you would never know from following the story in the press.  And in any case Rev. was right!   

The evidence is overwhelmingly in his favor; from the overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government of the liberal European educated modernizer Muhammad Mossadek by the CIA in 1953 – America’s way of chastising him for threatening to nationalize the British Petroleum oil company –  which led directly to the Islamic revolution in Iran; or the fact that Osama bin Laden was  trained in urban terrorist techniques by the CIA, back when the US government regarded the Muslim fundamentalists fanatics in the Afganistani Moujahadin as “freedom fighters” and valued allies in the geopolitical chess game that characterized America’s relations with the Soviet Union in the Cold War Era.

There is also the fact that the 9/11 terrorists were trained in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, who came to power as a result of the training and weapons they received from the CIA.  And virtually all of the 9/11 suicide squad came from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, America’s two closest allies in the Arab world.  None of these facts are in dispute, so I am puzzled at the outcry from a self-righteous abysmally ignorant American punditry and other opinion leaders.

In the course of a stem winding sermon lamenting the powerlessness of the world’s poor, Rev. Wright began to enumerate America’s transgressions against peoples of color at home and in the developing World; including the atomic bombing of Japanese civilians.  And it is true that there was no remorse on the part of the people who perpetrated this horror – the pilot of the Enola Gay that dropped the bomb said he never missed a night’s sleep over it – which many historians of World War II believe was unnecessary.

Although the reverend’s indictment of American foreign policy and race relations at home was poetically expressed with great emotion, it remains a matter of fact.  In a speech that built up to a dramatic crescendo Wright skillfully employed a repeating refrain, raising the decibel level of his voice with each verse, a technique well known to skilled orators, and electrified the crowd as he explained how our nation’s sins had come back to haunt us: the CIA call it “blowback.”

As far as I can see truth and history are on the Reverend’s side; I didn’t hear a word of a lie.   So if the truth will set you free, people should listen carefully to Reverend Wright and free their minds.  The 9/11 tragedy was a topic that no pastor worthy of his pulpit could avoid, and Dr. Wright addressed it with passion and candor. His sermon was firmly in the historical tradition of the progressive Afro-American church – a subject I shall have more to say about in a future commentary – and far more worthy of the teachings of Jesus Christ than the blood thirsty jingoism of the white preachers on the Republican right.

If you are not going to come clean in the House of the Lord, where will you ever tell the truth?  The real question here is how so many people who call themselves Christians could respond the way they did to his message.  Have they never heard the biblical admonition: “Ye shall reap what ye sow?”  I can’t envision a more fitting situation to apply the biblical warning: “Pride goeth before the fall!”


A Gruesome Twosome


The Two Johns


Senator McCain and Rev. Parsley


Rev Rod Parsley: a Dangerous, Deluded, Dude!

The one issue on which I disagreed with Rev. Wright however, is his charge that the US government purposely infected Afro-Americans with the Aids virus.   Yet it does not at all surprise me that some black people believe this.  Since the Aids virus began to run amuck in the black world many black people have speculated about the possibility of our government having a sinister hand in it.

After all, this sort of germ warfare would be nothing new because many of us have heard the story of how John Amherst gave the Indians blankets infected with smallpox and killed them off.  And he has one of America’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges named after him! It’s in the history books; check it out.  And we also know about the far more recent “Tuskegee Experiment,” where black men were allowed to go untreated for syphilis so that white doctors could observe the progress of the disease in order to devise treatments for white folks.

 Furthermore some of us know about Fort Detrict, where the US Army houses its germ warfare program; it was here that the weaponization of germs was invented.   And I have had scientists at Harvard and the Columbia University Medical School tell me that they believe the HIV virus was created there.  Then there is the fact that Reverend Wright lives in Chicago, which is the same town as Dr. Haki Madhubuti, who teaches at Chicago State University.  In 1990 Dr. Madhubuti wrote a compelling paper titled “AIDS: The Purposeful Destruction of the Black World?”

 This paper explores the claims that AIDS is a form of covert biological warfare against black people, and analyzes the scholarly literature on the subject.  Dr. Madhubuti concludes: “In the white world when it comes to warfare, there are few coincidences.  That is why the United States has war colleges, one of the largest standing armed forces in the world, think tanks, and thousands of secret research projects underway at universities and private companies coast to coast.

There also exist in this country a spineless media and a corporate structure that will maintain its power ‘by any means necessary.”  Then he says with a sense of bewilderment: “I do not have the answer to this one.”  In other words after combing the literature on the subject he didn’t know what to believe.  So lighten up on Reverend Wright, because I’m sure he has read this too.

 While this may come as a shock to white folks, a lot of black people sincerely believe that the government developed the AIDS virus to wipe us out!  And if this is paranoia it is induced by the absurdity of life under the racial caste system that is as American as apple pie and even now is only partially dismantled.

 That’s why most Afro-Americans ain’t mad at the Reverend Dr. Wright, while white folks are clueless regarding our response.  Hence a sermon that strikes whites as outrageous slander against their government has the ring of truth to many blacks.  Even some who are in high up in the medical profession.

This is because black and white Americans hold different views of reality based on our experiences.  Dr. Dubois called this “double consciousness” and described it in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folks, an American literary classic.   He wrote “The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world…It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness…One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

The jury is still out on Rev. wrights charge that US government agencies has been involved in the importation of drugs into America’s inner cities.  I once interviewed a retired DEA agent and ex-Marine, officer Celerino Castillo III, who wrote a book titled Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War in which he claims to have witnessed CIA agents under the command of Colonel Oliver North shipping cocaine from Central America to the US in order to covertly finance the Contra war in Nicaragua in circumvention of the Boland Amendment, which cut off US funding to the Contras.

This story was corroborated by a much contested story in the San Jose Mercury, a northern California newspaper, which claimed government operatives supplied cocaine to black drug dealers like the notorious “Freeway Ricky Ross,” who operated in Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ district.  She certainly believes the story and tried her best to get to the bottom of the matter.

Furthermore, in the introduction to “Powderburns” former DEA agent Michael Levine, whose adventures in the anti-drug wars was the subject of the movie Deep Cover, starring Lawrence Fishburn and Jeff Goldblum, tells us: “In my books articles and media appearances I told of deep cover cases from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, that were destroyed by the covert agencies of my own government; cases that would have exposed people who had been given license to sell massive amounts of drugs to Americans in return for their support of Oliver North’s Contras,” says Levine.

He went on to claim, “I could easily prove that these investigations were intentionally destroyed and that our cover was blown by our own government, but I only had circumstantial evidence linking the events to the Contras.  Celerino Castillo, as you will see in these pages, had the smoking gun.”  And indeed he does.  Yet all of these so-called learned pundits who are unceasingly attacking Reverend Wright have obviously never read any of this material, verbose air-heads that they are.   And yet they expect to be taken seriously by serious people!

While the sermons of Dr. Wright are a repudiation of America’s promiscuous use of military and covert violence against poor peoples of color around the world, and a warning against the pitfalls that accompany the arrogance of national power, the sermons of John Hagee and Rod Parsley are just the opposite.  Both of these men are white American Nationalists who deeply believe in the doctrine of American Exceptionalism, the idea that god has chosen America to lead the world, which is a built in justification for imperialist aggression – like the misguided invasion of Iraq.

However I will have much more to say about these two mugs in a forth coming commentary on Senator John McCain’s spiritual advisors.  For the moment suffice it to say that when compared to these warmongering sharks Rev. Wright is a paragon of virtue; Christian charity and sound judgment was the dominant theme of his sermon, and these virtues also characterized his work in the community.

In their swelling vanity most white Americans heard his critique as treason and blasphemy.  While it would amount to an act of political suicide for Barack to defend his pastor any further, black journalists and intellectuals plus all Americans of good will who care about the truth, must rally to his defense and tell the whole truth about Rev. Wright’s life and work.

   Barack and Jeremiah




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 2, 2009

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