The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old – is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know – what we have seen – is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
You probably recognize those as the words of then-Sen. Barack Obama, from his “More Perfect Union” speech delivered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 18, 2008, in the midst of the 2008 Democratic Party primaries. Candidate Obama was essentially forced to deliver that speech because Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Pres. Obama and his family sometimes attended services, had apparently delivered some controversial sermons in which he chastised the United States for its interference in the affairs of other countries, for its mistreatment of certain countries and groups of people, and for its history of racial discrimination. And because of Sen. Obama’s affiliation with Rev. Wright (even though Sen. Obama wasn’t present at the time Rev. Wright made the controversial statements) – and likely because the two men are African American – Sen. Obama was required to explain, to a majority White population, why he should not be held responsible for Rev. Wright’s statements.
Now fast forward three years or so as the 2012 Republican presidential race is getting underway, and take a look at one of the front-runners so far: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. And take a look at Salem Baptist Church in Stillwater, Minnesota – a church Rep. Bachmann just left in what sure looks like a move of political expediency – and its heavy metal pastor, Rev. Bradlee Dean. Last May, Mother Jones reported:
[O]ver the last five years, Bachmann, the politician, and Dean, the metal-head, have formed an unlikely but powerful alliance. Bachmann has helped raise money for Dean’s traveling youth ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International; guest-starred in his television series; and prayed for his ministry to multiply 10-fold. Dean, for his part, has embraced Bachmann, whose district includes his suburban community of Annandale, as an ally against the gay agenda. But his inflammatory rhetoric and past links to an anti-government organization make Bachmann’s own controversial views seem downright pedestrian—and raise serious questions about the congresswoman’s choice of associates.
Dean reserves his most incendiary rhetoric for gays, whom he believes are actively working to undermine the Constitution. He’s argued that homosexuality is not only immoral, but actually a federal crime. When President Obama nominated Sharon Lubinski, who is openly gay, to be a US Marshal in 2010, Dean argued that Obama had acted illegally because “homosexuality is against the law in the United States.” …
Last fall Dean raised eyebrows when he suggested that Rep. Keith Ellison (D–Minn.), who is Muslim, was using support for gay marriage as a gateway to the enactment of Islamic Sharia law in the United States. …
On his radio show, he’s alleged that gays were responsible for the Holocaust, and that gay men will, on average, molest 117 people “before they’re found out.” He’s also suggested that extremist Muslims who call for the execution of American gays are morally justified. “If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that,” Dean explained. … He has since clarified that he does not support executing gays, and that his remarks were intended as a brotherly warning to gays to change their ways.
And, yes, there’s much, much more:
Until 2010, Dean was a member of Oregon-based Embassy of Heaven, a self-described “Christian Patriot” organization which subscribes to Sovereign Citizen ideology — the idea that citizens are themselves sovereign nations and therefore not bound to the laws of the United States.
Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion extremist who murdered Dr. George Tiller at his Wichita, Kansas church in 2009, was a member of Embassy, which makes money by selling fake license plates and passports. As part of his membership in the group, Dean signed a statement “renouncing his allegiance to the world and declaring citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven” (he did, however, continue to pay taxes). The group has been identified as an “anti-government group” by the Department of Justice.
To top it off, Rev. Dean has said there’s no difference between Pres. Obama and Osama bin Laden, the now-deceased leader of al Qaeda, adding that Pres. Obama has “done more damage” than bin Laden did.
And yet … where’s the outrage? Where are the demands that Rep. Bachmann explain herself, or repudiate the Pastor whom she’s had such close ties to for the past ten years?
Where is Michele Bachmann’s “More Perfect Union” speech?
She won’t deliver one, because she will never be called on to deliver one.
You tell me there’s no double standard in American politics. You tell me that an African American Democratic candidate gets the same treatment from the media and the general public that a White Republican candidate gets. Go ahead, say it if it makes you feel better. But you know it’s not true.
Which leads me to this thought. Let’s say that the most we liberals can hope for in our current political climate is to elect a smart, level headed but mostly centrist Democrat – that no one genuinely to the left of the political spectrum really has a chance to be elected president these days. What if that center-left Democrat – good, but not great, policy-wise, but capable and competent – is, in fact, the best we can do? Doesn’t it at least mean something that this center-left President overcame the absurd racial double standards that still exist in this country? Isn’t that a victory we should celebrate and work to preserve?
If that’s all we can hope for, policy-wise – a smart, capable, competent moderate Democrat – maybe we ought to do everything we can to make sure that he is successful, if for no other reason than to tell everyone who still clings to those racial double standards: We can beat you anyway.
© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.