Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Jeremiah Wright to the Rescue

With the killings of a Kansas abortion doctor and at the Holocaust Museum, group hatred in this year of Change was losing its bipartisan flavor, but here comes Barack Obama's former pastor from stage left to restore some balance and, insofar as the subject allows, comic relief.

As usual, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's entrance involves tongue-tripping. After telling a reporter that "Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me," Rev. Wright has clarified his estrangement from the President to explain that he meant "Zionists," which of course makes all the difference in the world to such Obama advisers of the Hebrew persuasion as Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod.

Even if, as the President keeps saying, words matter, Wright's bombast can't be equated with bullets from the Far Right, but it can serve as a reminder that reductive stupidity and scapegoating come from all directions in American society, as they always have.

The flavor of the day in zeitgests is what Paul Krugman calls "The Big Hate," an upsurge of "right-wing extremism...being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment."

But given the coincidence of widespread economic fears and the installation of an African-American president, it doesn't take Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck et al to revive traditional American mistrust of "others" and blame them for misfortunes.

Yes, there were hateful words behind the actions of those lone demented gunmen, but Rev. Wright's reappearance provides a moment of déjà vu that such talk does not inevitably lead to disastrous actions.

Barack Obama overcame it to win the White House, and what he is doing there will determine the future. Meanwhile, as the old Arab proverb says, the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

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