I read a particularly annoying letter to the editor in The Tennessean this morning that assets that Obama's candidacy is "over" because he refused to abandon the preacher, a longtime friend, who made some racist (anti-white) statements. What's more, this letter writer, Edgar Davie, seems to think that this is as it should be.
I certainly hope that Davie is wrong in his prediction; I know that he is wrong in his moralizing.
In our soundbyte-and-scandal driven media-saturated election season, the most extreme response to any negative feedback seems to be what people always demand. If somebody in the Clinton campaign makes a statement about race that others find offensive, rather than thinking about it and engaging it, that person is expected to resign. If an ally of a candidate makes statements that we would find alarming if made by the candidate himself, the candidate is expected to fully repudiate and reject that ally in all ways.
And, yet, what does Obama do? He shows that we can be thoughtful, that we need not have the most extreme reaction to the slightest offense. He shows that in fact reality, including human relationships and difficult issues, are complicated. They need to be met head on with care and consideration, not with immediate and extreme reactions designed for media spin control. This is exactly what we should want in a presidential candidate. Obama's famous race speech should in fact be getting him all the positive responses we've seen because it's the perfect response, it's what we need to have been doing all along. I just hope that Davie is wrong in asserting that the thoughtful response will be forgotten before the demands for a thoughtless and immediate response.
Consider: Rev. Wright is a longtime and deep family friend of Obama. Myself, I have friends whom I still consider friends even though I have heard them espouse beliefs about homosexuals that I consider bigoted. I have grandparents and relatives that I still love despite having heard them make statements about race that I consider bigoted. Am I just as much a bigot as them for refusing to completely cut off my relationships because they say things that I disagree with? Ask yourselves; does everybody in your life that you value hold identical views with you about such charged topics? Have you completely abandoned all of those who may have publicly expressed a bigoted view? And, if not, why demand that Obama do so?
Specifically with regard to his relationship with Rev. Wright, the most important statement Obama made was this: "I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy."
Obama has condemned the words that he disagrees with, that he finds wrong and offensive... and that so many of the rest of us find wrong and offensive. If the campaign is about Obama, and not about finding a reason to somehow justify not voting for Obama, this should be enough. Why then do people demand that he completely abandon the man, the cherished and loved friend of his family? We really do not want a president who will do that. We want a president who will engage those whom he disagrees with, those whom (dare I say it) are wrong. Who will continue to take their wisdom where they are wise, who will try to change their hearts where they are wrong, but who will no matter what continue to respect and value them as human beings worthy of our care and compassion.
Everybody, grow up. Obama has.