Tuesday, April 29, 2008

God Damn America?

That Barack Obama is still on the ticket after his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has been exposed as a hate-mongering, Farrakhan-supporting, anti-American zealot is not surprising. Barack and his campaign have been given a free pass to fulfill what the conspiracy theorist in me thinks is a master plan to sabotage the Dems' bid for the White House.

Wright is on the attack after his protege has cast him out into the cold. No one puts baby in a corner, and in an address to the National Press Club in Washington, Wright declared that an attack on him is an attack on the Black Church, which is tantamount to resintating slavery. Again, not surprising seeing as my own criticism of Barack Obama has been beat back with accusations of my own latent racism.

But Wright does make an obvious point that has been overlooked in the discussion about his inciendiary remarks: The Black Church has had to evolve past slavery through Jim Crow through Katrina - issues that are impossible for the Black community to discuss without fervor.

Now, the sound bite that has everyone, including yours truly, up in arms is the "God damn America" statement Wright made in a video-recorded sermon. While it's unfortunate that Wright used "damn" as a verb, had he rattled off on the assaults against the Black community and dismissed it with "God damn America," as in "these God-damn kids are crazy," maybe things would be a little different.

Because, in reality, the Black community has a lot to be angry about. Just last week a jury acquitted three New York City police officers in the shooting death of an unarmed man in Queens. A barrage of bullets comes upon an unarmed person and no one is to blame...only in god damn America.

And as a gay man I find myself dismissing criminal acts against my community that are justified by "family values" and "religious" rhetoric with a simple "god damn America." Case in point: a comment was made yesterday, by a friend of mine who espouses some very right wing beliefs, against the Harvey Milk School here in New York. "Why should my tax dollars support a school for kids who are different? Tomorrow we'll have a school for kids who only like to wear yellow."

The ignorance and lack of historic context behind that statement - my friend didn't know who Harvey Milk was - was so astounding that I was actually left speechless. And forget historic context, just a few months ago a 15 year-old boy was shot to death in his school because he came out to one of his straight classmates and said he had a crush on him. That story made national headlines but obviously it doesn't justify creating some sort of safe place for at-risk teens.

It's that sort of callous indifference to abuses that are perpetrated on other people in this country who are deemed different and unworthy that can rattle one's patriotism, it's enough to make you throw your hands up in disbelief and say "god damn america."

For those of you who don't know who Harvey Milk is, he was a gay politician from San Francisco who was gunned down in 1978 along with the mayor of the city - by another politician who claimed that he suffered mood swings as a result of his Twinkie habit. The assassin, Daniel White, got only five years in prison. Which is more than the Sean Bell murderers got, but still...

And these are but a few of those inexplicable, consistent, hicups in the system that are worth rehashing because it seems America is on a high horse right now, shocked and appalled that anyone should be angry at the way this country operates. I'm not supporting Jeremiah Wright and his self-aggrandizing campaign, and I certainly don't support Farrakhan, but I understand where they're coming from.

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