Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wrighteous Indignation

Certain segments of the Italian-American community are up in arms over some statements that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright made in a eulogy he wrote in December of last year in Trumpet magazine [damn, I let my subscription lapse with the November issue!] in which he said, "(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him ... The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans." He also called Jesus's crucifixion "a public lynching Italian style."

Outrageous, yes. The man should be admonished publicly, privately and hopefully these misdirected statements can lead to some greater good, to some greater understanding between people, maybe a greater understanding by Americans and especially those who pay special heed to Rev. Wright's words, about the rough time that Italians have had in this country, how they have been mistreated, how they have been discriminated against and even killed just because of where they came from, what they looked like, how they spoke, etc. It could turn into a great learning opportunity.

But unfortunately those who seem to be the most incensed about this also are using it as an opportunity to bash Barack Obama, who goes to Wright's Chicago church and who has considered him to be one of his mentors. They want Obama to publicly denounce and renounce Wright (even though Obama has already done so, very publicly, after Wright's observation that America may not always have been the most hospitable place on earth for Blacks was shot out into the media and public consciousness recently).

And that's where I've got a problem with this indignation, these calls for denouncement and the cries that the media is ignoring the offensive comments by Obama's pastor (well, not all the media have ignored this outrage -- no less than Rush Limbaugh has loudly spread the word of this matter. Thank you very much, paisans, but when the only people heralding your cause of the day are the likes of Limbaugh, then maybe there's good reason not to join your bandwagon). Does anyone know what this "Trumpet" magazine is? Has anyone ever heard of it before? And if this article by Wright came out in December of last year, why is it just garnering the attention it has now, in late March/early April? I don't know for certain how it came to be, but I can only imagine that since Wright's anger at America was broadcast on YouTube earlier this year, Republicans, Clintonites, and those toiling at the Right Wing "think tanks" have been working overtime trying to find more "controversial" things Wright may have said, in order to keep the real issues people should be discussing -- an illegal war that is costing this country billions upon billions of dollars with no end in sight, the nearly 50 million Americans who do not have health insurance and the millions whose insurance is woefully inadequate, a crisis in the lending industry that is causing record numbers of home foreclosures, jobs that continue to be shipped overseas while CEOs rake in millions even as they run the companies they are at for only months or at the longest a few years into the ground, etc., etc.

So yes, Barack Obama should denounce and renounce his former pastor. And when he has finished renouncing Rev. Wright -- I’m thinking something along the lines of a scene from “The Passion of the Christ” might suffice -- Sen. Hillary Clinton should renounce her husband, the former President, Bill Clinton, for the comments he made in the early 1990s to one of his girlfriends, Gennifer Flowers, where he compared New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to a Mafioso. And Sen. John McCain should publicly renounce his supporter America’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said, in a 2007 campaign appearance of his own in California, in his best Don Corleone voice, "Thank youse all very much for invitin' me here tuh-day, to this meeting of the families from different parts'a California.” Then McCain should renounce the support of his supporter, Rev. John Haggee, who has said Catholics conspired with Hitler to exterminate the Jews and that hurricanes are God’s way of showing his displeasure with sinful people. And Giuliani, though no longer a candidate, should, for his part, join in by renouncing his friend, the child molesting Monsignor Alan Placa, who performed the (civil) marriage ceremony for Rudy and his second (of three) wives.

I'm assuming that most of my fellow Italian-Americans who are so upset that Sen. Obama has not publicly whipped Rev. Wright are also Catholic. Well, where were they, and what did they do, who did they renounce, as priests were molesting young children over the past 30, 40, 50 or more years? Why didn't they speak out against a church or say, a Cardinal and Archbishop who protected those who molested children, against the criminal prosecution they deserved? Where is their outrage at the church for harboring criminals and obstructing law enforcement?

Rev. Wright’s words were disappointing, of course, but they seem more like what was said by the old curmudgeon Mr. Potter in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who spoke dismissively of some of the hard-working people of his town as “garlic eaters.” That comment hardly registered on our collective radar, as should be the case with these recently uncovered comments.

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