Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nagging Questions About Rev. Wright? Not.

Not for anyone who's thinking.

Revelations about a 30-second outtake from one of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons were not brought to us by Friends of Obama. They were brought to us by Enemies of Obama. That, in itself, gives me reason not to fall all over myself in fear and loathing. For that's exactly what we were meant to do. We were meant to keep this in the public eye, to raise "overlooked" issues with the outtake, and to blame Obama for not controlling the mind and the mouth of his former pastor.

Maybe you can, but I can't be played that easily.

Also, it occurs to me that we are dealing with one 30-second outtake from one sermon in a 30-year career. I can tell you that there are many 30-second outbursts I wish that I could take back. I'm sure you have a few, as well. Would you appreciate the whole world's forming its enduring opinion of you on that basis? No, you wouldn't. It's not fair, it's not right, and it's not kind.

Today, none other than Michael Crowley of The New Republic is raising a "nagging question" about Wright's comments about HIV-AIDS. It's kind of gullible of someone in Crowley's place to keep playing into this faux "scandal," and I wish he would shut up. However, since he hasn't, there are a couple of things I'd like to point out.

It is a fact that the Reagan Administration stalled unconscionably on dealing with the then just-emerging AIDS epidemic. Given its hideous embrace of the far-Right Christianist extremists' demonizing of gays, it's not at all improbable that the delay was intentional. At the time, the disease was thought to be a "gay" disease. Why not let it run its course and wipe out a few million gay men?

Anyone, repeat, anyone who thinks such a thing impossible knows nothing about history. No government of longer than a few years' duration has ever declined to eliminate its enemies in one way or another, including Christian monarchies. It happens.

Germ warfare happens, too. And so does experimentation on African Americans without their knowledge or consent. Horrors like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study occurred, and what's more, Tuskegee is deeply embedded in the collective memory of African Americans, and why wouldn't it be?

I am suggesting that, in a world in which smallpox was deliberately introduced into Native America to cause a genocide, in which Saddam Hussein, Mao, Stalin, Rwanda, Darfur, Joseph Mengele, Hitler, the Holocaust, Tuskegee, Reagan's stalling on dealing with HIV/AIDS, and Bush's subverting scientific study of air pollution and global warming are possible, it isn't at all paranoid to suspect that a hostile administration might perpetrate genocide on its own people.

Is it a fact? I don't know. I don't know why Wright reached that conclusion. Nobody has asked him. All I can say is that I was working as a lobbyist in Washington, DC, for a clinical laboratory association at the time. We were keenly concerned about HIV/AIDS because our constituents handle human blood, tissue, and other fluids all day every day, and my nose was buried in the Federal Register, the Congressional Record, and a myriad newsletters devoted to timely updates on the federal government's response to the new virus.

It was nothing short of boggling that the Administration took as long as it did to take action, and that it acted only because a Democratic Congress forced it to do so. So I know, personally, that the Reagan Administration delayed, and I believe the Reagan Administration did so to appease the "Christian" Right, and that it intended by stalling on HIV/AIDS epidemiological research funding, vaccine development funding, and public education funding to let the virus do as much damage as possible in the gay community. Unfortunately for us all, HIV/AIDS, like tuberculosis, smallpox, and the flu, is an pandemic that affects us all and is decimating Africa.

The point is this. When we see our own government ignore genocides like Darfur and Rwanda, and treat Black Haitian refugees differently than white Europeans, it isn't crazy for African Americans to be deeply, deeply suspicious of these things. It's crazy not to be. There is plain historical context for those suspicions. Whether they are correct is a separate question that history as yet has not answered.

Finally, Rev. Wright is his own person, responsible for his own actions. It is unreasonable, unjust, misleading, and unkind to suggest that Obama is somehow complicit in Rev. Wright's sermons.

I'm tired of the GOP's lying, distortions, and character assassinations. I don't want any part of that nastiness, and I won't allow myself to be sucked into criticizing Obama, much less fearing him, because Karl Rove wants me to.

We'd better hold ourselves to a higher standard of reason if we expect to have a better government than the one Karl Rove has provided for the last seven years. That means ignoring red herrings like a 30-second outtake from one sermon of a widely respected pastor with a 30-year career. We're being had. Again. Anyone who falls for this stuff makes an oyster look like a Rhodes Scholar.


Anonymous said...

Your point is well made that the history behind the Tuskegee clinical trials could have influenced Jeremiah Wright to believe the HIV-conspiracy theory as true. It is not only in history, however, but in the posture of our scientists today that his words may ring timely.

For instance, look at Dr. James Watson, a renowned scientist noted for his Nobel Prize in discovering the DNA chemical structure. He went on a tour in the US speaking on the determination of intelligence through genetics. Unbelievably, he referred to specific races as having lower intelligence and advocated eugenics through genetic analysis of human DNA. His words and ideas reeked of racism and elitism, but colored with the sparkling lust and lure of scientific genetic advancements. When I saw Watson speak on these subjects in Connecticut in 2007, I was appalled and frightened not only at what Watson said, but by the reaction of the crowd. An estimated 500 people literally stood up and gave Watson a standing ovation. A few months later, I was relieved to hear of the public outcry from European community who had immediately cancelled Watson’s speaking tour upon hearing him. But it still disturbs me today at how the American people were fooled by Watson’s words, by his title, credentials and Nobel Prize.

And if some blacks believe (rightly or wrongly) that HIV was used or created purposely to reduce the black population, they would be even more frightened to know what racially targeted genetic technologies can now be created in a test tube these days. The scientific community, biomedical community and the US government, however, have intentionally downplayed the dangers associated with genetic technologies. A smoke screen of secrecy surrounding any form of scientific accident or abuse is protected by the institution of a self-policing policy without any laws to protect the public. Consequently, there are no legal remedies toward any unintentional or intentional atrocities that may have or will occur. Biotech workers rights for safety and health are also surprisingly non-existent. In fact, the United States government (OSHA) has even declared that “trade secrets” supersedes a worker’s right to biological exposure records which are necessary to obtain appropriate healthcare. This unprincipled scientific movement is consistent with keeping up the fa├žade that current genetic technologies are safe and can do no harm. It provides assurance that the American public’s sight is limited only to the lust and attraction of scientific advancements and not to the serious dangers that they pose.

Our academic community, who has deeply embedded themselves in profit making industries all in the name of scientific advancement, has lost the equilibrium point with human rights, human dignity and public safety and no longer represent the public’s interest. Jeremiah Wright’s words may seem a bit controversial; but in fact, they are timely. The difference is, however, that today the inappropriate use of science affects us all, and not just the black population as seen in the shameful Tuskegee experiments.