Wright and Wise: Race, Politics, and the Next Right Thing
I followed the Jeremiah Wright controversy with interest after his remarks were presented and discussed in various media, and recently read a Blog from Tim Wise on White Privilege wherein he contrasts perceptions about the McCain and Obama tickets. Whatever one believes about race or religion and their impact on politics in America, it’s a fact that polemicists like either Wright or Wise serve us individually by shaking us out of complacency and indecision. We are forced to polish our own skills for disputation and jump into the fray because of their painful spurring and prodding. The result is passionate examination of our positions on issues that matter deeply. While polemicists intend to foment change, and this is usually a good thing, two standards apply for me as I settle my own thoughts: 1) That I scrupulously search for valid and reasoned arguments and evidence no matter what the source; and 2) That I take care that in biting and devouring others with my arguments, I am not out to consume or destroy another person. I believe our wars of words and ideas ought to be aimed at changing systemic error, not at destruction of others or of further social division.
I have to say that I am glad that Jeremiah Wright, intentionally or not, has made the race/religion interface a more open topic for discussion in America. I am not in the same camp as he is theologically, but certainly I believe the conversations he has inspired need to be ongoing discussions, not just embarrassing and hidden factors in deciding for whom to vote. I also see it as a very good thing that Tim Wise has unmasked social privilege in a way that allows specific issues to be laid out clearly. However, with that said, it is time for the mistakes of the past to stop dominating the choices of the future. A culture of blame serves no one, and hope is strangled if one cannot believe that change is possible and real. In all fairness, I believe that is the goal of Tim Wise’s analyses and his efforts to address racism.
At this point in our life together as a nation, race does matter in America, despite anything we might prefer; and religion does unavoidably inform political decisions. It is nonsense to deny this and we’ll never separate religion from politics if the goal is to have a representative government. The entire process of this 2008 election year will be more than a footnote in history because of such factors. There is an irony though. The simple truth is we do not have the luxury to spend even one more moment on such externals as the gender or race of the candidates. The only thing that matters in this election is who is best equipped for leadership. What are the right things to do for our nation, and who will do those things? Which candidate has the best ideas and can execute the best ideas for the next right thing for America? The complex and historic crises we are facing force responsible voters to ignore externals , and focus on this next right thing, whatever it is.
Our most important task, and the challenge we can ill afford to fail, is to help formulate the next right things and to work together on achieving the things that promote our common good, regardless of race, creed, color or political party.
Causes Marsha Hansen Supports
National Autism Association
Lutheran World Relief
Abandoned Baby Center sponsored by Feed the Children