Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Echoing this clever observation, I wonder that so many Democrats see Obama as an agent of change. Change…Chicago Democrat. Wouldn’t those ordinarily not be a strong association? BHO started his political career running for state senate in Illinois by getting all the other Democrats thrown off the ballot in 1996. Maybe that’s just hardball politics, Windy-City style, but it hardly inspires one to think “Woo baby, that sure is a change in the way we do politics.” A young friend active in Chicago politics assures me that the regressive, machine-politics, spoils-system methods are still in play there. (He didn’t state it that way, of course). Get your place at the table, and all else flows from that. It’s a recipe for continuing identity politics disaster, but our cities seem unable to rise above it. Perhaps living cheek-by-jowl with other groups allows no other form of cooperation. Those of us in small towns and suburbs have more distance, and can appear more tolerant than we might otherwise be.

Following gringo's comment that Obama is running on the same platform as President Wintergreen in "Of Thee I Sing," I thought a visual would help.

Obama’s church of twenty years is slowly gathering attention for its disquieting merger of Christian and Afrocentric creeds. Christian groups have found that over time, such mergers usually result in the Christ-part taking a back seat. Without specific correctives being applied, the religious aspect becomes a mere decoration. White Christian groups revert pretty quickly to talking more about whiteness than Christ, eventually defining their Christianity in terms of not being Jewish. The YMCA & YWCA are no longer “C,” and so now just adopt their nicknames as formal titles, becoming simply “the Y.” Christian socialists become just socialists. The Christian Right has fared somewhat better, primarily because of near-constant voices within preaching out warnings. Anytime those voices are hushed, the Christian Right slips back into becoming just The Right. (The voices I refer to here are not those who openly or surreptitiously advocate instead for the Christian Left, but those which preach the primacy of Christ). Does Obama’s church have such voices within it, always calling it back to Christian basics and preventing its co-option? If so, then perhaps there is little problem with its African emphasis. But I have not read anywhere that this tension exists in the congregation. So far what I have read indicates a congregation which is going to be puzzled and angry twenty years from now that everyone else is still so racist.

How the white-wine drinking progressives have become so enamored of Obama is certainly amusing. The Christian Left I can understand. But the Residually Religious Left is usually disdainful of dramatic preaching styles, considering them rather southern (read redneck). Perhaps they think it is quaint when delivered by an Authentic Black Person. Perhaps they are easily moved by such things but don’t want to admit it to themselves, and so project that fear onto those (lesser) others who get out of control. They are certainly projecting whatever they want onto Obama’s screen just now. He’s an iPod, and a toaster, and a cure for gout.

Now there’s an interesting intersection of ideas. If Hillary won over so many Democrats with tears in a Plymouth café,* perhaps they deplore emotionalism because they fear that they themselves are vulnerable to it. This would match up with the gun-control idea that the ownership of a firearm makes one more likely to become violent. Projection. It is their own being out of control they fear, so they figure you must be out of control.

That Obama and Clinton are Ivy League uptights who have this emotionalism seeping out may actually be part of the attraction. The Princess Dianas of American politics, so almost-perfect but so breathtakingly real underneath, the realness being a secret only a few (million) have been privy to. Bleah.

* “Tears In a Plymouth Café” would be a great album title.


Anonymous said...

I am flattered.
I know many Gershwin tunes as part of the Standards as interpreted by various jazz singers and instrumentalists. Willie Nelson has played in a good Western Swing interpretation of Lady Be Good. As the exception that proves the rule, I learned of President Wintergreen from a TV special of Of Thee I Sing back in the fall of ’72. Carroll O’Connor, better known for playing Archie Bunker, played President Wintergreen.

As I recall, O’Connor’s singing voice was not bad- certainly better than one imagines Archie’s to have been. But actors and actresses change according to their role. While Patricia Routledge’s singing voice was execrable in the role of Hyacinth Bucket/Bouquet in the Brit comedy Keeping Up Appearances, Routledge’s singing voice was good enough for her to perform in musicals and win a Tony Award .

Yes, the different standards that the left applies toward religion , where it is bad for White Republicans and good for Black Democrats, is rather noticeable. I think that part of the problem is that many and even most on the secular left are not personally acquainted with any fundamentalists/evangelicals or even mainstream Christians. ( Given the number of Episcopalians versus Pentecostals, I grant you that “mainstream” can be debated.). It becomes easy to demonize them when you do not know any of them personally.

While I have been an atheist or agnostic from adolescence on, I have had fundamentalist Christians as relatives. So while I have disagreed with their religious views, and perhaps some of their political views, I realize that that one can be a good person and also be a fundamentalist, and also have political views that will not result in the destroying of the Republic. Many on the secular left disagree with that.

Der Hahn said...

The explanations I favor for why normally religion-averse white liberals tolerate the religious expressions by black liberals are paternalism and authenticity. Being a loyal but junior member in the liberal coalition, blacks can be forgiven for seeming to not know they really should grow up and be atheists. This also plays into the assumption that black religious expression is part of 'their' (but not 'our' i.e. white) heritage, and therefore is authentic and something to be celebrated. Among whites, who are supposed to know better, religiosity looks more like Elmer-Gantry-ism.