Our Gratitude to America

I’m not buying Barack Obama’s attempt to place the controversy over his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a racial context.

There is no need to repeat here all of Wright’s messages of hate. This one is enough for me: Rev. Wright has said, “No, no, no, not God bless America — God damn America!”

You don’t have to be any particular color, nationality, or ethnic group to share those sentiments. Unfortunately, Rev. Wright is not alone.

David Reynolds has written extensively on gratitude, and he observes: “Gratitude is a natural response to taking a realistic look at the world, including our place in it. We aren’t realistic enough to gain the benefits of gratitude often.” Why not? Reynolds explains that we fail to understand that,

There is nothing that I have achieved without help from others…I keep on wearing clothes others made for me, eating food others grew and prepared for me, using tools others designed and fabricated and taught me how to use, speaking words others defined and explained.

Allow me to extend Reynolds’ remarks. Rev. Wright is practicing freedom of speech because of the sacrifices of blood and fortune of the founding fathers. Because this country was founded on principles of economic liberty, Wright has a standard of living that few on this planet can dream of.

I feel gratitude for this country, not because I overlook its flaws, but because I know how blessed I am. All over the world, many people will go to bed hungry and sick—I eat organic food. Many people by necessity have no time to pursue their passions—I make my living pursuing my passions. Many people throughout the world don’t feel secure in their homes or they feel their basic liberties are not secure—I feel secure in both. Many people experience the bloody horrors of tribal hatreds that have lasted thousands of years—I live in a country where the horrors of tribalism have never taken root.

Rev. Wright’s message of hate is not what the perennial spiritual wisdom teaches. The truth is that there are no self-made men. A leaf on a tree has no life apart from the tree; we all are joined. Ken Wapnick has written that gratitude is a natural reaction when you reflect on spiritual truth:

Gratitude is an experience of humility that comes from the fact that I need you, not in the specialness sense of needing you to complete me or to fill certain lacks in me. It is a need that recognizes that you are a part of me, and if I do not recognize that, then I will not remember who I am…

Much has been written about Rev. Wright’s lies. Reynolds explains why those who don’t practice gratitude routinely lie:

It takes energy and struggle to ignore how much we receive and how little we return to the world. But we grow used to the investment in deceit as we grow older. Ignoring and lying helps us feel better about ourselves.

Helping others feel better about themselves through lies is not worthy of a pastor. A message of deceit and hate doesn’t heal injustice—it feeds injustice. A message of separation pits brother against brother; it splits—it does not unify. A message that lacks gratitude does remind of us our true nature—it blinds us to our true nature. I find it inconceivable that Barack Obama never noticed these differences.

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5 Responses to Our Gratitude to America

  1. Great post! I did not buy Obama’s explanation either.

  2. E says:

    Damn, where’d you go? Welcome back to the Internets.

    Great post. Concur entirely. One particular issue that troubles me is that Obama, in explaining that, essentially, “I can’t disown him” so … just don’t pay attention, he’s got some anger issues”, illicitly condones the message, or the “theater” and hyperbole. By not making an issue of the content of the message (ie “it’s patently wrong and has no place in a church where people come to seek guidance”), then Obama is giving a pass on that hate. So, how is this different from the flip side of the coin (ie Trent Lott and his ridiculous, unintelligent remarks a few years ago)? Anyway, that’s just an observation, not a judgement.

    Aren’t you going to write something about the historic meltdown of Wall Street? Man, it was dicey there for a while. Everybody’s seizing up though — nobody’s lending, or nothing.

  3. E,

    Many people are troubled, including those who were formerly impressed with Obama’s sincerity.

    I was just thinking today that I’m due for another post on the economy.

  4. E says:

    Prof B,

    I hope there are people troubled by the new Obama framework. Explain it to me like I’m a six year old, but how does one not “disown” a pastor, who in plain sight (and recorded DVDs), whips his congregation into seething hatred with assertions that the U.S. government invented HIV “as a means of genocide against people of color”? Or that America was responsible for September 11 because of Hiroshima? Or that the U.S. government knew about Pearl Harbor and lied about it? Or that the government as a matter of overt (ie written) policy is racist and gives drugs to black people?

    If he can’t disown these flagrant words… what can he disown?

  5. Frank v2 says:

    Dr. B,
    Here, here! Great post! Hatred is hatred is hatred, and no amount of explaining or justification in my mind can make it acceptable. I think Obama has done himself a great disservice by not quickly distancing himself from Rev. Wright. Sure we have freedom of speech and freedom to practice religion however we see fit, but I believe that when someone is in a position of moral leadership as Rev. Wright is, that person has a responsibility to not facilitate hatred or racism. And in Obama’s case , because he is running for the leadership position of our nation, it is imperative that he can demonstrate that he can fairly represent all of the people in a neutral non-partisan fashion. Hence, since Obama came across with a weak explanation of Rev. Wright’s actions, he might now be considered guilty by association in some people’s minds, and in turn may have damaged his campaign. Time will tell. I must say though that I have been an Obama supporter, but this incident has me thinking now that perhaps Obama’s true colors were exposed, and that worries me.

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