Forgive and Forget?

Clinton, Obama and McCain no longer fight only for votes-their very integrity stands on the line. Above all, Obama must fear for his future.

All three American presidential candidates currently have a problem of reliability. The democrat Hilary Clinton has emerged as a liar and for several months has told the voters how she, courageously, landed in 1996 under sniper fire and had to duck for cover. Video and eyewitness accounts report to the contrary, the actual event was much closer to a celebration with fireworks.

The Republican John McCain enjoys the doubtful support of evangelical pastors, who the catholics have called a “large whore” and who has explained Hurricane Katrina as just punishment from God for the sins of New Orleans.

The Democrat Barack Obama has for 20 years listened to a black preacher of hate and remained his good friend. According to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the Aids virus is an invention of the US government to exterminate Africans, and America earned the terror attacks of 9-11.

All three candidates have apologized and distanced themselves from these things. “Sorry”, said Hillary Clinton. She had related the event a little misleadingly, but, to err is human. “I am proud of Pastor Hagee”, states John McCain, “but I do not agree with him.” And Barack Obama has said, “Were Reverend Wright not retired, I would no longer attend his church.”

Barack Obama explained very clearly, he has held an important conversation over racism and religion. But he has the largest problem of credibility. Clinton has made only a little lie, and McCain is close to dubious right wings, but Obama has for two decades tacitly supported his pastor’s statements. Worse yet, he has even trusted Reverend Wright and had his daughter baptized by him.

Much of what Obama has said in his defense is correct. The critics on the right are sometimes hypocritical. The African-American churches have a special tradition. Their services were once far from white gentlemen, they are entitled to their anger. Through song, dance and complaints they have expressed their grief.

Their message today consists of the release of pain with a bit of psychotherapy. In the frenzy some will be drowned out, what one would never say outside the church and probably never think. In addition: no churchgoer would like this – an announcement from their preacher that he’s stepping down from the pulpit, in the name of cohesion. Disagreement with the pastor does not lead to separation from the community, most remain faithful.

Barack Obama has referred to this in many speeches – and also to the sensitive issues between an African-American and his church. As he says: Reverend Wright led him to the faith and stood by him, as has his white Grandmother in spite of racist prejudices she has always confessed to him. He can therefore, says Barack Obama, deny neither his grandmother or his pastor. Good, but the consequences of this statement are unknown.

Then what do the grandmother and the pastor have in common? Nothing. She had prejudices, like many at that time. She was afraid when she met a black man on a lonely road. These fears even overcame the civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, as he once admitted. But unlike Pastor Wright, Obama’s grandmother didn’t shout her hate aloud, but rather she tried to overcome her prejudices. Love, her message calls, not scorn.

The question becomes therefore: Why has the man, who wants to become the next president of the United States, listened to Wrights tirades without dissent for twenty years? Why hadn’t he left that church with it’s intolerant preaching to search for another congregation. Above all: why has he been so close to Reverend Wright over all the years and only now, when it’s advisable because of political pressure, distance himself.

In the past few days, new video clips of Wright’s earlier lectures have emerged. The slips were not an exception, but the norm. Barack Obama, wanting to bridge and fill ditches, had for a long time been a friend and mentor, has broken these bridges. Why? Obama remains at a loss to answer.

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