Since (almost) no one would take the time to go through and read the earlier of my 600+ blog postings, here is a retrospective of one from 29, April. The analysis still holds up for me, and while this is a sorrowful thing to have to admit, I will confess: I was right.
Various critics from both the political left and the political right have taken aim at the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for his so-called "incendiary" remarks. It seems some of the critics are now convinced that he is trying to back off from his rhetoric imputing his words onto comments former Ambassador Peck in a Fox news interview from September, 2001.
I've read and re-read the transcript of Wright's interview with Bill Moyers, and also read the transcript of an appearance before the Press Club.
A lot of shrillness is in the air, but little worthwhile analysis. A fair amount of work is required to develop a meaningful context. Reverend Wright is serious, intelligent, thoughtful, plain spoken, out-spoken, focused, direct, honest, passionate and compassionate and unwavering in his integrity.
Sing a Psalm of vengeance (we all need a little context):
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!b
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
This text of this Psalm lay at the core of Jeremiah Wright's sermon the Sunday following 11 September 2001. Wright uses this Psalm to try to explain to his congregation just where God was in all this carnage. He provides Bill Moyer with some background:
September 11th, I was in Newark. September 11th, I was trapped in Newark 'cause when they shut down the air system I couldn't get back to Chicago. September 11th, I looked out the window and saw the second plane hit from my hotel window.
Alright, I had members who lost loved ones both at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center. So, I know the pain. And I had to preach to them Sunday. I had to preach. They came to church wanting to know where is God in this.
And so, I had to show them using that Psalm 137, how the people who were carried away into slavery were very angry, very bitter, moved and in their anger from wanting revenge against the armies that had carried them away to slavery, to the babies. That Psalm ends up sayin' "Let's kill the baby-let's bash their heads against the stone."
So, now you move from revolt and revulsion as to what has happened to you, to you want revenge. You move from anger with the military to taking it out on the innocents. You wanna kill babies. That's what's going on in Psalm 137.
And that's exactly where we are. We want revenge. They wanted revenge.
God doesn't wanna leave you there, however. God wants redemption. God wants wholeness. And that's the context, the biblical context I used to try to get people sitting again, in that sanctuary on that Sunday following 9/11, who wanted to know where is God in this?
What is God saying? What is God saying? Because I want revenge.
The Moyers interview then cuts to sermon tape from which the 20 second sound bites have been looped round and round - clever propaganda to promote a talking point. We owe it to ourselves to be better informed, to be slow to judgment.
REVEREND WRIGHT (SERMON TAPE): The people of faith have moved from the hatred of armed enemies, these soldiers who captured the king, those soldiers who slaughtered his son and put his eyes out, the soldiers who sacked the city, burned the towns, burned the temples, burned the towers, and moved from the hatred for armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents, the babies, the babies .
"Blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock."
And that my beloved is a dangerous place to be.
Yet, that is where the people of faith are in 551 BC and that is where far too many people of faith are in 2001 AD.
We have moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. We want revenge. We want paybacks and we don't care who gets hurt in the process.
Wright now explains what further led him to this sermon, what inspired the words that are soon to be spoken:
I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox news. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox news commentators to no end. He pointed out. You see him John? A white man he pointed out -an Ambassador!
He pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true. America's chickens are coming home to roost!
Reverend Wright's thoughts flow seamlessly from one event to another, events separated by 2550 years (the Hebrew Diaspora by the Babylonians of 551 BC and 9-11-2001).
And they flow to the truth known to W. H. Auden and to Malcolm X.
I and the public know
What all school children learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Malcolm X responded to a request to say something about the assassination of President Kennedy: "America's chickens are coming home to roost!" In response to the ensuing public/editorial outrage, Elijah Muhammad ordered Malcolm to be silent for 90 days.
Fox News advises us that they have looked at the transcripts of the Peck interview and nowhere find the phrase "chickens are coming home to roost". While telling us exactly what was not said, they fail to tell us what in fact WAS said.
Following the flow of thought, Reverend Wright is NOT crediting former Ambassador Peck with having made the "chickens coming home to roost" comment. But that Peck enumerated U.S. policy decisions in Iraq, Panama, Granada, and Haiti that resulted in the deaths of many innocents.
The closest documentation to what the Peck statements that resonated with Wright appears in a yahoo.com discussion group email dated Sept . 15, 2001:
Did anyone else catch this on Sat.?Peck has served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, I don't recall when.Channel 5 made the mistake of bringing him on as a talking head.
He said the U.S. never slammed a plane into thousands of innocent civilians because the U.S. didn't have to.
He said the U.S. in its war against terror had better start respecting others' rights.
He said the no-fly zone in Iraq was not in the UN agreement that ended Desert Storm; it was simply imposed by the U.S. and "the former Great Britain."
He said the U.S. lawlesly imposed its will on Panama, Granada and Haiti.
The Ch. 5 guy got on his high horse and said people like Chamberlain in WW II had followed the letter of the law and let the madman Hitler go on, but Peck stuck to his guns. He must figure he's old now and will risk his life to speak the truth -- a sentiment I well understand.
In an essay entitled "Nothing Will Ever be the Same" Paul Krassner paraphrases from Ambassador Peck's Fox news appearance, noting that Peck was unceremonious dismissal. Krassner makes note of a list of examples Peck had given:
On the Fox News Network, Edward Peck, former ambassador to Iraq, was an unusually outspoken guest. He said the terrorists acted as they did not because America is a freedom loving country, but because they feel the U.S. has been treating them the same way throughout the years--bombing Iraq for the last ten years whenever they felt like it--and adding to the list (Take Panama, take Haiti, take Cambodia) before he was cut off and dismissed.
Some who saw the Peck interview were outraged:
It is difficult to believe that Mr. Peters and I heard the same Fox News interview with the former ambassador to Mauretania, Edward Peck ("Tilting at Windmills," October 2001). Instead of the mentioned contempt exhibited by David Asman, the interviewer, I felt that Mr. Peck was treated with admirable restraint, considering that his views could be considered highly inimical to the U.S., particularly in the aftermath of the atrocities at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Peck blamed the U.S. for perceived transgressions against Iraq. His claim that the U.S. constantly violates Iraqi territory by monitoring flights over that nation ignores the conditions of the agreement that ended the Persian Gulf conflict allowing such overflights.
X X X X X X Silver Spring, Md.Washington Monthly – Dec 2001
Reverend Wright now continues with his own jeremiad, recitations of terrorist U.S. government acts against a raft of peoples, over centuries, and across continents. These are NOT identical to the instances cited by Peck. They are however, illustrations depicting a pattern of violent aggression, death, and destruction.
We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism!
We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism!
We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.
We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers.
We bombed Gadafi's home and killed his child.
"Blessed are they who bash your children's head against a rock!"
We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living.
We bombed a plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people; mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home.
We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye! Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians - not soldiers - people just trying to make it day by day.
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant?
Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yards! America's chickens are coming home to roost!
Violence begets violence.
Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism.
A White Ambassador said that y'all not a Black Militant. Not a Reverend who preaches about racism. An Ambassador whose eyes are wide open, and who's trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised--
Ambassador Peck has been consistent in his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy. In an interview with Amy Goodman, he reiterated the theme of U.S. government terrorism:
Speaking in July 2006 to syndicated US radio news programme Democracy Now!, Peck said that:
“In 1985, when I was the Deputy Director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism, they asked us — this is a Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism; I was the Deputy Director of the working group — they asked us to come up with a definition of terrorism that could be used throughout the government. We produced about six, and each and every case, they were rejected, because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities.
So what is it that the White Ambassador (and not a Black militant) said? An ambassador who's trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised?
Violence begets violence.
Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism; (or in other words)
Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return; (or in other words)
America's chickens are coming home to roost!
(added June 30, 2008): Sometimes one picture is worth one thousand words.