Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Supporter Talking Point

My man PTCruiser posted something truthy and very humanizingly real over at Prometheus6 - well worth passing along. (I tend to pass along a lot of what PT writes anyway);

Many of the alleged pundits and so-called analysts who appeared on television and radio yesterday to offer their interpretation of Obama's speech were quick, in fact, too quick, to decry the analogy that Obama drew between his relationship with his maternal grandmother and his relationship with Rev. Wright. Many of the talking heads and far, far too many of the black males and females who appeared on these programs dismissed this connection because, as they stated, one can easily choose to find another minister as opposed to finding a replacement grandmother.

This line of argument has a certain logical appeal because the church one chooses to join is a matter of choice. That is, one can choose to belong to this church or that church or no church at all. Whereas one has no choice over selecting one's grandmother. People are continually born into a world that is always older than they are and they have no choice as to who is their grandmother. Natality and chance rule over this process.

The problem here is that this way of looking at Obama's decision tree ignores the very specific circumstances of his life and biography. When Obama likens Rev. Wright to an uncle and describes him as being a member of his family he is quite sincere and, more importantly, he is, psychologically speaking, correct. Obama's biological father was entirely absent during his formative years and he was dead by the time Obama became an adult. In addition, Obama had no contact with his father's male siblings and adult male cousins. In other words, he had no older adult black males in his life with whom he could form close and enduring bonds until he met Rev. Wright.

Consequently, when Obama says that Rev. Wright is like an uncle to him and that he could no more disown him than he could disown his maternal grandmother he is expressing a deeply felt and psychological true statement. Rev. Wright may or may not be crazy (I don't believe that he is crazy or intemperate although I disagree with him about the origins of the AIDS epidemic.) but he is someone who Obama has chosen to be his uncle.

What Obama did is no different from what tens of thousands of gays and lesbians have had to do when they were rejected by their families because of their sexual preferences. They went out and over time created their own families. I met a young sister, for example, in graduate school who later came out to me. She and I became very close friends and when she unexpectedly died several years ago I felt as if I had lost one of my own biological sisters. I miss her a great deal. She considered me to be a member of her family because her own family looked askance at her sexual preferences. The human need for familial association and acceptance is an evolutionary fact.

Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright should and must be seen in this context instead of through the superficial and grossly over simplified choice of simply switching ministers. His bond was with Rev. Wright and the community he found at Trinity United Church. Expecting or demanding him to sever those bonds would be tantamount to asking him to exile himself. Cutting off all of his ties to Rev. Wright would be exactly like asking him to kill his maternal grandmother. Blood may be thicker than mud but the ties that are created when you choose to call someone family are no less thick and lasting.
As many years as I've been estranged from my caucasian mother and her entire clan, people who've never had anything of consequence to do with me, I'd say this is right on time. Often as not, family is right where you make it.