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Athena

June 2008

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Jun. 3rd, 2008

Athena

A Dark Horse of a Different Color


By Ken Puck


Who is Barack Hussein Obama? One can read his autobiography and, while coming to appreciate his agile mind and his formidable eloquence, learn very little about his worldview. Is he truly postracial? Does he really want to be president of both red and blue states? What kind of “change” would he bring to this country?

His curriculum vitae is well known. Raised in Hawaii and then Indonesia by a single mother who died of breast cancer, nurtured by his maternal grandparents, attended Punahou School in Hawaii, Columbia, Harvard Law (editor of law review), Illinois State Legislature, U.S. Senate. A wife, Michelle, and two daughters.

A self-confessed Christian, there is some suggestion that, during his stay in Indonesia with his Muslim father, he may have practiced Islam as a child. While the question seems moot, the issue of takfir (Muslim apostasy) could arise in the course of an Obama presidency. So far the Muslim world seems content not to address that issue and instead support his candidacy with gusto.

But these are dry facts and give us little insight into the heart of Obama. To begin our journey into the interior, let’s start with some old chestnuts. A man is known by the company he keeps. Birds of a feather flock together. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

A Man Is Known by the Company He Keeps

What company has Barack Obama been keeping? Well, we know, because we’ve been told by Barack any number of times, that he started his working life as a “community organizer.” (It is worth noting that in so doing he turned his back on a beckoning lucrative career in the law or possibly in finance, a decision that serves as something of a guidepost to his philosophy.) So what exactly does a “community organizer” on the South Side of Chicago do? He works for an organization run by Saul Alinsky, an avowed Red agitator, to “mold” citizens into voting blocs. Salary? $13,000 and an old car. Lean and energetic, Barack made his bones pressuring government for more money for social programs and in due course proved himself worthy of the support of the take-no-prisoners Democratic machine.

At various points thereafter he acquired a family and, in a murky episode, an expensive home -- something of an anomaly for someone of his ascetic temperament. He soon entered politics as a state representative in Springfield from his Chicago district, in which quest he was materially aided by, among others, William Ayers (“Guilty as hell and free as a bird!”) and Bernadine Dohrn, domestic terrorists extraordinaire whose exploits have been colorfully documented by a forgiving press. These friendships bothered him not.

Along the way he went on the “Million Man March” to Washington with Minister Farrakhan, drummed up some $20,000 in funding for Father Michael Pleger (“Oh, my God! Where did you come from?”), and rubbed shoulders with Rashid Khalidi, an apologist for Palestinian extremism who now imparts his wisdom to inquiring minds at Columbia University.

And, of course, Jeremiah Wright needs no introduction. Barack’s pastor and “spiritual mentor” for over twenty years, his name has become a byword for racial intolerance.

All this is known and well -- indeed, lavishly -- documented by a sensation-seeking media.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

It can be argued that these associations would identify someone of leftish persuasion, whose inertial guidance system directs them to the view that America in its present form is a flawed enterprise and is in want of some sort of revamping. On what grounds can such a predicate be advanced?

Let’s start with the Revered Jeremiah Wright and his now-famous “black liberation theology” crusade. What, exactly, is “liberation theology,” and what are its antecedents? Advanced by a cadre of Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan priests in the 1970s, the movement owes its authorship in 1968 to one Gustavo Gutiėrrez Merino, now a professor of theology at Notre Dame University. Briefly, he posited that 1.) scarce economic goods are distributed unevenly; 2.) workers are exploited by capitalists; and 3.) the exploited need to take matters into their own hands (“a preferential option for the poor”).

Note that race is not central to the prescriptive; proposed originally to advance the fortunes of the downtrodden in Peru, and later elsewhere in Latin America, it was an artifact of the dialectic that the exploiters where white and the exploited were not. Now the poor were to gather in “base communities,” discuss their outcast lot in “pastoral circles,” realize by communing among themselves (with some helpful assists from priests whose consciousness had been appropriately raised) that they were the victims of avaricious men who extracted from them the “surplus value” of their labor and made a profit in consequence thereof. As these teachings gained a foothold throughout Latin America, a certain tension predictably arose between management and labor.

The logical extension of liberation theology, which rejects Papal authority, was for the oppressed themselves to take arms against a sea of troubles, and that is exactly what they did. In Nicaragua, in El Salvador, in Guatemala, and elsewhere throughout the Americas, the proletariat, in concert with certain of the intelligentsia and renegade elements of the Church, arose to change the ownership of the means of production, and a protracted struggle ensued -- the highlights of which include the Dirty War, Operation Condor, and the Iran-Contra affair. Latin America was in upheaval, and elements of the Catholic Church who had made their peace with Karl Marx answered the call. Che became the stuff of legend, while Fidel cheered.

The Maryknoll Connection

It is worth noting that one Catholic order, the Maryknolls, were conspicuous on the front lines of the conflicts in Latin America. Father Roy Bourgeois, an American Vietnam vet, freely owned that he carried water for the FMLN in El Salvador. He, along with three Maryknoll nuns, a lay person working with the Maryknoll order, and six other Maryknoll priests all were killed in action in Central America and, for their pains, have been made martyrs by the liberation theology movement. All this is in keeping with the Maryknoll narrative, which contends that Jesus Christ was, after all, a rebel.

All these efforts have not been in vain. Base communities now number over one million throughout the hemisphere. The Maryknolls operate a language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia -- probably the only Americans who are now welcome in that Communist regime. Every country in Spanish-speaking Latin America except Colombia and Mexico now has a left-leaning, socialist, or openly Marxist government, even as China, Russia, and Iran do a brisk arms business in our back yard. The Monroe Doctrine is now but an historical footnote.

It is hardly a coincidence that many of the profiteers in the dock are American, for indeed, Americans are the knights-errant of capitalism. Thus Leonardo Boff, a Franciscan pioneer of liberation theology and the architect of base communities, expressed great satisfaction when the Twin Towers were brought low: “For me, the terrorist attack of September 11 represents a shift towards a new humanitarian and world model.” George Bush operates a “fundamentalist terrorist state,” he asserts, and, he continues, capitalism must be made to collapse because it’s simply too destructive. 

Enter Black Liberation Theology, Stage Left

These views were transmogrified by the Reverend James Cone, today a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York and the father of Black liberation theology, by putting a black face on a mestizo body. In the Reverend Cone’s iteration, the oppressors/oppressed paradigm offered by Father Gutiėrrez becomes a white/black dichotomy. But note that the skin color juxtaposition is, again, an artifact of the argument: “Rich people” are by definition white, hence the oppressor is easily identified by the color of his skin. For added effect, Cone imagines Jesus to be Black, thus adding a “racist” spin on an otherwise economic argument. The media have seized on the racial aspect and ignored the essentially economic dimension of the thesis.

And what is that thesis? That white men, through slavery, profited at the expense of Blacks. That the fruits of their ill-gotten gains survive to this day, and that no attempt at restitution (read reparations) has even been tendered or offered. That the oppressors continue to grind Blacks under their heel and exploit them. And that Blacks must seek redress, essentially by any means necessary.

The Reverend Wright took up this cry when he inveighed from the pulpit against “economic mal-distribution” and “middle-classness.” Essentially, he was saying, Strive not for improvement in the oppressor’s (white man’s) world; rather, seek to change that world. His rejoicing in the fall of the Twin Towers, condign punishment for an America that knows no justice, echoes that of Father Boff. The United States is a mean place (as Michelle Obama reminds us) that, in the Reverend Wright’s opinion, must change its evil, capitalist, imperialist ways: It must be redeemed by radical social (read economic) change, and no enormity that may visited upon it in pursuit of that end is too great.

The loony stuff -- AIDS, drugs, and so on -- is added as an afterthought, perhaps as a sort of incitement to riot.

If It Walks Like a Duck...

Barack Obama listened to these incendiary philippics for twenty years. He sought counsel from the man who delivered them, and asked that worthy to perform a marriage ceremony, and, presumably, two baptisms. He gave tens of thousands of dollars to the church from which this vitriol emanated. He stated he could never disown the author of those broadsides, an endorsement that has proved stubbornly inconvenient and which has since had to be jettisoned to clear the path to the nomination. Now, in addition, he says he was never present when these anti-American harangues were loosed and that the whole business was news to him. To say that it’s hard to swallow these grudging disclaimers is a little like saying the USS Indianapolis is overdue in port.

But let’s focus on the real issue here. The heart of the matter is the fact that Barack Obama is not uncomfortable with economic arguments which put forth the idea that the American system of government is rotten to the core and needs to be changed. Strip away the bark, and you have someone who from the beginning worked for a committed Marxist and at the very least has not put earplugs in his ears when a steady stream of incendiary Marxist diatribes was directed at him. He is not much invested in the stock market, we learn from the Wall Street Journal, and apparently doesn’t appreciate the impact of taxes on business (and, ultimately, on the consumer). Rep. Maxine Waters, an Obama supporter, is already on record as saying that, Like Hugo Chavez, she would be willing to nationalize all the domestic oil companies.

In fine, is Obama a real Manchurian candidate?

Raise taxes on capital gains? No problem. Pull out of Iraq? America’s imperialist days are over. Single-payer health insurance? Hmm. Increased regulation of capital markets? For sure. Kill NAFTA? Where’s my pen? Recognize Cuba? Done deal. Aid to Colombia to fight FARC? In your dreams, buddy.

Barack preferred to work for non-profits, and it’s no accident. Now he may be planning a non-profit for all of us.

Trompe l’oeil

The racial thing is a feint, a misdirection play. The Democratic National Committee is desperate to paint the whole Jeremiah Wright/Michael Pfleger brouhaha as a racially tinged contretemps -- because everybody carries a little racial prejudice in his heart, knows he shouldn’t, and is ashamed to admit it. We all acknowledge that racism exists, it’s a known quantity, and we all can and should work together to excise it. After all, can’t we can forgive in others that which we recognize in ourselves? But, hey, c’mon, let’s not go there anymore, ‘cause it’s a distraction. And, besides, Barack burned that bridge, didn’t he? Well, okay, if we can’t put it behind us, let’s at least go ahead and have an open discussion about race.

But God forbid that the whole “liberation theology” canvas should be rolled out on the floor where everybody can see it, because most Americans still feel a little queasy about Marxism. The prodigious effort to turn our gaze away from this subtext, in which effort the media are entirely complicit, is a subreption. The details are in the descant.

“Guilt by association?” Barack a little too, uh, exotic? Your call.

Oh, and the publisher of the Reverend Cone’s books on Black liberation theology? You guessed it: The Maryknolls (Orbis Books).