Editor’s note: the following is another in a series of guest posts authored by various contributors who’ve been invited to write on the topics of their choice for Pappillon. Read on to the words of Flick and find yourself challenged to think critically about mass media, politics and the trustworthiness (or perhaps Truthiness?) of government in the United States – as opposed to just “buying into” the “party line.” Flick reviews the words of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in the context of an Obama Presidency that is now 12 months old, and against the historical backdrop of what one might describe as some of the “shadier” dealings of the US Government.
We’re nearly one year into President Barack Obama’s government, and I hope that the months that have passed will allow a more dispassionate, reasoned evaluation of the presidential election of 2008. Can we evaluate the veracity of the popular understanding of components of the Obama/McCain contest without the high emotion and polemic that followed in real-time the twists and turns of the campaign? I think so. In this short post, I will revisit the infamous statements of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and the mainstream media’s reporting of the same. I’ll take Rev. Wright’s comments at face value and then test their truthfulness against the historical record, while also reviewing how they were covered by the press.
Any random sampling of US citizens might deliver the resulting description of Rev. Wright as a “racist minister who hates America.” It’s my belief that, given the chance to espouse their views on Wright (assuming they had some), those polled would be able to recite – line and verse – their “party’s” take on whatever detail of Wright’s statements is in question. But I sincerely doubt that they could critically evaluate those same details against the historical record and devoid of political bias, regardless of their ultimate position on whether or not Obama was affiliated with Wright and his America-hating ways.
Furthermore, I believe it highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find people who would be able to tell you anything about the Jeremiah Wright controversy other than it involved the acerbic phrase,”God Damn America.”
So, instead of rehashing the old campaign-centric debates, lets take a look at what Wright actually said (writes words, in blue, are taken from such reliable sources as Wikipedia). In a sermon, Wright first makes the distinction between God and governments, and points out that many governments in the past have failed:
Wright then states:
The Pearl Harbor issue is debatable at best. The one to really look at in this section is the Gulf of Tonkin. Declassified documents show that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident – the event used by the Johnson administration as moral cover for America’s full-scale entry into the Vietnam War – was fabricated. The US Government doesn’t even bother to deny the truth (that the Incident did not take place as originally claimed), but rather simply lumps it in with other unfortunate transgressions made by previous administrations and US leaders. As far as Mandela goes, the evidence of the CIA’s cooperation with the South African government on the imprisoning of Mandela for 28 years – 28 years – is considerable. [Ed.: you’ll have to take Flick at his word here, as he didn’t include any links to the evidence.]
In my semi-professional opinion, this is the meatiest portion of Wright’s diatribe, and Tuskegee is one of the most shameful acts of deception and cruelty this country has ever committed – and against its own citizens, at that. If you don’t know the history, agents of the US Government (acting through the U.S. Public Health Service) recruited 399 impoverished African-American sharecroppers with syphilis for research related to the natural progression of the untreated disease, in hopes of justifying treatment programs for blacks. In this Dr. Josef Mengele-like research project, the U.S. Government allowed the study participants to suffer for upwards of 40 years without treatment, just to see what would happen. Even after it was determined that penicillin was an effective treatment for syphilis, the study continued and the subjects remained UNTREATED, for no appreciable reason. Unaware they had been affected, these men went on with their lives, in many cases spreading the disease to their wives and children. This isn’t fiction that forms the basis for some conspiracy theory, nor is it ancient history. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment (also known as the Tuskegee syphilis study or Public Health Service syphilis study) was a documented clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama, by the U.S. Public Health Service. It is also something that the US Government waited to acknowledge and apologize for until 1997.
On May 16, 1997, President Bill Clinton formally apologized and held a ceremony for the Tuskegee study participants: “What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry … To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.” As has been reported previously, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study significantly damaged the trust of the black community toward public health efforts in the United States, and provided clear evidence of the ability of our Government to do intentional harm to its own citizens while at the same time denying that anything was amiss!
But moving on, we KNOW that President Nixon lied about Cambodia’s neutrality during the Vietnam War. We KNOW that Bush/Reagan/North lied and were pardoned for Iran-Contra. And at this point even Bush and Cheney admitted that there was no effective collaboration or even link between Al Queada and Saddam Hussein. These are all facts…truths…and proof that the Government of these here United States has lied to its own people.
But back to Rev. Wright: it’s no accident that he slips an HIV-bomb into the sermon. Alas, it’s also no accident that this reference was the only one to enjoy wide-spread media coverage. But rather than report on Wright’s accusations about HIV in the context of other examples of the US Gov’t’s willingness to turn the cross hairs of destruction upon this nation’s citizens, the mainstream media carved-up the Wright sermon and omitted all but the HIV accusation, which was then dismissed as unproven rhetoric. You see, the Government of the United States of America doesn’t do that sort of thing…..Hitler’s Germany allowed such horrors…Russia did that sort of thing…but never in AMERICA could such ghastly deeds occur at the government’s own hand! Except, of course, for Tuskegee, MK ULTRA, human radiation and other examples of government-sanctioned experiments on human subjects.
He spoke about the government’s rationale for the Iraq War:
It is this lack of critical evaluation and analysis that causes me the greatest concern, because it is reflected at the micro-level by discussions between neighbors, co-workers and even drinking buddies at the local brew pub. Rev. Wright raises what should be considered seriously-damaging events from US history that portray Government as an agent of misinformation, manipulation, or outright immorality and unethical behavior (especially in the case of Tuskegee). This is not happening, however, and in writing this piece, I hope to challenge my neighbors to think critically on issues of great import to this country; to stop regurgitating the preformed ideas of their respective political parties and realize that silent actors within the most powerful branches of the US Government are able to act with impunity on a global scale, whilst avoiding detection by miring the common folk in endless, circular debates about whether or not Barack Obama did enough to denounce the statements of his former pastor, clarify his relationship with Wright, or respond rhetorically with his view of America under the US Government (such as with the speech, “A More Perfect Union“).
I appreciate the opportunity to share my views with you, Dear Reader, via this interesting and, at times, controversial blog – Pappillon. I hope to further develop the themes of this post at a later date, and look forward to your feedback.
[Ed. Thanks, Flick! Readers, please leave feedback as comments, that, while moderated, will be published as quickly as possible.]