Things Americans Don't Want To Talk About
One of the oddities of the emerging media meta-narrative about Jeremiah Wright is the way it is now readily assumed by the broad range of talking heads that Wright's recent comments have only proven the charge that he is deeply "anti-American," embodied in the endlessly repeated "God damn America" sound bite.
There's no doubt that a lot of Wright's views are indeed deeply critical of America, even pugnaciously (and thus disconcertingly) so, and some -- particularly his apparent absorption of racial theories regarding the spread of HIV -- are dubious at best. Considering Wright's contentious performance yesterday at the National Press Club, one really can't blame Obama for washing his hands of the man.
But it's also apparent that the larger context in which Wright condemns American behavior -- the reason he shouts "God damn America" -- in fact reflects hard historical realities that Americans, and the American media especially, really don't want to talk about, let alone confront the present-day consequences thereof.
And doing so, evidently, is now proof of being "anti-American."
Among the things, evidently, that we're not supposed to bring up because it interrupts Peggy Noonan's fantasy vision of an American history populated mostly by noble 49ers and industrious Henry Fords, are the following:
- The genocide committed against Native Americans.
- The "lynching era" and Jim Crow.
- Sundown towns.
- The forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
It's human, of course, to want to think of yourself as a good person, and your country as a good country. Which is why it's human of white Americans -- the descendants and beneficiaries of the people who perpetrated these atrocities -- to want to forget that these things happened. And they want to believe that because these events were in the past, and they took some initial steps toward reconciliation 40 years ago, the issues should have gone away, and if they haven't, well, it's the victims' fault.
The victims and their descendants, however, cannot forget that these things happened, because they continue to live with the legacy of them every day. And white Americans should not delude themselves into thinking that they could or should have forgotten, either. Ask any Native American living on a reservation, or any descendant of Japanese camp internees, or any African American, whether they can forget these things.