Monday, September 29, 2008


At the end of his column in today's New York Times (entitled "How McCain Wins"), William Kristol suggests a possible future line of attack for John McCain:

... On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words "middle class." The Obama campaign even released an advertisement trumpeting McCain's omission.

The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama's eloquent memoir, "Dreams From My Father." There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend Wright's church -- a passage entitled "A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness."

So when Biden goes on about the middle class on Thursday, Palin might ask Biden when Obama flip-flopped on Middleclassness.

Answer: he didn't.

I'm looking at the passage in question in Obama's book -- this righty blogger has transcribed it -- and it's not a critique of being middle-class at all.

There was one particular passage in Trinity's brochure that stood out, though, a commandment more self-conscious in its tone, requiring greater elaboration. "A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness," the heading read. "While it is permissible to chase 'middleincomeness' with all our might," the text stated, those blessed with the talent or good fortune to achieve success in the American mainstream must avoid the "psychological entrapment of Black 'middleclassness' that hypnotizes the successful brother or sister into believing they are better than the rest and teaches them to think in terms of 'we' and 'they' instead of 'US'!"

Are you materially successful? Fine. Go for it. Just don't get to the point where you think you're better than someone who's less successful, or where you imagine that poorer people aren't your concern. That's what Reverend Wright is saying here.

Sounds Christian to me.

What follows is more of the same. It's about breaking down class barriers to build a community:

...there was no denying that the church had a disproportionate number of black professionals in its ranks: engineers, doctors, accountants, and corporate managers....

At some point, though, they all told me of having reached a spiritual dead end; a feeling, at once inchoate and oppressive, that they'd been cut off from themselves. Intermittently, then more regularly, they had returned to the church, finding in Trinity some of the same things every religion hopes to offer its converts: a spiritual harbor and the chance to see one's gifts appreciated and acknowledged in a way that a paycheck never can; an assurance, as bones stiffened and hair began to gray, that they belonged to something that would outlast their own lives -- and that, when their time finally came, a community would be there to remember.

... the redistribution [of values] didn't run in just a single direction from the schoolteacher or the physician who saw it as a Christian duty to help the sharecropper or the young man fresh from the South adapt to big-city life. The flow of culture now ran in reverse as well; the former gang-banger, the teenage mother, had their own forms of validation -- claims of greater deprivation, and hence authenticity, their presence in the church providing the lawyer or doctor with an education from the streets. By widening its doors to allow all who would enter, a church like Trinity assured its members that their fates remained inseparably bound, that an intelligible "us" still remained.

"The teenage mother"! You mean like, er, Bristol Palin?

Listening to people who haven't led exemplary lives -- you mean like Jesus hanging out with Mary Magdalene?

Yeah, go ahead, Johnny Mac -- ask about that passage. Please.

No comments: