Friday, May 16, 2008

Teaching Moments

Now that the Wright business is behind us (yes I know they'll swiftboat Obama using him), I do want to note the one thing that left me irked. I’ve worked with church people on a number of projects, and over time they introduced me to the concept of the “teaching moment,” an event or a comment that serves as a springboard to the elucidation of a difficult idea.

When he was put onto these national platforms, with all lights on him, Jeremiah Wright was given a teaching moment, one in which he could have introduced the American Hegemony Project into the public discourse. As Glenzilla likes to point out, this topic is simply not permitted by the Serious People who serve as gatekeepers.

The “chickens come home to roost” sermon was about American imperialism, following the theme of Chalmer Johnson's Blowback. It was a really fine sermon, exploring issues of American exceptionalism in a striking way. If, when the klieg lights came up, he had translated those ideas from the language of an inner city pulpit into secular foreign policy speak he could possibly have influenced the public dialogue. And, just by the way, he could have refuted the stereotyping taking place, as he did on Moyers.

Instead, he chose to reinforce the stereotype.

Update: To be clear, the formation of al qaeda and the WTC attacks are precisely what Chalmers Johnson writes about. Al qaeda came together as an organization because of US and Saudi support for them in Afghanistan, through the Pakistani intelligence service. (See Steve Coll's Ghost Wars)