Friday, May 2, 2008

In Defense of Mr. Wright

I disagree with Rev. Jeremiah Wright on many things, but as an American I believe that he has the right to believe whatever he wants to believe and express those beliefs.

My father believed the rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression were important enough to risk his life in Europe in World War II. I believe those rights were important enough to risk my life in Vietnam.

I disagree with Rev. Wright that the U.S. government is responsible for the HIV virus, but as an historian I know that some of our ancestors gave small pox infected blankets to the Indians.

America has a long tradition of belief in conspiracies. Many believe there was some type of government involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the fall of the World Trade Towers. I disagree with those theories but see nothing wrong with people wanting to have such beliefs.

Wright's statements about 9/11 being punishment are consistent with a long religious tradition dating from biblical times. Religious leaders have often explained calamities as punishment for sins. I disagreed with Rev. Martin Luther King's statements about the Vietnam War, but I recognized that he had a duty to speak out against what he believed to be wrong.

One of the functions of religious leaders is to condemn what they believe people or nations are doing wrong. If we want to truly guarantee religious freedom, we must allow them to continue to do so even if we disagree with them.

If anyone is to blame in the controversy, it is Senator Barack Obama not Rev. Jeremiah Wright. No one held a gun to Obama's head and forced him to attend Rev. Wright's church for 20 years. If Obama had serious disagreements with Rev. Wright, Obama should have left the church instead of belatedly condemning Rev. Wright for holding various beliefs.

Obama's behavior is scary in someone who wants to be president. Presidents can become intoxicated with the powers of the presidency. A candidate who makes a practice of condemning those he disagrees with as a candidate might attempt to punish those who disagree with him if he's elected.

Rev. Wright's statements about HIV might not make sense to most of us, but many of those who are condemning him believe ideas that make even less sense.

For example, many of them believe that carbon dioxide which is less than 0.04% of the atmosphere has some type of magical power to control the temperature of the atmosphere. They believe this even though the process they talk about is inconsistent with the laws of physics and with scientific experiments. They claim the earth is getting significantly warmer, even though they admit that the average temperature they use changed by only 1F during the entire 20th Century and such change represents only a 0.17% increase in temperature. Such a small change could indicate nothing more than differences in equipment or differences in the characteristics of the sites containing the equipment.

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