today in black history

July 18, 2023

Bishop Stephen G. Spottswood of the African American Episcopal Zion Church, a fierce civil rights advocate, was born in 1897 in Boston.

Discipline of the Brothers

POSTED: November 17, 2008, 12:00 am

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Much has been made of the magnificent discipline of the Barack Obama campaign apparatus in pursuit of the presidency. In all accounts, the adjectives were glowing. But little has been said about the amazing restraint displayed by potentially controversial Obama supporters. Their active or energetic verbal advocacy would have served as fertile grounds through which desperate detractors in search of the tiniest morsels of taint would certainly have trolled endlessly for contaminates.

Except for a lapse moment and an open microphone, Rev. Jesse Jackson was mostly on good behavior throughout the campaign. It had been widely expected that Jesse would be unable to resist inappropriate entry into either the policy or political debate surrounding the campaign. However, Jackson stayed in his lane and was a net plus to the overall effort. All Obama supporters should be appreciative of the Reverend’s righteous behavior.

Even Rev. Al Sharpton was a bastion of cautionary aplomb. Big Al held down his position with notable distinction. While not taking a back seat on any issue of local injustice he steered clear of inserting himself into the national debate and as such offered no competition to Obama for the mantle of Black thought or antics. Throughout the campaign there were many instances when Obama’s opponents carelessly cruised down the lanes of white racism, providing an opportunity where Rev. Al might ordinarily have pounced. But he laid quietly in the cut patiently, mindful of what was at stake on November 4th. Big ups Al; you have our absolute respect.

Then there was Louis. How hard the opposition worked and stoked to unearth Louis. Rev. Jeremiah Wright was on the grill being roundly basted and lambasted by the tormenting fires from the deepest hottest hells of Republicanism. Searing the flesh of Wright was sweet for the opposition. Just the red meat they cried out for. And then Father Phleger surfaced. The Republican base thrashed about salivating in a ritual intended to take on viral proportions amongst the general public, leading to the undoing of Obama the Muslim. Not quite some shouted…we need Louis. With Louis in the brew the ultimate intoxication would be certain.

Rev. Jesse was too acceptable. And he had not stepped far enough out of bounds for a thorough public excoriation. And Rev. Al had skipped across his tightrope without so much as a stumble. Rev. Wright had erred badly and was thus offered up as a sacrificial lamb; Father Phleger added fuel to the fire ignited by Wright. Phleger made the fire “white hot.” The religious right had a bundle—but not quite enough to make its anti-GOD ergo anti-American argument. The deal closer was Minister Louis Farrakhan. Together with Wright and Phleger, Farrakhan would complete Obama’s “Chicago Trinity of Sacrilege.”

But Louis declined the invitation and would not take the bait. He demurred with a charming smile. He simply would not play. And for his adversaries the silence was painful. Surely Obama knew him. Surely they had met. Surely Obama had attended “The Million Man March.” Surely Farrakhan knew best what they all secretly whispered, “Obama is a Muslim.” Flushing out Louis represented the completion that never came.

Minister Louis Farrakhan was uncharacteristically disciplined. He shut right down. He said and did nothing that might be unfairly used as a weapon to upset Mr. Obama’s chances for success. And because he is known to be so unbridled and at times caustic and bombastic, his tepid actions conveyed a deep sense of concern and affection for both the candidate and the nation. Imagine that, Louis Farrakhan the patriot.

So what now? Will these leaders, Jackson, Sharpton and Farrakhan who stepped out of character for the good of the many be kept out of the new political picture? Will they be treated as outcasts to satisfy the lingering blood lust of hate mongers? Or will there be a path back to the family table for those who make huge contributions though not universally endorsed? These leaders have followers and supporters who are every bit as, or more, humanistic and American as the self proclaimed stewards of piety who denounce them. The hypocrites should certainly not have the last word.

Answers to these questions will resound. Opening wide the doors of full participation to views other than one’s own are at the core of democracy seated right next to “freedom of religion.” A stern pronouncement that all of our freedoms are in tact and robustly protected by our government is one of the many changes we need now.

Mischievously, we are all left to wonder if Jesse, Al and Louis had executed the ultimate level of discipline and unity. Just imagine that after the dust ups over Rev. Wright and Father Phleger they all got together and entered a pact of “silence until victory.” Wow! Nah! Maybe?

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