A reader writes:
Condemning America in strong terms is indeed “a fundamental part of our literary tradition--as [it] should be of any vibrant democracy” as another reader suggests. The distinctions between Douglass and Wright are extraordinarily important to note, however: 1. Wright made these comments after racially discriminatory policies had been abolished- whatever the lingering realities of racism in society, they are not the official position of the US government as they were in Douglass’ case, 2. Wright, in many of the clips I heard, was not just attacking racial injustice, but was spouting ridiculous conspiracy theories to boisterous support from his large congregation, spreading divisive lies.
To criticize the government for policies we disagree with, to attack social ills in our midst, to draw attention to unpleasant elements of our history is fair game. Those clips of Dr. Wright represent something altogether different and largely indefensible.
If you accept that, then the more important issue as relates to Senator Obama is that his continued, official campaign association with Dr. Wright raises serious issues of judgment. Senator Obama has used his sound judgment as a defense against criticism of inexperience. I don’t think Obama believes the things Dr. Wright said, but that doesn’t really matter. Regardless of any positive attributes Dr. Wright and his church may also represent, Obama’s official association with Dr. Wright shows a significant lapse in judgment.