July 6, 2006 - Issue 190

Freedom Rider
Obama Gets Religion
by BC Editor and Senior Commentator Margaret Kimberley

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“I agree with Senator Warner that the message should be ‘we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it.’" – Sen. Barack Obama, on the Senate floor.

It is always a bad sign when Democrats publicly proclaim agreement with Republicans. Lately Senator Barack Obama has given pause to progressives every time he makes one of his over rated and endlessly praised statements. If he isn’t supporting the occupation of Iraq he is campaigning for his mentor, the right wing Democrat in name only, Joe Lieberman. Most recently he gave credence to GOP talking points about progressives and religion.

According to Republicans, the lap dog corporate media, and now Barack Obama, the Democrats give religious Americans short shrift. In his keynote address at the Call to Renewal Conference Obama lectured us in typical Democratic Leadership Council style. He argued for the truthfulness of phony Republican premises, in this case, that Democrats don’t have enough of that old time religion and are mean to church people.

Obama was hopefully speaking for himself when he referenced “Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation…” Progressives have never been shy about making moral arguments and have never been shy about referencing religion. The groveling pundits and opportunistic politicians who claim a progressive bias against religion can never seem to actually quote anyone who wants to send religion packing. They hope that making a specious argument often enough will make it true.

The plea to “acknowledge the power of faith” is very one sided. It is only made on behalf of religious conservatives and now Obama has joined in the piling on. The notion that religion has been kicked out of the public square is not only false but has long been used to put and keep right wing political policies in place. The very existence of religious progressives is rarely even acknowledged and now that they are out of political power even Democrats give them the back of their hand.

Religious progressives are constantly advised to submit to right wing dictates when the subject of political debate is served up with religious piety. The triangulators use religion as their excuse to keep us in line and keep us quiet.

In his speech Obama said that progressives shouldn’t automatically reject conservative Christian views on abortion, and public school prayer meetings. He completely ignored the biggest moral elephant in America’s living room. For all his religious speechifying and testimony of his own spiritual journey, the Senator acted as though the occupation of Iraq was of no importance as a religious issue. When he isn’t ignoring the topic at convenient moments Obama continues the insulting Hillaryesque double talk about Iraq, no open ended commitment, but no talk of leaving until the traumatized Iraqis clean up Uncle Sam’s mess.

He always claims the high ground, pointing out that he was opposed before the blood shed began. Obama’s argument seems to be that the U.S. has to keep killing Iraqis because it already started the job. He was against it before he was for it.

The United States invaded Iraq, bombed its homes, incarcerated and tortured its people, destroyed its infrastructure, stole from its treasury, poisoned its environment with depleted uranium, and enriched private corporations at its expense. Even chief war propagandist Colin Powell famously said, “You break it, you bought it.” Obama tells Iraqis, “We broke it, just suck it up.”

It is amazing that Obama is the recipient of so much praise when he says so little. He is just less clumsy than Hillary Clinton with the “yes this, but on the other hand that” routine. He is very articulate and photogenic, so he gets more mileage than he deserves with his empty statements, obvious triangulations and lame put downs of progressives who for some reason insist on fawning over him.

Clinton isn’t as slick as she thinks but she knows where she needs help. Obama would be a great asset to her. His ability to appear enlightening would be invaluable. It is unfortunate that he doesn’t really live up to his billing.

If the junior Senator from Illinois wants to talk about God, he should certainly be obliged. Where does Barack Obama stand on the continued killing of Iraqis by the American government? Are his policies relating to the occupation informed by his spiritual beliefs, and if so how? Thousands of Americans have protested against this crime precisely because of their religious beliefs. Should those beliefs be respected, or are only Christian conservatives to be placated when religion is an issue?

Perhaps Obama should talk about the willingness of religious America to endorse government killing. Millions of people who want to end abortion and promote school prayer either shrug their shoulders or heartily endorse the killing of Iraqis, or Iranians or whomever else their government tells them should be eliminated. School prayer and abortion are easy outs. Questioning the faith that says murder is good as long as government is the perpetrator would be truly heroic. Of course, neither Obama or any other politician will raise that issue. People of faith will have to take that on themselves.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at freedomrider.blogspot.com.



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