Victor Davis Hanson
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Had Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., just said the following words last week in his speech on race in America, his problems with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, would probably now be over:

“You have all heard the racist and anti-American outbursts of my pastor Rev. Wright. They are all inexcusable. His speeches have forced me to re-examine my long association with Trinity United Church of Christ. And so it is with regret that I must now leave that church.

“I had heard similar extremist language of Rev. Wright in the past, and now apologize that I did not earlier end my attendance and contributions. Had I long ago expressed my strong objections to Rev. Wright’s views, such opposition might have suggested to him a more moderate path.

“But any good that now might come by remaining steadfast to Rev. Wright in consideration of our long past friendship is outweighed by the damage that would accrue from the sanction of his extremism that my continued attendance at his church might convey.

“I have loyalty aplenty, but it is to the truth, my country and universal tolerance, not to any one friend, however long and close our association.

“Allegations that America helped to cause -- and thus deserved -- 9/11 and that the U.S. government engineered the AIDS epidemic, as well as the pastor’s slurs against ‘white people’ and Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice, are not reflective of the views of mainstream black America and they have no place in any house of Christian worship.

“It would be easy to claim that Rev. Wright’s biases are no different from those voiced on occasion by our own family members, our pastors or political leaders in the public eye and therefore not so injurious to America. That defense of false equivalence, that ‘others do it all the time,’ is a common one offered by those who offend the public sensibility.

“It would also be easy to excuse my pastor’s outbursts by citing the long tragic history of the African-American experience. After all, every extremist outburst always has a particular and perhaps mitigating context.

“And finally it would be easy to suggest that the special landscape of the black church allows a sort of venting and role-playing unlike other common venues in America. It has often been a refuge from white oppression and a place to make sense of the tragic history of race relations that plague us still. That and the good that Rev. Wright has done could also be an extenuating circumstance.

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Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.