My Own Reverend Wright

06/17/2008 08:04 am 08:04:53 | Updated May 25, 2011

It's a truism by now: "The personal is political." The political is personal, too. Very personal.

During the uproar in March over the incendiary remarks of Barack Obama's longtime preacher, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama supporters implored people to be empathetic, saying "Don't we all have someone like that in our lives?" But no one gave a concrete example.

I've got one. A good friend of mine is now publicly representing the faction of "Clintonites" that are threatening to not vote in November or to vote for John McCain rather than fall in line behind Barack Obama.

Yeesh. As I assume Obama did vis-à-vis Wright, for the last week I have been crossing my fingers that no one connects the dots between me and my friend, out of fear of "guilt by association." I never gave Obama the benefit of the doubt on the guilt-by-association thing, but now that it's happening to me, I do.

Seeing my friend, who I know to be liberal-to-moderate, on a FOX News Channel segment called "Dems Divided" talking about the splinter group he founded, which is named after a predatory feline creature, made me recoil the way I imagine Obama did when he first saw the tape. It was my own "God damn America!" mortification moment. (Although my friend does look very good on TV. It was a little like watching a Leni Riefenstahl film. Looks good aesthetically, but think about what she's doing!)

The differences in the particulars between Obama's Rev. Wright and "my" Rev. Wright are, of course, many. For starters, I am not the "spiritual mentee" of my friend. I haven't known him for anything like 20 years -- but, I think I'm probably friends with him in an equally close way, one in which Obama and Wright are not.

I was about to write that my friend's views are also not as "out there" as Wright's, but I have to think about that.

Is it SANE for a Democrat to back McCain after the Republican-induced nightmare of the last eight years? As painful and prolonged as the schism has been within the Democratic Party for the past several months, as annoyed as I've been with some of Obama's supporters (such as the entire MSNBC on-air rogue's gallery), and as much as I deplore what happened with Michigan and Florida, I still always liked Barack, and I think he's a mighty fine candidate who I now, as of last Saturday, am supporting.

I went to my first Obama event last night. I'm sick of being in a chronically aggrieved position, as Hillary supporters have been for months. I want and need to be positive and excited again. I want to be available to the appealing Hopey McChange, not the twisted, angry Oldy McSame.

I mean, at some point you can regret things that happened, but get over it and move forward. Right?

When we talked this evening, my friend explained that, for him, this IS moving forward. This is constructive to him, because he is staging a heartfelt protest of what he sees as a transgression against the democratic process perpetrated by the DNC. Just as I can't live with waking up in November to a President McCain, my friend can't stomach what he sees as voter disenfranchisement akin to what happened with the outcome of Gore v. Bush. He feels passionately that this is the right thing to do.

This friend and I watched the debates together, and howled at Obama's insulting "You're, you're likeable enough, Hillary" together. We bemoaned the unfair treatment Clinton received from the media (while it was happening, not after all the damage had been done). We supported our candidate. That far we went together. Just as Obama went a certain distance down the road with his pastor.

So when I read on Politico that my friend met face-to-face with McCain this weekend and they got along swell, it was like my own "Rev. Wright Q&A at the National Press Club" forehead-slapper.

But I'm not running for president. I'm just a Democrat trying to move forward. So even though I must denounce his most inflammatory (in this case to fellow Democrats) public statements, I get to stay friends with "my Reverend Wright." It's an experiment in (Christian?) tolerance: I'm going to work hard to get along with my unlike-minded friend in a way I couldn't with Bush supporters in '00 and '04 or Obama supporters last month.

And you know what? I hope that somehow Obama can stay friends with his Reverend Wright. Because real friends can agree to disagree.

Within reason.