Monday, March 17, 2008

Liberty versus Justice

America promises liberty and justice. But achieving one often comes at the expense of the other. In a country as conservative as the United States, when the aims of liberty conflict with those of justice, power elites usually decide in favor of liberty. Senator Obama himself testified to this when he said that the decision he regrets the most was voting in favor of congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. The Illinois senator did not act on behalf of justice for a brain damaged patient. Instead he advanced the cause of media savvy cultural conservatives who saw the case as a proxy for anti-abortion interests.

In a vigorous exercise of geopolitical spelunking, Temple3 has been connecting the stalactites of Black American history with the stalagmites of African experiences. His ability to cross boundaries of ethics, science, history, and political economy has inspired me to see connections between the Pastor Jeremiah Wright imbroglio with African attempts at decolonization.

Since the days of William Jennings Bryan, progressives have usually tattooed social justice with racialism and nativism. Whether it was anti-immigrant or anti-Catholic sentiment, popular advocates for the lower classes usually entertained some degree ethnic or racial hierarchy and exclusion. Even in this current season, John Edwards, the only candidate to speak boldly about class divide, also alluded to the notion of his being the most credible Democratic candidate by virtue of being a white man who could appeal to rural voters. Oddly enough, his wife simultaneously expressed the Ferraro gene by saying that Mr. Edwards was disadvantaged because he is a white man.

Pastor Wright's pronouncements are the latest inducement for mainstream America to emerge from its state of oneirism. With the unpleasant reminders in such proximity, it is doubtful that the United States could ever follow Germany in actively recovering suppressed memories of past violations. Indeed, as a settler nation, America is the model for South Africa's white citizens who use appeals to liberty and individual responsibility to counter government mandates to improve material conditions of apartheid's black victims.

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