Monday, May 05, 2008

Peggy's not mad about the pastor

I was glad to see that in this column Peggy Noonan, one of my favorite writers even when she's wrong, expressed her lack of outrage about Rev. Nathaniel Wright. It's not that she agrees with him; she disagrees at a rather profound level. "But I am finding it hard to feel truly upset about what Mr. Wright has said," she writes. "I do not feel a sense of honest anger or violation at his remarks, in part because I don't think his views carry deep implications for our country." She can certainly understand black anger, and reminds us that it is hardly a new phenomenon. But she claims that anger, while it can be used for short-term political gains, is "essentially unhelpful and impractical." She compares the prevalence in a time that has seen remarkable advances (though certainly short of utopian gains) to the insistence of some Irish-Americans on reveling in old anti-English attitudes despite the fact that no Englishman has ever oppressed them as a species of ethnic loyalty that satisfies some messy inner need but doesn't leave people wanting to punch somebody's nose.

I don't know if I'm quite as sanguine about hate being impractical. I'm neither black nor Irish, so I can't speak for those identities. I got old stories from my grandmother about anti-German prejudice during WW I (when my grandfather wasn't allowed to enlist largely because of his last name) but she tried to use the stories to teach us never to succumb to that kind of prejudice or to bitterness. It seemed long ago to me and still does. Maybe I can understand bitterness, but I can hope that it will fade as the generations that most embodied it fades.

No comments: