Reinhard’s Country Right And Wrong

The Oregonian‘s David Reinhard had to weigh in with one of his usual hot-off-the-conservative-fax-machine editorials inveighing against Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor who married Barack and Michelle Obama and Barack Obama’s speech last Tuesday that tried to both put some distance between his and his pastor’s views as well as putting them into some historical context.

In his editorial, Reinhard asserted that Wright’s charges were “Hate-filled paranoid rants,” and went on to call them “anti-American.” That’s one of the charges that people like Reinhard love.

And, for the first time in quite a while, the Oregonian published my response last Friday:

Criticism not anti-American

How brave David Reinhard must be to label the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., who spent six years in the Marines and the Navy, as “anti-American” (“Who is Jeremiah Wright Jr.? Who is Barack Obama?,” March 20).

Reinhard’s blood must run red, white and blue to consider someone “anti-American” for criticizing the country he served as a member of the military.

Or perhaps it’s just another case of McCarthyite name-calling, like thepeople who denigrated Sen. John Kerry and other veterans for saying that the Vietnam War was wrong.

DARREL PLANT Southeast Portland

I hadn’t expected the letter to get published, but even before it had, I got an emailed response from Reinhard himself:

Tell me, what is asking God to damn America? I think it qualifies as anti-American.

To which I replied with a somewhat fuller quote from Wright:

“God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

So, you’re OK with the idea of America treating black Americans as less than human and with American exceptionalism around the world?

And I thought that was as far as it was going to go. But apparently he had some time to chew on it this weekend.

No, Darrel, I’m not Ok wtih treating black Americans as less than human, which is certainly not today the “idea of America”. I am OK with American exceptionalism around the world.

Exceptionalism is an attitude that leads to racism and nationalism. If you think you’re better than everyone else, then it’s no big deal to clear others out of your way if you get the feeling they looked at you cross-eyed or if they have some resource you feel would be better put to use by yourself.

So much for “all men are created equal,” in the Reinhardland.

When Nathan saw the letter he asked me how often I wrote to the Oregonian and how often they got published. This was part of my reply:

Back in my intemperate youth, I wrote at least a couple of times a month. And in the days when I was a warm commodity (book review, legislative run, occasional mentions in Jonathan Nicholas’s column) I’d get a letter published every few attempts.

But competition for letter space has greatly increased since the early ’90s. Between email submissions and a larger population their volume is up 500% or something of the sort. Combine that with a smaller allocation of column space, and it’s a feeding frenzy.

Truth be told, I started my blog because I got tired of writing letters to the Oregonian that never got published. I’d spend a couple of hours (or more) crafting something, I’d have to cut a whole bunch of it to make it fit their length requirement, and then it would disappear into oblivion. I just hated that. So back in August 2003, when they published an editorial cartoon mocking the 15,000 elderly French people who died in a heat wave that summer in the wake of the “Freedon [sic] Fries” campaign, and didn’t see fit to publish my letter about it, I got the idea to start the blog. Since I couldn’t seem to stop myself from writing the letters, I figured at least someone might stumble across them on the Internet.

This is the first one they’ve published in quite a while. I see about 40 emails to the letters address in my Out box since early 1985. So the ratio is pretty low. About standard for a crank. I’ve made over 800 blog posts in the same period, and most of those are on political topics.