What We Have in Common


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And now for something related, but not about poetry:

I'm a big admirer of Cornel West. I've read most of his books. I watch every interview with him that I can find. When I taught some of his writings last summer, I found myself referring to him during my lecture as "a personal hero." He has become a major moral, theological, political model for me over the last, say, ten years. And this is why I find it so difficult to come down against him during the most recent kerfuffle.


Granted, I don't know all the parts and I'm not in any way a player in these conversations. I'm just reading what makes its way to me. But I don't have a problem with West being human in the Chris Hedges' interview. Vanity is human. Outrage is human. Jealousy is human. The response to West being human shouldn't be shock or indignation. It should be love and compassion. And the response certainly shouldn't be to dismiss West's opposition to the very government policies we should all at least question if not protest against.

There are valid points on all sides, I just hope that this conversation stays focused on the real issues at hand, and that it doesn't be come a soundbite-versation sensationalizing out of context rhetoric.

I think West lays out what the focus should be quite well: "When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority."

Here are links to the hubbub with their respective excerpted first paragraphs:

     Chris Hedges @ TruthDig: "The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic"
The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment, that his legacy will be determined by his willingness to defy the cruel assault by the corporate state and the financial elite against the poor and working men and women, and that justice must never be sacrificed on the altar of power.

     Melissa Harris-Perry @ The Nation: "Cornel West v. Barack Obama"
Professor Cornel West is President Obama’s silenced, disregarded, disrespected moral conscience, according to Chris Hedges’s recent Truthdig column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West went Ballistic.” In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years.