The spectacle of right wing preachers predicting the destruction of all Jews who don't convert to Christianity (after, of course, Israel is safely secured from the dastardly Palestinians for the end times)... and an epic war to the death with Islam... and rambling on about Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks being the result of homosexuality... and calling the Catholic Church some rather nasty names... and getting just a passing tsk tsk from the media... or, less dramatically, offering themselves as cheerleaders for a war of aggression against the Iraqi people and against international law... or slapping down any of their newer, younger converts who happen to care about frivolous things like climate change or poverty... is pretty lame.
Still, hey, it's their opinion. And we've had their opinion explained to us ad nauseum on TV and radio and in paperback books in grocery stores and by a few people we know. It's an idiotic opinion on the face of it and it's a dangerous one, enabling power and violence on an awesome scale despite--or because of--its patent silliness. Still, fair enough.
But how is it is beyond the pale to in turn explain to America a Pastor who has been active combating HIV/AIDS, active in the anti-apartheid struggle, active in, yes, supporting the Palestinian people and active in building a close-knit church? And who---horrors!---feels some real bitterness toward this country?
Or, a tad more controversially, why can't we explain someone who was involved in the Weather Underground and doesn't feel like it was a total mistake? Someone who saw a brutal conflict, the Vietnam War, and racial inequality at home as justifying a militant response? And who has worked tirelessly in local politics ever since to right the same wrongs he saw then as they recur today?
It may not be the best time now, in the midst of a political campaign, but sometime, when the dust settles, we should speak up clearly for radical veterans of the 1960s, who have become the backbones of communities across this country. We shouldn't conveniently dismiss them as an equal (and equally regrettable) Left aberration, symmetrical with the fascists of the Far Right. We shouldn't just explain them, as Obama eloquently did in the Huffington Post, as relics of the past. We should actually defend them.