Much is being made of Obama’s speech in Ireland, in which he managed to insult parochial education. Catholics seem most disturbed, perhaps because (a) most parochial schools in America are Catholic and (b) Obama has been at war with the Catholic church by trying to make churches pay for abortifacients and birth control, which is a big First Amendment no-no.
Reading what Obama said, there’s no doubt that, once you work your way through his sloppy formulation, it’s right up there with the best of Obama’s offensive statements:
Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity–symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others–these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it,” said Obama. “If towns remain divided–if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs–if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.
“Ultimately, peace is just not about politics,” he said. “It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.
“And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union,” said Obama. “A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.
“Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united,” he said. “When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites.”
I actually understand what he’s trying to say: in a country riven by past sectarian violence, it’s dangerous to perpetuate sect identity. Put another way, he’s saying that the only way to live together in harmony is to abandon religion entirely. “Hey, come on, guys! We know you’re incapable of living together, so let’s just go all Soviet and renounce religion entirely.”
Understood properly, not as a slap at the Catholic church, but at the notion of jettisoning religion and religious identity entirely, Obama’s remark is even more stupid than it first appears. He’s my age, so he should know exactly what happened when the stifling Soviet yoke was removed from regions that had mutually hostile religions that were suppressed under Communism: they exploded into orgies of violence. Suppressing religion didn’t make these hostilities vanish; it made them fester. (Think: Kosovo.)
James Taranto figured out that Obama’s problem is that he sees everything through a Civil Rights filter, despite never having lived through Civil Rights. (He was only three when the Civil Rights Act was passed; he was in Indonesia when the last gasps of Jim Crow worked their way through the system; he was at a fancy school in Hawaii where Civil Rights were not an issue; and he emerged as a young adult into an Ivy League world.) Here’s Taranto’s take on another facet of Obama’s colossal ignorance:
Note that Obama is talking–or attempting to talk–about Northern Ireland, a country that is unusual within Christendom for its recent history of sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants. His comments make a certain superficial sense in that context, whereas they would be completely out of place and objectionable in reference to America, where pacific pluralism is the rule.
Note also that Obama doesn’t actually seem to know anything about Northern Ireland. Viewed in context, his comments are actually a homily about civil rights in America. His criticism of Catholic and Protestant “schools and buildings” is just a poorly thought out analogy: It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that while there’s no good reason to segregate schools by race, there are differences in content between the education offered by Protestant, Catholic and secular schools.
Obama is why I’m sour about the Ivy League schools. They take in bright people (and I do think that Obama is innately bright) and turns out ignoramuses, who have no real knowledge, just a warped ideological framework to which they try to attach, however, poorly, what situation greets them at any given moment. Obama’s not the only example of this problem; he’s just the most embarrassingly prominent.
One more point worth noting, although I’m far from the first to make it, is that Obama would never have the courage to argue that religious teaching leads to violence if he were in a Muslim country.