American readers might already have seen the following extraordinary video. It shows a Catholic priest, Father Michael Pfleger, giving a grotesque sermon at Barack Obama's church.
The video is striking because it's so unusual to witness a Catholic priest working an audience like this and straying so far from normal standards of dignity (which is my polite way of saying that Father Pfleger comes across as a buffoon).
Pfleger's message, though, is all too familiar. It is the common left-liberal response to inequality. In the liberal view what matters is the power to self-determine: to enact our own will. Therefore, if one group has less of this power they are being treated as less human - there is a fundamental breach of human equality. Why would this occur? The common left-liberal answer is that an oppressor group has organised society to maintain an unearned privilege at the expense of an oppressed group.
It's a theory which assumes that American society is structured in a racist way and is therefore morally illegitimate; that America will be morally illegitimate for as long as any inequality between white Americans and black Americans can be identified; that white Americans are well-off because they have forced down black Americans; and that there must be powerful, racist white Americans upholding the system of oppression.
(This last point helps to explain why white American college students are so often vilified on American TV shows. They are portrayed as domineering types: as arrogant and ready to enact violence against the less privileged. I watched an episode of Cold Case last night (set in the early 1960s) in which the formula was worked hard: the murderer was the only young white character with a flicker of human sympathy, the rest being cold, angry and violent.
Where does the left-liberal theory leave white Americans? With nowhere to turn. They get no kudos for hard work, or sacrifice for family, or financial responsibility, or commitment to education. Whatever they have is held to be a product of a racist, unearned privilege. Nor do any efforts, individual or social, to contribute to the welfare of the black community put them in better standing. The moral taint will be there until that day in which an absolute equality is achieved.
It's not how life is supposed to be lived. We ought to be able to celebrate our own communal identity; the left-liberal theory demands, instead, a defensive, apologetic, guilt-ridden identity. It is hopeless to attempt to satisfy the demands of the theory; a better response is to consider its defects and to speak and act against it.
I don't think it's a coincidence that speaking for the theory has lost Father Pfleger his dignity.
(BTW, I should note that Father Pfleger doesn't speak with the blessing of the Catholic Church. His Cardinal, at the last report, has suggested that Father Pfleger take some time off to reconsider what he's doing.)