The Reverend Wright is back in play. A group of Romney supporters has recently placed, then pulled, an ad related to the controversial clergyman and his relationship with President Obama.

Governor Romney has taken the “high” road, as strategy would dictate. Nonetheless, the issue of Wright is still relevant. It is relevant as a political issue, and it is relevant as an example of the psychological defense mechanism of denial.

For those few who still don’t know about this, the issue relates to a video of Obama’s long term pastor, who married him and Michelle and who led the congregation Obama attended for about twenty years. In the video, Wright is seen clearly and repeatedly saying words such as, “Goddamn America.”

First is the question of what he meant by that. America is complex, so what exactly was he damning about America? The land? The system of government? The racial balance of power? Let’s keep that question in mind, as the rest of the story unfolds.

Second, the link between Obama and Wright was strained when the story broke. Wright would not disavow his sentiments. He went (or was sent) on the talk show circuit, apparently as an attempt to smooth his positions and humanize him. However, Wright was true to his sentiments and instead of backing off and showing himself as a loyal “American”, he continued to promote his view. That was too much for the Obama camp and, ostensibly at least, Obama disavowed a connection with him going forward. Since, Wright has drifted into political obscurity.

Third, to understand the implications of the situation, which is what is denied, not just by the Obama camp, but by many Americans as well, one has to put himself or herself in the position of young Obama, walking into a church, and hearing anti-American rhetoric. What would you do? Think about it. Put yourself in his position. Would you sit there and not return? Would you call the FBI? Would you leave immediately, or would you return again and again? Think about it, for that was the situation young Obama was in.

Fourth, if one is to be president of all the people in a country, how can he have any part in asking God to damn even a part of it. Damning is far from criticizing.

Now back to the first issue, what was Wright damning, and what was not so bad about being a part of it for young and older Obama? Basically, given the racial context involved, it was the mainstream, the non-black, non-colored, white establishment AND ITS VALUES. That’s what happens when one is angry at not belonging. There is the tendency to go beyond just belonging. There is the tendency to continue expressing anger by casting down that to which one wanted to belong, or at least that which one did not want to be excluded from or overpowered by.

Here, the reality principle is at hand. Does one allow the pleasure of expressing anger to hold sway over the reality that the result will be neither for either? Put more simply,  do two wrongs make a right? That is part of the issue at hand.

The other part is the denial on the part of the American populace. Remember, denial as a defense mechanism in anyone who is not psychotic is denial not of the reality, but of the implications of that reality. The alcoholic father doesn’t deny he drinks. What he denies is the implications of his drinking, such as domestic violence or embarrassing behavior at his daughter’s wedding.

So, what is Romney to do? Given his strategy in the primaries, he will distance himself from implying what the populace denies. This is because facing the implications of condoning damning of one’s country, which some would call treason, is too much for the populace to face. If Romney is smart, and he is smart, he will avoid confronting the American people with their defense.

Whenever one is confronted with a defense, one gets angry and rejects the confronter. After all, defenses, denial included, exist to protect us from anxiety. Confronting them, i.e. saying they are just a defense, strips away the barrier to anxiety, leaving the person feeling anxious, scared, worried, and all the other shadings of anxiety. It feels bad to be scared, so the reaction often is to attack whoever made you feel bad. That is why Romney must steer clear of confronting people. That is why he will take the “high” road.

The interesting thing here, however, is that he seems not just to ignore the confrontation, but to have convinced his supporters to ignore it. Perhaps Romney sees the implication of the confrontation, implications he cannot deny. Perhaps he sees the issue as being taken as religious or racial, and not patriotic. If so, the danger for him is the backlash. That is, he does not need his own religion brought into the fray.

He also does not need yet another distraction from what most believe is the main issue of the campaign, which is. . .the economy, stupid!

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