By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
One day when I was on the Radford High School track team in Hawaii, I was watching a race from the sidelines, which is where I spent my entire brief track career. A teammate was pulling away from the other schools’ runners. Two other teammates standing near me, both Hawaiians, got very excited.
“Look at that haole run!” one cried.
The other boy corrected him: “He’s not a haole.” A haole, you see, was someone who looked like me. The runner who was winning the race was of African descent.
The first speaker paused a second before happily shouting, “Look at that black Hawaiian run!” With that, his pedantic friend enthusiastically agreed.
I’ve recalled that scene many times in recent months, as Barack Obama won a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination, and proceeded to the point that he is poised to become president of the United States, barring a turnaround in both the economy and the political competence of his opposition.
Whenever I hear people speak breathlessly of his becoming the first black president, I think no, that’s not quite right. I don’t think of him that way. The details I know about him and his life just don’t add up to the description of “black man,” in terms of what that means here on the mainland.
I’ve said that several times, and each time, someone will demand to know what I mean. I have two answers to that. The first is short and simple: He has no ancestors who were brought to America in chains as slaves. Not one. That separates him from the entire American narrative of race.
This very long, rather complicated column is my other answer. This is who I think Barack Obama is, to the extent that you force me to categorize him ethnically.
First, I don’t want to do that. I don’t like doing that with anybody, and I like doing it even less in this case. I can look at John McCain and agree with you that he’s a white guy — a fact to which I attach no importance, but an easy one to agree upon and then set aside. But the Barack Obama who drew my support and that of my colleagues in the South Carolina primary is a person who — at least in my mind — defies such simple categorization. I don’t think of him as a white man or a black man. I think of him as the man who inspired a transported, ecstatic crowd in Columbia, S.C., to chant “Race doesn’t matter!” on the magical night of his victory.
Hard-headed pragmatists will point out to me that this man I see as the post-racial ideal won with more than three-quarters of the black vote that day in January, and that many of those voters were very excited about voting for him as a black man. This is true. But it is also true that a month or two earlier, most of those same voters had been expected to support Hillary Clinton. And while part of it was that they thought that as a black man he had no chance, part of it was also rooted in the oft-repeated charge that Sen. Obama was not “black enough.” The first excuse vanished when he won in lily-white Iowa. The second was no longer mentioned, although it remains as accurate as ever, if you consider a certain amount of “blackness” as being necessary. Which I don’t.
The thing that has struck me over and over is that in some ways Sen. Obama has as much in common with me as with the average black American voter. Hence the headline of this column, obviously drawn from the iconic book about a white man who tried to experience life as a black man, Black Like Me. You might think me presumptuous. But presumptuousness is but one trait I believe I have in common with the candidate. Some might call it “audacity.”
Granted, the fact that both of us graduated from high school on the island of Oahu is a thin commonality, but it’s a telling one. It’s certainly more significant than the coincidence that I once lived in his grandparents’ hometown of Wichita. There are important differences in our Hawaiian narratives, of course. He went to Punahou, a posh private school; Radford was public. I only attended the 12th grade there; he grew up there.
That is, he grew up there when he wasn’t living for several years in Djakarta, Indonesia. I also lived in
the Third World as a child. In fact, I lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador, longer than anywhere else growing up. Young “Barry” and I both spent part of the 1960s thinking in a language other than English. Both of us lived a joyous outdoor, Huck Finn sort of existence in tropical, pre-television worlds (“one long adventure, the bounty of a young boy’s life,” he would later write), and just as happily returned to what he termed “the soft, forgiving bosom of America’s consumer culture.” We both had a period of adjustment in which our soccer-trained bodies struggled to “throw a football in a spiral.”
He lived with his (white) maternal grandparents while his mother was still in Indonesia and his father was far off in Kenya. I lived with my maternal grandparents (although with my mother and brother) while my Dad was in Vietnam.
We both ended our childhoods on an island where there were “too many races, with power among them too diffuse, to impose the mainland’s rigid caste system,” which produced what he called “the legend” of Hawaii “as the one true melting pot, an experiment in racial harmony.”
To me, it was more than a legend; it was reality. It was the first place where I saw significant numbers of interracial couples, and the only place where such unions excited little comment — within my hearing, at least.
But that’s where our stories diverge. It’s where Barack Obama began a quest to define himself, both ethnically and personally, as the son of his absent and little-known African father. He decided something I never felt compelled to decide — “that I needed a race.” Because of his father, and because of his own very limited experience with people around him calling attention to his unique appearance and strange name, he began a complex quest: “I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America.”
That quote, and the preceding ones, are from his book about that quest, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. That memoir forced me to remember things that run against the perfection of my Hawaiian memories. As I read of his few personal encounters with racism in those years, from the real (a coach using the “n” word) to the merely suspected (why, he wondered, did a woman in the supermarket ask whether he played basketball?), I’m reminded of a girl I knew at Radford.
Her father was black, and her mother was white, which had never meant anything to me. But one day one of my best buddies told me of a terrible dilemma: He wanted to date this girl, and her mother insisted that any boy who took out her daughter had to first introduce her to his parents. This horrified both my friend and me, but for different reasons. I was pathologically shy, and had few dates in high school. If I’d had to introduce those girls first to my parents, I’d have had no dates at all — it would have raised the emotional stakes out of my range. I kept my two worlds — the one in which there were parents, and the one in which girls existed — strictly apart. So I thought it horribly cruel of the mother to raise an almost engagement-high barrier to her daughter’s social life.
But I also understood she was trying her best to protect her: My friend’s problem with taking her home was that he thought his working-class Irish parents would not approve.
It was amid such tensions between Hawaiian racelessness and Mainland prejudices that Barry Obama struggled to define himself. He listened to Marvin Gaye and mimicked the dance steps on “Soul Train.” He learned to curse like Richard Pryor. He sought out basketball games with the few young black men he could find. He turned to a friend who had lived in L.A. — the two of them were practically the only “black” students in the school — for clues. He read The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as did I; it was required at Radford).
But in Hawaii, it was a struggle. While he believed he had to be a black man, it was nevertheless an identity he had to learn.
His conviction that blackness was an unavoidable thing he had to come to terms with is something that he does seem to have in common with most black Americans. It’s the perfect complement to my own white complacency about race as something we can all forget about.
But both of us emerged from polyglot, rootless childhoods to deliberately put on identities as adults. He worked on the mean streets of Chicago, eventually defining himself more specifically as a black man from Chicago. After a childhood devoid of religious identity, he joined the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
For my part, I went from attending nondenominational military chapels to converting to Catholicism, and while I believe it is my true spiritual path, I also know that on some superficial level I embraced it as a welcome, sharply defined identity, a clear sense of self that I could never achieve as a white, partly Anglo-Saxon, vague Protestant.
And I quite deliberately went from being a geographically universal Navy brat without a trace of accent to define myself as a South Carolinian. I moved to the state of my birth, my mother’s home state, in 1987, and have never moved again. As Barack Obama — not Barry any more — dug relentlessly in the soil of Kenya for his heritage, I wrote scores of columns and editorials about the problematic meaning of the flag that my Confederate forefathers served under.
Very different, perhaps, but the process of deliberate self-definition unites us. That, and a certain analytical detachment of perspective that mars the perfection of our new identities.
There’s a reason why a lot of military brats become journalists. We become, as children, accustomed to trying to fit in, but at the same time being observers of the communities we try to embrace. There is a sense of outsiderness, a sense of being watchers, that we never entirely shake. So it is that I see a kindred spirit in the candidate who spoke in such professorial tones of “bitter” working-class whites — without malice, but with a detachment that alienated those he described.
And I could be dead wrong, but I think I understand how a man of such inclusive instincts could have sat in a pew for 20 years listening to the Rev. Wright’s outrageous black nationalism. There are times when, confronted with some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of Catholicism — say, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus — I think on some level, I suppose these Catholics do these things. And since I have decided to be Catholic, I accept it. I suspect there were times, many times, when Barack Obama thought on some level, I suppose these black preachers say these things, and accepted against his own inclinations.
Do you think I’ve gotten myself into enough trouble with enough people in this long, rambling reflection? I’m sure I have. But I hope I’ve communicated that while I see why some simply call Sen. Obama a “black man,” I’m more likely to think, “Barack like me.”
Go to thestate.com/bradsblog/.
A good read. I’d say you pretty well answered the question you set out to address.
And since I have decided to be Catholic, I accept it.
This is just a way of thinking that just goes beyond me. Why would someone choose to become a Catholic, or anything else for that matter, and then feel a responsibility to accept this or that tenant of that religion just because it happens to be a tenant of that religion? Why can’t you just be a practicing Catholic who happens to disagree with the specific tenant in question?
As a Democrat I can easily reject some of the principals of the party while embracing the it’s overall philosophy. For example, I reject the affirmative action plank of the Democratic platform without giving a thought to it while steadfastly supporting the party.
Please accept my apologies for failing to post this Sunday morning; I thought I had.
I notice that y’all went ahead and commented on the preview post, and I thank those of you who said kind things about the column. For others who merely focused on the weirdness of it, or the self-absorption of it (in which I was consciously reflecting the self-absorption I see in Obama), let me offer this explanatory note.
The column wasn’t about "oh, look at the neat similarities between me and Obama." Or maybe it was, but with a different emphasis. I’ve been struck time and again by the way black voters identify with him, and place their political hopes in him. That has always struck me as being based in a misunderstanding of the man’s background. He is an outsider, a man for whom being "black" is a consciously learned response. And I believe that between me and your average black voter who has spent his life here on the Mainland, I probably had more in common with Obama in our formative years.
I’ve written in the past about the cognitive divide between black and white in this country. I see Obama as being somewhat outside of that. He has tried, very hard, "to be a black man in America," but he’ll always be something more complicated than that.
Similarly, you’ll see me refer to myself as the "clueless white guy" in my posts and columns about the cognitive divide, which is just my way of saying to people, "You’re right, I don’t understand exactly what it’s like to be you." But I’m more complicated than that as well.
Mind you, if you remove things from the AMERICAN context, there is more of a clear ethnic divide between Obama and me. He has been more successful at being a "black man in the world" — a world long dominated by European colonialism — than at being a black man in America. The only roots he had to explore were in East Africa (the other side of the continent from where most American blacks’ ancestors come from, which is another gulf between them). He’s labored mightily to get in touch with his Kenyan roots, and apparently succeeded to a remarkable degree. The fact that he HAS succeeded is in itself a commentary upon the difference between Europeans and those of other cultures. It’s rather hard to imagine my English or Irish or Scottish cousins being so willing to accept and embrace me as their kin (were I to bother to look them up) as Obama’s half-siblings were, not only to CALL him "brother," but to involve him in their lives as though they had actually being raised in the same family.
Bud, do you know what the “Sacred Heart” is? Have you ever seen one of those statues? It shows Jesus standing holding his garment apart at the center of his chest to expose a his own completely anatomically correct heart — NOT a sylized rendition like you see on Valentine’s Day, but an actual representation of the human heart. It looks like a cross between iconography and something a cardiologist would have in his office. It’s very, very strange.
And it’s more of a cultural artifact than anything that is central to doctrine. There are a lot of things about Catholicism that are cultural rather than theological, and most of them are quite beautiful, and I’m glad to accept them along with the faith. But some are just odd, to the point of distracting or even off-putting. And the Sacred Heart is a good example of that.
To me, it has no more to do with the fundamental tenets of faith than fans with ads for funeral homes on them had to do with the basic beliefs of pre-air conditioning Southern protestant churches. (OK, maybe a LITTLE more, but not much.)
Of course, I expect to hear from old-time Catholics who will explain to me how central devotion to the Sacred Heart is, and I don’t wish to run them or their faith down. It’s sort of like when I happened to mention to my pastor in an offhand way once that I had no idea how to say the Rosary, and he stopped me and gave me a thorough explanation of it. My point had been that that’s just not something that converts get taught, and I didn’t feel particularly deprived for having missed out on it. Sort of like crossing myself. I do it all the time, but do you know where I learned it? Not from the church. Not one of my catechumen classes touched on that or any other nontheological point. I learned to do it from Latin baseball players on TV and Italian gangsters in the movies. Consequently, I do it differently from the way my wife and most nonHispanic Catholics around here do it (I include the kiss to the thumb at the end). But I don’t attach a lot of importance to that. It’s just a physical gesture to express devotion, and the WAY one does it seems unimportant.
Brad, as usual, I enjoyed your editorial. You are one of those that is blessed with the ability to express yourself. Wish I was myself but have a number of limitations.
However, I did have a few comments about the editorial.
First, I am neither a repub or democ. Just have always tried to just vote for the individual I felt was best for the job.
I really don’t care much for either of the current candidates for President. They just don’t excite me at all.
McCain, is a brave man. His military record shows that to be the case. I just can’t understand why he can’t seem to get some traction during this race. He seems to be consistently changing his position and that worries me. I like my leaders to know what they stand for and go with that position.
Barack worries me also. I know that you don’t find his sitting in a church pew for some twenty years listening to a race hater but I do. I feel that he should have realized what this man was long before he says he did.
My parent’s taught me to love my country and to be careful who I associated with and call friends. My mother was always telling me that the quality of the people you associate with really defines your own character.
Barack, in my opinion has associated with a number of very questionable individuals. His pastor being one of them. I can’t help but have concerns about this.
It seems that whenever this question comes up, the news media make light of it. I can’t help but believe they should be looking into the matter deeply just to be able to answer the question that come up.
I believe Barack will be our next President. I hope he will be a good one but that certainly remains to be seen.
I would have hope our parties would have both found stronger and more qualified candidates to be our leaders.
The mess our nation is in today needs good leadership and I don’t see either of these candidates filling that role. Both parties have played a big role in underminding our financial markets. No matter how much they blame one another, the guilt rest with them both equally. Until we find a way to get better individuals as law makers. we can only expect more of the same.
The election will be over before Brad Warthen figures out that Obama is sympathetic to radical Islam because he was raised Muslim, that he is a socialist because he was raised by communists, and that he knows nothing about the world, but only his Afro-centric, anti-white, anti-Jew ideology.
It is preposterous to claim that Obama’s exposure to all these different races and cultures made him “more inclusive”.
Obama was mostly raised as a Muslim, has associated with Muslims and the Nation of Islam continuously since high school (both college roommates were Pakistanis). His books, his associates, and many of his followers spew hatred for whites and Jews.
Obama is a dangerous racial demagogue.
This column made me think about one of my high school classmates, Ben Jealous. He recently became head of the NAACP.
I remember one day at assembly my freshman year, it was announced that Ben had won some sort of Young African-American Activist award. I was surprised. I wondered how he could win that award when he wasn’t even black.
Of course, he actually was. Or, more precisely, was of mixed ethnicity, like so many other kids at our high school. And he could have chosen, like many of them did, not to emphasize any one facet of his heritage.
But he chose to let the world know that he was black, chose to embrace black causes fervently, and I suppose that’s led him to where he is today. And that decision to embrace a particular identity does remind me of what you talked about in your column. I suppose it’s not so uncommon.
Yeah, he’s a real dangerous demagogue. At his rallies, angry mobs call for the death of his opponent, chanting slurs and lies about his ethnicity, patriotism, calling him a terrorist. Yes, a demagogue.
Oops! Turns out those are McCain/Palin rallies.
Lee can’t claim that Obama “knows nothing about the world” while at the same time complaining about the way we characterize Obama’s “exposure to all these different races and cultures.” Which is it, Lee? In any case, one hears echoes of the old Southern racist philosophy, alive and well, which says that exposure to different races and cultures is not a positive influence on one’s life, but rather a polluting one.
And of all the lies propagated by the extreme far-right-wing way-way-way-out-of-touch-with-mainstream-America crowd, this idea that Obama is anti-Jewish is the most ridiculous. In fact, a ton of the fellow community organizers that Obama worked closely with, who generally were, yes, politically left-leaning, were Jewish. Gerald Kellman, Mike Kruglik to name two. David Axelrod, Obama’s top campaign advisor, is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust. Abner Mikva has gone so far as to say, in this very enlightening article about Obama’s deep involvement with the Jewish community in Chicago, that just as it’s been said of Bill Clinton that he was the “first black President,” so it will be said of Obama that he will be “the first Jewish President.”
No, Lee, if we’re talking about Jewish voters rejecting a candidate, it’s increasingly not Obama, rather it’s the other side, and specifically the Wacko from Wasilla.
Brad, I’ve never heard of the sacred heart thing before today. After thinking about it for a while perhaps I was a bit hasty for being critical. Most of my Catholic friends have no problem rejecting the idiocy of anti-birth control doctrine. So perhaps one can be a Catholic and still reject some of it’s tenants.
Well, now, see — I don’t consider the “birth-control” part to be “idiocy.” Nor do I consider devotion to the Sacred Heart to be idiocy, nor Perpetual Adoration, nor any of that stuff that just isn’t part of how I experience the faith.
Of all those things, the ONE I can identify with at all is the birth control thing. I have five kids, you know.
One can argue about the details, but the affirmation of human life is pretty important to me.
I would never have believed it, given his adamant support from the beginning for the Iraq War, but Christopher Hitchens has just endorsed Barack Obama.
When one of the war’s most vocal proponents bails on Mac, well, metaphors about sinking ships come to mind.
Does that mean you’re ok with women using the pill or not? This has come up in the political context of pharmacists refusing to fill certain prescriptions (I think morning after pills and not regular birth control pills but I’m not sure). Seems like if there is anything that makes sense in the 21st century it’s a couple’s right to use active birth control methods.
Thanks for the link, Phillip. [You all will rue the day I acquire the technical skills to implant articles suchly :)]
If John McCain is such a defender of the Jewish faith and the Jews themselves, he would have thought twice before slamming Pastor Hagee (one of Israel’s most ardent supporters) the way he did.
An aside: I married into the Catholic faith and have never understood ANY of the figurine things that my daughter’s many loving female relatives on that side of the family send her for special occasions. Much less the Sacred Heart figurines that jangle with all their might in the older relatives’ cars.
Obama knows nothing about the world because he has never done any real work, accomplished anything, never socialized outside his small circle of Marxists, Afro-centrist rascists, and Muslims.
Obama has no normal friends.
Obama had no normal friends in high school, college or law school. No classmates remember him. He left no mark of accomplishment.
Obama was a failure as a community organizer.
Obama was a failure as a lawyer, until hired by Tony Rezko. So was his wife. Together, they only made $50,000 a year, according to his FEC filing.
Obama’s entire law practice consisted of defending ACORN and doing shady real estate deals for convicted swindler and the Nation of Islam. Every one of those deals is bankrupt. Every building for which Obama got federal money for “urban renewal” is now a run-down slum again, and the money is in the pockets of Rezko, Louis Farakan, and Obama.
That’s why Obama can’t discuss economics or taxes. In interviews, he doesn’t know what capital gains taxes are. He doesn’t know about small business incorporation. He talks about “tax credits” for people who don’t even pay taxes. He is fool.
Phillip’s post just crossed mine. It reminded me of Brad’s obsessive support of the idiotic Iraq war. How that fit’s in with the “affirmation of human life” issue is beyond my ability to understand. That conflict is nothing but killing. Come to think of it the Catholic Church was adamently oppossed to it. At least they’re consistent on the various “life” issues.
Abner Mikva doesn’t speak for Jews.
Abner Mikva is a former Congressman and judge who is part of the corrupt Daley machine in Chicago which bought starving lawyer Barack Obama with an $8,000 a month retainer fee, and introduced him to convicted swindler Tony Rezko.
Abner Mikva thinks blacks should not own firearms, and worked to disarm blacks in D.C., Chicago, and Detroit, passing laws which were struck down by higher courts.
Lee, we all know how you feel on this. You’ve had your shot at convincing us. So please stop posting these comments.
bud, you certainly do think a lot of things that you disagree with are “idiotic.”
Yes, Lee is a problem. And I wish people would just ignore him, because he distracts us from interacting on the subject at hand. I struggle to explain, at great length, why I see Obama’s identity as being a far more nuanced thing than the shorthand people seem too willing to accept, and I put it up on my blog (finally — sorry again about the delay) and hope for an intelligent conversation about these nuances, and what do I get? Lee saying for the millionth time that Obama is a socialist. And people let themselves get pulled into THAT.
Folks, Lee calling somebody a socialist is not worth noting. He calls ME a socialist. He calls pretty much everybody a socialist. He’s the boy who cried “socialist.” Pay no attention.
But set that problem aside. bud, you’re capable of better. Try engaging a subject without the “idiocy” stuff, OK?
Consider this my brave attempt (I’ll call if "brave;" you call it what you will) to get us back on track. Phillip mentions Christopher Hitchens, speaking of someone who would consider my faith to be idiocy. Well, it just so happens that Mr. Hitchens has expressed rather strong opinions (does he have any other kind?) about the subject of Obama and race, in a piece headlined, "Identity Crisis: There’s something pathetic and embarrassing about our obsession with Barack Obama’s race." An excerpt:
And voila! We’re back to our topic. Hey, am I the master of the useful segue or what?
I’m struggling to see the point, or relevancy of all this. Obama has a very interesting life story to tell. Everyone should laud him for the American success story that he is. Great! McCain’s story is likewise very interesting. Again, great! But I support Obama because of the issues he supports, not because of his life history. I find him to be a man of character, something I used to believe about McCain but now, not so much.
So for me Obama is the right man at the right time for the challenges America faces. That’s true regardless of his gender, religion, association with Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, his race, whether he had a few tokes as a teenager or any of the other trivia. Yes, it’s interesting, it’s just not particularly relevant.
Bud, I think some of the issues mentioned in your second paragraph cause some people to question if he is a man of character or not, or to make them wonder why a man of character has these things in his background. Hence the relevancy of discussing it.
(I assume you don’t determine if someone is a man of character just based on the issues they espouse in public.)
The stuff I mentioned are not things that would lead me to suspect Obama’s character. He seems like a fine family man with a colorful, peaceful life history. These are trivial things to me. Some of the stuff about McCain are, IMHO, areas that cause me to question his character and judgement. His philandering ways in the 70s, torture flip-flop and especially his choice of Sarah Palin are all questionable to me aside from any issues. I don’t see anything in Obama’s history that’s comparable.
I only call those people “socialist” who call themselves “socialist”, “Marxist” or “communist”, and some who repeat the sayings of socialists, but are not aware of the source.
* Barack Obama in his books
* Bill Ayers, communist advisor to Obama
* Michelle Obama, in calling for various socialist programs
* Michael Klonsky, member of the Weathermen and Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, set up and ran Obama 2008 official blog site.
* Harold Ickes, advisor to Obama, architect of Hillary’s socialized medicine, son of 2 unrepentent Stalinists.
* Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s mentor, racist and avowed socialist
* Laura Tyson, economics advisor to Clinton and Obama, champion of Romanian socialist medical system.
* Frank Marshall Davis, boyfriend of Obama’s mother, major black socialist, member of Communist Party USA.
* Obama’s brother and father, both avowed socialists, calling for seizure of white property and “redistribution” to blacks.
* Jim Jones, former Democrat Congressman, friend of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Diane Feinstein, socialist cult leader and mass murderer – Obama’s charismatic role model.
Most of my Catholic friends have no problem rejecting the idiocy of anti-birth control doctrine. So perhaps one can be a Catholic and still reject some of it’s tenants – bud
the “idiocy” characterization is strong and reactive, which suprises me. bud, as you cited in a later post, the Catholic Church shows tremendous integrity when it comes to life and life issues. Birth control is part of this. Catholicism includes a belief of sex as procreation and that having and raising children is a vocation. Contraception is man’s way of side stepping natural creation as is euthanasia in respect to death.
We can certainly disagree, but characterizing the beliefs of my wife and I as we try to pursue Faith as “idiotic” is over the top.
Catholicism has beliefs that are foundational and some that are more traditional. Anyone can choose what aspects of their religion he or she wishes to chooses but true faith is like a marriage. We don’t get to choose what part of our matrimonial vows we wish to fulfill but we can betray them. Similarly, we don’t get to choose what foundational tenets of faith we wish to follow, but we can betray them (for example, I refer to commandments as opposed to Sacred Heart type as a tenet).
One clarification, we don’t get to choose which marriage vows are actual vows, but we can betray the vows. Catholics don’t choose what is a Catholic tenet, but we can choose to betray any of them.
Thank you, Randy. You wrote “tenets” instead of “tenants.” Tenants live in someone else’s house. Tenets are points of doctrine.
Now, please, don’t tell me actually writing the word you mean is a mean conservative tenet.
Brad, I read your column and found it quite interesting from your perspective of another person who lived in Hawaii and shared some common background with Obama albeit not of the familial persuasion. All of us who entered adulthood during the 60s, 70s, and very early 80s are I think a lot more aware of how the world has changed since the end of WWII/Korea and now. I think you had to be there to understand and appreciate just how much it really has changed from the cultural perspective of race, gender, lifestyle, abortion, religion, and politics. Many things that were criminal offenses then are not only legal but have become an accepted part of our culture.
I don’t know if you remember the 1959 book, “Black Like Me” where James Griffin, a white man lived for six weeks as a black man. He wanted to understand the black experience firsthand. I think it was an important book and later, a courageous movie. Barack Obama’s book reminded me a little of ”Black Like Me”. Obama too had to learn to live as a black man in white America, only he could not return to being white after six weeks. He had to depend on his upbringing and early influences as a guide and foundation through the process of becoming a black man. He had to made certain choices and decisions to live and learn what it means to be black in America. Naturally he gravitated to those with a like mind in thinking because of the atmosphere he was raised in – ranging from leftist liberal to socialist, never outside that circle.
Considering his mother who defied conventional tradition all of her life and living in a very liberal home with his grandparents, the only barometer Barack Obama had was one of sometimes extreme liberalism to socialism, and most definitely, multiculturalism. His multiculturalism and Islamic instruction coming at an early time in his life while living in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather. Later in life, when he was exposed to Christianity through Reverend Wright, his embracing of the Wright teachings and philosophy of Black Theology and praises of Farrakhan’s Muslim faith, he never saw a conflict between Christianity and the Islamic faith other than some theological differences pertaining to the role of Jesus Christ. In Obama’s world, somehow it all made sense.
Obama struck me as always being a very private person even in his book. Never allowing anyone to get close and to me, appears to look at the world not as a Christian but through the eyes of an anthropologist and secular humanist. If you examine closer, again in my opinion, the choices he has made throughout his life were done with careful examination and deliberation.
I do not believe Obama accepted the position on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Board without knowing who William Ayers was and his past. Surely by the time he joined Ayers and five others to participate in a panel discussion about “Intellectuals, Who Needs Them?”, he had to know all about Ayers and Dorhn. Obama’s books portray a person with an analytical mind who carefully considers who he associates with. In my opinion, he knew the socialist politics/agenda of the NEW PARTY when he joined. The list goes on and on with every person on it each tying to the other with a common thread, Barack Obama. Very liberal, leftist, and socialist.
Obama has never backed away from Islam except to say he is not Muslim, but Christian. He attended a church for 20 years that praised and honored Louis Farrakhan. Common sense and logic dictates Obama was very well aware of the views held by Reverend Wright and preached from his pulpit. How can one be your spiritual mentor/advisor without sharing his religious views and convictions. How can you share your most sacred of moments accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior without knowing the heart of the man leading you to the altar? How can you claim Father Pflegler, equally controversial as a confidant and advisor without knowing his views and convictions? Someone Obama trusted and sought out over the years? Another thread.
When you take an incident here, a comment there and cherry pick, holding them up as innocent examples, nothing of note, that is intellectually dishonest. To make an informed decision or reach a reasoned conclusion, you have to look at the whole and the parts that make it up. So far, the parts making up the whole are pretty obvious to anyone who is not wearing blinders or closing their eyes and ears to the facts. If all of these incidents and associations were 20 to 30 years ago and not recent, a reasonable defense could be mounted for changing from a liberal socialist to a middle of the road politician but that is not the case. All of this does matter. It goes into who and what this man is.
Obama will tell you what he thinks but he has and continues to live what he believes.
All we have to do is make our own decision – is this the man we truly believe is the answer in this election? So far, I have not read or heard about Obama’s “Road to Damascus” moment or change of heart from what he has shown himself to be from the beginning up to the very recent past and to what he is portraying himself to be now.
Imagine if you will this scenario come the morning of November 5th. Barack Obama will be the new president. Democrats will gain enough seats in both houses to have a veto proof congress to work in close conjunction with Obama’s programs. For the first time in modern history, we will have an elected government with absolute, unchallenged control and power by one political party with a definite liberal agenda with no checks and balances from the other side of the aisle. An administration and congress supported by a very liberal/leftist news media responsible for disseminating the news and information to the American public. A news media that is supposed to be the gatekeepers for us, the American people. Gatekeepers who are supposed to challenge and question government to prevent abuses of power and greed. But in this election year, instead of acting as an impartial gatekeeper, the news media has become a willing surrogate for the Obama campaign.
This real possibility is the one we need to fear most of all.
Gosh darn it, just saying, I like you. Probably don’t agree with you on a lot of issues, but I really, really like you. I highly respect intellectual honesty which is something woefully lacking in several regular posters on this blog (whom shall remain nameless).
Bart, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Democrats and their lefty buddies scream for the first six years of Bush’s term that it wasn’t fair that the executive and legislative branches were held by one party? Whether it is fair or not is another discussion, but now that there is a very real possibility of having a solidily Democratic controlled Congress as well as presidency I don’t hear the slightest peep about it not being fair that one side of the argument may not be heard. In fact, a while back Brad posted the text of a fundraising e-mail he got from the DNC almost gloating about the fact that the Democrats could have a filibuster proof majority in Congress. Far be it from me to paint with a broad brush, but that doesn’t really sound like the party of tolerance and inclusiveness (not saying that the Republican party would be any different, but then again, they’ve not built their platform on unconditional tolerance either).
Yes, they did scream but Bush never had the luxury of working with a veto proof congress in any of his first six years and now that Democrats are very close to achieving what Republicans could not, they are already gloating over their impending power position.
As for Republicans being inclusive, they did abuse their position at times during Bush’s first six years. However, we tend to forget that it takes a total bipartisan effort to get a bill out of committee to the floor for a vote. And, the house or senate leader can decide what is brought up for a vote or not, depending upon the majority. I don’t pretend to know all of the rules of the houses but I do know the majority leaders have a lot of power and discretion on bills to bring to the floor.
The first vote for the bailout bill could have been passed the first time around without any Republican voting for it. What is also very strange is the fact that at least 8 Democrats on the committee didn’t vote for the bill either. So, all of the finger pointing and caterwauling by the Democrat majority doesn’t hold water. And, when Pelosi made her torch speech, I have to suspect an ulterior motive. i.e., the desire to tick Republicans off enough to guarantee it wouldn’t pass and have another publicity weapon to use against Republicans in the upcoming election.
Consider the fact that Clyburn is the majority whip and he didn’t work his side of the aisle by his own admission. Ever wonder why?
Delay was in some ways a despicable character and I am not saddened by his departure from the House but you will have to give him credit for being an effective whip when the votes were needed. I cannot recall when on any critical bill needing a Democrat majority where Clyburn exercised his authority in the same manner. Perhaps it is a difference in technique but to admit he didn’t press Democrats to pass the bill is troubling.
Anyway, we shall see how it will work out over the next three weeks. I would imagine if McCain performs in the next debate like he did in the first two, it will be all over except for counting the votes and determining whether it is a popular and electoral blowout or one tighter than expected. I think the former is most likely at this time.
Brad, thanks for trying to get the discussion refocused on a higher level. While I have some strong beliefs on issues, one thing I’ve learned in middle age is to try to treat others as honest until they prove otherwise. Sometimes I fail, but I still try.
Bart, I would not be so worried if I were you, given the history of the Democratic Party. Jimmy Carter took office with 61 Democrats in the Senate and a 2-to-1 (!) majority in the House, but the honeymoon between the White House and Congress was over almost before it began (granted, Carter was a TRUE outside-the-Beltway guy when he took office, whereas Obama has been in the Senate for a few years.) Democrats are also not as traditionally monolithic as Republicans have been in recent years (though now the GOP does seem to be coming apart at the seams now).
Also I doubt that Dems will quite reach 60 in the Senate.
As far as a majority not running roughshod over a minority in the Congress goes, much of the tone is set at the top, and we know the great “respect” for Congress and various elements of our Constitutional government that W and Cheney have had lo these eight years.
Given the direction McCain and Palin have chosen to take their campaign versus the general tenor of Obama’s message, I think the prospects for bipartisan progress are far greater with Obama as President. I look to Biden as being the real point guy for all this. All indications from Obama’s career are that he is a consensus-builder, a guy who brings many voices to the table, who moves prudently but decisively when needed. Not perfect to be sure, but the better man for these times.
Have to add a succinct analysis of the special circumstances surrounding Obama’s probable election from Chris Hayes of the Nation, on Countdown last night:
“There is a certain part of the electorate, of American citizens, who find the spectre of an Obama Presidency, whether from outright racism, whether from nativism…profoundly terrifying and threatening to their identity as Americans, and we’re seeing that come out.”
Is he talking about someone we know?
Since Countdown is such a reliable and unbiased source of news and commentary…
Wait, could it possibly be that a certain part of the American electorate finds the spectre of an Obama Presidency profoundly terrifying because they don’t agree with the direction he wants to take this country? It’s got about as much to do with race as the opposite side of the aisle that’s voting FOR Obama because of his race.
Plus, I’m curious as to what part of Obama’s career has specifically shown that he’s a consensus builder. Whether you like McCain or not (and I really don’t), the facts are that he’s the one that’s shown a history of consensus building. And Obama’s certainly not building a consensus in America. We’ll be just as divided after Obama takes office, if not more so, than we are now.
But as far as being worried if Democrats obtain a super-majority in Congress, despite what history may show, I think there’s plenty to be worried about. Apparently you missed the news that Dem leadership is already in talks with Obama about calling a special session of Congress after the election to pass a $150 billion bill to “include extended jobless benefits, money for food stamps and possibly a tax rebate.” (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20081011/D93OF83O0.html) Considering the behemoth our illustrious politicians just passed, is this an omen of what’s to come?
1) I just bought my first State newspaper since living in SC (over a year now).
2) I have never commented on a blog.
I am pleased with my first purchase and feel compelled to comment about your article.
I am not highly political; however, this hapa-haole LOVED this article.
Being a military brat (who lived in Hawaii in the ’70s) and now a military spouse, you summed up quite nicely my life.
“There’s a reason why a lot of military brats become journalists. We become, as children, accustomed to trying to fit in, but at the same time being observers of the communities we try to embrace. There is a sense of outsiderness, a sense of being watchers, that we never entirely shake. So it is that I see a kindred spirit in the candidate … ”
Thanks for putting in one paragraph the reason why I got a journalism degree.
If Obama was raised in a similar mindset as mine, I do believe you just helped me seal my vote. I was open-minded until reading this article.
@Tim – thanks. Here’s hoping that some actual conversing can drown out the un-namedrepetitive annoyers.
@Brad – yay! another subscriber (people who bitch about the State really need to go read some of the papers in mid-sized cities in the midwest!)
As far as the Dem’s managing to have a lock down on all of government, at the worst, I don’t picture it lasting more than two years (doesn’t the governing party generally lose quite a bit in the house at midterms, especially if things are going badly.) I also agree with Philip that they likely couldn’t accomplish anything extreme in their agenda anyway – a lot of those house votes will be from people who had to win toss-up districts and who would take a lot of heat for their votes (ditto for the senate in toss up states). I certainly would expect it to undo the right-shift of W’s terms (especially on the supreme court), but decidedly not take us down the road to becoming Scandinavian (or whatever other evil socialist hell-hole Lee is afraid we’ll become).
[My ideal is having one party have the house and president and the other having the senate, so that neither can ram through anything too stupid.]
Tim, of course folks can be “terrified” of Obama because of policies they think he will pursue. But the charges of “Arab,” “Muslim,” “pal of terrorists” or even actual “terrorist…” this is something we’ve seen on this blog and we see it at many of the McCain Palin rallies. That kind of “opposition” to Obama is not based on anything to do with policy; it’s based on fear, fear of the new, fear of the other, fear of the fact that this is a very different country than the one they might have been familiar with.
You might be right about the country still being divided after Obama’s election; I hope you and all those who oppose him now will keep an open mind once he takes office.
Phillip, you are dead right about the fear issue. I am getting all kinds of “input” from various directions of people who are convinced that Obama is a Muslim terrorist (the only kind of Muslim they can imagine, it seems) in disguise, about to reveal himself as the Antichrist, I suppose, on or about January 20th. Do American conservatives need conspiracy theories in order to prep up their mundane life experience, or what?
If (and probably when) Obama takes his oath of office he will be my president. I will honor him as such and pray that he has supernatural wisdom as he carries out his duties, which is much more than can be said of the libs with Bush and the Republicans with Clinton. That of course doesn’t mean that I’ll like or agree with his decisions.
I do appreciate your reply and well reasoned comments. It is nice to converse with an adult. I may not agree with you but it is refreshing. As I stated at the end of my post, maybe I should have added the caveat, “but not a certainty for sure.”
As for Carter having a majority in both houses, I remember that Carter was not well liked nor respected much by members of either party. At that time, we were still a very conservative country overall and both sides worked together in a less partisan atmosphere. We were trying to overcome the Nixon disaster and a nation needed healing. This time it is different With the economy in the tank, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a deep seated need and desire for change, we are on the verge of electing one of two men, neither one deserving of the office.
Much has shifted since Carter’s administration and the lines between conservatism and liberalism apparently have grown sharper and more divisive. But, is that actually true? Indulge me if you will by reading the following posted by someone on another blog. He captures the spirit of what has changed over the past few years. He describes what he has always loved about liberals and I am in complete agreement. At the end, I will comment on conservatives.
“……..I love liberals, (name deleted)…as I suspect you do. Many of them surround my daily life. But I despise leftists. A liberal is ruled by compassion; a leftist by deceit.
A liberal wants to try a different approach; a leftist wants to replace the system.
A liberal believes in fair play and honest disagreement; a leftist believes in hiding the truth and crushing dissent.
A liberal believes you may have a point; a leftist believes there are no points other than his.
A liberal says this country is great, but can be greater through dialogue. A leftist believes some other country is great and this country makes him puke.
A liberal wants equality for all persons regardless of gender, color or creed; a leftist wants class and racial warfare.
A liberal wants to take the poor and give them a chance to be rich; a leftist wants to take the rich and make them poor.
The liberals are gone, (name deleted). The leftists have consumed them. I love the liberals, I despise the leftists………”
I cannot in good conscience let this go without making the argument that conservatives have been
co-opted by rightists and they too have cast us in a different light than what we really are. Much of what is presented about liberals can be equally applied to conservatives by changing liberal to conservative and leftist to rightist. I have just as many liberal friends as conservative ones. I too have no use for leftists and rightists because they seem to have taken over the voices from each side, but not representing the majority of either.
Because of this apparent paradigm shift on both sides, I do have reason to concern myself with the possibility of an abuse of power by a modern congress and White House dominated by one party with a veto proof advantage. Doesn’t matter – Democrat or Republican, it is a dangerous temptation and the last thing we need to do is place temptation in front of a politician.
Last, I try to avoid the Nation much like liberals try to avoid Ann Coulter (so do I). I find it totally distasteful for comments like this one to be spoken while hiding behind vague references to an unnamed entity – “There is a certain part of the electorate, of American citizens, who find the spectre of an Obama Presidency, whether from outright racism, whether from nativism…profoundly terrifying and threatening to their identity as Americans, and we’re seeing that come out.” Name names and specific groups, not vague references. This is a comment by a leftist, not a liberal.
It seems as if the fear of race issue has become too much a part of this campaign. Like most conservatives, race is not an issue with me as some posters have tried to convey. Anything that can be remotely interpreted as racist finds feet and travels well with those who have a particular mindset that conservatives have mundane lives and can only find common cause in conspiracy theories. Throwing the blanket of racism over all conservatives does nothing to encourage civil and meaningful dialogue. That to me is leftist just as calling Obama a Muslim terrorist is rightist.
Very well said, Bart.
That was good Bart. For whatever it’s worth I consider myself a liberal and most definately NOT a leftist.
Obama has been in the US Senate for 1.5 years, has missed most of the sessions, voted on very little, sponsored a few radical bills, and shown no leadership on anything.
He has no record of leadership in Illinois, nor in law school, college or worker for ACORN.
It is reasonable to worry about the reason so many radical Muslims, terrorists, and sympathizer DO SUPPORT Obama.
Thousands of illegal donors from Palestine
Saudis who paid Obama’s way through law school
2008 Muslim Congress
Nation of Islam
For about 42 comments there we had a really good discussion going…
Your piece was very thought provoking. I also spent formative years in Hawaii as an Air Force brat. I believe those junior high school years left me of similar notions of race as you describe … mostly a non-event.
I then spent working years in Detroit. One of the first weeks there a restaurant waitress served a dozen patrons who entered after I did. Being “not black enough” is a serious deal. The late 90’s had found a former Michigan supreme court justice labeled nasty names because of lack of color and the fact he knew / dealt with folk of many persuasions. A white man has to ‘prove himself’ not anti-black before being able to conduct any affairs.
I say that only for background to ask you why, after the Hawaiian experience on race, do you believe Mr. Obama felt the need to develop the racial animus and embrace the likes of white hating, United States hating Jeremiah Wright?
I would prefer the Hawaiian Barry Obama.
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