07 Mar 2008

Reading Obama’s Book

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Mona Charen searches for the real Obama, concealed behind the pink cloud of rhetoric about “Hope” and “Change,” by actually reading his book.

Barack Obama’s words are often attractive but oddly concealing. His speeches are all balm and mood. It’s all very well to seek, as Obama claims, to transcend old categories, to reject the “old politics.” But then what? This graceful rhetorician leaves you wondering: Who is he really? What does he want for himself and for his country?

In search of answers that go deeper than the Congressional Record, I read his first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.” Once you get past the happy surprise of finding a politician who can actually write, the book contains some disquieting elements. …

Left-wing ideas are not so much articulated in this memoir as presumed. Obama has claimed that his experience living abroad gives him a valuable perspective for a chief executive. Yet his reflections on the effect Western capitalism has had on Jakarta and Chicago’s south side sound like warmed over Herbert Marcuse. “How could we go about stitching a culture back together after it was torn? How long might it take in this land of dollars? … The very existence of the factories, the timber interests, the plastics manufacturer, will have rendered their [Indonesian] culture obsolete; the values of hard work and individual initiative turn out to have depended on a system of belief that’s been scrambled by migration and urbanization and imported TV reruns.”

Obama’s self-portrait in this book is that of a searching, nonjudgmental young man attempting to find his rightful place after a confusing start in life. But he is attracted by the harshly ideological Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose church he joins. Wright peddles racial grievance religion. Following 9/11, he said, “[W]hite America got a wake-up call … White America and the Western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”

Obama says he doesn’t agree with Wright about everything. Fine. And maybe he doesn’t agree with his wife when she (twice) said that she’d never been proud of her country until its people began to support her husband. But then, what did he mean when he said on March 4 that making a little girl proud to say she is an American is the “change we are calling for”?

One suspects that beneath the soothing talk, there is bitterness in the man that we’d best learn more about before voting.

Obama is the product of two unions between an alienated leftist white American woman and a pair of dark-skinned foreigners. Her liaisons with Obama’s father and stepfather were explicit attempts at rejecting her own identity, family, economic system, and country in favor of the fraught-with-symbolism Other. Obama was consequently brought up in a thoroughly leftist and anti-American domestic culture and social matrix.

His autobiographical writings indicate that he went farther than his mother, disapproving of her interracial unions, and choosing instead to embrace a personal black identity and nationalism, which undoubtedly includes the Kwanzaa-style Western interpretation of the African identity as different from Europe by virtue of inclusion of collectivist and socialist ideals and values.


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