Friday, March 7, 2008

a question

Does it bother you that, if Barack Obama is elected President of the United States, his grandmother - pictured here - is a Kenyan tribal woman who does not speak English?

Is that a "racist" question?

I find it does bother me - which bothered me! - until I realized that the prospect of the President of the United States having a grandmother living in any foreign country and not speaking English, bothered me. Which maybe just makes me xenophobic. Or maybe it means that - for president - I'm interested in someone who has this country's best interests at heart, and will not be swayed or influenced by so-called 'foreigners'. Closely-related foreigners.

Of whatever colour or language.

I could be wrong, but I can't think of another President - or Presidential candidate - who presented such a scenario. What I find most interesting is that no one is talking about it.

Lots of people have talked about how "unfair" it is to show Barack in a turban in honor of his grandfather - implying that he is Muslim - but how about this? Going home for the visit to the grandparents in Kenya.

Here's an article about Sarah Hussein Obama and what she thinks about the American political process, or at least the election process. Oh - and Barack? According to his half-sister, Auma Obama: ""Barack's done extremely well and we're very proud of him." There is apparently also a half-brother. Barack met none of these other children of Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.'s - his father - until he was an adult. Of meeting his sister, Obama apparently wrote in his book Dreams From My Father: "I loved her, so naturally, so easily and fiercely, that later, after she was gone, I would find myself mistrusting that love, trying to explain it to myself."

I think this might be a good book for more of us to read. . . .

Meanwhile, I find myself mistrusting these scattered family and emotional connections to far away lands and countries. Or at least a little nervous about it. The fact that there doesn't seem to be much talk about it only makes it worse. But I'll bet the first person to really lay it out on the table will be branded something a whole lot worse than xenophobe.

But if John McCain had long-lost siblings and a grandmother living in County Donegal, who spoke only Gaelic, would that not occasion comment?

I remember when we were worried about President Clinton's friends and family from Arkansas!

1 comment:

Lee Anne said...

I need to digest this argument. You make an important and neglected point about his background. The fact that no one wants to talk about it for fear of being "labeled" xenophobic, or worse racist, reveals a great deal about not only how we talk (or not talk) about race and culture but also about how we construct (or now refuse to construct/identify with) American identity. I think we've lost something about who we are in all this. I just need to think about it more or just fuel up on mornng coffee before I do.

Many people have been talking about his campaign becoming a "cult of personality" -- Paul Krugman wrote about this in The New York Times, and it's been written fairly widely about elsewhere. This is what I find unappealing about Obama. I do think he runs on soundbites and his own celebrity, the appeal of his "Otherness"; I don't think there's any real substance to his campaign or any of his ideas--there's too much of the bandwagon jumping going on for much "stopping and thinking."

And, that, along with the fact that I think he will people his cabinet and staff with those who will manipulate his inexperience, worries me. I'm just worried. Okay, back to nineteenth-century England.