In Barack Obamas memoirs “Dreams from my father”
he informs us that an autobiography promises feats worthy
of record, conversations with famous people, a central role
in important events
– and there is none of that here!
That is funny!
If you are going to president of the United States,
I would say that there is a least one famous person in the book!?
And the book is just crammed with feats worthy of record:
Starting with his white mothers fantasies.
The promise of another life. Warm, sensuel, exotic, different
(from white life in Kansas). His grandfathers hopes and failures,
that takes them to Hawaii. Where eventually his mother
meets Barack sr. She is confused and alone, and flattered by
Barack sr’s attention.
And somehow, her parents are not against the marriage.
There are vague indications that Baracks grandfather
sees this as the future. In stark contrast to everyone else,
he doesn’t judge. Barack sr’s father on the other hand,
back home in Kenya, is against the marriage.
— As he has another wife back there….
A shattered marriage it may be,
but nevertheless a marriage. Besides, the father,
it will be difficult for a white woman to live in Kenya.
The journey is as long as any journey could be.
Baracks father is a
Kenyan of the Luo tribe, born on the shores of
Lake Victoria. We are told that the “Luo are intelligent
but lazy”, in contrast to
“the Kikuyu who are money-grubbing but industrious”.
With amazing luck and a quick mind Barack senior gets
a scholarship in the US (University of Hawaii).
Where he meets Baracks jr’s mother.
The plot thickens.
Barack, the father, is very ambitious though.
The parents breakup is only briefly sketched –
but nevertheless easy to understand,
there is a divide. His mother sense of adventure
unbroken though. And she soon finds another man,
this time an Indonesian. And off they
(Barack and his mother) are to Indonesia.
Writing home to his grandparents in Hawaii,
young Barack finds it difficult to tell the whole story
The face of the man, who had come to their door one day,
with a gaping hole,
where his nose should have been.
The whistling sound he made, as he asked Baracks mother
for food. The world he finds himself in for four years
(with his mother) is violent, unpredictable and often cruel.
He decides that his grandparents knows nothing of such a
world, and that there is no point in disturbing
them with questions with no answers.
His stepfather explains him the way of the world.
The strong man takes the weak mans land. And he makes
the weak man work in his fields. If the weak mans woman
is pretty, the strong man will take her.
Ending with the question –
what would you rather be? strong or weak?
Baracks mother wakes him every morning at 4 O’Clock,
and teaches him english for 3 hours,
before he is off to Indonesian (and later Catholic) school.
Eventually, she decides his future will be better in America
and sends him back to his grandparents in Hawaii.
Back in Americas consumer culture,
where you are safe (and drops into a long a hibernation).
His grandmother tells him, that the only thing that really
matters in life is that your kids do well.
But not all is well, after all, you have the british out
there to enslave people, from Kenya, to Indonesia
(and originally in America as well, lets not forget).
And then it turns out that he is black (half black anyway).
A struggle that is his, not his mothers, nor his grandparents.
His struggles are his alone, or, would whites look
as his struggles as a mirror of their own,
rather than yet more evidence of black pathology?
As a young man he tries out pot, and booze;
maybe a little blow, when he could afford it.
No mention of not inhaling the stuff (Clinton style)
But eventually he finds his way.
Away from inner city schools (that are about social
control, holding pens, miniture jails). Gets to college.
Finds satisfaction in social work in Chicago.
And eventually lands a Harward law degree.
In America (and the western world) you find
technology and mobility –
and you looses the insistent pleasure of peoples company,
the joy of human warmth.
Is family a genetic chain, parents and offspring.
A social construct, economics. Or something else –
An Ambit of love, a reach across the void? He wonders.
The trail takes him back to Kenya to find out.
In Kenya he finds his father and grandfather Husseins
graves. For some, it seems as though his father ends
up a defeated, lonely bureaucrat.
And both men are cursed with to much rigidness,
suspicions and male cruelties.
There is to little encouragement,
To little embrace. Strong true love.
Lot of gifts – a quick mind – powers of concentration,
charm – and some faults.
And there he is – in Kenya. The land of his ancestors.
Where literally, everyone knows his name (and can spell it).
In contrast to Europe, which is beautiful,
but someone elses romance.
At home at last. For we are strangers before them,
and sojourners, as were all our fathers. 1, Chronicles 29.15.
Barack means blessed, and in the end he describes
himself as blessed.
I read the book in one stretch. I find it very logical
that eventually someone with this kind of lifestory will
make it to become US president in 21st century.
What is not so logical is that the eventual president
will be a poet. But then again, King David was a poet.
So we have seen that before, as well I guess.
Barack Obame has been critizised for being naive
– reading the book I find him nothing of the sort.
He is candid, but his pictures of parents,
and grandparents seems very precise.
Actually, none are overly romantized in the book.
Yet I find the book a loving account.
As a european I am not all that pleased to understand
that the next president may be a lot more interested in Kenya,
than he might be in the continent of Europe.
As a human being I would consider Barack Obama my friend
after having read his book.
There is passion, love and struggle
in that book that should end in a warm embrace.
March 2nd. 2008.