by Tola Adenle
[The date for the Obama essay was mistakenly mixed up with the date for the Ulli Beier story to be used this Friday which was also a 3-part series. The Beier story was February '09 while the Obama essay was September '04. Error regretted.]
The next U.S. general election is more than a year-and-a-half away but you’d hardly know it, especially with rising rhetoric by desperate GOP wannabes who see no easy way to routing Obama: “he’s thrown Israel under the bus!” regarding the Middle East peace. Never mind that Obama’s “new” stance is no policy shift for the US: America and the international community as well as some past Israeli governments are on record as having agreed to similar initiative. But how can the GOP ever win elections without using scare and dare: Bush The Father and Horton; Bush the Son and the permanent terrorist Code Red which, itself, was arrived at based on disingenuous use of intelligence on Sadam’s so-called weapons of mass destruction.
Now, the Scare-mongering Presidential Brigade gets new additions almost by the day, including a sort of never heard-of African-American – a la 2004 Obama – that is being persuaded to run but almost by the day, drop-outs are giving excuses why they cannot run. Gone with the wind – what you may think is intended – is Trump. I believe mega-rich Romney and the poster lady of mouthing far right extremism, Sarah Palin will be left at the GOP convention. Who knows what scare and hate would sell better by that time but whoever survives would be walloped – AGAIN – by Democrats’ Obama as he did the moderate and very reasonable Senator McCain.
I like Allen West – or at least I like his haircut which I’m not sure will have wide acceptance among GOP faithful; too much like Kanye West’s, for Chrissakes! Remember Allan Keys, Allen, although you definitely cannot be a tolerated nuisance-value African-American Republican like you-know-who. Remember the use to which he was – or allowed himself to be put – and stay in the House of Representatives to build your political career. Keyes is on the fringe of the extreme right of the right wingers in the GOP – to get noticed, who knows – but for an “educated” guy to proclaim that if Obama was not stopped, “America would cease to exist” is beyond insanity. He once allowed himself to be “persuaded” to move from Montgomery County, Maryland to run against the same Obama in Illinois; of course he lost. After a take-this ambassadorial posting to half a world away in New Zealand, he now struts his nuisance-value stuff to Sarah Palin Tea Party follower-types and other extremists on radio and talk shows.
Do not run, Lt. Col. West, do not run.
And that brings me to my major essay of the week, a re-issue of one of three I wrote on the U.S. elections of 2004 when Barrack Obama was running for the Senate. It was presented in the series of letters to a mythical niece – representing young readers of my essays:
There’s a slight change to the schedule of postings. With the timeliness of this essay necessitating its choice over a shorter ’04 essay that would have needed to stay for just a day, and since I’d like to keep this till Friday, Ibadan’s nightmarish environmental poster-mania problem will have to wait till mid-next week because Monday, May 30 already has something slated. On Friday before noon, Part II of the Beier series – Cloth wears to shreds – with the feast-for-the-eyes picture that I could not use with Part I when Ulli Beier passed away last month – will be used. The Schwarznegger and Straus-Kahn comments stayed a day longer than planned because of the interest generated.
You may wish to stop here and read the essay when you have time to sit or lie back and enjoy it in case you are checking this on the ubiquitous Blackberry!
LETTERS TO MY NIECE: US Votes ’04 (III)
Barrack Obama: a distant drum suddenly sounds near
About two weeks before the Democratic Convention last month, I was watching an early news program when I saw Mike Ditka who used to coach the Chicago Bears of the American football franchise. As you know, only big-time news item get air time in the world of sound bites that the major network news of the American television industry have become and Ditka is no longer a coach even though a Hall of Famer . His appearance on the ‘CBS’ Evening News which I watch at 5.30 a.m. daily therefore piqued my interest. I understood that the Republican Party was wooing him to run for Senate as opponent of a Barrack Obama to “replace” the party’s former candidate. The ex-coach said he was thinking about it.
Later that day, I went on the Web to find out about ‘Obama’ but even though I knew he must be an African-American (Am) I was expecting the bio of someone like Kwesi Mfume, politician turned head of the Am NAACP; in other words, An Am who chose African name for cultural reasons. Lo and behold, Obama is an Am although his mother is an American White and his father was Kenyan. Let me mention that the next morning, I saw another Ditka item: that he had said no, thank you very much to the Grand Old Party (GOP). Who is Obama and what in the world scared Ditka enough to know to “just say no”, if I may borrow Nancy Reagan’s old phrase to kids about drugs. I am just going to pour all I have gathered about this remarkable young man as if you have no access to the web!
Rather than who, I think the question should be ‘what’ is Barrack Obama because I believe he represents an idea and one that the Democrats have needed for a long time. Before I go on, dear, let me mention that the man who was supposed to run against him, a wealthy Republican does not exactly represent the kind of “family value” candidate the party claims to represent. Ryan had some “seamy details” in his divorce proceedings that he would rather keep under wraps.
Obama’s story, sadly, is like that of Jerome Iginla, and not unlike those of many other Ams, African-Europeans, etcetera: African student marries white or sometimes native-born blacks in America and Europe, has a child or more and promptly abandons the wife. Freddie Adu’s (the soccer whiz kid) story is a variant on the theme because both parents are Ghanaian who went to the States on the Diversity Visa Program. Mr. Adu got tired of his wife, opinion mine, but he did leave the family before his boy’s super talents started showing. Jerome Iginla and Barrack Obama and thousands like them, therefore had very tough growing-up years. All the families they had were white and young kids in such circumstances often have emotional problems because they are confused about who they really are.
Obama and Iginla may have Kenyan and Nigerian blood running through their veins but these young men were both abandoned at age two and although this is Obama’s story, I cannot but point out the similarities. Kenya or Nigeria or even the continent has no right to rejoice over the succeses of these young men or those of expatriate Africans in Europe or America because they have succeeded in spite of fathers not being there to perform their roles, and African leaders stealing their countries dry resulting in their countries failing them. It is noteworthy that the Continent seems to have a preponderance of what Americans call “deadbeat dads”. Add ‘deadbeat’ leaders to that, leaders who are there for themselves.
Obama got over a difficult childhood that included a trip to Kenya where all he saw of a dad he never knew was his grave and I am sure that he realized a long time ago that even though he may be ‘of’ Kenya, he is NOT ‘from’ there. Watching him deliver the Keynote Address at the Democratic Convention, though, I had a feeling that I was looking at the child of an immigrant. It took a while before I recognized that “seen this type before” feeling, because I can almost always, no matter the accent, recognize successful first generation Americans as they all tend to have that ‘IT’: a non-arrogant self-confidence that is endearing. I wondered how this young man who shares the same birthday with me came about his since the immigrant was an absentee father. Yeah, it’s right there in his past even though I failed to take it in from a first reading of his bio: Barrack’s mother re-married but the second marriage was to an Indonesian and he lived with his mother and step-father.
I was mesmerized, dear, not only by his sheer power of oratory which a lot of politicians master in the States (most are technicians at it, though) but at his ability to sell the Democrats’ message may be more than most in recent memory. Even if you claim not to be really in the know of much political goings-on in the States, you know the masquerades that the Republicans employ to scare the Democrats: the ‘L’ word (liberal, liberal); ‘tax and spend’; ‘big government’, etcetera. We had a neighbor in Vegas who, in spite of being a beneficiary of state largesse, would mouth ‘tax and spend’ in reference to Clinton and the Democrats until he started to sound like a broken LP record. Actually, the GOP has been found to have put in place the biggest government in the last several decades. The tactic worked because the Democrats allowed the GOP to scare it for too long until Clinton came along.
Obama remembers his (political) roots: Roosevelt’s post World War Two New Deal. It sure was ‘big government’ but it gave America the rebirth and growth it needed after the two wars before the “haves and have mores” grew in an inverted pyramidal take-off. The three terms of FDR followed by the two terms of Harry Truman, both Democrats, were the catalyst that America needed to multiply her middle class which you know more than I do, helps grow the economy’, as the modern saying goes. Let me turn to a Washington Post writer, E.J. Dionne, Jr. who, in a June 25 write-up, put Obama’s bring-em-on progressive ideas but dressed in moderate garb like this:
“For Obama, reasonableness does not translate into timidity. If they worry most about what Republicans will say about them, Obama says, Democrats will be left with ‘this tepid, tired and rudderless message, one that can’t move a lot of ordinary citizens who feel they’re grinding it out, day in and day out, and not making any progress.” Unlike most Democrats, he is not afraid or reluctant to talk about big things for fear of being labeled tax-and-spend advocate. He preaches globalization: “I want India and China to succeed,” he has reportedly said of outsourcing of jobs to these two Asian giants. He believes Americans want globalization as evident from their consumer preferences and beliefs instead of protectionism, America must fight to win her share of globalization by training her workers and equipping them with tools that will aid them to compete. Dear, dear, that is as much economics as I can handle!
His address debunked the Republicans’ penchant for divisiveness and hammered on the fact that most Americans would rather have a united States. Check out the full text on the Net because it is a modern take on M.L. King’s “I have a dream” speech except that Obama is not talking about black and white. He sees one America where party affiliations, religious beliefs, color, economic status are mainly components of a bigger unit.
The credentials of elected officials in the United States Congress are always impressive; Obama’s overwhelm. A bachelor’s degree from Columbia, Law School at Harvard, crown that with president of the law review. A white kid presiding over the Harvard Law Review is very big and that kid is set for life. Now, an Am not just making the law review but one who presided over it is very very big.
Obama did not rush to New York to take a high-power corporate job that would have been handed to him on a silver platter but he went to work at grass-root level. In the state legislature at Illinois where he has been since 1996, this forty-three-year old has worked on the side of the poor. While most Democrats would really want a total ban of the death penalty, they dare not say so for fear of Republicans labeling them as “soft on crimes.” Not Obama.
People are already seeing far into the future for this son of an immigrant, step-son of another immigrant AND son of a Kansas mother: the first African-American President of the U.S. He says, not so fast and I say, if not you, then who, putting a twist on Tracy Chapman’s “If not now, then when?”
If you are well, I’m well.
[The Comet on Sunday, September 2004.]