God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who is Barack Obama?

On the trail which hopefully led to her oblivion, SP asked the question--"Who is Barack Obama?" I wonder...was she truly interested in the answer? My best guess being "no." If she were, a good place to begin her search would have been with his impressively written book Dreams from My Father.

To begin to understand this unusual man whom we elected to lead us, I am learning that it is important to understand the forces which shaped him and the personal odyssey he embarked on to find his place in the world--the quintessential search for self. Irrefutably, Obama's life is more unique than most of us can claim. Even those who share with him a biracial background do not share the twists and turns in life experiences that were not of his making and which formed him. His mother, who seems to have been on her own perennial search for self, loved her son enough to sacrifice for him and yet paradoxically abandoned him to her personal whims and odyssey. His father, leaving to fulfill his destiny in Kenya while the boy was still a toddler, sensed his obligation to his child but did not fulfill that obligation--there were other priorities.

To even try to understand this polished man of today, this man who speaks eloquently, who stands tall, who thinks deeply, who believes in conciliation, who has made our nation realize a dream that lay hidden somewhere in the future, his past must be opened. It is important to see the young boy, on the first day in his new and strange home of Indonesia as he watches his stepfather's servant hold the chicken in one hand and with his knife in the other, slice the chicken's throat then watch as it is thrown to the ground for its final death dance. It is important to visualize the education of a child who spends two years in an Indonesian Muslim school followed by two years in a catholic school before being sent, at ten, to live with grandparents in Hawaii. It is important to read of the struggles, experiments and confusions of a young man seeking and finding the world in which he belongs.

Today we listen to a man who exudes confidence, who has an enviable command of the English language, who uses words to draw people into his universe and vision, who is able to turn opponents into believers. Such wordsmithing is artistry that causes people to ponder the combined beauty of chosen words and the depth of creative thought buried within them.

We hear such a marriage in Obama's speeches and wonder about the speech writer; then we read his books and wonder about the ghost writer.* Surely, this talented man can't also have had the time and talent to write lyrical prose as he engaged the reader in the search for and success in finding self. But, the words are his as he takes us through the experience of exploring his dual heritage--white and black, American and Kenyan.

If SP really wanted to know who Barack Obama is, she should have read his book..and then she might have smothered the question as she admitted to herself that he is a man to admire and far beyond her reaches. She would have had her answer. And, along the way, she would have discovered what the "community organizer" did and just maybe she would have developed a touch of humility.

*Bizarrely, there are far right of right whackos who claim that Ayers was the ghost.

In an opinion piece, WWJD, Joseph J. Ellis writes of Obama's magic with words and a relationship he might have had with Jefferson and Lincoln--were they here today.


Anonymous said...

Well done Jane! I feel your passion. My you astound me with your ability to express your truest feelings in such powerful and poetic ways. As I have said before you were born to write! Thank you for this.

Barb Cabot

Anonymous said...

I liked Nader or Paul :) Just stopping in to say Happy Thanksgiving!

Annie said...

Great post! I just bought that book but haven't started it yet. Might take it to Italy with me next month to read on the plane.

Jane said...

Thanks Barb--I always admire your way with words!


Annie--you'll enjoy the book. If you're like me, you'll find yourself taking time just to absorb the thought of the words.