Monday, April 21, 2008

Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama

I just finished reading "Dreams from My Father" by Barack Obama. At times, it was a tedious read. This was one book you can definitely speed read, because there is a lot of fluff within the pages. Does it give you a lot of insight about Barack Obama? Not Really. You do begin to understand where Barack Obama's class warfare comes from especially between the African-American community and the White community. Barack Obama associates with characters that are pessimistic and angry. You also can't help but believe Obama is sucked into this world too.

In one chapter noted below, he talks about change, but he never says what he wants to change, he just wants to change. This narrative of course remains the same. He still talks of change but no one can figure out what he wants to change. He even admits he doesn't know what he is talking about when he says, "There wasn't much detail in the idea."

In the chapter he talks of change was during Reagan's tenure. He talks of Reagan, his minions and his dirty deeds. He wants change during a time of great change for the better. Reagan was responsible for creating optimism after the inept Carter years. Obama talks about change in the mood of the country. This period was a very optimistic time in American history. Reagan was responsible for ending the cold war without firing a shot, lowering interest rates from double digits, and creating an unprecedented economic boom. I don't get it. What is it that Obama wanted to change?

When Obama listens to the "The Audacity of Hope" speech, he sees himself in this world of pessimism and despair. But, Obama's world was nothing like that. Obama never lacked for anything. This is the dichotomy of Obama's world. He lived a life between the privileged and the middle class, and he went to the top universities, but he envisions himself in John Kerry's two America's where he is one of the have-nots, a member of the downtrodden he claims to defend scratching his way to the top.

I'll organize black folks was his statement on why he needed Trinity United Church of Christ. Trinity United church of Christ was only a stepping stone for his political ambitions.

Items of note in Barack's book:

Chapter 14 - This is the chapter where Barack Obama meets Reverend Wright – The audacity of hope chapter.

Barack approaches Wright on organizing the churches

Reverend Wright shrugged, "Some of my fellow clergy don't appreciate what we're about. They feel like we're too radical. Others, we ain't radical enough. Too emotional. Not emotional enough. Our emphasis on African history, on scholarship-"…

The title of Reverend Wright's sermon that morning was "The Audacity of Hope." He began with a passage from the Book of Samuel – the story of Hannah, who, barren and taunted by her rivals, had wept and shaken in prayer before God. The story reminded him, he said, of a sermon a fellow pastor had preached at a conference some years before, in which the pastor described going to a museum and being confronted by a painting titled Hope.

"The painting depicts a harpist," Reverend Wright explained, "a woman who at first glance appears to be sitting atop a great mountain. Until you take a closer look and see that the woman is bruised and bloodied, dressed in tattered rags, the harp reduced to a single frayed string. Your eye is then drawn down to the scene below, down to the valley below, where everywhere are the ravages of famine, the drumbeat of war, a world groaning under strife and deprivation.

"It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks' greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That's the world! On which hope sits!"

And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the state House. As the sermon unfolded, through, the stories of strife became more prosaic, the pain more immediate. The reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountaintop, worrying about paying the light bill. But also the pain of those closer to the metaphorical summit: the middle-class woman who seems to have all her worldly needs taken care of but whose husband is treating her like "the maid, the household service, the jitney service, and the escort service all rolled into one"; the child whose wealthy parents worry more about "the texture of hair on the outside of the head than the quality of education inside the head."

"Isn't that the world that each of us stands on?"


"Like Hannah, we have known better times! Daily we face rejection and despair!"

"Say it!"

"And yet consider once again the painting before us. Hope! Like Hannah that harpist is looking upwards, a few faint notes floating upwards towards the heavens. She dares to hope….She has the audacity to make music….and praise God….on the one string…she has left!"

Barack then writes,

I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories---of survival, and freedom and hope---became our story, my story; the blood had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed more a vessel carrying the story of people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique universal, black more than black; in chronicling our journey.

Chapter 10 Pg 199

One of Barack's composite characters Rafiq with whom Barack had a close relationship.

In a sense, then, Rafiq was right when he insisted that, deep down, all blacks were potential nationalists. The anger was there bottled up and often turned inward. And as I thought about Ruby her blue eyes, the teenagers calling each other "nigger" and worse, I wondered whether, for now at least, Rafiq wasn't also right in preferring that that anger be redirected; whether a black politics that suppressed rage toward whites generally, or one that failed to elevate race loyalty above all else, was a politics inadequate to the task.

Chapter 6 Pg 122

Political discussions, the kind at Occidental had once seemed so intense and purposeful, came to take on the flavor of the socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union or the African Cultural fairs that took place in Harlem and Brooklyn during the summers.

Chapter 7 – Here Obama talks of change. Doesn't mention what he wants to change, but he just wants to change. He hasn't a clue of what even needs change. I was reading it while asking myself What is he talking about? What does he want to change?

In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.

There wasn't much detail to the idea; I didn't know anyone making a living that way. When classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn't answer them directly. Instead, I'd pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in the congress, compliant and corrupt. Change in the mood of the country, music and self-absorbed. Change won't come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots.

That's what I'll do, I'll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.

This is the man who is close to becoming president. God help us all!



Michael W. said...

Thanks again for stopping by. I think this quote rings true the more I talk about politics with people. It's often attributed to Winston Churchill, although he probably didn't use this first:

"When you're twenty years old and not a liberal, you have no heart. When you're forty years old and are not a conservative, you have no brain."

Anonymous said...

I have to say I read this book so differently than you did.

Also, if you read the chapters on organizing, he is pretty clear about what it is he wants to change. He was trying to help people take ownership of their lives and mobilize to improve their communities (hence the long sections on the project to get lead paint removed from the low-income housing). Also I think you mischaracterize his relationship with the character Rafiq. Obama himself is very clear on how he feels about black nationalism, and it isn't really how the quotes you chose suggest.

Anyway, I am also a conservative (and an Obama supporter) and I thought this was a really wonderful book although maybe one that it is easy to misunderstand. I hope more people will pick it up.

Thoughts of a conservative genius mind said...


Thanks for your post. When I was reading the book. The only characters he seemed to meet were people who had a chip on their shoulder. Everyone was reaching for hope, but no one seemed to be able to attain it.

Even in the Audacity of Hope sermon, Obama even says he was identifying with the troubles Wright spoke of, but why? He never went through the problems Wright spoke of.

Throughout my life I have always met optimistic people. In fact, I stayed away from pessimistic people because that can just bring you down. Why was Obama drawn to only pessimistic people.

I have no problem with him giving back to his community, but it sure seems that everyone has a chip on the shoulder.

And he talks about changing the mood in the country and at time (and I remember the period well) when optimism was at an all time high. This is why Reagan carried every state but two in his reelection bid. Reagan instilled optimism in America, but Obama didn't even recognize, so what did Obama exactly want to change? He talks about change for changes sake, and that is not change, that is idiocy.

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