Sunday, June 15, 2008
I support Barack Obama to be the next President. Maybe you’ve noticed. I receive occasional e-mails from people who think they can either pick a fight or bring me to my senses. One recent example is entitled “Obama First Family Photos,” obviously circulated to contrast with the white in White House. The photos are from Kenya, Barack Obama’s grinning grandmother, a half-brother, a local politician, and some village schoolgirls. Not included in these “First Family Photos” is Senator Obama’s wife Michelle, Yale Law School graduate, whose beauty and elegance bring to mind Jacqueline Kennedy. No photos of his adorable daughters.
I looked up the source of these e-mail photos, poking my head in the foul-breath jaws of right-wing blogging. One site is a purveyor of potions for new hair growth, UFO sightings, anti-Zionist rants, and theories that high frequency radio signals bouncing back from the ionosphere cause earthquakes in China. Another blog, with its Superwoman logo, genuflects to Ayn Rand, brags about John Bolton, Dick Morris, and Ann Coulter in its fan club, and believes that after dragon-slaying Reaganism crushed the Communist Conspiracy, we have only the Muslim Menace to fear above fear itself. Undaunted by the subtleties and complexities of American politics or geopolitical interactions, these e-mails purport to enlighten us about the nation of Kenya with quotes from a South African source, although Kenya can still be found on the map in East Africa. Of grave concern is the Odinga family, which has dominated Kenyan politics longer than Bushes and Clintons in American politics. The current generation of Odingas is under house arrest after disputed elections. One of the Odingas, claims to be a cousin of Illinois Sen. Obama, according to the South Africans.
Forty-five years ago, I interviewed patriarch Oginga Odinga, who was the Kenya Minister of Home Affairs. I waited at my appointment, while Minister Odinga failed to arrive. The Kenyan was the guest of state Sen. Leroy Johnson of Atlanta. Sen. Johnson appeared instead and asked could I please go to a different Peachtree Street hotel. There also, Odinga did not show. For anybody but Sen. Johnson, I would have called it off, but he was my best contact among elected officials. At yet another hotel, Oginga Odinga made his entrance, wearing brightly colored African robes and carrying a riding crop that had once been a tail. Oginga Odinga was unhappy. Me, too. Sen. Johnson took me aside, told me all the other hotels had refused to register the Odinga party, asked me not to mention that in The Atlanta Journal. Oginga Odinga became Vice President of Kenya. Ogden Nash immortalized him:
Oginga Odinga. Oginga Odinga.
In Kenya’s black pie, he is Mao’s red finga.
I do not think Ogden Nash knew anything about Kenyan politics either.
Mike Barnicle recently told the story on MSNBC of his father adding a photograph of John Kennedy to the family photos in his Irish Catholic home. I believe this. I’ve been in many of those homes. "Why include Kennedy with the family photographs?" young Barnicle asked. His father said, “He’s one of us.” Mike Barnicle is a member of the Irish Catholic triple-team with Chris Matthews and Pat Buchannan on MSNBC. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics. Scarlett O’Hara was an Irish Catholic. I love Irish Catholics. I love having a beer with them. I love their blarney. I love having another beer with them. Great story, Barnicle, but that was your father’s Oldsmobile.
The pictures beginning this blog post are from my family photos. They are of my grandson and my sister’s grandson playing together at a holiday gathering at my house in Pine Lake, Georgia. In this century, the 21st Century, in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural America, in my America the beautiful, Barack Obama is one of us.
Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter