Sunday, June 15, 2008

Your Father's Oldsmobile

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


Tina said...

This is one of your best, Cousin Bill ! Here's a useful site for combatting the current smear mail being circulated about our candidate.

Anonymous said...

My family too, and I don't hesitate to tell people that.
I think we're in for a long hot summer of anti-Obama sleaze mailings. Being in newspaper work, I'm sort of restricted in what I'll put on e-mail from work, but have found that the "I found this offensive. Let's be friends and not talk politics at all " seems to work with minimum fuss for those one knows, and that "The newspaper does not use this kind of material, and I prefer not to receive attack mail on either candidate, both of whom are fine Americans. Please remove me from your mailing list," for people in the community that I don't know who apparently think they are informing the newspaper.

My goal isn't to get into arguments at all, but to make people a little more cautious about sending out junk to multiple e-mail addresses and, I hope, a little embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

beautiful, Bill.
It's rare I pass things on, but this one I'll distribute widely.

Anonymous said...


I liked this post enough to send it to over 150 of my closest friends! Brilliant is not the right word, but I love it for its frankness, and matter of fact-ness. It really touched me with its humanness (it's late and I can't quite come up with the right words, so I add "ness" to them!) Keep up the great work - and thanks for sharing!!!

Cotter Pen said...

Well, this certainly does seem to have attracted some attention. Thanks to all who have helped. Every writer would like to think maybe someone was watching if he actually managed to hit one out of the park.

Angie said...

I especially enjoyed the pictures, Bill. Personally, I don't care if the next President is Black, White, Red, Blue, or Green. If he does what he says he is going to do, I'm all for him. Given the other choice, I would vote for him if he was an alien.

Anonymous said...

A friend just sent me a link to your blog on Obama. I thought your comments eloquent and worthy of sharing.

I also am an Obama supporter, but note as a matter of record that your link to Jeff Rense's website as right-wing was in error. A conspiracy theorist he is, but Rense's criticism of Obama is that he is esentially a conservative in liberal disguise - hardly a right-wing position. Rense's post "Delusions About Obama" bluntly articulates skepticism on Obama from the left, not the right.

This may seem like a fine distinction to some (those who would say all "wingers" are the same) but it is a distinction with a difference. Rense may be kooky but he is no right-winger.

Keep up the good work

Cotter Pen said...

I found the website in question directly from tracing the e-mail calling itself "First Family Photos," which I maintain are racist and intended to incite racist responses. Indeed it is difficult to determine precisely the political wing to which some nuts belong. I have known my share of left-wing nuts who believed in conspiracy from outer space. I have never known any who are so blatantly anti-Zionist. It may be my prejudices that make me automatically conclude a racist must be a right-winger, but that has certainly been the experience of my lifetime in the South. Nonetheless, I take your point and appreciate your giving a damn.


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