I extend my middle finger to you birthers who feel validated today that the President finally gave into you racist, ignorant, amoral fucks and showed you the birth certificate you’ve so desperately been clamoring for. It’s an insult to the man, degrading to our nation and, I now appreciate, to the woman who gave birth to him at Kapi’olani Hospital on Oahu, August 4, 1961, all of two years after Hawaii became a state.
I also tip my hat to Barack Obama for going after the media this morning and not just the Tea Party idiots, saying
(….) two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here..
And so I just want to make a larger point here. We’ve got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We’re going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt — how do we do that in a balanced way.
… … … .
But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
… . .I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this.
Most importantly, I recommend this NYT article about the remarkable Ann Dunham. I was happy to see it’s excerpted from a forthcoming book by Janny Scott, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, because the article’s insightful and pretty goddamn poignant:
a girl with a boy’s name who grew up in the years before the women’s movement, the pill and the antiwar movement; who married an African at a time when nearly two dozen states still had laws against interracial marriage; who, at 24, moved to Jakarta with her son in the waning days of an anticommunist bloodbath in which hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were slaughtered; who lived more than half her adult life in a place barely known to most Americans, in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world; who spent years working in villages where a lone Western woman was a rarity; who immersed herself in the study of blacksmithing, a craft long practiced exclusively by men; who, as a working and mostly single mother, brought up two biracial children; who believed her son in particular had the potential to be great; who raised him to be, as he has put it jokingly, a combination of Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Harry Belafonte; and then died at 52, never knowing who or what he would become.
Obama placed the ghost of his absent father at the center of his lyrical account of his life. At times, he has seemed to say more about the grandparents who helped raise him than about his mother. Yet she shaped him, to a degree Obama has seemed increasingly to acknowledge. In the preface to the 2004 edition of “Dreams From My Father,” issued nine years after the first edition and nine years after Dunham’s death, Obama folded in a revealing admission: had he known his mother would not survive her illness, he might have written a different book — “less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life.”
… … … . .
After lunch, the group took a walk, with [9-year-old] Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball “with unseen players,” Bryant said. Ann did not react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. “No, he’s O.K.,” Ann said. “He’s used to it.”
… … … . .
“She didn’t understand these (Americans in Indonesia) — the idea of living an expatriate life that was so completely divorced from the world around you, that involves hiding yourself away in these protective cells of existence,” Maya said. “That was peculiar to her, and she was bored by it.” Ann complained to her friend Bill Collier that all those middle-aged white Americans talked about inane things. Lolo, she told Collier, “was becoming more American all the time.” Occasionally, the young Obama would overhear Lolo and Ann arguing in their bedroom about Ann’s refusal to attend his oil-company dinners, at which, he writes in “Dreams From My Father,” “American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore-drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.
“ ‘They are not my people.’ ”
. . … … …
She preferred humor to harping, but she was exacting about the things she believed mattered most… .she worked to instill ideas about public service in her son. She wanted Barry to have a sense of obligation, to give something back. She wanted him to start off, Hook said, with the attitudes and values she had taken years to learn.
“If you want to grow into a human being,” Obama remembers her saying, “you’re going to need some values.”
… … … .
“We were not permitted to be rude, we were not permitted to be mean, we were not permitted to be arrogant,” Maya told me. “We had to have a certain humility and broad-mindedness. We had to study… . If we said something unkind about someone, she would try to talk about their point of view. Or, ‘How would you feel?’ Sort of compelling us ever toward empathy and those kinds of things and not allowing us to be selfish. That was constant, steady, daily.”
… … … . .
He spoke about his mother with fondness, humor and a degree of candor that I had not expected. There was also in his tone at times a hint of gentle forbearance. Perhaps it was the tone of someone whose patience had been tested, by a person he loved, to the point where he had stepped back to a safer distance. Or perhaps it was the knowingness of a grown child seeing his parent as irredeemably human.
“She was a very strong person in her own way,” Obama said, when I asked about Ann’s limitations as a mother. “Resilient, able to bounce back from setbacks, persistent…” … . But he did not, he said, hold his mother’s choices against her. Part of being an adult is seeing your parents “as people who have their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, longings.” He did not believe, he said, that parents served their children well by being unhappy. If his mother had cramped her spirit, it would not have given him a happier childhood. As it was, she gave him the single most important gift a parent can give — “a sense of unconditional love that was big enough that, with all the surface disturbances of our lives, it sustained me, entirely.”
This is a commonality in life, insofar as the offspring don’t appreciate the huge impact of a parent until they’re gone. Which exacerbates the guilt & loss, not knowing what you had while she was there, and the fact you didn’t show her & acknowledge & reciprocate that love more while she was.
Very sad she died so young, at age 52 in 1995 of ovarian cancer. Yet she had the President when she was only 18, and despite all their time apart in those 34 years, she left an indelible impact on the man’s mind & soul. We should cultivate her lessons for him in ourselves, grow as a nation & a people, and use them to ensure Barack Obama does the right thing throughout the next six years.