Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reading Rainbow: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

If I were to postulate a guess as to why I seem to have been preoccupied with racially focused media, I would imagine it would be because of a certain Presidential candidate who I have vocally supported since he entered the contest.

As I write this entry, I am rewatching the Costas Now special with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, as a baseball fan this is a treasure of a special. Both men are great storytellers. Both men led public lives in tumultuous times and always led with a stoic pride despite latent racism trying at many turns to keep them down. Honestly, their staying above the fray and maintaining such an admirable invulnerability to hate laid the groundwork for what Barack Obama is doing today. To say that their on-field exploits and heroic efforts in the light of such adversity helped to advance the notion of black men in power becoming more and more pallatable to a largely scared (not justifiably scared, of course, as it was obviously whites oppressing blacks and therefore the oppressed with the claim to legitimacy for the inherent fear in this relationship) white population does not seem to me to be much of a stretch of the imagination.

I also happened to have recently read The Soul of Baseball, which I wrote about here, and found Aaron and Mays' forebearer Buck O'Neill's story to have been equally moving. Without the acclaim that Aaron and Mays enjoyed--or even the opportunity to play integrated ball--Buck O'Neill proudly served as one of baseball's most loved ambassadors, with a heart far larger than anyone should reasonably have who had suffered for so long under the heavy hand of prejudice.

This brings me to a book which I finished weeks ago and have been too busy to write about for various reasons (that if things go well I'll be able to talk about shortly): Dreams from My Father*. If you've not read it, try to find the time. At the very least, you're getting an insight to the innerworkings of the mind of the hopeful next President of the United States of America as it pertains to his origins (at least through his point-of-view in 1995).

*I'm not sure if I've mentioned this--I'd guess I have--but I really hate that I cannot figure out how to underline in these posts. So, Grammarnistas, I want you to know that I am aware that book titles are supposed to be underlined.

So I now realize that it would have been best to save that parenthetical at the end of the last official paragraph because I think there's a certain importance to the fact that this book was written 13 years ago. Obama had been the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and, as a result, gained a certain degree of fame and was pursued by publishers to write a book on race relations. When published Obama was only 33 years old. The insight he shows and the willingness to so publicly explore his own insecurities regarding his identity within society exceeded his years.

And, honestly, reading the book at times made me upset.

This is a point I should clarify.

When reading this book, it becomes clear very early that Barack Obama is quite a good writer. The fact that he's such a good writer in addition to every other thing he seems to do so well makes me angry. One man should not be so good at so many things.

But I suppose that's what we should aim for in finding our leader--someone who actually excels at seemingly everything they do.

I digress.

The book is a compelling read. His growing up is integral to the narrative, but perhaps the most interesting portions are when he's serving as a community organizer. It is through the intimation of those efforts that the most affective moments for me came. Honestly, it is a bit embarrassing, but there is a moment that got me choked up where--in large part because of Obama's efforts--some disenfranchised, continually slighted low-income black South Chicagoans see what their efforts can produce and actually get something back from the system that more often than not ignores them. Maybe that's ridiculous, and my weakness resulting from my own political idealism was clouding my emotions, but I was honestly moved.

And really, that is what Obama has been doing very publicly for the past almost two years.

Maybe I am projecting my perception of Barack Obama onto the Barack Obama in the book, which could very well be a constructed facade of a lesser man. But if it is a construction, it speaks to me, and I'd much prefer the notion of a construction that speaks to me than the alternative in this election.

Back to the book, though... It's good. Read it.

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