Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Witches? Witchdoctors

Democrats, their apologists, and centrists have dismissed Dinesh D'Souza's argument that Barack Obama absorbed anticolonialist ideology from his father's writings and career.  I have yet to see such a critic actually cite the President's autobiography, the basis for many of D'Souza's claims.  Dreams From my Father presents a young man who sees himself as a smirky, post-modern and post-nationalist critic of almost everyone he encounters.  (I would add to D'Souza's observations Obama's own comments about his anthropologist mother's influence over him, in his second autobiography.) 

Clearly the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. goes a long way to explain the actions and policies of his son in the Oval Office. And we can be doubly sure about his father's influence because those who know Obama well testify to it. His "granny" Sarah Obama (not his real grandmother but one of his grandfather's other wives) told Newsweek, "I look at him and I see all the same things--he has taken everything from his father. The son is realizing everything the father wanted. The dreams of the father are still alive in the son."

In his own writings Obama stresses the centrality of his father not only to his beliefs and values but to his very identity. He calls his memoir "the record of a personal, interior journey--a boy's search for his father and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American." And again, "It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." Even though his father was absent for virtually all his life, Obama writes, "My father's voice had nevertheless remained untainted, inspiring, rebuking, granting or withholding approval. You do not work hard enough, Barry. You must help in your people's struggle. Wake up, black man!"

The climax of Obama's narrative is when he goes to Kenya and weeps at his father's grave. It is riveting: "When my tears were finally spent," he writes, "I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America--the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I'd witnessed in Chicago--all of it was connected with this small piece of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain that I felt was my father's pain."

In an eerie conclusion, Obama writes that "I sat at my father's grave and spoke to him through Africa's red soil." In a sense, through the earth itself, he communes with his father and receives his father's spirit. Obama takes on his father's struggle, not by recovering his body but by embracing his cause. He decides that where Obama Sr. failed, he will succeed. Obama Sr.'s hatred of the colonial system becomes Obama Jr.'s hatred; his botched attempt to set the world right defines his son's objective. Through a kind of sacramental rite at the family tomb, the father's struggle becomes the son's birthright.

Categories > Presidency

Discussions - 12 Comments

I don't suppose your post title was inspired in the slightest by this ever-so-clever, not-at-all-racist graphic utilized by not a few tea partiers ??

I agree, Ken. I read Maureen Dowd's rebuke of Newt Gingrich's endorsement of the article before I read the actual article. Wow. Evidently Miss Dowd hadn't read it, either.

Ah yes, thank you, Craig, for offering us more definitive proof of the Tea Party's racism. Too bad they didn't learn a thing or two from the rational, kind-hearted protestors of the Bush years.

I think my favorite America-loving poster was "DEATH TO EXTREMIST CHRISTIAN TERRORIST PIG-BUSH", although with so many patriotic, coherent signs on display it's hard to pick and choose.

Andrew, what is your actual point in offering that link to those signs? Is it something like "They did some unfair thing, so now we can too!" ??

I had a specific reason for asking my question (and allow me to detail it since it apparently wasn't clear enough). There's nothing mentioned in the original blog post that's related to the occult, doctors, healthcare/"Obamacare," etc. Why the mention of "witchdoctors"?? Is there a literary allusion that I'm missing here? Something from The Overton Window, perhaps? Of course, the "witches?" in the title refers to the previous threads about O'Donnell, but why "witchdoctors"?

I referred to the sign/doctored photo because that was the last time I saw Obama depicted or described as a witch doctor, when I saw those signs among the tea partiers.

So when I see "witchdoctors" as a title of a post about Obama, his father, and Obama's visit to Africa, I do wonder what that's about.

Instead the post deals with Obama and his father, and Obama's visit to Kenya

see the previous NLT post

If one reads D'Souza/Obama, it's clear that the witchdoctor is Obama's father, not Obama. It's a good description of Obama's own description of this moment, is it not? Isn't he under a spell? Don't witchdoctors cast such spells? Or do you have another explanation of Obama's own words? The comment above reflects the tactic of all Obama apologists: Ignore what Obama himself wrote.

"The comment above [mine? Please... I'm no Obama apologist!!] reflects the tactic of all Obama apologists: Ignore what Obama himself wrote."

"If one reads D'Souza/Obama, it's clear that the witchdoctor is Obama's father, not Obama."

Okay then, so please show me where Obama referred to his father as a witch doctor - show me the words that Obama himself wrote!

I quote them above from Obama. If you don't think Obama's father is functioning as a witch doctor, what is going on in this scene at Obama's grave.

A shaman is usually considered to be a living person who is thought to function as an intermediary between the physical and spiritual worlds. Obama wasn't utilizing his father to communicate or interact with spirits of the dead. His father WAS one of the spirits; he might have needed/used/requested/hired a shaman to connect with his father's spirit.

What the quoted text reveals to me (other than that Obama never used the word(s) "witchdoctor" or even "shaman") is a guy whose estranged father is buried halfway around the world and he visited his grave years later and found it to be a profound and emotional experience - unsurprisingly.

If, let's say, this was a North Dakotan (rather than Obama), maybe named Billy O'Keefe, visiting and weeping at his estranged father's grave in Dublin, I'm guessing that the phrase "witchdoctor" wouldn't have been used, and that so much effort wouldn't have been expended by conservatives to try to make N. Dakota guy appear so mysteriously (and ominously - Oh dear! He's filled with congenital "hatred"!!! Just how will he exact his revenge??!!) foreign.

And if O'Keefe pere were a fanatical IRA supporter....

...then....what?? You would call him a witchdoctor, too?

If he had an autobio called Dreams from My Father, which makes central a man who played a marginal role in his son's life while he was alive, I'd maybe call him a druid or somesuch. Again, the text is crucial. That's what the post is about.

I'm sure you would.

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