The Moorish Wanderer

Course 3 : Obama, the new father ?

Posted in American Minority Voices by Zouhair ABH on January 25, 2009

Here we are, the new president of the United States of North America, the 44th after George Washington, is M. Barack Obama ! the 44th, but the first African-American citizen to reach the highest office.

To his credit, the Democrats victory is won in a fair -or unfair, to his disadvantage- fight. Many Americans (that are not necessarily racists) had doubts about electing a man who has a Kenyan father and a mother from Arkansas. His candidacy rose racial issues that were buried well after the civil rights movement, or shall we say, under a widely accepted consensus : nobody talks about it.

44th United States President, Barack Hussein Obama

The first African-American president, ironically, does not represent the black community : he is mixed race, he is born in Hawaii, and graduated from the most prestigious universities in the US -and in the world-(i.e. Columbia and Harvard). I just visited his wikipedia page, and the man is truly a cosmopolitan: ”Barack Obama a des origines parmi de nombreux peuples. Par sa grand-mère maternelle, il aurait des ancêtres cherokees. Selon les affirmations de Lynne Cheney à la télévision le 17 octobre 2007, Barack Obama aurait une ancêtre commune avec le vice-président des États-Unis Dick Cheney : une Française, à la 8e génération. Il est aussi un lointain cousin de l’acteur Brad Pitt, du président George W. Bush, des anciens présidents Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman et de l’ancien Premier ministre britannique Winston Churchill. Plus étonnant encore, il compte des ancêtres germano-alsaciens, Christian Gutknecht né en 1722 et Maria Magdalena Grünholtz, tous deux nés à Bischwiller. Il aurait également un ancêtre belge à la 14e génération, Nicolas Martiau, né dans les environs de Wavre vers 1592. Mais ses origines européennes sont surtout anglaises, écossaises, et irlandaises. Un de ses arrière-grands-pères a émigré du comté d’Offaly en Irlande, au XIXe siècle.

He is a real American, in the sense that he gathered so many creeds that one could say President Obama achieved the ‘post-racial’ society.

It is hard for a Frenchman to understand the Obamania : French people -or at least, the better educated of them- cannot help but consider him as ‘black’ and at the same time, are more or less ashamed of their racial-based judgement. There is this founding myth in France that takes all French citizens to be equal, a myth that been brutally shaken out of its foundations since the 1980’s-1990’s (with north-African and sub-Saharan immigration). As a Moroccan, I could find some sense to the idea of a nation with autonomous communities that gather upon “commonwealth”; but then, our political system is so inadequate, as a French administration heritage (and for many other reasons)
Things are different in the US : it is a melting pot country, there is no racial criterion to define a ‘Real American’ (some KKK freaks might argue that the WASPs are the only true representatives, and others might even consider Native Americans to be the only true ones, quite beside the point though). The truth is, What gathers American is more a question of principles, principles that are inscribed in the Constitution.

Obama, the new father ? there is actually a great deal of paradox : Obama family is like any other family, with a Father -the modern Pater Familias-, a caring wife, and two -or more- children. Barack Obama, on the other hand, did not have a happy family history : his parents divorced when he was 3, his mother got married again, and divorced a second time. Furthermore, the young Obama had to move in many countries, a situation that could be unbearable for a young child and a youngster. But somehow he managed to sort it out, and eventually, it reflected positively on his nature, and added to his relatively new faith -he is Protestant since 1987-, Obama earned his position as the ‘new father’.

It seems to me that this election is full of paradoxes : Americans voted for a change, but the human being that embody that very sale change -although with a very original background- represents nothing but the values All Americans cherish : Family, Religion and a dollop of Patriotism… ‘le changement dans la continuité ?
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