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Obama Muses On The Meaning Of Family

From the UK’s Times:

Found in a rundown Boston estate: Barack Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyang

James Bone in Boston, Rob Crilly in Kogelo and Ben Macintyre

October 30, 2008

The aunt of Barack Obama, Zeituni Onyango

Barack Obama has lived one version of the American Dream that has taken him to the steps of the White House. But a few miles from where the Democratic presidential candidate studied at Harvard, his Kenyan aunt and uncle, immigrants living in modest circumstances in Boston, have a contrasting American story.

Zeituni Onyango, the aunt so affectionately described in Mr Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston.

A second relative believed to be the long-lost “Uncle Omar” described in the book was beaten by armed robbers with a “sawed-off rifle” while working in a corner shop in the Dorchester area of the city. He was later evicted from his one-bedroom flat for failing to pay $2,324.20 (£1,488) arrears, according to the Boston Housing Court

In his book Mr Obama writes that “Uncle Omar” had gone missing after moving to Boston in the 1960s – a quarter-century before Mr Obama first visited his family in Kenya. Aunt Zeituni is now also living in Boston, and recently made a $260 campaign contribution to her nephew’s presidential bid from a work address in the city.

Speaking outside her home in Flaherty Way, South Boston, on Tuesday, Ms Onyango, 56, confirmed she was the “Auntie Zeituni” in Mr Obama’s memoir. She declined to answer most other questions about her relationship with the presidential contender until after the November 4 election. “I can’t talk about it, I just pray for him, that’s all,” she said, adding: “After the 4th, I can talk to anyone.”

Isn’t it funny that Mr. Obama’s destitute relatives would be turned up by a British paper, rather than by members of our stateside watchdog media?

And isn’t it odd how Ms Onyango cannot speak to the press until after Election Day?

Still, as the article notes, Aunt Zeituni looms large in Mr. Obama’s first autography, Dreams From My Father.

We will let Mr. Obama’s musings on the meaning of family (pages 152-4), brought about by meeting Aunt Zeituni and the rest of his family in Kenya:

What is a family? Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? An ambit of love? A reach across the void?

I could list various possibilities. But I’d never arrived at a definite answer, aware early on that, given my circumstances, such an effort was bound to fail. Instead, I drew a series of circles around myself, with borders that shifted as time passed and faces changed but that nevertheless offered the illusion of control. An inner circle, where love was constant and claims unquestioned. Then a second circle, a realm of negotiated love, commitments freely chosen. And then a circle for colleagues, acquaintances; the cheerful gray-haired lady who rang up my groceries back in Chicago. Until the circle finally widened to embrace a nation or a race, or a particular moral course, and the commitments were no longer tied to a face or a name but were actually commitments I’d made to myself.

In Africa, this astronomy of mine almost immediately collapsed. For family seemed to be everywhere: in stores, at the post office, on streets and in the parks, all of them fussing and fretting over Obama’s long-lost son. If I mentioned in passing that I needed a notebook or shaving cream, I could count on one of my aunts to insist that she take me to some far-off corner of Nairobi to find the best bargains, no matter how long the trip took or how much it might inconvenience her.

“Ah, Barry…what is more important than helping my brother’s son?”

If a cousin discovered, much to his distress, that Auma had left me to fend for myself, he might walk the two miles to Auma’s apartment on the off chance that I was there and needed company…

At first I reacted to all this attention like a child to its mother’s bosom, full of simple, unquestioning gratitude. It conformed to my idea of Africa and Africans, an obvious contrast to the growing isolation of American life, a contrast I understood, not in racial, but in cultural terms. A measure of what we sacrificed for technology and mobility, but that here-as in the kampongs outside Djakarta or in the country villages of Ireland or Greece — remained essentially intact: the insistent pleasure of other people’s company, the joy of human warmth.

As the days wore on, though, my joy became tempered with tension and doubt. Some of it had to do with what Auma had talked about that night in the car — an acute awareness of my relative good fortune, and the troublesome questions such good fortune implied. Not that our relatives were suffering, exactly. Both Jane and Zeituni had steady jobs

Still, the situation in Nairobi was tough and getting tougher. Clothes were mostly secondhand, a doctor’s visit reserved for the direst emergency. Almost all the family’s younger members were unemployed, including the two or three who had managed, against stiff competition, to graduate from one of Kenya’s universities. If Jane or Zeituni ever fell ill, if their companies ever closed or laid them off, there was no government safety net. There was only family, next of kin; people burdened by similar hardship.

Now I was family, I reminded myself; now I had responsibilities. But what did that mean exactly? Back in the States, I’d been able to translate such feelings into politics, organizing, a certain self-denial. In Kenya, these strategies seemed hopelessly abstract, even self-indulgent. A commitment to black empowerment couldn’t help find Bernard a job. A faith in participatory democracy couldn’t buy Jane a new set of sheets.

For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking deeply about money: my own lack of it, the pursuit of it, the crude but undeniable peace it could buy. A part of me wished I could live up to the image that my new relatives imagined for me: a corporate lawyer, an American businessman, my hand poised on the spigot, ready to rain down like manna the largesse of the Western world.

But of course I wasn’t either of those things. Even in the States, wealth involved trade-offs for those who weren’t born to it, the same sorts of trade-offs that I could see Auma now making as she tried, in her own way, to fulfill the family’s expectations…

It was the same dilemma that [the Communist] old Frank [Marshall Davis] had posed to me the year I left Hawaii, the same tensions that certain children in Altgeld might suffer if they took too much pleasure in doing their schoolwork, the same perverse survivor’s guilt that I could expect to experience if I ever did try to make money and had to pass the throngs of young black men on the corner as I made my way to a downtown office.

Without power for the group, a group larger, even, than an extended family, our success always threatened to leave others behind. And perhaps it was that fact that left me so unsettled-the fact that even here, in Africa, the same maddening patterns still held sway; that no one here could tell me what my blood ties demanded or how those demands could be reconciled with some larger idea of human association.

It was as if we — Auma, Roy, Bernard, and I-were all making it up as we went along. As if the map that might have once measured the direction and force of our love, the code that would unlock our blessings, had been lost long ago, buried with the ancestors beneath a silent earth…

Obviously Mr. Obama’s guilt about his suffering relatives was merely a literary affectation.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 29th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

23 Responses to “Obama Muses On The Meaning Of Family”

  1. Consilience says:

    Mr. Obama is the “thug messiah”. He dwells with thugs and is a thug. He cares not for family, he cares only about seizing power and ruining our Republic. The books, the moderate talk is all subterfuge.

  2. Media_man says:

    “literary affectation” of his ghost writer, Bill Ayres.

  3. curvyred says:

    Was it Bill or KSA who was the ghostly over his shoulder whisperer?

  4. Consilience says:

    Does it matter? There seems to be more than enough circumstantial evidence to make this man not a nominee for president, but an enemy of all that America has held sacred since the founding. The thug messiah is a Marxist at minimum–and I don’t need any more to disqualify him.

  5. DEZ says:

    “and I don’t need any more to disqualify him.”

    Agreed Consilience, but it would appear that a large number of voters are too pig stupid to see such a simple truth.

  6. Steve says:

    “literary affectation” of his ghost writer, Bill Ayres.”

    Sorry, but this is another absurd red-herring that is driving me crazy.

    I have now had the dubious honor of having read several of Ayers’ books and both of Obama’s — and a number of Obama’s speeches.

    Ayers sounds NOTHING like Obama. And is really laughable that anyone would suggest it. Obama has a very distinctive writing style.

    Listen to Obama read his books on audio tape. He sounds just like he always does when he talks.

    This whole argument would be laughable if it hadn’t wasted so much time and electrons.

    But this has been the season for that. (The birth certificate, Michelle tape(s), and a half dozen other absolute wastes of time…)

    / rant

  7. SG-
    You are doing great work! Don’t let the blind alleys get you down.

  8. nick o says:

    The Senator is an empty suit. He is going to get caught when the missing pieces are found or finally released and they will be found. Tha amazing part of all of this is they must know that the truth will come out. This fellow Axelrod is at the forefront and probably the Ayers conduit.

  9. aze_216 says:

    I just don’t get it. You’ve got Obama who obviously doesn’t care about the well being of his family. The wife’s a little hungry and spends $400+ on a few lobster snacks in a luxury hotel, they blow a few million on some tv informercials and then plan on spending millions more on a giant celebration. You’d think that a guy who smugly tells the rest of us that we’re our brother’s keeper and we need to take care of the ‘least among us’ would maybe “redistribute” that political money to the poor as a symbol of his core values… nah! He needs the attention…. maybe biden could donate a few dolla…. ah.. no biden doesn’t believe in personal charity either.

  10. ptat says:

    SG,SG! My sympathies for your having to suffer through such doggeral–how the hell could you do that? I have always found solace in knowing that reading the pompous vats of vomit liberal authors spew on their followers is sublime punishment in itself. I mean, My Life by Clinton? What exquisite torture for his deserving audience! It Takes A Village? Anything by Joe Wilson or Paul Bagala? Madeline Albright? The list is long. However….the dirty little secret is that nobody really reads this tripe, they just buy it to make a statement. You, sir, have evidenced superhuman powers to have not only read, but listened to this brain dead moron as he searches for a coherent thought.

  11. Consilience says:

    ptat—Here, here and DITTO!

    SG is doing the Lords work. I read portions of the Ayers’ Prairie Fire tome and just couldn’t stomach the bile—-same with the messiah’s messiah Alinsky.

    I agree the birth certificate argument is specious; if there were anything, the Clintons would have exposed him.

    We have to be careful not to lend our passion these “facts” which cloud the issue. One issue and fact is that Calypso Louie calls this socialist the messiah; hence, the thug messiah.

    Keep the faith!!!

  12. Liberals Demise says:

    What a bunch of physco babble B.S.!! Here is my humble opinion:
    Virgins don’t hang around with prostitutes…….Patriots don’t hang around with terrorist.
    It’s just that simple!!

  13. Steve says:

    By the way, one wonders if Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Omar are in this country legally?

    And is Aunt Zeituni living in public assisted housing legally?

  14. Steve says:

    “My sympathies for your having to suffer through such doggeral–how the hell could you do that?”

    Worse still, I also read about twenty Hillary books.

  15. Liberals Demise says:

    SG….you don’t cackle do you? Was a gun held to your head?

  16. wardmama4 says:

    -‘And isn’t it odd how Ms Onyango cannot speak to the press until after Election Day?’-
    I’m thinking Auntie and others in Obama’s family and past are 1) wanting to live until Nov 5th and 2) expecting great ‘reparations’ on Nov 5th if The One ™ is elected.

    I don’t completely think that the birth certificate is ‘specious’ – in that if Obama had calculated this ‘run of historic’ proportions long, long ago – perhaps some of the low light/down time prior to his thrust into the public searchlight spotlight – might have been to ‘clean’ up those nasty little, pesky little ‘problems’ and ‘issues’ (and believe me – if there is anyone who could and would know what to do, it is a ‘Constitutional’ lawyer). And for someone who so vividly despises the Constitution – what better way to set it on it’s end than elect a non-citizen as a POTUS? [Yes, SG I know this causes your teeth to grind, but it is simply my opinion – and I would put nothing past The One ™]

    On reading the drivel, spewings and distortions of the Left – I do it too (well as much of the books as I can stomach) – and I venture into DK, DU, HP, & MM on a somewhat consistant schedule – for one of the maxims I live by is: Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. And besides what better way to debate, discuss and decimate their drivel than by reading it and doing the research to prove them wrong?

    You all miss the socialist/Obama point – that the end (taking care of the least of these) is much more holy, greater and more ‘justice’ when it is done with someone else’s money. . .Egad, to do it with my own would make me just like those icky evangelical Christians!

  17. platypus says:


    It’s your blog – you get to rant as much as you wish. :)

    You’re right about the distraction aspect of most of the issues. But there is one aspect of the birth certificate controversy that is important. And that is whether momma named a black man from Africa as the father.

    The reason that this is important is that if she failed to name anyone, no problem. But if she named any foreigner, then there’s a very good chance that BHO falsified his applications to various colleges.

    You see, it is not skin color which entitles one to federal affirmative action benefits – it is being a descendant of freed slaves. The federal protections were designed and enacted to deal with a specific subset of American society, and that subset IS NOT descendants of Kenyan nationals.

    Now I would agree with you on almost everything you say about this being a distraction from winning the election (and I do) except that no one has really done a “what if” analysis of how proof of this would affect BHO if it came out AFTER he is a sitting President.

    A better question would be how would it affect the image of the USA if the world could clearly see a man in the White House who had committed fraud to get his degrees? A side point is how would the Western version of a “tribal issue” be viewed by countries where “tribes” are prominant and foundational?

    BHO is not qualified but rational thinking does not seem to be sufficient to get a lot of the koolaid drinkers to stop acting like teenyboppers at a concert.

    I certainly understand what you are saying but I have to hold back at saying it is a “complete” distraction. The MSM failure to vet him makes it crucial that somebody does it, if only to make the record for a possible later future where it does matter.

  18. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    It is really important to know thy enemy. We all should be so well read.

    But when will people start to see the truth, the Truth squad as I see it:

    Assertion: Democrats are for the working man.
    Fact: Dems support taking money from successful people and giving to those who don’t work. Support illegal scabs who undercut hard working Americans, you know, the hard working Americans Obama cite as not being as successful as Joe the plumber.
    Truth: Dems are for NON working men and cheap illegal labor.

    Assertion: Democrats are good Christians
    Fact: Democrats oppose any talk of Christianity in public, instead allow all other religions to practice freely and protect them with “hate crime” legislation. The only churches they attend are merely venues to disseminate more of their agenda/propaganda. Aka rev wright
    Truth: Democrats view Christians as suckers, a means to an end.

    Assertion: Democrats are family oriented
    Fact: They blame schools for failure of students instead of the family unit. In turn raising taxes for more failed government programs to gain more votes. They, specifically Obama, let his “less politically advantageous” members of his family rot in Africa and the slums of Boston.
    Truth: More lies, another means to an end.

    There are many more, but we all know them.

  19. Steve says:

    “SG….you don’t cackle do you? Was a gun held to your head?”

    I’m dangerously close to cackling.

    I read (and scanned) all of those Hillary books in preparation for her inevitable nomination. But it turns out the media was lying about that, too.

    And speaking of Hillary’s books, her “autobiographies” were obviously ghost-written. Unlike BHO’s tomes, they really don’t sound like her for large sections at a time.

    Of course we now know (thanks to her trying to short-change her ghost writers) that this is indeed the case.

  20. Steve says:

    “Now I would agree with you on almost everything you say about this being a distraction from winning the election (and I do) except that no one has really done a “what if” analysis of how proof of this would affect BHO if it came out AFTER he is a sitting President.”

    One of the few feathers in John Kennedy’s cap when he ran for the Presidency was that he had written “Profiles In Courage.”

    Even before he ran for the Presidency, Drew Pearson claimed that the book had been actually ghost-written by Ted Sorenson.

    The Kennedy camp howeled bloody murder, and Pearson was forced to retract the story.

    However, yYears later Sorenson, in his autobiography, basically admitted that he had indeed written PIC.

    And we can see all the difference that confession has made in how people think of JFK.

    But of course you are right about how BHO needs to be vetted as much as possible. And we have been doing what we can here.

  21. 1sttofight says:

    Uh Oh, Obamas aunt, who is an illegal alien hiding from the deportation cops while living in gov housing, gave over $200 to the Obama campaign.
    Isn’t that illegal?

    Very interesting site. You can check and see who gave what to whom. Check on your friends and neighbors. Heh Heh, Heh.


    Oh and BTW, According to Obama now if you do not like paying high taxes are you not only unpatriotic , but you are SELFISH TOO.
    What a guy.

  22. 1sttofight says:

    “So let me get this straight. Millionaire Obama doesn’t use his wealth to help his poor illegal alien Aunt get out of public housing, but if I complain about Obama wanting to raise my taxes to ’spread the wealth around’ I’m the selfish one?”

    Shamelessly stolen from the MM site. ;)

    Just too damn good to pass up.

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