Monday, April 09, 2007

For Obama, Estranged in a Strange Land, Aloha Had Its Limits

An interesting article in today's NYT from a fellow Hawaiian.

There is, in this crowded paradise, a slot for everybody.Or almost everybody.

For Mr. Obama, fitting in at Punahou could have been hard, given its reputation as a cliquish school dominated since missionary days by the rich white people who founded it. Mr. Obama, a scholarship student, wasn’t rich and didn’t look white.

Beyond that, his parents — University of Hawaii graduate students — and his Kansas grandparents, who helped raise him after his father returned to Africa, had no roots in the local culture. He lived in a state that, then as now, had a minuscule African-American population. He seems to have been surrounded by people who knew just enough about black America to be stupidly insensitive, and his family couldn’t help him.

“I was engaged in a fitful interior struggle,” he wrote. “I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant.”

April 9, 2007
Editorial Observer

For Obama, Estranged in a Strange Land, Aloha Had Its Limits

Reporters have been shuttling across the Pacific lately in search of the early chapters of Senator Barack Obama’s life story. Their guidebook is his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” in which he describes his adolescence in Honolulu — where he was born and lived through high school, except for a few years in Indonesia — as a difficult time marked by drug use, disaffection and a painful search for identity.

The New York Times listed the ingredients of his young psyche as “racial confusion,” “feelings of alienation” and “disquietude.” The Los Angeles Times suggested that it was not just angst, but boiling angst.

Sounds oddly bleak, doesn’t it? Angst boils up in most people at some point in life, but if there were any place the son of a Kansan and a Kenyan could have fit in, wouldn’t it have been Hawaii? If there is a heaven, it probably looks a lot like Oahu, and the happy souls in it probably go around talking like our national spokesman for racial relaxation, Senator Obama.


Post a Comment

<< Home