Obama’s poor grandmother: “I can’t cope”, the price of fame

From Today’s Daily Standard: I can’t cope with new status, says Obama’s granny

obamas-grandmaWith only a month to the inauguration of her grandson as America’s 44th President, Mama Sarah Obama has become more than a celebrity.

The American and Kenyan governments have taken full charge of her security with the number of guests visiting her home in Alego Kogelo, Siaya, increasing tenfold since the US election on November 4.

Her movements have been restricted for security reasons and the two governments are monitoring every move at her home as the clock tick’s to January 20 — the day President-elect Barack Obama takes over as the President of the world’s most powerful country.

“She is now a VIP and must be treated as so. We do not want to leave anything to chance,” said a senior police officer at the Nyanza Provincial headquarters.

Sarah’s home, once just like any other in the village, is now teeming with visitors and trappings of power. She now has electricity — which took the Government only a week to install, a fence, a metal gate and a police post.

The Government is now drilling a well at the home. Kogelo Market, once a sleepy outpost, is now competing with many urban centres in the province.

Mama Sarah, 87, has received close to 5,000 visitors since Barack Obama’s historic election as the America’s first black President. . .

. . . “This visitors are many and I do not even have the time to go to my kitchen to cook as I use to do,” says Mama Sarah.

The grand mother said “Gibiro motamo wan’ga” (they have overwhelmed me) adding that she has not seen such a scenario before. . . .

Obama a Galileean Bedouin

The beauty of Obama’s mixed heritage; the plot thickens: Israel Times

Barack Obama will be America’s first black president, but according to a large Israeli Arab clan he will also be the first Bedouin president.  Leaders of the 8,000-strong Galilee-based Bedouin tribe claimed in an interview with The Times of London that Obama is a long-lost relative.

They noted that during the British Mandate period, Kenyan and other African migrant workers were brought to Palestine to work for Bedouins sheikhs. A 95-year-old member of the tribe who lived through the British Mandate period said one of those workers married a local Bedouin girl and then moved back to Kenya.

Tribe leaders said they have documented evidence proving that that Bedouin-Kenyan couple was a fore-bearer of Obama on his paternal grandmother’s side. . .

I love it!

A post evangelical America?

The Washington Post On Faith asks, “Post Evangelical America?”

Lisa Miller says, “Yes”

Just as “race” has a whole new meaning in America this week, so, too, does “faith.” For at least four decades, white evangelicals have been the religion-and-politics story in this country. Their power, their rhetoric, their numbers, their theology–all have been so dominant that many of us in the media had forgotten that religious faith could be expressed any other way. Last summer, a colleague and I wrote a profile of president-elect Barack Obama that described his Christian faith–a journey that started with a deeply spiritual but not religious upbringing, progressed through a considerable amount of reading, searching and ambivalence, and culminated in an emotional homecoming in a socially active, black church in Chicago. . .

. . .The exit polls echo findings by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which last year published a massive study showing Americans to be deeply spiritual–90 percent of them say they believe in God–but less and less concerned with denominational orthodoxy. Like Obama, a quarter of Americans practice a faith different from the one they were raised in, the Pew survey showed. Among Protestants, that number is a third. Even a quarter of atheists say they believe in a higher power or a universal spirit.

Darrell Bock is a professor at New Testament Studies at the Dallas Theological Seminary who voted for Obama. For Christians like him, social issues such as abortion and gay marriage were not litmus tests this year. . .

Richard Mouw says, “No” – Evangelicals are celebrating Obama too”

After a week or so of basking in the afterglow of the presidential election, I am starting to get a little grumpy. It’s not about President-elect Obama. Like many other Americans I wept tears of joy when he addressed the nation on the evening of November 4. What is irritating me is much of the post-election analysis, especially as it focuses on religious issues.

Lisa Miller’s Newsweek piece, “A Post-Evangelical America,” is one of the things that has put me in a foul mood. . .

. . .Were these commentators really listening when President-elect Obama called for the kind of civility that really listens to folks with whom we disagree? Do they really think that the sober tone of his victory speech was a declaration that it is time to ridicule those of us who hold to some conservative values on the so-called “social issues,” in the hope of silencing our voices in the public debates?I am an evangelical who does not always get very high marks from the Religious Right for the stands that I take. But I do share some of their views on some key issues of public policy. If there is a lesson to be learned about evangelicalism these days, it is not that we have been banned from the public square because of the Obama election, but that we are not as easily stereotyped as the Lisa Miller and others want to think. We have come to an evangelical faith as people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and economic levels. We reside in urban and rural areas, and we live in countries across the globe. We represent every “tribe and tongue.” This means too that we do not all occupy the same place on the political spectrum.

. . . In my part of the evangelical world, folks have been celebrating the election of Barack Obama.


Onto a totally different subject . . . the Washington Post’s On Faith asks, is compassion central to all religions?: “Religion scholar Karen Armstrong is asking the world to write a Charter for Compassion, based on her premise that compassion is central to all religions. Do you agree? If so, what has gone wrong?”

[Read several responses from different religious perspectives at On Faith ]

Something dramatic just happened in America’s moral economy

In the last couple of days, I’ve been touched by reading articles and posts by African Americans that have been deeply moved by Barak Obama’s election. As you already know, I was moved for many of the same reasons, but obviously, I can never feel it as deeply as they feel it (nor can the younger generations feel it like the older generations). My challenge to my white friends is to read some of these reflections and try to absorb some of the history and emotion. This is a very teachable moment, and it may help us begin to change the way we think about certain things. (These examples just happen to be from sites I regularly peruse; I’m sure there are many more.)

Eugene Robinson – (Washington post): Morning in America

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In our Lifetime (the Root): “From toiling as White House slaves to President-elect Barack Obama, we have crossed the ultimate color line.”

Alice Walker – an Open Letter to Obama (The Root)

Edward Gilbreath – What Obama, Tchaikovsky, and Dante Have in Common (Reconciliation Blog)

Todd Burkes – I wish you could have been here. (Follow)

Kevin Merida: A Day of Transformation: America’s History Gives Way to It’s Future (Washington Post)

. . . Presidential elections often reveal something about the nation’s character, its temperament and state of mind. Many who are wondering how it happened that Barack Obama was elected president this season are also wondering what else they may be missing in their cities and towns and neighborhoods. Transformation rarely announces itself with trumpets. It usually happens gradually, over time, and then — clang!— a singular moment chimes the news. From its founding, the United States has seen itself as a special place, an example to other nations, a “city on the hill.” With the election of its first black president, it can now begin to erase one of the stains on that reputation, one that repeatedly shamed us in front of other countries. . .

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Man of Tomorrow (Washington Post) – sort of a side note.

I also liked this quote about where Obama stands (and differs) with other civil rights leaders – some perspective: “He ran the last leg of a 60-year tag race . . . The wall is down now. Barack must build the bridge for the next generation.” He leapt the tallest barrier. What does it mean for Black America? (Washington Post)

BONUS: Here is a looong New Yorker article that I highly recommend: The Joshua Generation: Race and the Campaign of Barack Obama

As white Americans (especially white evangelicals), we need to come to grips with the reality that something deeply significant just happened in the moral economy of our nation. Let’s put our political reservations aside for a minute and wholeheartedly celebrate what this means within the moral paradoxes of our nation’s history.

Disclaimers: This is only a beginning, and the harsh political realities will emerge soon enough. As far as I recall, none of these writers is saying that Obama is the messiah; this is bigger than any one individual. Also, I do make a distinction between celebrating this moral milestone and Obamamania. Some people (worldwide) might as well be cheering for their favorite sports team; it almost cheapens it for the rest of us.

I cried, and Liam stole my snack

I didn’t stay up to watch the election results; I got a good night’s sleep. I woke up this morning and turned on BBC radio just in time to hear McCain’s concession speech. Christi and I went downstairs in the apartment of our Sudanese neighbors to watch Obama’s victory speech (we don’t have a TV.) Liam (my 2 year old son) had fallen down on his way to school; he walked back to be comforted and joined the festivities.

The speech was vintage Obama, but I’m not big on hype or political rhetoric; I remember Bush saying many of the same things when he was first elected (obviously not as eloquently).

But when the speech was over and Michelle Obama walked out onto the stage, the tears suddenly came (for Christi too). The symbolic importance of this moment for America and the world cannot be overestimated. I know it’s not perfect, and the real work is just beginning, but a critical threshold has just been crossed. That this barrier has been broken means a lot to me, and it makes me feel real good right now.

In the meantime Liam, rummaging through my backpack, takes out my banana bread snack, adds it to his own, zips up his backpack, and – with a smirk on his face – trudges off to school ;-).

Other random thoughts:

  • I’m really glad the campaign is over.
  • Will all the lobbyist have to learn how to play basketball now? (Reflecting on Obama’s election day activity.)
  • Christi on seeing Joe Biden on stage: “Joe Biden just got a free ride. He must be thinking, ‘boy was that easy.'”
  • I appreciated McCain’s concession speech, but we haven’t arrived with regards to race; we’ve still got a long way to go – on Main Street as it were.
  • It’s all downhill from here (once the realities of Washington strike); wait, we still have the inauguration. I’m counting the the First Lady to help the president keep it real.

With apologies to all my really conservative friends, I’m going to enjoy this moment.

I hope my Kenyan brothers and sisters are REALLY watching

As we celebrate the victory of “your son,” (Kenya Declares a National Holiday) I hope you pay close attention to the details.

  • People voted across ethnic lines (at least in many places).
  • Ballots were quickly and ACCURATELY counted, and the results released immediately.
  • The loser graciously conceded, and both candidates put the campaign rhetoric aside and praised their opponents.
  • There was no violence.

I know the circumstances here last year were difficult and different; we had our disputed election this decade too.

In 2012 your American son will be up for re-election, and both of our nations will be voting. For that election to be successful here, attitudes and systems need to begin changing now in preparation- “change you can believe in; the change we need” (I’m referring especially to ethnicity as a political tool and systems of accountability.)

So savor the moment, and let’s work towards making 2012 a celebration for all of us.

The Daily Nation editorial perhaps says it best: Lessons for Africa from US elections.

Kenyan help for Obama election (cartoon)

Today’s Standard Cartoon [sorry, by the time you click this link there will be a new cartoon]

UPDATE: I have taken down this cartoon. It’s one thing for those of us who live in Kenya to share an inside joke going into the election (it was from the local paper), but as the hits on this post  began to rise over the last couple of days–long after the election, I began to suspect that it might be feeding racist stereotypes.

Don’t mess with Obama in Kenya or you’ll be deported (Corsi)

Everyone is welcome to visit Kenya’s gameparks; just don’t try to slander Obama while you are here. I didn’t see the TV news last night (don’t own a TV), but today The Standard writes Drama as anti-Obama author is deported:

. . . An attempt by anti-Obama crusaders to launch a smear campaign ended in a dramatic anti-climax when an American author was bundled out of Nairobi, moments before he could launch his book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality. Dr Jerome Corsi, a Republican, was declared persona non grata and deported last night after earlier being detained by Immigration officials. The charge… engaging in illegal activities in Kenya. . . “They violated terms of the visitor’s pass by engaging in a business and marketing of his book. They required a special permit to do business,” a top Immigration source said.

Read all about it in the Standard’s article or the Daily Nation’s version (it gets better) and now even the NY Times and the Washington Post.

Here is The Standard‘s cartoon for today – 8 October:

Immigration officer leads Corsi away

Thanks for the heads up, Simon. I would have missed it.

Why does the black guy always have to be the one explaining race and racism?

I normally avoid commenting on the American election, and I certainly don’t have anything to add about Obama’s speech (full CQ transcript here) that you haven’t already heard or read. I do, however, feel compelled to make one comment about the “event” itself.

What we are witnessing is a clear example of “white privilege.” When are we going to hear this kind of full discourse on race from Clinton or Obama? Probably never. It’s too incendiary a topic and they can always retreat to their safer majority white worlds. Why risk it? Obama doesn’t have that privilege; he has to face the subject every day.

So here’s my challenge to my white brothers and sisters, regardless of your political leanings or candidate preference. Educate yourself on the legacy of racism and incarnate yourself into the black world for a while. Study the systems that perpetuate our racialized world. As you begin to “get it” (and this will take a long time and a lot of painful effort) start speaking up, so your black brothers and sisters don’t always have to carry the burden.


While you are here check out this post from Frank Schaeffer. (Thanks to Jim West of my previous post.)

Frank Schaeffer: Obama’s Minister Committed “Treason” But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero

When Senator Obama’s preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father — Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer — denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father’s footsteps) rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the “murder of the unborn,” has become “Sodom” by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, “under the judgment of God.” They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama’s minister’s shouted “controversial” comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton

Tribalism (Kenya & America)

Tribalism in America & Kenya. (Cohen, NYTimes) I don’t need to post what he has to say about Kenya for the moment, but here is what he says about America. . .

. . . America’s peaceful tribes are also out in force. As Obama and Hillary Clinton engage in the long war for the Democratic nomination, we have the black vote, and the Latino vote, and the women-over-50 vote, and the Volvo-driving liberal-intellectual vote, and the white blue-collar vote, and the urban vote, and the rural vote, and the under-30s vote — sub-groups with shared social, cultural, linguistic or other traits and interests.

That’s democracy at work. Sure. But the United States is divided, within itself and from the world, in growing ways.

It is divided by war, by income chasms, by foreclosures, by political polarization and by culture wars. Increasingly it is looked upon from outside with dismay or alarm. Healing, within and without, will be a central task of the next president.

. . . If I was to sum up this presidential race, I’d say: “It’s the generations, stupid.”

An American generation under 45 has glimpsed an interconnected world beyond race and tribe. They know its attainment will be elusive but, after a bleak season, they feel summoned by what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Looking out from Kenya, where he mediated an end to the tribal violence, Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, told me: “I think an Obama presidency would be inspirational, an incredible development in the world.”

[Read the full op-ed here]