Manual Dreams of Barrys Stepfather

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You bet. Asked a second time, Lolo says yes.

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Answer: "Because he was weak. He makes the weak man work in his fields. But always better to be strong yourself. He sees his stepfather as a man who has "made his peace with power, learned the wisdom of forgetting" the hardships and inequities of life. Seeing how her son idolizes Lolo and begins to adopt his worldly cynicism clearly jolts Dunham, and she eventually sends him back to Hawaii to get a good education amid healthier influences. He was diligent and honest, no matter what it cost him. He had led his life according to principles that demanded a different kind of toughness, principles that promised a higher form of power.

I would follow his example, my mother decided.

Wet Dreams

I had no choice. It was in the genes. No doubt he has changed much in the intervening years. What happened?

The Kubrick Site: Kubrick's Anti-Reading of Barry Lyndon

He was also coming closer to accepting an uncomfortable feeling that had gnawed at him ever since those early days in Jakarta: that maybe Lolo was right. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts. But whatever one's politics, a fair-minded reading of Obama's history suggests that he is a figure of strength whose resilience was forged by his struggles to fill the hole left by an absent father, a Kenyan whom he met once, at Christmastime When Obama was a toddler, his father had declined a scholarship to New York University that would have supported the whole family in order to go to Harvard.

The Ivy League was, it seems, more important to the ambitious Obama Sr. There is a picture of Obama and his father in the Honolulu airport on that brief visit. Obama Sr.

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Barry, as the junior senator from Illinois was then known, is smiling, too, but he is not looking away: he is fully engaged in the moment, looking straight at the camera. His arms crossed, Barry is holding on tightly, pressing his father's large hand to his heart. He looks as though he would like to hold on forever.

He never saw his father again. Deprived of a father's love, Obama chose to build his own universe, an invisible center where the failings and flightiness of others could do him the least harm. Obama himself acknowledges the centrality of the question. In Obama's case, yet a third thing is true: he had to find a way to be comfortable in his own skin, reconciling his black and white ancestries while being raised largely by his white grandparents.

Without a father, he was forced to arm himself and to make his own way into the worlds he chose to join and to master. This is not to say that he did not love and respect his mother and grandparents, and appreciate their care. It is, rather, that, through no fault of their own, their care was simply not commensurate with his needs.


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He grew up in a milieu of unspoken truths, unacknowledged complexities and hidden histories. Obama was left with two alternatives: either descend into chaos as a lost soul or steel himself against the world in order to rise in it. He chose steeliness over surrender. The story of the Barack Obama who will become the Democratic nominee at the age of 47 is thus one of survival and defense, for of all the advice he was ever offered, the most significant, and the one perhaps most relevant to his rise and to his fate, was Soetoro's: always protect yourself.

Obama cherishes his life story as a unique saga, but the drama of a fatherless child's rise to temporal power, driven by ambition, a hunger for control and an appetite for the approval of others, is a familiar one in American politics.

Presidents, and presidential candidates, tend to come from one of two kinds of distinct families. There is either a powerful, prominent father at the center of the clan the Adamses, the Kennedys, the Bushes, the McCains or, more often than you might think, there is either a weak father or no father at all. An unusual number of presidents have been the sons of absent or weak fathers. Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton lost their fathers before they were born; Gerald Ford did not meet his biological father until he was 17 years old.

I asked Obama why he thought powerful politicians had either a strong father, or no father at all. But also because, again in my case, the stories I heard about my father painted him as larger than life, which also meant that I felt I had something to live up to. You could argue that if you're too well adjusted, you don't end up running for president. Obama went on: "So if the pattern sets in pretty early on where you're pushing your comfort level it probably has to do with those very early influences, and that can come from either the absence or the presence of a father who ends up motivating you in some way.

To those who follow politics closely, and to the legions of book buyers who have purchased Obama's two memoirs, his biography seems familiar now, but it still bears repeating; many Americans are still rather fuzzy about the details. Born in , Obama is the son of a white mother from Kansas; his father was a black man from Kenya. The parents met at the University of Hawaii, and married; Obama was born; the father, who, it turned out, already had one family in Africa, left for Harvard and never came back. His mother, who had a daughter, Maya, with Soetoro, separated from Soetoro and also moved back to Hawaii.

Obama went to college at Occidental, in Los Angeles, for two years before moving east to Columbia University. He worked in Chicago as a community organizer before applying to Harvard Law School—echoes of his father's earlier journey—and rising to become president of the Harvard Law Review. If you are really into armchair psychology, consider that the son returns to the scene of his betrayal by his father and outperforms the old man.

It is sort of "One L" meets "Oedipus. Already interested in politics—an arena in which success brings attention, authority and accomplishment, all things the fatherless tend to crave—he returned to Chicago, married a woman with a strong father, and was soon seeking office. Where did his drive come from? Obama's father was a striking presence on the campus of the University of Hawaii in the early s. Tall, loud, charismatic, opinionated, he had arrived as part of a scholarship program to educate the new generation of African leaders as countries such as Kenya were emerging from colonial rule.

Neil Abercrombie quickly befriended Obama, who was studying economics. Obama seemed the embodiment of a new world, a smart set of modern thinkers who would remake the planet. Their conversations would run long and late, fueled by beer and pizza. Obama and his friends were obsessed with world politics, with freedom movements internationally: the anticolonial independence movement in Africa, and civil rights in the United States.

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For Obama, those tribal concerns were not abstract. The Obama family is of the minority Luo tribe, but the emerging leader Kenyatta was of the majority Kikuyu tribe. The rivalries worsened soon after independence, in the late s, and remain in force today.

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Dreams From His Stepfather

But Obama was determined to return to Kenya. His decisions to go to Harvard and then to Africa led to the failure of his short marriage to Ann. A smart, young student with a passion for the emerging civil- rights movement, she had been a teenager when she met Obama in a Russian class. They fell in love, but Obama's ambition quickly broke up the family. She was an observer and a quiet participant. I think she concluded after little Barry was born that when Barack had an opportunity to go to the mainland, that his ambitions and her ambitions weren't going to work out.

He came out of the s in Africa and was affected by the patriarchal culture, as well as his own sense of destiny to participate in this movement. In the end, he went to Harvard because it was the top of the heap. There were letters from father to son, and replies, but the younger Obama recalls nothing particularly heartfelt.

His grandfather, Stanley, was the most constant male presence in his life. Abercrombie often saw young Barry with Stanley in Hawaii, walking the neighborhood together or going to the beach. He took him everywhere.