I just finished reading Barack Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father. The book is a bit of a sprawling mess, pretty unfocused and without a clear thesis. In some ways, it is two books uncertainly jammed together -- a book about growing up bi-racial in Hawaii, and a book about one man's introduction to his Kenyan heritage. The book could have benefited from some brutal editing in terms of content and direction. Nevertheless, it was an interesting glimpse into one man's search for identity.
I decided to look into Obama's family tree because I was fascinated by its variety. Kenyan father, WASP mother, Indonesian stepfather, and so so many half/step siblings. Reading Obama's memoir, I was interested to learn about his father's multiple wives and the fluidity of their relationships. Was Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. a bigamist? Maybe. It's hard to say, because cultural definitions of marriage and divorce differ between the United States and Kenya.
Watching the recent presidential inauguration, I was struck by the diversity of the Obama family. Sitting behind the new First Family were Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack's Indonesian-American half-sister, and her Chinese-Canadian husband, Auma Obama, Barack's Kenyan half-sister, Craig Robinson, Michelle's brother and his caucasian wife. What must they have been feeling?
I think that while America has always prided itself as being a nation of immigrants (ignoring the Native Americans while they say this), the rulers of this country have generally been pretty darn WASP-y. I can't help but thinking that the variety of Obama's heritage and experience will be good for our young nation.
I have to admit it -- I get great pleasure imagining what Thanksgiving at the White House might look like, this year.
(According to the Obama family tree, it looks like I might be a distant relative of Obama's maternal grandfather. His great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother and I are likely to be part of the same Demarest family. And he may also be related to my best friend from grade school. There's a Wilburn in his maternal grandmother's family.)
Rejecting tradition, this administration seems to have hired aides who have been trained as mimes. What on earth is going on in this photograph?