Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama?

‘K. This is an issue that I have to write about.

I am being flooded, bombarded by news about this guy. Barack Hussein Obama. Soon to be president of America.

I was fascinated before, by the fairy tale story of this rise of pauper to prince. It is amusing, fascinating, enthralling. This real life story of a good man.

I am unashamedly African. Mine has not been the heritage of the African American, nor that of the African in the diaspora, in Australia, Europe or America. Indeed, I identify more with Barack Obama Sr, who was an African thru and thru. So, my perspective maybe odd for anyone in the west.

What does Barack Obama American journey mean to me?

First it was a source of amusement.

My upbringing, my sense of family, my sense of clan can never divorce from my thoughts that Obama is African. Simply because his father was African.

Bear with me. I grew up where the clan and ethnic group defines the person. That is Africa. Where a man, a male human being is something of a god. An adult male child is always 'owned' by the clan. As a child, the death rate is too high. But a grown male is firmly owned by the clan. The clan grows, is numbered by the males. The fact that BHO was born, and grew up overseas is nothing more than a reminder that we can grow up elsewhere. But, (and that is a big thing) that does not take away our clan, and tribe, and ethnic group.

Obama is Luo. That African ethnic group which straddles the Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. As much as Orokie is Luo, it is a stretch of the mind to believe him other than that. And, of course, his people claim him, and very proudly. (It is kind of funny how the western media is failing to understand the ecstasy and fascination in Kenya, but also in much of Africa. Simply put, this is a son of the soil, making good over the seas.)

So, here is this African man that is becoming president of the most powerful nation on earth. A bit unbelievable.

Yet that very fact is touching.

But he is more than that. He is also a white man. WildeY once touched me with his anger at the racial abuse that he suffered from fellow Africans, who thought that he was not African enough because one of his parents is white.

A continent of paradoxes. And the same old prejudices.

If Obama was in Africa, he would, on the one hand be accepted as a male member of the clan- and he would suffer abuse because he was not African enough. And, because he was and is male, he would beat those prejudices. More than likely.

But those racial problems have been a problem in America for years. And this is a part of their heritage which I as an African fail to understand. Our experiences, (at least for those of us who did not grow up in apartheid South Africa), our knowledge of racial discrimination has not been much. We are the majority in most of our countries. We are more likely to be the oppressors of minorities, than the victims. The anger, despair, sheer determination of fellow black people in the west is something that catches us off guard.

For the first time in my life, c/o CNN, I have listened to the MLKJr speech- the speech, ‘I have a dream’. Brought tears to my eyes. High flying eloquence, rhetoric, the power, cadence of speech, the point when he seems to put aside the written words and goes on to describe the dream. The marriage of ideals, speaking out against bigotry. All sorts of bigotry. Tackling the central theme of the African american’s discrimination in all spheres of life, but going ahead and tying it with the Jew, and all others who were discriminated against. The ideas and ideals are solid, and moving. The logical and rhetorical basis of the words touching.

I must say they reached out and touched me.

And that is the rub, not because the dream that he was talking about touches me as an African in my world- but as a gay African.

I have never truly identified with African Americans. I can never claim to understand their problem of race and racism. If I was from Zimbabwe, or South Africa, maybe I would have been able to. But I am not. I am from Uganda.

I can understand what I have lived, in my small and limited experience, environment. I can understand being considered half a person, on basis of a small part of what I am. It is not a failing, and I understand that when I don’t articulate that dream of I, a gay man, being equal and, that I, a gay man have and should have no fear for my life and happiness just because I am gay, a homosexual, I understand something is going on in my life that links my world to that of the current President elect, and soon to be President of the US.

This is a global village. I understand the fact that, with the US and the world in recession, my personal happiness on the economic front may depend on Obama pulling the world’s biggest economy out of recession. It will certainly affect me.

Bush the 43rd proved again and again in my life, how powerful the president of America is. Of course I don’t vote for him, but he affects me. Whether I like it or not.

Sigh, having said that, I have to take the next logical step for me. Make the dream mine, reach out and live the ideals, less Obama’s or the Americans’ but mine- where I am.

That is the challenge, seeing the ideas beyond the leader, however charismatic he or she is. Being able to forge the dream into my own, instead of the charismatic leader’s- and following it even if he fails it. Making the dream my own.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, I can really relate to it.

It's interesting I read the I have a dream speech for the first time today and the emotions you described are the same I felt.

I have always heard it was a good speech, but it was simply stunning.

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