“Dreams From My Father”: Obama’s Fables

I read “Dreams from My Father” about a year ago.  It was pretty much what I expected, and I gave it little further thought.  But now that cynophagy and composite girlfriends have produced virtual reams of electronic copy across the internet, I realize I missed something.  I coudda been a contender.  Few of the millions who bought the book read it closely, if at all.

The juicy cuts have been ingested but, perhaps like a hungry man three days after Thanksgiving I can still pick something of interest from the carcass.

I quote from the 2004 edition, published just as State Senator Obama was in his first – and only – term.–

It doesn’t take long to see that Obama is a fabulist, and not a skillful one.  Anecdotes conveniently support his narrative of alienation and oppression with a clumsy didacticism that one would expect in a Stalin Prize winner.


From the Introduction:


“My wife’s cousin, only six years old, has already lost his innocence.  A few weeks ago he reported to his parents that some of his first grade classmates had refused to play with him because of his dark, unblemished skin”

This seemed unlikely. It’s just too pat.  The boy’s parents had moved to an affluent suburb so that he might flourish in a better school system and live in safety rather than perish in the gang culture of inner city neighborhood from which his parents came.  In this century with America’s institutionalized concern with race, fairness, and multiculturalism, I’m sure someone would watch out for a boy in such a situation, and I have faith in the general decency of my countrymen, even first graders.

Mr. Obama may have congratulated himself on his nice sense of irony as he wrote this, but I don’t buy it.  Notice that the racial slight is at one remove:  it’s something he heard, so, if it didn’t happen, or was exaggerated, it’s not his fault.

One might think that my reaction is rooted in my antipathy to the President, a feeling I freely acknowledge, but consider an anecdote in the first chapter.  The young Obama, living in a low rent apartment in Manhattan, hangs out on the fire escape where he observes whites from a nearby affluent neighborhood walking their dogs and letting them crap everywhere in an arrogant and demeaning challenge to the poor folk who live there.

Not only is the metaphor overdrawn and cartoonish; it’s simply not believable.  Any New Yorker could tell you this would be a very risky practice.  It’s crap all right.  It didn’t happen.

What did happen is that a publisher first paid well for Mr. Obama’s amateurish mythologizing, and years later, a nation is paying dearly for its belief in him and his empty fables.

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