Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kommentary on Obama 2


This week, for the holidays, he and his family are back in Hawaii. Wish I could retire to a tropical place now and then. Anywhere I can collect my thoughts and breathe deeply without having to remind myself.

Clearly, the story of the year was the inauguration of the first US president of African descent. Whether or not you voted for him, this was an event of huge symbolic importance for our country.

It used to be said half-jokingly that Bill Clinton was, in effect, our first African-American president—if only because he connected exceptionally well with that demographic. A more plausible case could be made that Barack Obama is our first Asian-American president.

First, he grew up in Hawaii, which is our most Asian state demographically—and it’s in Polynesia, which was populated 1400 years ago by peoples who (it’s been shown through DNA analysis) originated in what’s now the Philippines and Taiwan.

Second, his mother married an Indonesian and had a daughter with him. President Obama had his Indonesian half-sister and her family over for Christmas this year. I don’t recall any mention of similar invites to his Kenyan half-siblings.

Third, he spent several years of his early childhood in Indonesia, educated in their schools and (I’m sure, though it’s never been mentioned) speaking their language. He must have endured teasing about his given name (which sounds like the Bahasa Indonesia word for a bodily function) from schoolyard bullies.

And finally, his statue has been erected at his former school in Jakarta. Indonesians feel as familial with our current president as the Irish did with John F. Kennedy.

Let’s just admit it: We elected the right president to lead us in second decade of what’s clearly becoming the Asian Century.