Tuesday, 15 July 2008
It's a fair guess that Michelle Obama will vote for her husband this fall, assuming he does clinch the Democratic Nomination. And I'd be rather surprised if Maya Soetoro-Ng didn't vote for her half-brother as well. As it happens, he is the candidate who best represents their political will.
But in a situation unprecedented in American politics, it's highly unlikely that any of his other immediate family members will even be able to vote for him. Malia and Sasha are both about a decade shy of being old enough to vote for their father; his mother and ex-brother David are dead; and none of his five African-European siblings are American citizens. He doesn't have any American first cousins. Of even his extended family, that leaves just his aged grandmother (in Hawaii) and his ex-brother Mark--who has spent almost all his life outside America and is now a permanent resident of China.
In short, Barack Obama is the least American presidential candidate since I don't know when. He was barely even born in the United States; Hawaii had been a member of the Union only two years when he was born as Barack Hussein Obama II at 7:24 pm on August 4, 1961. He was actually born a British subject--making him potentially the first such American president since William Henry Harrison, his fatherland not becoming independent until he was two years old.
Family has been something of an unknown entity to Barack Obama. Of his father's six wives, two of them were American, but he's never been anything but a stranger to his two half-American ex-brothers (who, unlike him, actually grew up in Africa). It wasn't until he was an adult that he finally met some of his Kenyan half-siblings (only one of whom still lives in Kenya), and he didn't even live in the same country as his half-Indonesian sister Maya for much of their brief shared childhood.
Yes, Barack Obama is the product of a broken home--and how. His mother was a pregnant teenage college dropout when she married his father--a fraudulent marriage under Hawaiian law, as his father already had a wife and two children back in Kenya (that marriage later produced two more offspring). Their marriage broke up not long after Barack was born, leaving no time for any full siblings to come along. His father went on to add another four wives to his collection: one American and three Kenyans. This is more wives than most Kenyans could ever hope to afford, putting Barack Sr. in the upper crust of Kenyan society and imparting Barack Jr. quite a bit of status should he ever chose to enter Kenyan politics. But if Barack has any idea of adding wife to wife, I would suggest he stay with Kenyans; none of his father's Kenyan wives ever divorced him (although his father's own mother did divorce his father, leaving him to be raised by another one of the Obama wives).
When Barack was about six years old, he finally got a poppa who would be part of the family circle: Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim who raised Barack as a Muslim son in a Muslim nation. Four years later--just about the time his only maternal sibling was born--Barack left that home for good to spend the rest of his childhood being raised by his American grandparents in Hawaii. They weren't known for going to church, but at least in their home he was finally free from the Islamic influence under which he had been raised for nearly half his life.
When he went off the the Mainland for college, Barack made a conscious decision to identify with his African heritage, but not to embrace the Muslim religion as had his African grandfather. Instead he worked at identifying himself as an African-American, eventually cementing that identity by joining a black church and marrying a black lawyer. But his staunch Muslim half-brother Malik served as best man. And ironically for the first African-American major-party presumptive presidential nominee, Barack is descended not from a line of American slaves, but from a line of American slave owners.
For now, Barack Obama consistently denies that he is or ever has been a Muslim; it is obviously not in his best interests politically to do otherwise. But that his ancestry, upbringing, and family composition are significantly--if not overwhelmingly--Muslim, is undeniable.