Obama, according to D’Souza, was an anti-colonialist. “He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder,” wrote D’Souza. “Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America.”...The movie is based on a book by D'Souza, which I ignored at the time, because I didn't see much basis to think that Obama had absorbed his father's ideas. Obama did — oddly (aptly?!) — call his book "Dreams From My Father," but he spent almost no time with his father. Though I read "Dreams," I hadn't thought much about the pathway of the father's "dreams" into the son. The movie made mesee that pathway: the mother.
Stanley Ann Dunham was drawn to Obama Sr. when she was 17. The association didn't last long and didn't have much reality to it, but she nurtured the dream version and taught it to young Obama. Her second husband disappointed her, after they moved to Indonesia, the third world country that fit with her young dreams, because he turned to Western-style politics and commerce. Obama heard Lolo and Ann arguing about her refusal to attend dinner parties where he wanted to network with Westerners to advance his career. In this setting, Ann plied the young Obama with stories about his father and his — really, her — ideas about the rich and the oppressed.
D'Souza culls many of his facts from "Dreams."* The movie mostly organizes and presents information within a template, demonstrating a theory. D'Souza is doing what lawyers do. And as in a legal case, we can't necessarily ever know the truth for certain, but we do need to make decisions and move forward. And as in law, we combine our opinion about how likely something is to be true with our assessment of the risks of deciding one way or the other, and we decide. The D'Souza movie is like a closing argument, displaying some facts and theories about how the facts fit together, along with pressure to see the huge risks if Obama gets a second term.
So I decide to buy D'Souza's book, and now I see that it's 2 books: "Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream" (published this month) and "The Roots of Obama's Rage" (published last October). I can see why I avoided "The Roots of Obama's Rage." You have to think of Obama as rageful, before you're up for investigating the roots of the rage. ("Roots"?!)
I guess the first book packaged the material for hardcore Obama-haters who were ready for a hearty meal a year before the election. The new book is a tie-in to the movie, and the movie — and presumably the new book — were cooked up to suit mainstream tastes, for those picky eaters known as swing voters. I could buy them both and test out that theory, but I'm just going to buy the new one.
* Here's the passage from "Dreams From My Father," much of which we hear — read by Obama himself — in the movie:
Looking back, I’m not sure that Lolo ever fully understood what my mother was going through during these years, why the things he was working so hard to provide for her seemed only to increase the distance between them. He was not a man to ask himself such questions. Instead, he maintained his concentration, and over the period that we lived in Indonesia, he proceeded to climb. With the help of his brother-in-law, he landed a new job in the government relations office of an American oil company. We moved to a house in a better neighborhood; a car replaced the motorcycle; a television and hi-fi replaced the crocodiles and Tata, the ape; Lolo could sign for our dinners at a company club. Sometimes I would overhear him and my mother arguing in their bedroom, usually about her refusal to attend his company dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.What I remember from the movie and am not seeing in the book (at least not in that part) is that Obama not only heard Stanley Ann and Lolo fighting, but that she told Obama stories about his father, who opposed Westerners, thus making the father into some sort of ideal that the mother preferred to her current husband. We're invited to imagine how the boy, missing his father and hearing those fights, built up the "dream" of that father, and how that anti-Western ideology therefore became the framework of his psyche.
They are not my people.
... She had always encouraged my rapid acculturation in Indonesia... She had taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad.
ADDED: Here's the corresponding material in the D'Souza book "Obama's America":
Obama spent four years in Indonesia, and during that period he became very close to Lolo. Indonesia was, at least at first, an elusive and strange place, and Obama recalls that “it was to Lolo that I turned for guidance and instruction.” After all, “his knowledge of the world seemed inexhaustible.” He offered the young boy “a manly trust.” Mostly Lolo taught Obama that the world was a tough place and that men must learn self-reliance. At one point Obama asked Lolo, “How many beggars are there on the street?” Lolo replied, “Better to save your money and make sure you don’t end up on the street yourself.” Lolo taught Obama to box and frequently gave his step-son lessons in the importance of strength. “Better to be strong,” he said. “If you can’t be strong, be clever and make peace with someone who’s strong. But always better to be strong yourself.”A right-wing influence!
While Obama relished having a step-father, Ann was dismayed to see her husband becoming more pro-American and pro-capitalist. After leaving the army, he took a job with the Jakarta branch of the Union Oil Company of California. He moved his family into a bigger house with three bedrooms, a library, and a terrace; he employed domestic staff, including a cook, a houseboy, and two other female servants. He joined the Indonesian Petroleum Club, where he socialized with Europeans and Americans. He began to listen to American music; his favorite song was “Moon River.” While many other women might appreciate these trappings of success, Ann couldn’t stand any of it and got into fierce arguments with Lolo. As Obama writes, “I would overhear him and my mother arguing in their bedroom, usually about her refusal to attend his company dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout. ‘They are not my people.’”In the genes. So says the mother — the mother who is at odds with the stepfather and summoning up the persona of the absent biological father. Remember the subtitle to Obama's book: "The Story of Race and Inheritance."
Ann made new friends, mostly left-wing academics from the West and an assortment of Indonesians: newspaper editors, artists, academics, foundation program officers, and local activists. To this group, she scorned Lolo.... Soon Ann and Lolo were living in different worlds, and a divorce between them seemed imminent.
Ann recognized, of course, that Lolo was just trying to survive in a Third World country where corruption was a way of life. Lolo found Ann’s leftist and anti-American sympathies impractical; he thought in terms of power rather than ideals. “Guilt,” he once told her, “is a luxury only foreigners can afford.” Ann understood this, but she understood it in terms of Lolo being an ideological sellout. Obama puts the point very well. “Power. The word fixed in my mother’s mind like a curse . . . . Here power was undisguised, indiscriminate, naked, always fresh in the memory. Power had taken Lolo and yanked him back into line just when he thought he’d escaped, making him feel its weight, letting him know that his life wasn’t his own . . . . And so Lolo had made his peace with power.” This fact, Obama writes, created an “unbreachable barrier between them.” Yet she had an option. “She could always leave if things got too messy.” But then it struck Ann with the force of a revelation that her son admired Lolo, and might pattern his life after him. “She looked out the window now and saw that Lolo and I had moved on, the grass flattened where the two of us had been. The sight made her shudder slightly, and she rose to her feet, filled with a sudden panic. Power was taking her son.”
Right here we see why Ann Obama packed up her son, age ten, and sent him back on his own to America. She didn’t want his values to be shaped by Lolo. She viewed Lolo as a sellout, a power-seeker who had made his peace with capitalism and with America. She wanted her son to be a principled anti-capitalist, anti-American, like her and like someone else she used to know: Barack Obama Sr. Obama writes that his mother “had taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad.” Lolo, from Ann’s point of view, was undermining these lessons, and in her conflicts with him, Obama writes, “She had only one ally . . . and that was the distant authority of my father.... His life had been hard, as hard as anything that Lolo might have known. He hadn’t cut corners, though, or played all the angles. He was diligent and honest, no matter what it cost him. He had led his life according to principles that demanded a different kind of power, principles that promised a higher form of power. I would follow in his example, my mother decided. I had no choice. It was in the genes.”