May 18, 2013

The word "umbrella" appears exactly once in Obama's "Dreams From My Father."

I'm searching the text, because I've been thinking, this morning, about the fascination with Obama's interaction with the Marine and the umbrella, and that set me looking into umbrellas as a famously Freudian symbol, and I was struck by the meaningfulness — in that Freudian context — of Obama's book title "Dreams From My Father."

Now, I'm astounded to see that the umbrella figures importantly in the book — and it is even an umbrella held over him by another man (his younger brother Bernard). This happens at the end of what is the most dramatic scene in the book, on the last page of the final chapter. Obama, in Africa, falls to the ground between the graves of his father and his grandfather and cries.  He's crying about a lack of "a faith that wasn’t new, that wasn’t black or white or Christian or Muslim but that pulsed in the heart of the first African village and the first Kansas homestead—a faith in other people."
And for lack of faith you clung to both too much and too little of your past. Too much of its rigidness, its suspicions, its male cruelties
He expresses the idea that their "male cruelties" should have been moderated by more of "the laughter in Granny’s voice, the pleasures of company while herding the goats, the murmur of the market, the stories around the fire... Words of encouragement. An embrace. A strong, true love." That is, the over-masculinity should have been mixed with more feminine things, things that "could make up for a lack of airplanes or rifles." There's a theory of gender here: "you could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things behind."

For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago.... all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.

A light rain began to fall, the drops tapping on the leaves above. I was about to light a cigarette when I felt a hand on my arm. I turned to find Bernard squatting beside me, trying to fit the two of us under a bent-up old umbrella. 

“They wanted me to see if you were okay,” he said.

I smiled. “Yeah. I’m okay.” 
So — as he dramatizes it —it is at the moment when he finds out who he really is that another man suddenly appears and is sheltering him with an umbrella. He's been crying, but now it all makes sense, and — with the prompting of the younger man — he sees that he is okay.

Flash forward, and he's President. He is in the Rose Garden. It starts to rain. No man suddenly appears with an umbrella. He is getting wet and he is President — with plenty of airplanes and rifles and all of the world's greatest military at hand — but he is still getting wet. He has to order the Marine to shelter him. It isn't Bernard squatting with a bent-up old umbrella. It's a Marine in full-dress uniform, with a fine unbent umbrella, which is nevertheless not correct under the official — male, rigid — Marine Corps regulations. Where are the words of encouragement, the embraces, the strong, true love? You could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things behind!

Now, here is the whole world gathered around him. Was there ever anything more unlike the time when he was alone between 2 graves? And yet, back then, the moment a light rain began to fall, his brother was there, sent by others who loved to see if he was okay. And here he is, the center of the whole world's attention, and he had to call for the umbrella.  He is not okay.

80 comments:

Jack Wayne said...

Dear Ann, completely made up. Like Obama being smart, competent, or caring.

campy said...

Wow, that book must be even worse than I imagined it could be ...

P. Aaron Jones said...

Obama is a cold, callous and sinister being. No amount of (ayers') editorializing could disprove how he's acted as president.

Ann Althouse said...

"Dear Ann, completely made up."

I assume it is, which is why I call it "the most dramatic scene in the book" and say "as he dramatizes it."

Palladian said...

Every time I read excerpts from this book, I'm amazed by how eye-rollingly, cringe-generatingly bad it is. Politics aside, it's terrible schlock!

Ah Pooh said...

This post today is why I always read Althouse -priceless!

bagoh20 said...

He got rich on that crap. Most everybody else gets a B-.

pm317 said...

Ann, it always seems to me that you impute more of your own intellect and imagination on Obama than that is actually there. There is no there there as far as Obama is concerned. For instance, the title of his book and the word Dreams, he or the plagiarist in him just ripped it off M.L. King. This guy is the most 'made up' man ever by the media, by his handlers, his sycophants and people like you -- a synthetic being with nothing much resembling the truth.

MathMom said...

As photos online show, the Queen of England holds her own umbrella.

Our King O'Bama doesn't.

I wonder, wtf didn't they move the lecterns onto the porch? I mean, electricity and water, and alladat?

Instead, he finally calls in the Marines, to save his sorry butt.

Palladian said...

Bring your parasol
It may be small, it may be big
He repairs them all
With what you call a thing-a-ma-jig


Pitter patter patter, pitter patter patter,
Here comes the rain
Let it pitter patter, let it pitter patter,
Don't mind the rain.

He'll mend your umbrella
Then go on his way singing
Toodle-uma-luma-luma-toodle-ay
Toodle-uma-luma-luma-toodle-ay
Any umbrellas to mend today?

When there's a lull
And things are dull
I sharpen knives for all the wives
In the neighborhood
And I'm very good

I darn a sock
I'll mend a clock
An apple cart
A broken heart
I mend anything

But he'd rather sing…

He'll patch up your troubles
Then go on his way singing
Toodle-uma-luma-luma-toodle-ay...

Titus said...

How did you get through reading that entire book Althouse?

It sounds insufferable.

tits and thanks.

pm317 said...

This comment from Chef Mojo on the thread below rings true and real than your fictionalized concoction. Yeah, where were his civilian minions who should have taken care of him?

Chef Mojo said...

What bugs me about the umbrella thing is that Obama has an absolute horde of civilian White House and West Wing staff, and none of them had the presence of mind to grab a fucking umbrella and offer to hold it over their boss and the Turkish PM when it became apparent that there was going to be a cloudburst over the Rose Garden.

I guess they think that sort of thing is beneath them.

So, the Marines get ordered to do it, and in a very undignified manner.

Pathetic.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Umbrellas are also used to shield people (usually ladies) from harsh sunlight and exposure. Melanin in the skin also protects--if the skin is thick and dark enough. I see symbolism in and out of the rain.

MathMom said...

I read his book. Checked it out from the library, because I didn't want to buy it, and thus encourage him to write more.

It took me six weeks to get through it. Hefty fine to the library, but I didn't mind. That is a good cause.

I think the part that irks me most about the umbrella, is that he doesn't mind two Marines, who look a whole lot spiffier than him, standing there getting wet right beside him. Entitled POS.

St. George said...

Given the president's complete verbal in-eloquence and utter absence of wittiness or anything written while he was a scholar, that anyone believes he wrote this book without substantial, substantial help is hilarious.

Precious few prominent people write their own books. This is well-known in the industry. Very well known.

Pogo said...

"For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept.

And no tiny umbrella for the deluge.

Murray Wisenbaum said...

The President has a brother named Bernie? Who knew?

gutless said...

A. When the Marines erected the umbrellas Mr. Obama said "that's better" rather than "thank you". B. Whoever wrote that drivel from his book should be pilloried and mocked.

gutless said...

A. When the Marines erected the umbrellas Mr. Obama said "that's better" rather than "thank you". B. Whoever wrote that drivel from his book should be pilloried and mocked.

ricpic said...

It is beyond tragic that an American president's heart is in Africa. Well, the Ayer's version of a heart grafted on to the grifter.

gerry said...

Damn, that Ayers could really write!

66 said...

Enjoyable post, Professor Althouse.

GrandpaMark said...

I watched the speech.

I was concerned one of the Marines would tire and waver as Obama droned on.

The tension was palpable.

How long can the average person hold an umbrella rigidly at arms length like that?


Ex-prosecutor said...

Please, hug me tight while I puke.

Lem said...

And here he is, the center of the whole world's attention, and he had to call for the umbrella. He is not okay.

This is all very interesting Althouse... but, moving forward, how is this going to help Hillary, in 2016?

Should Hillary buy umbrella futures, or leaving those things behind, pose with a close umbrella, in the middle of a storm, while saying “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Ann Althouse said...

"How did you get through reading that entire book Althouse?"

I listened to the mesmerizing voice of Obama on the audiobook as I took my usual walks (in NYC, back in 2008, while quite interested in blogging about this rising politician).

I only later bought it as a Kindle book, so I could cute and paste to blog.

Ann Althouse said...

"Every time I read excerpts from this book, I'm amazed by how eye-rollingly, cringe-generatingly bad it is. Politics aside, it's terrible schlock."

I know. Did you ever see the Bloggingheads episode where I try to explain that to Michelle Goldberg, who gushes about it as a great work of literature?

pm317 said...

so I could cute and paste to blog

Ah, the Freudian slip! Ann thinks Obama is a beautiful man.

Chip S. said...

so I could cute and paste to blog

Typo, or Freudian slip?

I say the latter.

Ann Althouse said...

"so I could cute and paste to blog"

Oddly, that is the result of a miscorrection of a typo. I originally wrote: so I could cult and paste to blog

True!

Chip S. said...

Damn your keyboard skills, pm317!

Nathan Alexander said...

I was also bothered by the fact that while Obama is shielded from the rain, the Marine is holding an umbrella and still getting drenched in his dress uniform.

That displays zero respect for those that place themselves in danger to keep the nation safe.

Notice, President Obama says he's sorry to the soggy press corps, but not to the soggy Marine Corps.

Rusty said...

The cult of Althouse
I like it.
Being a cult leader requires a lot of work.
Are you up to it?

pm317 said...

@Chip S.. great minds and all that and all that.

Chip S. said...

Michelle Goldberg, who gushes

Once Althouse starts the sexual imagery, she just can't stop.

Rialby said...

Good lord that's awful writing. It's forced and contrived.

That reminds of me of the joke that someone on Slate(!) played where they took an excerpt from Obama's POS "memoir" and said it was Palin's. All of the lefties took to the comments to say what a fucktard she was.

Rialby said...

I wonder how many times Reggie Love stood, dripping wet, holding Obama's umbrella for him.

Rialby said...

Do you think a man Obama's age needs any help getting his umbrella open?

Palladian said...

I know. Did you ever see the Bloggingheads episode where I try to explain that to Michelle Goldberg, who gushes about it as a great work of literature?

Yes! That was an embarrassing performance for her.

"Michelle Goldberg, who gushes"

Once Althouse starts the sexual imagery, she just can't stop.


See my Freudian analysis in another thread, where I mention the surrogate phalli of Marine warriors keeping the politicians dry (desert-like, barren, infertile) from the wetness (fluidity, vitality, lubrication, the moistening of sexual excitement) of the rain...

Chip S. said...

I hadn't seen that, Palladian.

That was impressively hard, penetrating analysis.

wyo sis said...

Hard penetrating analysis.
By both Althouse and Palladian.
Ann cuts it.
Cutes it.
Cults it.

Chip S. said...

You're flirting w/ typo disaster, wyo sis.

Ann Althouse said...

"Once Althouse starts the sexual imagery, she just can't stop."

No. I stopped. You want to see me go on and on without stopping? You haven't seen that yet. It could be done. It could be an endless accounting of the sexual metaphors and all the tracks of thought that extend from them.

Believe me, this is restraint. This is decorousness. You have not yet seen Unrestrained Althouse.

Palladian said...

I hadn't seen that, Palladian.

That was impressively hard, penetrating analysis.


Hard, penetrating anal...

...ysis

Kieth Nissen said...

Just because Freud said it does not make it so. Umbrellas make a very poor phallic symbol; yes they expand during use but not into a phallic shape. Turn them upside down and they're vaginal in shape (and recent umbrellas have a clitoris)

Kieth Nissen said...

Just because Freud said it does not make it so. Umbrellas make a very poor phallic symbol; yes they expand during use but not into a phallic shape. Turn them upside down and they're vaginal in shape (and recent umbrellas have a clitoris)

Palladian said...

Believe me, this is restraint. This is decorousness. You have not yet seen Unrestrained Althouse.

Some readers prefer seeing a woman in restraints.

Chip S. said...

Believe me, this is restraint.

If four posts on the meaning of the umbrella is restraint, I do not want to see Unrestrained Althouse.

Hey! Four posts = "four-poster bed" = more sexual imagery.

I can't stop.

Rabel said...

Two quotes from the press conference:

"And we’re going to need Congress’s help in terms of increasing the number of our Marine Corps Guard who protect our embassies."

"I am going to go ahead and ask folks -- why don't we get a couple of Marines, they're going to look good next to us..."

Aside from the Freudian analysis and the question of the appropriateness of using Marines as personal servants, the fact is that Obama failed to see the conflict he set up with those two statements. He's just not all that sharp when he has to deviate from the his well rehearsed lines.

Chip S. said...

Some readers prefer seeing a woman in restraints.

Say, where is Shouting Thomas?

El Pollo Raylan said...

Say, where is Shouting Thomas?

Perhaps he and Inga met up IRL and anihilated.

Chip S. said...

Now that you mention it, didn't he disappear around the time Inga's RL info was linked here? So he has her address...

Steve Koch said...

"He (Obama) is crying about a lack of "a faith...that pulsed in the heart of the... first Kansas homestead—a faith in other people."

The homesteads granted by the Homestead Act were 160 acres, 1/4 square mile, (later enlarged by law) back in a time when travel was very difficult. Being able to rely on yourself and your family was crucial to survival. As usual, when it comes to understanding America, Obama does not have a clue.

"And for lack of faith you clung to both too much and too little of your past. Too much of its rigidness, its suspicions, its male cruelties."

Sounds like pure dem politics, not wanting to cling to the past (old stuff like the constitution, for example), going for the white ladies' vote since white men were/are mostly too smart to vote for Obama.

So this fabricated "dream" is a more nuanced, textured version of Clinton's mindless "change is good" propaganda slogan. The sad thing is that the USA is full of idiots who gobble up such mindless drivel.

yashu said...

Heh, great stuff, Althouse.

Cf. Derrida on Nietzsche's umbrella.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

The error with Obama on this particular issue and on abortion, too, is that he treats people like things.

Ann Althouse said...

"'Believe me, this is restraint. This is decorousness. You have not yet seen Unrestrained Althouse.' Some readers prefer seeing a woman in restraints."

"'Believe me, this is restraint.' If four posts on the meaning of the umbrella is restraint, I do not want to see Unrestrained Althouse."

You know a 4-poster is a type of bed!

ricpic said...

You have not yet seen Unrestrained Althouse.

Avert the eyes! Avert the eyes!

Which, by the way, is the key to Freud, at least according to John Huston's Freud.

ricpic said...

Ruth Anne is so totally on to Obama....he treats people like things. Bingo !

yashu said...

You know a 4-poster is a type of bed!

And one especially conducive to restraints.

El Pollo Raylan said...

You know a 4-poster is a type of bed!

And one especially conducive to restraints.


I'm confused because I've read that here now three times by different commenters. First by Chip, then by Althouse, and now by you. Others will see mine and it will count as another four poster in the comments.

This place is an echo bed chamber today.

wyo sis said...

Treating people like things is one trait of a psychopath.

yashu said...

This place is an echo bed chamber today.

Pollo, I'd remark on your characteristic word-cunning, but the too-obvious joke isn't worthy of a punster like you, so lickety-split with a punany time.

ken in sc said...

This is just evolution; someday Marines will carry parasols with pink fringe. Count on it.

gadfly said...

Balloon Juice is making fun of Althouse.

Noted boxed wine enthusiast Ann Althouse digs a bit deeper in a post entitled, “The word ‘umbrella’ appears exactly once in Obama’s ‘Dreams from My Father.’” Do think I’m kidding? No, I am not.

Libs with mistaken memories will not forget the boxed wine post. Not to worry, however, since the bloggers name is ""Betty Cracker."

Note however, that Ann Althouse has been included among the wingnuts.

Ann Althouse said...

"Balloon Juice is making fun of Althouse."

How is that "making fun"? It's the same old boring boilerplate. Why bother?

Ann Althouse said...

This goes back to what Meade and I were saying the other day about lefties and humor. Unless you sledgehammer it, they don't understand. They're so complacent about themselves. It's not fun. It's dumb. And sad. Interesting that they love to bring up the idea of me being drunk!

Ron said...

Isn't it possible the reason for the umbrella was because of the microphone? Sound issues, plus electronics don't handle water well. As for the Marine holding it, ever been on a military base? Service members are asked to carry things all the time. If a Marine was told to hold a woman's purse while she carries out some task requiring both hands, do you think he'd refuse it as a violation of the uniform code? I'd love to see the Marine that did that, and the conversation he'd end up having with his c.o.

El Pollo Raylan said...

"Balloon Juice is making fun of Althouse."

Lefties take umbrage to another level.

Allan Mac Lean said...

You do realize other President's have had umbrella's held for them?

zeattledave said...

Jeebus - you've got nothing better than to review an 18 year old book? Breaking news: the Allies won WWII.

todd turner said...

I have been a Marine for 32 years and have two daughters serving in Afghanistan. I and any other Marine I have ever met would consider it a great honor to serve any POTUS in any capacity. Sounds to me that most of you really need to get a life. Your ignorance demeans the office and this great country.....semper fi

Zap Rowsdower said...

I think they bring up the idea that you're drunk because there's no other explanation for what you write.

A Hermit said...

Damn right! You'd never see Nixon, or Reagan or a Bush standing under an umbrella held by someone else...

oh, wait...http://blogs.e-rockford.com/applesauce/2013/05/18/wingnuts-contrive-another-silly-obama-scandal-umbrella-gate/

Never mind...

And of course, some Presidents just couldn't be expected to handle their own umbrella...

https://donstuff.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/bush-umbrella.jpg

Honestly, it's trivially easy to type the names a few presidents and the word "umbrella" into your favourite search engine and find pictures like the one of Obama. Took me a bout two seconds...

Mark Billingsley said...

I second todd turner's opinion on both points. (#1)When I was a soldier I would have been honored to be trusted with the responsibility of serving the POTUS, in whatever capacity. At that time it was Reagan, someone I disagreed with vehemently. still he was my President.(#2)You people need to get a life!

Mark Billingsley said...

I second todd turner's opinion on both points. (#1)When I was a soldier I would have been honored to be trusted with the responsibility of serving the POTUS, in whatever capacity. At that time it was Reagan, someone I disagreed with vehemently. still he was my President.(#2)You people need to get a life!

Modusoperandi said...

Sure, that's a great made-up psychological analysis and all, but you missed making up the real imagined story.
Come on, tell us what the umbrella felt!

Andreas said...

http://files.abovetopsecret.com/files/img/am519792c4.jpg
http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/p480x480/484763_664475740244778_313082741_n.jpg
https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/942702_655686267791357_2051496138_n.jpg

James Carr said...

Why all this focus on an umbrella? Professor Althouse, have you heard the expression "making mountains out of molehills?"

We can find pictures of military personnel holding umbrellas for Bush, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, etc. Why look for some sinister, deep meaning behind such insignificant details?

We get that you dislike the president, democrats, liberals, and whatever other shadowy organization you think is out there, but....c'mon, seriously...umbrellas??

You dishonor your position at the University with this sort of thing.

James Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Go to Google images and search for Presidential speeches under umbrellas. Most presidents have given speeches in the rain, and a Marine is holding an umbrella over them while they're doing it. Reagan, Bush 1 AND 2, and many others. The only reason you're complaining is that somehow you think that by being a black man, the Marine is being demeaned by holding the umbrella for him. It's the 21st century. Try reality for a change. It's really not that scary.