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Filed under: political musings, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 5:58 pm


Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama’s half sister, shown teaching her Education in American Society class at the University of Hawaii. (Tribune photo by Chuck Berman / March 23, 2007)

[For more stories and pictures on Barack Obama and his family, click on “Barack Obama” under “categories” on the right navigation bar.]


  1. As a candidate I’m still not certain how I feel, but as a person I like the guy. I think he is what “America looks like.” Alas, he’ll never get elected, as our country is still racist deep down. An old co-worker (not in Ellsworth) revealed her true colors as a bigot, religious nut and overall small-minded redneck when she stated that Obama was “scary.” Why? Well, her primary objections stemmed from the fact that his biological father was a Muslim and his mother most likely an atheist. And while she didn’t say so directly, I also know it galls her that Obama is the product of miscegnation. Obama would have a better chance if only he had the decency to choose lily-white, Gawd-fearin’ (read: Evangelical Christian), real ‘Mericans as parents…

    Comment by Dr. Strangelove — 12/1/2007 @ 6:59 pm

  2. Doc, for someone who has often presented himself as an enlightened guy, you’ve sure displayed a lot of vitriol toward those who don’t think like you in your last couple of comments.

    I think Obama is scary, too, but not for the reasons presented by your co-worker. I think it’s scary that he has no real substance behind him, but that his popularity has come from this “rock star” image bestowed upon him after the 2004 Democratic convention. People, especially people my age (18-30), seem comforted by his broad generalizations on issues, his pledges to “change things in Washington” and his promise to unite warring factions within the U.S. political arena. It reminds me of another inexperienced politician who fed us the same generalizations and made the same sorts of pledges around eight years ago; now he’s sitting in the Oval Office. I think, when it comes right down to it, Barack Obama is a slick salesman who’s trying to get us to buy his image, since he has no experience to sell. I’m not falling for it again. I want a president who is experienced, who is a proven leader, who actually has a Washington background (working with the very same people whose participation can make or break a presidency) and whose platform doesn’t consist of vague promises and a slick stump speech. If I want a rock star, I’ll go to a concert.

    I am troubled by your comments about your co-worker; not just by her apparently uninformed thoughts, but by your portrayal of her and others like her. Racism, whether we like it or not, exists and always will. It’s human nature to be suspicious of others who are not like you, and that sort of feeling exists in everyone, whether it’s subconscious or consciously expressed. The best examples can be found on college campuses where — maybe this will come as a shock — it’s not just the “lily white” kids who are the closet bigots. Different races grouped together and stayed largely to themselves. In the cafeteria where I ate for three years, the black kids sat together, the Asian kids sat together and the white kids sat together. I have absolutely no doubt that had I attempted to break down this barrier and sit at one of the “black tables,” the music would have stopped, so to speak, in a comedic record-scratching fashion. They didn’t want me there. I didn’t fit in. For whatever reason, racial groups stayed separate, even on a college campus where students are apparently supposed to be enlightened and beyond racism. (And lest we steer toward any inferences that Kansas State University is in and of itself a backward and bigoted place, that type of racial grouping takes place at every university. Show me a campus where the students do not see each other in terms of color, and I’ll show you an anomaly.)

    Would Barack Obama not be elected just because he’s half black? Doubtful. Many Americans make a very conscious effort to OVERCOME racism, often overcompensating in the process. Still, if Obama loses, there are likely to be those who blame racism regardless of the true reasons. Race, however, undoubtedly seeped into your co-worker’s mind (although it’s questionable as to whether she felt negatively about that — your accusation on that point is just as unfounded as her fears). Race still seeps into everyone’s minds. I’m thinking about it. You’re were thinking about it when you made your above comment (disparaging comments about white people included). Peg was thinking about it when she first posted this blog. We’re all guilty of singling someone out because of race … all of us.

    Also, I have no doubt that this woman is at least suspicious of Muslims, and perhaps she downright fears them. I know that I do, and I’m one of those enlightened people who should supposedly know better. But I can’t help but be afraid of a religion whose extremists call for the execution of a teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear “Mohammed.” I can’t help but be afraid of a religion that (through the Saudi government) severely punishes a woman because she was gang-raped. I am terrified of a religion that endorses riots, violence and murders in response to a few editorial cartoons. The Islam we see so prominently on the evening news is ripped right out of the dark ages. That said, I certainly don’t believe that all (even most) Muslims are like those we see rioting over a teddy bear’s name; however, I think the world would do well if the moderate Muslim majority (which I’ve been told exists) would stand up to these extremists and take their religion back. Will people die if that happens? Absolutely, but if Islam truly — truly — is a religion of peace, then the moderate majority will fight to gain control of their faith and their image. I don’t necessarily fear an Islam with extremists; instead, I fear an Islam that cannot (or will not) control them.

    That is what your co-worker fears. It is real. It is legitimate. While it’s over-the-top for her to hold a related Muslim heritage against Barack Obama, she is more than justified in fearing Islam in general. After all, more than 75% of this country’s 300 million inhabitants still identify as Christian; Islam, again, is different … suspicious, whether we want it to be or not.

    As a final note, if you want to break through to people who don’t think like you, one of the most logical, common sense things to do is to speak to them and about them amicably. Just because she doesn’t share your thoughts (and maybe has never had the opportunity to due to lack of exposure or education on issues), she’s not a “small-minded redneck.” I find that characterization extraordinarily offensive. How is tossing around insults in any way constructive? I find it to be a waste of time. Plus, the minute you refer to an opponent in an insulting way, I find that your arguments carry far less weight. I used to engage in that kind of politicking; then I discovered that I could win arguments with substance, and occasionally, I have to resign myself to the fact that not everyone will always agree with me 100% of the time. That doesn’t make them stupid or backwards or bigoted or small-minded. It makes them human, and while we should respect each others’ differences (although we don’t have to always like them), we most certainly should be thankful that we’ve got a constitution that protects our right to have differences in the first place.

    Comment by Jesse — 12/1/2007 @ 11:13 pm

  3. Jesse,

    I’m not sure how to respond to your post, particularly when you assume you know better a person with whom I spent four years in a close working relationship. Your offense towards my description of her being a small-minded redneck doesn’t make it any less so. Also, I’m perfectly well aware that racism is universal, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid or a reason not to ridicule it where found. If a racist’s feelings are hurt, I really don’t give a damn. My wife is a dark-skinned Asian and has– on numerous occasions, including from my former co-workers– experienced the effects of racism. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I really don’t need your lectures on race.

    On to Obama– as I said, I like him as a person, but as a candidate he’s lacking. Particularly when it comes to matters of energy, which is the mother of all problems looming on the horizon. Universal healthcare won’t really matter if people can’t even get to their physician.

    I don’t know how to address your fears of Islam; perhaps you should take comfort that we won’t be living under Sharia law anytime soon. The threat of radical Islamists is real, but incredibly overblown. In my co-worker’s case, she can’t use the excuse of not having been exposed to it– I’m a Muslim. I’m a moderate– to be sure– and I’ve spent a great deal of time speaking out against the fanatics and their fellow travelers who enable them through inaction. But I guess I never a got a press release, so you wouldn’t know that.

    Finally, I realize you get more bees with honey, but I’m not on this forum to win converts. I’m here to vent. I’m relatively polite and mild-mannered in the real world (ask Peg.) I’ve also come to realize that people generally aren’t even won over by substantive discussion. A gifted psychologist I know once taught me that the vast majority of people are locked into a mindset that can’t be changed.

    Comment by Dr. Strangelove — 12/2/2007 @ 2:39 am

  4. Dr… I have yet to find a moderate Muslim. How do they look… I have seen moderates in every other religion but very rarely a moderate Muslim.. Does Dr. agree with the sharia law or the Islamic law mandated by Quran..
    I have read, seen and heard a lot of jokes about all other religions, but the moment a cartoon or article contrary to Islam is printed or spoken about, there is furore, riots etc..
    Instaed of the dr. calling his fellow worker names, he should look deep within himself and address the issues facing people residing in Islamic republics or muslim majority states.
    I am neither a Muslim nor a christian but given a choice i would easily favor christanity over islam seeing the nature of both believers.
    It is tragic to see people like rushdie or the dutch cratoonist living in isolation due to their views about Islam.
    What is happening in Malaysia now…. Islam as a religion does not tolerate any other religion and that is a fact which can easily be seen in Muslim majority countries. So Dr., be happy that you are in a true democracy where inspite of people being majority christians, they allow people like you to speak freely and practise your religion.

    Comment by Mel — 3/31/2008 @ 10:50 am

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