In an asinine op-ed in the New York Times, "Obama's Brother in China," Roger Cohen reveals the location of Barack Obama's half-brother Mark, bragging:
So there I was, a couple of weeks back, sitting under a mango tree in western Kenya, when Senator Barack Obama’s half-sister Auma says to me:
”My daughter’s father is British. My mom’s brother is married to a Russian. I have a brother in China engaged to a Chinese woman.”
My understanding is that this half brother living in China is Mark. He’s the son of Obama’s father and an American woman named Ruth, whom Obama Sr. met while at Harvard in the 1960s and brought back to Kenya.
As you'll recall, I announced here on January 8, 2008 "I've discovered Obama's estranged half-brother Mark," but I refused to say where Mark lived, mentioning only: "He lives and works abroad, neither in America nor in Africa." My reason for not violating Mark's privacy was simple:
"There's no evidence on the Internet that Mark has ever attempted to boost his career by calling attention to the fact that he's the half-brother of a potential President of the United States. This is in sharp contrast to Billy Carter (Billy Beer and a dubious loan from Col. Gadaffi) and Donald Nixon (Nixonburger and a dubious loan from Howard Hughes). So, I'm not going to drag him into the madness of the campaign."
I guess Cohen would claim that he hasn't violated the man's privacy because China is practically full of half-black guys named Mark with Stanford physics degrees, so he can just blend in with the crowd...
Cohen burbles on:
If nominated, Obama’s family baggage will get pored over. Four years ago, Bush’s people cast Kerry as un-American for speaking French. A Republican camp campaigning at the sorry nadir of Bush’s handiwork will try to portray the war hero John McCain as more American and patriotic than his opponent.
But things are different. Less fearful, Americans are less willing to be manipulated. They’ve backed Obama this far in part because they’re sick of the narrow American exceptionalism of Bush’s divisive rule.
Never before have U.S. fortunes been so tied to the world’s. ... Isolationism is not merely wrong, it’s impossible.
If elected, Obama would be the first genuinely 21st-century leader. The China-Indonesia-Kenya-Britain-Hawaii web mirrors a world in flux. In Kenya, his uncle Sayid, a Muslim, told me: ”My Islam is a hybrid, a mix of elements, including my Christian schooling and even some African ways. Many values have dissolved in me.”
Obama’s bridge-building instincts come from somewhere. They are rooted and proven. For an expectant and often alienated world, they are of central significance.
Swell, but Cohen completely misses the point of Obama's poignant passage about his 1988 meeting with Mark, who is also half-Luo and half-white. I apologize to longtime readers, but since almost nobody in the press seems to have paid serious attention to the Democratic frontrunner's 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, I'll have to quote from it at length again.
Unlike Obama, who long dreamed of Kenya but knew little about it, Mark spent his summers off from his American studies in Kenya at his mother and step-father's pleasant Nairobi home, where Obama met him on his first trip to Africa in 1988, when Obama was 27. Here's what Obama wrote about him (pp. 341-345):
"'So, Mark,' I said, turning to my brother, 'I hear you're at Berkeley.'
"'Stanford,' he corrected. His voice was deep, his accent perfectly American. 'I'm in my last year of the physics program there.'"
They meet once more, for lunch:
"I asked him how it felt being back for the summer."'Fine,' he said. 'It's nice to see my mom and dad, of course. … As for the rest of Kenya, I don't feel much of an attachment. Just another poor African country.'
"'You don't ever think about settling here?'
"Mark took a sip from his Coke. 'No,' he said. 'I mean, there's not much work for a physicist, is there, in a country where the average person doesn't have a telephone.'
"I should have stopped then, but something — the certainty in this brother's voice, maybe, or our rough resemblance, like looking into a foggy mirror — made me want to push harder. I asked, "Don't you ever feel like you might be losing something?'
"Mark put down his knife and fork, and for the first time that afternoon his eyes looked straight into mine.
"'I understand what you're getting at,' he said flatly. 'You think that somehow I'm cut off from my roots, that sort of thing.' He wiped his mouth and dropped the napkin onto his plate. 'Well, you're right. At a certain point, I made a decision not think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife or children. That was enough.'
"'It made you mad.'
"'Not mad. Just numb.'
"'And that doesn't bother you? Being numb, I mean?'
"'Towards him, no. Other things move me. Beethoven's symphonies. Shakespeare's sonnets. I know — it's not what an African is supposed to care about. But who's to tell me what I should and shouldn't care about? Understand, I'm not ashamed of being half Kenyan. I just don't ask myself a lot of questions about what it all means. About who I really am.' He shrugged. 'I don't know. Maybe I should. I can acknowledge the possibility that if I looked more carefully at myself, I would …'
"For the briefest moment I sensed Mark hesitate, like a rock climber losing his footing. Then, almost immediately, he regained his composure and waved for the check.
"'Who knows?' he said. 'What's certain is that I don't need the stress. Life's hard enough without all that excess baggage.'
"… Outside we exchanged addresses and promised to write, with a dishonesty that made my heart ache."
Notice that it's Obama's own dishonesty that is (supposedly) making his heart ache—he can't know what's in Mark's heart as they exchange addresses, but Obama knows that he will not write to his own half-brother. The physics student is Obama's intellectual equal, but his realism about Kenya, his lack of an identity crisis, lack of black ethnocentrism, and lack of illusions about their mutual father leave Obama so uncomfortable that he doesn't want to hear from Mark anymore.
I hope the two half-brothers have patched up their relationship in the years since 1995, as the Presidential candidate has matured. (He has matured, hasn't he?)
By the way, if Cohen has actually read Dreams with any care, he would have known that Obama's half-sister Auma, Barack Sr.'s daughter by his first wife, Keiza, isn't entitled to speak for Mark's side of the family.
Obama Sr. and his third wife Ruth, a white American, had two sons, Mark and David, before their bitter divorce. Ruth then married an affluent and genial man who had moved to Kenya from a different African country. They had sons of their own, and all the boys were educated at a prestigious international school in Nairobi.
Mark absorbed his mother's values, but the younger boy, David, rebelled as a teenager against his mother's Western ways. Obama wrote: "He told her he was an African, and started calling himself Obama." David, who was Mark's full brother, ran away from home. Months later, the Senator's hard-drinking half-brother Roy (Auma's brother and Obama Sr.'s first son by Keiza—Roy later took up the name Abongo when he became an Afrocentric teetotaling Muslim) happened to see David begging on the streets. Roy took him in.
One night, not long before Obama's 1987 visit to Kenya, Roy and young David went out drinking on Roy's motorcycle. Roy got into a drunken brawl and was jailed, so he lent the boy the key to his motorcycle. David crashed it and died.
Roy/Abongo's complicity in the death of Mark's full brother David left relations between Keiza's family and Ruth's family even frostier than before. Upon his visit in 1987, Obama spent almost all his time with Keiza's relations, such as his half-siblings Roy/Obongo and Auma.