From my new column
in Taki’s Magazine
I’m writing this a day before the midterm elections and you’re reading it at least a day after, so I’ll focus upon a continuing feature of the political landscape: Barack Obama.No doubt the results of the midterm election are being interpreted as a referendum on Obama. But who exactly is this curious individual, and why did we make him president? …After eight years of trying to make sense of Obama’s life story, I’ve stumbled upon a way to put his famous origin story in historical context, to make it not quite so random. …Last week I wrote about Obama’s many odd Indonesian connections.But even more central to Obama’s life is Hawaii. In almost all discussions of Obama, whether birther or mainstream, Hawaii is treated as essentially irrelevant to Obama’s parentage, a run-of-the-mill location. For example, because Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was written for mainlanders interested only in black and white, it barely touches on Hawaiian society. And that’s convenient for Obama, because 1950s Hawaii’s extreme racial liberalism (some 30 percent of marriages were interracial) doesn’t fit in well with contemporary prejudices about America’s racist past.Yet when Obama’s 17-year-old mother arrived in Hawaii in 1960 and quickly became pregnant by an exotic black man, Hawaii was of obsessive interest to the liberal mainstream imagination as the leading symbol of America’s new post-colonial multiracial world dominion.It turns out that the strange life the President’s mother forged for herself by marrying men of other races brought to Hawaii by Cold War initiatives wasn’t just driven by this adventuress’s own idiosyncratic desires, as an embarrassed and annoyed Obama discussed in Dreams from My Father. She was also following (in an extreme fashion) the messages being transmitted in the 1950s by the most respected voices of mainstream culture about what progressive, patriotic Americans should believe—and even practice—in order to ensure the triumph of the free world: marriage across racial lines.
Read the whole thing there
From South Pacific
, a collaboration of writer James Michener, whose 1959 bestseller Hawaii
likely helped encourage the Dunhams to move to Hawaii the next year, with Rodgers and Hammerstein:
This 1958 movie version of South Pacific
is a bit of a snooze. Somebody should remake it as a movie, just like we need a better movie version of Guys and Dolls
(Brando decided he should have the singing role
and Sinatra should have the acting role).
Here’s Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics from 1949
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
In his autobiography, an embarrassed and resentful Obama discussed
his mother’s almost fetishistic love for the art house film Black Orpheus
in setting the stage for her first marriage, but I suspect this
following scene, one of the summits of Broadway-Hollywood sexual chemistry, might have plowed the field for her second marriage:
Now that’s how to film a musical.