Barack Obama’s “understanding” of all things Muslim

When I was six years old, within a few short months, I went from having perfect vision to being extremely nearsighted.  I was discussing that fact with a friend today, and noted that I have no memory of ever having seen well without help from glasses or contacts.

This comment made me realize how little of our childhood sticks with us.  As adults, we have few large and coherent memories of our first five years.  From the years between six and ten, our memories expand, but they’re still spotty and they’re bounded by the limitations of our child-world, which boils down to school-life, home-life, and the occasional memorable vacation.

I grew up during a time of tremendous social and political upheaval (it was the 1960s and early 1970s, after all), but have only the most limited recollection of that time.  What I remember are my teachers (some of them), my school friends (some of them), the continuity of my home life (same mom, same dad, same sister, same house), and the highlights of my life (summers in Tahoe, a Renaissance Faire, my first trip to Disneyland).  For me, the Vietnam War boiled down to Walter Cronkite announcing the day’s dead and wounded on the news.  The Chicago Democratic Convention, which happened when I was 8, didn’t make it to my radar at all.  The hippies, who were a far-reaching social phenomenon, were simply smelly people to me.

I also had such a limited frame of reference that, when I heard information that fell outside my knowledge, I manipulated the information that so that it would mesh with my mental furniture.  My favorite example of this is the story of my Dad’s brother; or, rather, how I completely misinterpreted the story of my Dad’s brother.  My uncle was, apparently, a genius amongst geniuses.  In the years leading up to WWI, many of his teachers at Berlin’s Jewish gymnasium considered him to be the most brilliant student the school had ever produced.  Considering that this was a school that, for more than a hundred years had taught the academic Jewish students living in an academic German nation, that was saying a lot.

My uncle lacked drive however and made nothing of his brilliance.  Indeed, as I often told my friends, he ended up life as a janitor!  One day, when I was already in junior high school, my parents heard me telling this story and were, to say the least, perplexed.  It turned out he wasn’t a janitor at all.  Instead, he was a low level civil servant in the Danish government.  My confusion stemmed from the fact that my parents had given me his job title:  “Custodian of Foreign Property” or something like that.  In my youthful world, a “custodian” was a “janitor” — and so a story was born.

I wasn’t unique in that I really didn’t “get” what was going on around me, or that I put my own child-like spin on things.  The other night, when my husband went to kiss our 11 year old son goodnight, he found him punching himself in the stomach.  In response to a query from my husband, my son announced that Mom had told him that, if he wanted to get good stomach muscles, he should sock himself in the stomach.  My husband came to me to investigate this peculiar piece of body-building advice, and learned what I had really said:  “One of the good ways to improve your muscle tone (and get the six pack abs my son so desperately desires), is to suck in your stomach when you walk around.”

(I call this active walking, meaning that you simply keep your abs engaged as part of regular movement.  Up until two pregnancies wrecked havoc with my abdominal muscles, I could have been on the cover of one of those ab workout videos, so I know this technique works.)

Children are bright, observant and absorptive.  They also do not know how to process all of the information they take in, they do not always understand the information headed their way and, by the time they are adults, they’ve forgotten large chunks of their childhood.  That’s normal.  The developing brain is a wondrous thing, but it’s not a fully functional thing.  Also, as my little “janitor”/”custodian” story shows, children live in a very small world.  Their understanding is bounded only by their immediate knowledge.

Think about how children understand their little world, and then think about Barack Obama.  He lived in Indonesia from the time he was six until he was nine or ten.  He was part of an expatriate community, and went to a slightly more ecumenical school than would be the norm in a Muslim country.  Also, he was in an East Asian, not an Arab, Muslim country, one that, even today, is somewhat liberal by Muslim standards( starting with the fact that the women traditionally did not wear veils there).  His exposure to a rather singular type of Islam occurred at a time in his life when he was processing experiences through a very narrow, youthful frame of reference.

Nevertheless, David Ignatius assures us that this limited exposure, during a time in life when even the brightest child isn’t tracking things that well, makes Obama a Middle East expert:

As President Obama watched events unfold this past week in Egypt and the surrounding Arab world, he is said to have reflected on his own boyhood experiences in Indonesia — when the country was ruled by a corrupt, authoritarian leader who was later toppled by a reform movement.

Obama looks at the Egyptian drama through an unusual lens. He has experienced dictatorship first-hand, a world where “the strong man takes the weak man’s land,” as he quoted his Indonesian stepfather in his autobiography. The president came of age reading Frantz Fanon and other theorists of radical change. He is sometimes described as a “post-racial” figure, but it’s also helpful to think of him as a “post-colonial” man.

Based upon my memories of my own childhood, and my day-to-day observations of the children with whom I spend a great deal of time today, Ignatius’ take is just horse pucky. Unless Obama was a political savant, he was almost certainly unaware of or had, at most, limited awareness of the political and social dynamics in Indonesia.

It’s entirely possible that, as Obama grew older, his exposure to Indonesia as a child meant that, as an adult, he paid attention to Indonesian politics. That would make sense. But to say, as Ignatius does, that Obama, the former community organize, has the innate ability to negotiate the pitfalls of this Egyptian revolution because he lived in Indonesia when he was 7 or 8 years old is nothing more than an insult to our intelligence.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

  1. says

    I have a distinct memory that the motorboat my parents rented on vacation when I was about 6 or 7 had the motor *at the bow*. Actual home movie footage, though, shows that the motor was actually at the stern, as always.
    I think what happened was this: cars have their engines in front. So, when I saw the boat’s motor at the stern, I must have coded this mentally as “different from usual.” And then when I later realized that boat motors usually *are* at the stern, the “different from usual” coding must have placed the motor mentally at the bow.
    Memory is a tricky thing.

  2. garyp says

    Post-colonial???  No one of his generation would ever have a good thing to say about colonialism, unless it is communist state doing the colonization (i.e. Tibet).
    Post-racial???  The good Reverend Wright had hardly transcended race and Obama never noticed.  The administration’s handling of the New Black Panther case doesn’t give me much hope that he has gone all color blind on us.
    Post-patriotic.  That that’s change I could agree about (although I wouldn’t agree with)
     

  3. says

    In response to a query from my husband, my son announced that Mom had told him that, if he wanted to get good stomach muscles, he should sock himself in the stomach.  My husband came to me to investigate this peculiar piece of body-building advice, and learned what I had really said:  “One of the good ways to improve your muscle tone (and get the six pack abs my son so desperately desires), is to suck in your stomach when you walk around.”
    Actually, if he tenses his muscles and resists the punch, it can work. Part of the reason boxes and what not work on their core, the sides of their abs as well as the front, is to resist punches and stuff like that. As with most such stuff, performance rests in moderation and continuance. It’s also more exciting than trying to remember to suck in your stomach. Excitement makes exercise more easily maintained.

    A liver shot is harder to do when there are muscles overlaying the small ribs. Important in MMA.
    Some of the farmer burns abs tricks I heard said that you just have to have good breath control, like a singer, and if you keep that up as you walk around, you’ll work down the abs in a prolonged period.

    The human brain makes a lot of inferences based upon its axiomatic assumptions. Axiomatic assumptions change slowly over time, otherwise known as epiphanies or gaining life wisdom/experience. The inferences that a child makes is very surprising and sometimes downright funny because their axioms are both incomplete and sometimes very inaccurate. Thus leading to interesting conclusions when they observe A and B.

    The same applies to nostalgia. A lot of people aren’t remembering the exact details, just the good parts. ANd the brain fills in the rest. Thus it is nostalgia, a rose colored memory of the  past, rather than the real past.

    Emotions contribute greatly to memory retention. Whether this is fear, excitement, love, hate, anger, or its equivalent, emotion allows a person to remember things for a long time, with exact details. Adrenaline performs this function exceptionally well.

  4. says

    Ignatius is one of those brown nosing, arse kissers, hoping to get some special perks from the Obama administration at the expense of people who actually worked hard to get their positions in life. He’s a double fool and clown if he actually believes what he writes.

  5. Gringo says

    Fisking Ignatius:
    As President Obama watched events unfold this past week in Egypt and the surrounding Arab world, he is said to have reflected on his own boyhood experiences in Indonesia — when the country was ruled by a corrupt, authoritarian leader [Suharto]  who was later toppled by a reform movement.
     
    This paragraph illustrates a problem of childhood memory and childhood knowledge: lack of perspective. General Suharto toppled President Sukarno because Sukarno had tilted towards the PKI [Communist Party of Indonesia], and more important, a communist-sponsored coup attempt in 1965  had kidnapped and killed the top 6 army generals. Suharto did not take power in a vacuum. The “guided democracy” of Sukarno, with the PKI being one of Sukarno’s three main pillars of support, in addition to  the armed forces and Muslim groups,  was not very democratic, either. It is possible that both mother and stepfather preferred Sukarno to Suharto.
     
    Obama looks at the Egyptian drama through an unusual lens. He has experienced dictatorship first-hand, a world where “the strong man takes the weak man’s land,” as he quoted his Indonesian stepfather in his autobiography.
    An elementary school age child will have little knowledge of a country’s government, as his world is dominated by school, neighborhood, and family, not by politics. What is more important would be the child taking in the attitudes of  the adults in the household. One thing Obama recounts in Dreams From My Father is his mother informing his stepfather that she didn’t want to socialize with  the Americans who worked with his stepfather at an oil company. As his stepfather got recalled to Indonesia after Sukarno was toppled, there is the possibility that the new government was cutting off foreign scholarships for leftist students that had gone abroad when Sukarno was in power.

    The president came of age reading Frantz Fanon and other theorists of radical change. He is sometimes described as a “post-racial” figure, but it’s also helpful to think of him as a “post-colonial” man.
     
    IMHO, his reading Fritz Fanon had more to do with the adults  he knew during his childhood, such as Frank Marshall Davis. Or, wanting to appear cool: From Dreams From My Father:
     
    “To avoid being mistaken for a sellout,I chose my friends carefully.The more politically active black students.The foreign students.The Chicanos.The Marxist Professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets.At night,in the dorms,we discussed neocolonialism,Franz Fanon,Eurocentrism,and patriarchy.When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake,we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints.We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure.We were alienated.”

    “Post-colonialism” in the above passage  appears to be no more than a pose. Gee, look at me, Ma, I’m cool.

  6. says

    The emperor truly has no clothes and, yet, the newsmedia still refuses to state so.  They are making up “facts” to fit their narrative:

    “If Obama hasn’t publicly articulated these broad themes lately, that’s partly due to the rush of events — and also because of his reticent manner. He is not a man who likes to govern by anecdote.”

    Yea, the “rush of events” always seems to interfere with his schedule of golf or vacation or whatever.  Apparently, after 2 years on the job, he still thinks playing Prez is a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job, just like a community organizer.  He always takes at least 3 days before responding to any “event.”

    And yea, he never, NEVER, uses anecdotes – “typical white woman,” “police acted studpidly” etc.  Nope, no anecdotes are ever used by him.

    And lastly:

    “Critics have argued that Obama has been too slow to embrace the Egyptian protest movement. But he seems genuinely to believe that change is a matter for Egyptians, not Americans, and that too heavy an American hand would be counterproductive.”

    While I agree that too heavy an American hand would or could be counterprodcutive; Obama has NEVER given anyone a reason to believe that it is Obama’s thinking.  I guess this “journalist” didn’t learn about avoiding “projecting one’s own bias” in school.

    P.S.  Book, I could use that sarcasm font that one of your previous posts mentioned.

  7. Danny Lemieux says

    Upon reflection, I am not all that sure that Obama has grown much since the age of 6-10. He still sees the world from the perspective of a child: a world where government is the parent and citizens are the children.

  8. Mike Devx says

    Strange goings-on here in Texas on the Muslim/Arabic front…  but it would have helped Obama when he was a kid of Mommie Obammie had settled in Texas instead:
    ===========

    Some Students at Mansfield ISD schools could soon be learning Arabic as a required language.  The school district wants students at select schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant.
    The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant was awarded to Mansfield ISD last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.
    As part of the five-year $1.3 Million grant, Arabic classes would be mandatory at Cross Timbers Intermediate School and Kenneth Davis Elementary School.  The program would also be optional for students at T. A. Howard Middle School and Summit High School.
    Parents at Cross Timbers say they were caught off-guard by the program, and were surprised the district only told them about it in a meeting Monday night
    ================
     
     
    What in the WORLD is the department of education (lower case entirely on f#&#ing purpose) doing handing out taxpayer money as grants, but only on the condition that the students be *forced* to learn Arabic?  Language AND culture, forced to be learned???
     
    I tell ya, the time is coming where more and more Americans are going to be with us, and ready to give the middle finger to vast swaths of the federal bureaucracy.  Cut and slash deeply, to save us from economic doomsday, may not be that far away, if the insults to the American people keep coming like this, fast and furious.
     

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply