Monday, September 1, 2008

"She was 18 when she had me..."

Barack Obama forcefully admonished his listeners this afternoon that we should all back off young Bristol Palin by reminding them that he himself was the offspring of a very young mother. Which made me think again about the young man growing up in Hawaii in the early 1960s....

Imagine that you are that young boy. Your father is black. Your mother is white. The state, Hawaii, is new. You are two years old and from all accounts a happy baby. Your parents received some kind of grant from the US government and you hear about that from time to time... You know that the President is John F. Kennedy, and your parents both talk about him a lot. You know that if it hadn't been for him, or the Peace Corps, or whatever it was that brought your father to Hawaii in the first place, Mommy and Daddy wouldn't have met. There wouldn't be any you. Such thoughts fade in your mind -- you mostly focus on swimming and playing and getting ready for birthday parties, which when you have one, turning two, in August 1963, is but one more great diversion and pleasure in a life that seems a non-stop joy.

Then, suddenly, a few weeks later, in the fall of 1963, your father goes away on a trip. It may not be clear to you immediately, but from your mother's response, it's pretty obvious: she's not happy, and Daddy isn't coming home any time soon. In fact, you will see him only one more time in your entire life, but that will be eight years from now. For now, and for ever, you will really have no Father.

And while this is dawning on you.... One afternoon, the entire state is suddenly mourning. You are whisked from home to home and from TV to TV. Grown-ups are crying, and the joy seems to have left your life for good. Your mother, who probably bottled up her emotions (at least in front of you) over her own dawning awareness that your father has abandoned her, now lets loose with torrents of despair and tears: The President is dead.

Is it any great surprise that an ambition is forged in this young boy to become President? That he should determine that the one way to reclaim that early, pre- Autumn 1963 joy is, in one step, to reclaim his Father and the President who made his very being possible?

We've heard a lot about the candidate's mother, and a lot about his father of course (even from the Candidate himself, who didn't go quite as deep as he could have), but I am not sure we've heard enough about how the forging of his young creation has led us all to this particular doorstep of History....

No comments: