Did D'Souza Hit a Nerve?
Ridiculed. Lampooned. Denigrated. That was the reaction that Dinesh D'Souza got upon launching his thesis about President Obama's mindset in his 2010 Forbes article, "How Obama Thinks." He argued in effect that president Obama's mindset was locked and loaded with the blame-colonialism doctrine that is still alive and well in post-colonial Asia and Africa.
The critical reaction came from political analysts from both sides of the political aisle. For example, Daniel Larison of The American Conservative claimed that D'Souza "has authored what may possibly be the most ridiculous piece of Obama analysis yet." Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard claimed that D'Souza stupidly thinks absence of evidence against his thesis is evidence for his thesis. Moreover, most commentators jumped on the general futility of attempts to ascertain what is really going on in someone else's mind.
D'Souza certainly opened himself up to this latter line of criticism by mixing the blame-colonialism thesis with his tenuous claim that the President is trying to live out his father's dreams.
",.. [O]ur President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost."
But it is quite possible to separate the two entangled claims -- to decouple the admittedly flimsy father-fulfillment thesis from the blame-colonialism mindset thesis.
But let it be admitted that the blame-colonialism mindset thesis is still subject to the general difficulty of "peering into someone else's mind." At best a parlor game? How can we ever know? Idle, feckless speculation? Depends on how you cherry pick the evidence? The presumably logically correct position is that "I don't pretend to know what is going on in someone else's mind." Fine. Don't pretend to know what you can't know. But don't pretend there is not the need to know.
But is that the extent of it?
For openers, note that motive and intentionality are at the root or our criminal justice system.
But that is hardly the extent of the situation. While motive and intentionality can never be known with the certainty of empirically observable facts, it is ironically a necessary speculation in navigating not only through our own personal lives but in the general political life of nations. That we can be wrong -- terribly wrong -- is just part of the human condition.
Motives. From betrayal to concealment to tragic misinterpretation, motives are at the heart of literature from pulp fiction to Shakespeare. Speculation as to mindset is both necessary and necessarily plagued by an inevitable uncertainty. Ascertainment of motives is both a necessity in our personal lives and in the political life of nations and yet is inherently unascertainable with any great deal of certainty.
The question, then, is one of connecting the dots. And the dots are lining up in favor of the D'Souza thesis.
Let me just recount some dot alignment presented by D'Souza.
How does one connect these dots?
(1) Obama backs offshore drilling in Brazil but not the US
(2) The Gulf oil spill is used as an occasion to lecture the US on the evils of our fossil fuel consumption.
(3) Obama backs a 100 million dollar mosque near Ground Zero but turns a blind eye to the prohibition in many Arab countries against building any new churches.
(4) Supports the release of the Lockerbie bomber but incarcerates the producer of an anti-Mohamed film.
(5) NASA Chief Charles Bolden announced that from now on the primary mission of America's space agency would be to improve relations with the Muslim world.
Penance? Penance for past colonial exploitation?
In explaining the blame-colonialism "anti-colonialism" frame of mind, D'Souza writes,
I know a great deal about anti-colonialism, because I am a native of Mumbai, India. I am part of the first Indian generation to be born after my country's independence from the British. Anticolonialism was the rallying cry of Third World politics for much of the second half of the 20th century. To most Americans, however, anticolonialism is an unfamiliar idea, so let me explain it.
Anticolonialism is the doctrine that rich countries of the West got rich by invading, occupying and looting poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America. As one of Obama's acknowledged intellectual influences, Frantz Fanon, wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, "The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races."
Anticolonialists hold that even when countries secure political independence they remain economically dependent on their former captors. This dependence is called neocolonialism, a term defined by the African statesman Kwame Nkrumah (1909-72) in his book Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, writes that poor countries may be nominally free, but they continue to be manipulated from abroad by powerful corporate and plutocratic elites. These forces of neocolonialism oppress not only Third World people but also citizens in their own countries. Obviously the solution is to resist and overthrow the oppressors. This was the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. and many in his generation, including many of my own relatives in India.
What D'Souza does not explicitly bring out is the racist mentality that is the driving force and justification for colonialism: the "take up the white man's burden" mentality. His thesis becomes even stronger when the racist dimension behind colonialism is front and center. For that is what the anti-colonialist mind or post-anticolonialist mind sees as still being the driving force behind most of the world's ills -- at least those at are policy correctable.
Now add in the actions of his enforcer-in-chief, Holder.
(1) Low rate of Black home ownership? Racist banks.
(2) High rate of Black unemployment? Racist hiring practices.
(3) High rate of Black high school dropouts? Racist high school disciplinary practices.
(4) Income inequality of Black and Hispanics? Racist, exclusionary corporate culture.
(5) Turmoil in the Middle East? Hatred of the US? Orientalism, imperialism, colonialism, jingoism - aka racism.
(6) and now the Obama administration, led by Holder, has decided that Islam is a race. Therefore to examine or even to adduce a Muslim's Islamic beliefs about jihad, beheading, violence against kuffar ("infidels"), or re-establishing a caliphate is tantamount to racism
The blame-racism mindset also explains how the President listens politely to learned disquisitions from counselors and experts about the economy, foreign policy and domestic policy, but is hardly more than mildly bemused. He tolerates lesser minds and their take on problems besetting the US and the nations of the world. He will listen politely to theories of business cycles and money supply and the complexities of Mideast politics and Black unemployment but he knows what the real problem is: racism. Racism in all its transformations, reincarnations and disguises.
The President presents his vision in sonorous bromides about fairness. Fair shot. Fair shake. Fair share. Then there is the "togetherness" gambit. We are all in this together. We can accomplish great things if we all pull together. Appeals to fairness and togetherness are dog-whistle shibboleths to ending racist exclusionary practices in the workplace in housing and education.
The problem is that the racism-is-the-problem mindset results in problem-solving geared to the same. Like Don Quixote, President Obama sallies forth with his squire Sancho Holder to tilt at vestiges of colonialism while the real problems facing the nation have little or nothing to do with racism:
(1) the worst labor force participation rate since the Great Depression: racism?
(2) crumbling student performance: racism?
(3) "non-core" al-Qaeda terrorist groups are spreading like wildfire but labeling them terrorist would be Islamophobic (aka racist)?
The result is more and more regulations and penalties and surveillance to crush the evil dragons of postcolonial racism.
And now d'Souza has been indicted for campaign donation fraud involving 20k. The charges were made after a "routine review" by the FBI of campaign filings. Did D'Souza hit a nerve? Is the D'Souza thesis - especially in its racist formulation - gaining traction?
Recently President Obama blamed racism for his falling popularity numbers. Will the President fess up and claim openly that in his opinion it is racism and the vestiges of racism that are the root causes of "social injustice" at home and animosity abroad? He is too politically astute for that. So in that sense we will never know.
Is the man with the purported 12 cylinder Ferrari mind really sporting a single cylinder under the hood? It is beginning to rattle like one.