Misunderstanding Obama's Momma
In his assessment of the life of Stanley Ann Dunham, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen unwittingly tells us more about himself and the genteel progressive world he inhabits than he does Barack Obama's mother.
His jumping off place is A Singular Woman, the new biography of Dunham by fellow Times writer, Janny Scott. In my reading of the book, Dunham abandons her son at age 10 to go mucking about the third world at Ford Foundation expense on a variety of stunningly trivial projects.
As if to make my case, Cohen praises Dunham as "an unrivaled authority on Javanese blacksmithing." She was unrivaled because no one else thought it worth doing, not even the scholars in Java, and they would not have had to forsake their children to pursue their studies.
In the encyclopedia of unintended consequences, Dunham's picture could grace the definition of what David Mamet calls "the social tinkerer," the classic do-gooder who paves the road to someone else's hell with her good intentions.
Cohen instead elevates the "type A" Dunham from ugly American to "a firm voice for female empowerment in an Indonesia 'of smiling or gentle oppression' toward women." Yes, Dunham, who blew through two marriages -- one sham, one real -- and who survived only through the largesse of her own parents, was prepared to educate the women of Indonesia on female power. Only in liberal America or wherever liberal Americans go!
To be sure, Cohen fails to comment on the information vacuum surrounding Obama's birth: Scott tells the reader nothing about the alleged marriage of Obama's parents, the six months preceding Obama's birth, the details of his birth, or his mysterious appearance weeks afterwards with Dunham in Seattle.
Nor does Cohen, or Scott for that matter, mention, let alone celebrate, Dunham for the one truly heroic thing she did in her life -- giving birth to Obama. In 1960, Dunham was impregnated by a black man. Fifty years ago, this was as great a social taboo as existed.
Scott mentions that a high school friend of Dunham's came to Hawaii for an abortion. Dunham knew the option was available while she was pregnant. What is more, Barack Obama Sr.'s INS records show him to be no champion of life. When at Harvard a few years later, he impregnated a Kenyan high school exchange student and apparently sent her to London for an abortion.
For whatever reason, Dunham resisted the clarion call of "choice." Giving birth to Obama was her defining act. It changed history, but her champions won't even talk about it. They feel more comfortable with blacksmithing.
Jack Cashill's new book, Deconstructing Obama, tells the story that the media will not tell.