I got an email from an old friend in Wyoming today. It disturbed me.
I’ll include the text of the original email here and my response to it below that. I was writing primarily to a Christian friend of mine, and I write to her in that context, so forgive me if it’s a little long on religion for some readers.
On Oct 9, 2008, at 12:54 PM, ***** wrote:
—– Original Message —–
More on the special subject that keeps our blood pressures high.
Been around but you should read this one more time especially if you are a Democrat.
Think you know who this man is?
This possible President of the United States !! Read Below and ask yourselves, is this REALLY someone we can see as the President of our great nation!!!!
Below are a few lines from Obama’s books; In HIS words!
From Dreams of My Father: ‘I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.’
From Dreams of My Father : ‘I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother’s race.’
From Dreams of My Father: ‘There was something about him that made me wary, a little too sure of himself, maybe. And white.’
From Dreams of My Father: ‘It remained necessary to prove which side youwere on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and namenames.’
From Dreams of My Father: ‘I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn’t speak to my own. It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa , that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself , the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.’
And FINALLY the Most Damming one of ALL of them!!!
From Audacity of Hope: ‘I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.’
* If you have never forwarded an e-mail, now is the time to Do so!!!! We CANNOT have someone with this type of mentality running our GREAT nation!! I don’t care whether you a Democrat or a Conservative. We CANNOT turn ourselves over to this type of character in a President. PLEASE help spread the word!
To others who received and/or sent this note,
I received this email with some dismay, so I’m responding. To not respond would be disrespectful. I respect the person who sent it, and since I’ve been invited into the conversation, I’ll put in my two cents.
I highly, highly recommend that each of you get this book and read it. At least go and find the quotations and check their context. I challenge you to read Dreams From My Father and still think that these out of context excerpts represent the man who wrote it. It’s at the library if you’re concerned about sending money his way.
Until you do that, though, let me set some context.
The first excerpts about race have to do with the struggles of a biracial young man to find his identity in a world where he didn’t seem to belong anywhere. There were periods of his youth where he was angry (anyone not have those periods in their own youth?), and where he got into trouble in a search for who he is. These quotes relate to different times when as a teenager he got off-track. He is admitting that he was off-track in the book, and it is duplicitous to present these quotations as though he’s saying that’s how he feels and what he stands for.
It would be simple to pull lines out of context from the Holy Bible itself and make it look like a crazy rant, but if you actually read it, a different picture emerges. Anything can be pulled out of context and turned against itself.
It’s irresponsible to forward a fear-mongering note like this without having read the book. If anyone else has read it and wants to have a discussion of it, I welcome that – it’s the work of democracy to kick these ideas around and respectfully forge our way forward as a nation.
As for standing with the Muslims, it is the job of Christians to stand with all persecuted people when they are persecuted unfairly, as some Christians stood with Jews in southern France during the holocaust (told beautifully in the book “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed”) Read what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount. These are our instructions, and Obama in this part of the book is talking about unfair persecution of a religion within our country. Friends, if we’ve stopped believing in religious freedom, we have ceased to be America. If we will only stand up to defend people who agree with us, we have nothing left to be proud of. What Obama refers to in this quotation is a scenario where Muslims were being attacked for being Muslim. What would you do in that situation? I’d like to think I would come to their defense, as a Christian and an American.
Thanks to everyone in the country who is participating in the dialog. It’s our job as Americans. It’s what democracy looks like. Since I received this email from someone I love and respect, I’m responding with a heartfelt and I hope helpful contribution to the conversation that was started.
God bless us all,
Your response was so well written that I felt moved to send it to my e-mail contacts.
This is the response I received from a co-worker.
“I am not being disrespectful but why did you send this to me? I do hope that I have not portrayed myself in any fashion as an Obama supporter basically because I was not raised as a Muslim. I do believe in religious freedom as long as the religion is not a phony, concocted religion created by a mortal man in an attempt to establish a legacy. In my opinion which is based on years of personal study, Islam is nothing more than a big sham – not a religion. Just my opinion…”
Thank you for your continued hard work to spread Peace.—Danna
The alleged quotes from his books cited here are almost all alterations, deliberate distortions, or even outright fabrications of Obama’s words. The smears have all been debunked here:
Here are a few facts about Barack and his books that people should know:
Dreams from My Father is a thoughtful, genuine look at family and race in America that Ontheissues.org calls: “the book to read if you want to understand Obama’s personal background and how it forms his character. It was written while he was still only an obscure State Senator — written in his spare time, without a ghost writer, while struggling to make ends meet on a state senator’s salary.”
One of the seemingly offensive quotes from these smear emails is really taken from this passage, a touching meditation on the difficulties bi-racial people have balancing two identities: “When people who don’t know me well, black or white, discover my background (and it is usually a discovery, for I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect I was ingratiating myself to whites), I see the split-second adjustments they have to make, the searching of my eyes for some telltale sign. They no longer know who I am.”
On March 18th, 2008, Barack concluded a landmark speech on race in America with a stirring reminder that we all depend on each other here: “[W]hat is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”
Great response. It’s clear that the original email took quotes from Dreams for My father way out of context. And that’s coming from someone who hasn’t read the book, but would like to, and has also read countless articles about Obama’s faith, his views toward other religions and the historic speech he gave in the spring on race and racism. By the way, i highly recommend reading that speech in addition to the book.
The email also tells us a lot about the author which is that they are most likely white with a deep sense of entitlement. The author’s concerns with the passages from Obama’s book point to the author’s lack of understanding about “the other” particularly what African-Americans, Africans and bi-racial folks have endured in this country for thousands of years.
Obama is not saying anything different than other black men and women have said before him (Sydney Poitier, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, James Cone, Michael Dyson, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Denzel Washington, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu)
While Obama does have his share of politcal gaffes, Washington speech, and vague answers on some policy details…there is something uniquely fresh and honest about him. Unlike other politicians, I find Obama to be very sincere and open about the things in life that have shaped him. Obama displays great self-awareness and genuine understanding of what others are going through based on his own experience.
This garbage about him being Muslim or anti-white or a Communist is just crap and good ole fashioned fear-mongering by a small group of people in this country—folks who are clinging desperately to walls of the American-White Christian-Affluent Empire that is crumbling all around them.
Yoda once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suff-er-ing” In the context of the Star Wars saga, it’s the hate of Anakin that leads to Anakin becoming Darth Vadar and creating suffering for others.
But what if we can look at Yoda’s quote in a different way: A person’s fear, anger and hate leads to the suffering of that person. The person who is creating these things is the one who is really hurting deep in their heart
May we all pray for God to transform all hearts and make them whole.
seventh sister says
I disturbs me that people in this country are so fear ridden that they would write and distribute this kind of thing. Fear only begets more fear and that is not usually a good thing.
Thanks for such a well-written answer. It’s amazing that we still have to answer such claims and I fear in the next few weeks those shrill voices of fear will get louder. I pray the nation can see the truth and vote for true leadership.
Also, good luck with your impending fatherhood!
Julie Alexander says
Thanks, David, for this thoughtful response. I also have seen people I love circulating similar emails, but have struggled with how to respond. You are providing inspiration….
Mark Baker-Wright says
While I truly wish there wasn’t a need for such responses, I’m very glad there are folks like you available to articulate them with such reason and grace. Thank you.
Beautifully written. I blogged yesterday about something that I heard on the radio that had me in tears about a man pointing a gun in a woman’s face and telling about the bad things that would happen to America if there were an African American in the White House.
If you don’t agree with the politics of someone running for office, don’t vote for them. If you will not vote for them because of their race or gender, please take a hard look at yourself and examine your own beliefs in the human race.
Sheri Kling says
Thank you for a very heartfelt and thoughtful email, David. The degree of message twisting that has taken place in this election has been shocking, and all of it seems to be about inciting fear and hatred. I’m currently reading Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and it’s an amazing book.
Steve Lindsley says
David, if I may, let me highlight a blog I made about fear-mongering in politics. Suffice to say I think we see the same on this issue:
Steve Lindsley says
Thanks for your post, David. I too have read both of Obama’s books. It’s a shame that some folks are pulling things out of context and choosing to use them to incite fear-mongering in the form of mass emails. As people of faith the last thing we need to be engaging in is fear-mongering. People should cast their votes out of their convictions and not their fears. My two cents.
Thoughtful and respectful to views that don’t deserve it – very nicely done (and that’s not sarcastic).