Friday, March 25, 2011

Sons, Fathers and Mau Maus

Okay, I’m late with this. But foreign events have so overtaken the national consciousness that once again something that should be at the forefront of our national “dialogue” is passing under the radar.
Both Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee want to beat Barack Obama and be the next president (and both of them would settle for one out of two). A couple of weeks ago before the tragedies, natural and manmade, in Japan and Libya these two national representatives of American Conservatism were momentarily in and out of the media strobe light publicly characterizing the current elected President of the United States as a-bone-through-the-nose Mau Mau savage lurking in the White House bushes readying an attack on Western (White) Culture.
Mr. Gingrich said, “only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions] … That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” While Mr. Huckabee had this insight to offer: "one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American ... his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather." 
Right off the bat, I find this confusing: I distinctly remember hearing exactly the same thing as I was growing up on the cusp of the rural American Midwest and the industrial Northeast in the 1950s and 60s, white America’s Golden Age. Both my parents were white (although I’ve since learned that, being of Italian descent, we are not Caucasian but Mediterranean). Nevertheless, I remember being taught by real white people in grade school that up until World War II, the English were quite proud of the fact that “the sun never set on the British Empire,” and that they did, indeed, control and exploit worldwide holdings from Canada to Africa to India and Australia. And as I remember, people who have empires are called “imperialists.” So I also inherited a perspective from my sort-of-white working class parents that here in America, “the British [were] a bunch of imperialists who persecuted [our great] grandfather[s]," although, in point of fact, all my literal great-great-grandfathers were actually in Italy at the time. (Maybe, since the steel mills were still open and they needed the cheap labor, everyone just wanted us not-quite-whites to feel included.) I also remember being taught by white people that our rebellion against the British Empire was known among the educated elite as the American Revolution and that the leaders of this particular revolt were not called Mau Mau’s but “Patriots” and “Founding Fathers.” Now, I’ve not formally studied History beyond the High School level like Mr. Gingrich, so I guess he must be able to parse some political or cultural nuance from the “Empire-Imperialist” terminology that’s going over my head.
As for Mr. Huckabee, I would be confused, too, about his version of our President’s childhood since there’s no factual record of his having been in Kenya in his early life despite the fact that his father was born there. The President’s records and personal memories indicate a childhood ranging from Hawaii to Indonesia just like my own memories and records indicate a less peripatetic childhood in the depopulated, rusted crater we now nostalgically call the “Heartland.” As I said, I would be confused except that Mr. Huckabee is from Arkansas where Science and Faith are still seen as antithetical. And when presented with the arbitrarily manufactured choice of a “worldview” based on factual evidence or one based on faith, he has chosen the latter.
To me, all of this fairly begs the question of whether these gentlemens' analyses of the President’s worldview would be better understood if scrutinized using the very same criteria they’ve judged the President by –- inherited attitudes.
Mr. Gingrich, like Mr. Obama “lost touch” with his father at an early age. Having been raised in Southern Pennsylvania by a single mother could he have been exposed to and influenced by the beliefs and goals of one of that area’s local “tribal” or “clannish” groups, The Keystone Knights? (A group that interestingly enough has ties to Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee’s home state.) I’m not passing any judgment here on anyone’s attitudes or beliefs. I’m not. I’m just asking if it could be argued that only if you understand the visceral fear for the future of white Eurocentric culture, can you begin to piece together Mr. Gingrich’s and Mr. Huckabee’s actions? Perhaps that is the most accurate, predictive model for their behavior.
Mr. Gingrich eventually migrated with his mother and adoptive father to Columbus Georgia where he graduated from Baker High School in 1961. He has cited a trip to Verdun France during those years as “changing his life,” inspiring a lifelong passion for “sacrifice” in the interest of the common good. Since he has described himself as so impressionable during those years, so susceptible to events as “life changing,” perhaps we should keep in mind the part that Columbus, Georgia played in the Civil Rights Movement at exactly this time. Perhaps the documented instances of what were called “Citizen’s Councils” and the use of local laws and statutes to prevent federally mandated integration are an indicator of Mr. Gingrich’s perception of people of color, especially when he sees them in suits and ties reading and writing. Perhaps that is another accurate, predictive model for his behavior?
In the case of Mr. Huckabee, when we consider his remarks about the President’s attitudes toward the white British -- attitudes inherited from his African Mau Mau father and grandfather -- perhaps it would be illuminating to recall the instances of African American enslavement existing in some Arkansas counties up into the 1930s, a time when his parents and grandparents were in their own highly impressionable, formative years. As a good Christian who honored his father and mother, respecting their beliefs and attitudes, wouldn’t his view of the enslaved black race’s liberation at the end of the Civil War in America be very different than ours? Even today the Civil War is being feted everywhere in the South as the noble defense against the Northern War of Aggression, the one that made slavery illegal in Arkansas and ended black folks’ status as property. Might one ask if Mr. Huckabee’s attitude about that would be very different from ours because he could have grown up hearing that the freed black slaves were a bunch of enraged savages plotting revenge on the white race because of their enslavement by his grandfather’s friends and neighbors?
Now, I know what any thoughtful reader will say to this little exposition: It’s a vile pack of accusations thinly veiled as rhetorical questions based on assumptions pieced together from disconnected facts, coincidences, innuendo, prejudices and, maybe, outright lies. This disgusting display is a public embarrassment to American political discourse and has no place in a sincere civic dialogue about national priorities and choices. In fact its only conceivable intention could be to tap into irrational fears and hatreds in order to smear the good names and reputations of two decent, public figures who’ve overcome adversities and obstacles to lead productive lives -- genuine exemplars of the American Dream -- simply because I disagree with their political views.
And that would be a very insightful critique.


  1. I like the idea of this quintessentialy Kenyan anti-colonialism, mixed with a pride at ejecting the British. Now there's a thought. Sound's quite appealing. You know, we should get together and form a country based on just that ideal. All we need is that perfect blend of Classic Liberalism and Nationalism. We could our new world "New Kenya" or something. Obama could be the boss. ~ L