Barack Obama and the Sins of the Father

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at the Alliant Energy Amphitheater, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Dubuque
President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at the Alliant Energy Amphitheater, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Dubuque, Iowa. The president is on a three-day campaign bus tour through the state. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative American author, has found a gold mine in exploiting Obama's Kenyan roots. He is making millions with his 2016: Obama's America documentary, which portrays President Barack Obama as a socialist who owes his "radical left-wing" beliefs to the influence of his late father, Barack Obama Sr. D'Souza travels to Kenya and interviews George Obama, President Obama's half-brother who lives in a Nairobi slum.

D'Souza, probably reading too much into President Obama's memoir title Dreams from My Father, argues that the President is on a task to implement his father's ideology of "anti-colonialism" and "anti- Americanism". The anti-colonialism claims stem from D'Souza's logical stretch that, since Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister during a crackdown on the independence movement in Kenya against the British colonialists, during which Obama Sr. was arrested, President Obama "must hate this guy".

George Obama, the President's "estranged" half-brother, apparently requested and received $ 1,000 from D'Souza to cover for his son's hospital bills. D'Souza, who couldn't help vaunting about it on Fox News , wrote that

"before I hung up I asked George, "Why are you coming to me?" He said, "I have no one else to ask." Then he said something that astounded me, "Dinesh, you are like a brother to me.""

George was probably not aware that D'Souza's pharisaic act of charity was only meant as propaganda to disparage his powerful half- brother. D'Souza uses his misfortune to depict the President as a hypocrite when he says that "we are our brother's keepers". He extrapolates quotes written by George to portray him as a conservative. George, according to D'Souza, differs from his father and half-brother's "anti-colonial view that blames Western colonial exploitation for the poverty and suffering of the Third World." However, in a later interview , George seems to disagree with D'Souza's claim that Barack Obama has neglected him, arguing that the American president has the immense task of taking care of the world, and in effect taking care of him.

By using George to magnify discord in the Obama family, there's no doubt that D'Souza will stop at nothing while he digs for dirt on his president. His nuanced portrayal of Kenya as a primitive country in his film and writings- through the images of rickety huts and dirt roads, as well as the imagery of polygamy, African paganism and extreme poverty- is nothing new when Western lenses focus on Africa. However, what I find most deplorable in D'Souza's work is the notion that Obama's father's anti-colonialism is something to be condemned.

Obama Sr., after enduring severe beatings and spending six months in jail in 1949 for seeking his country's independence, had no reason to adoringly muse over British colonialism in Kenya. Anyone with basic understanding of African history knows that we are not sitting under our huts fondly reminiscing about the days of colonialism as D'Souza would have us do. There is nothing to crow about when hundreds of thousands Kenyans were raped and killed in forced labor camps, when families were displaced and disintegrated, and where victims of British torture and brutality live with broken limbs but also with a resilient spirit that justice will one day answer the door. Colonialism left a reprehensible legacy in Kenya and Barack Obama Sr., like any other Kenyan I know, is justified in his antipathy. If anti-colonialism is the reason behind D'Souza's deep prejudices against President Obama's father, then he has a whole country to reckon with.

D'Souza, again misrepresenting George, seems to argue that Africa developed more while it was under colonialism. Proponents of such views always forget that the so-called development during colonialism was just an unsustainable infrastructure with the raison d'être of syphoning African resources to Europe. There is an opportunity cost in living under the yoke of foreign servitude for as long as Kenya (as well as many other African countries) did. But we are not a lazy, bitter population that blames Western colonialism for our poverty and suffering as D'Souza would like to depict us. Kenya, despite many hurdles of corruption and bad governance since gaining it's independence in 1963, has recently been making piecemeal steps in economic development. This trend can also be seen in other African countries.

As Kenyans, we won't be voting in America's 2012 presidential elections. We therefore remain unapologetic about our anti-colonialism views, which are not changing in order to appease American conservatives and making Barack Obama more electable. Barack Obama Sr. was Kenyan, Barack Obama Jr. is American. He is running as an American and D'Souza therefore uses Obama's Kenyan ancestry as political fodder to vilify him, while dancing on Obama Sr.'s grave (in his film, he literally stops short of doing that). I think all Kenyans deserve an apology from Mr. D'Souza for his disrespect, but I won't be holding my breath.