Monday, August 27, 2012

The Movie 2016: Which Dreams Will We Pursue?


The aim of Sky View is to put into practice what has been traced out by the Second Vatican Council. In the pastoral constitution, “On the Church in the Modern World,” her mission was restated: “The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other.” Questions about this present life inevitably touch upon politics. And the signs the Church is duty bound to interpret (to interpret in a non-partisan but not necessarily non-political manner) involve those issues that are bound up with the State. Although the importance of politics is often exaggerated, nevertheless, it does affect the spiritual welfare of souls and the nation itself.

2016: Obama’s America

Enter the movie, "2016: Obama’s America." This is a story about the background, the career, the beliefs and the presidency of Barack Obama. It happens to be presented through the eyes of the best-selling author of “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” Dinesh D’Souza. He provides an unconventional look at the 44th president of the United States. His insights are, by no means, typically partisan. Incidentally, D’Souza’s bears some similarity to Barack Obama’s upbringing. Although president Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was a native of Kenya in Africa and Dinesh D’Souza’s father was a native of India, both dads had anti-colonial views.

Now, many people do not know much about colonialism. In short, it is typically defined as the system or policy by which a Western nation such as Britain or America maintains control or influence over a third world country. The bulk of colonial expansion took place during the 20th century in Africa, Asia, the Middle and the Far East. To be sure, there are legitimate grievances against colonialism and its abuses. But on the converse, many blessings came with colonialism such as the preaching of the Gospel.

For instance, in his book, "What’s So Great About Christianity," Dinesh D’Souza writes the following about the Christianization of Africa: “A century ago, less than 10 percent of Africa was Christian. Today, it is nearly 50 percent. That is an increase from 10 million people in 1900 to more than 350 million today.” As for myself, having become friends with Catholics from Nigeria and Burundi, I do know that the Catholic Faith has greatly increased their standard of living. More importantly, the missionary efforts of the 20th century by the Church led scores of Africans to Christ. A man by the name of Egide, who had fled to America during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, said this about his new beginning:

“Not only the Bible and the New Life in Christ were introduced, but access to modern life was offered. On a personal level, the Catholic Education (both in elementary and secondary) meant experiencing a new life with a path to prosperity. It meant the only way that guarantied the breaking the vicious cycle of poverty in my family. Suddenly, the world view changed in many ways. The hills of the sunrise and the sunset were no longer the limits of the world.”

Nevertheless, to anti-colonialists, the benefit Christianity had brought to Africa is immaterial. Missionaries who spread the Gospel were guilty by association...association to the Western political powers that dominated unwilling African subjects. Perhaps, this association of Catholic missionaries (or Catholicism itself) to colonialism in Africa is why the Obama administration is acting aggressively towards the Catholic Church in 2012. Although the movie 2016 did not give a lot of attention to this, still, it could be that the anti-colonial cause is inspired the HHS mandate.

In any event, the president’s father, Barack Sr., was a Kenyan senior governmental economist who sought to reset the balance of political power and prosperity by embracing communism (more on that later). To complicate matters, Stanley Ann Dunham, young Barak’s mother, painted a rosy picture of Barack Sr. in his absence (keep in mind that Barak Jr. only saw his father once when he was 10 years of age). But the problem with this mythic rosy picture of his father was that it had inspired in our future president a love for what his father stood for. Still, even up to the time of his father’s death in 1982, Barack Obama had only a vague notion of what his father was really like. He would later say, “At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man.”

The difference between Dinesh and President Obama is that the former was able to make distinctions between the rule and the exception to the rule; whereas the latter did not. For Dinesh D’Souza, the rule was that the Christian West introduced morally superior standards into third world countries; including his beloved India where he grew up. In another book he authored, "What’s So Great About America," D’Souza speaks to the blight of America’s history of slavery and the positive side that rarely gets mentioned in political discourse. Indeed, he puts America's practice of slavery into perspective for his anti-colonialist’s readers. He said, “Never in the history of the world, outside of the West, has a group of people eligible to be slave owners mobilized against the institution of slavery...descendants of African slaves owe their freedom to the exertions of white strangers, not to the people of Africa who betrayed them and sold them.”

Yes, colonialism had many sins to answer for. But there was a bigger context to consider. And unlike his own father and grandfather, Dinesh was able to work past their grievances and see that the good outweighed the bad. But President Obama comes to a different conclusion about colonialism in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father." Burdened with a kind of identity crisis, he had come to sympathize and even embrace his father’s anti-colonial cause. He writes,

“I saw that my life in America — the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I'd witnessed in Chicago — all of it was connected with this small plot of earth [his father's burial ground in Kenya] an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father's pain. My questions were my brothers' questions. Their struggle, my birthright.”

The question is: What was his father’s pain? In a 1965, Obama Sr. wrote an article in the East Africa Journal called "Problems Facing Our Socialism." One can infer from this article that he sees “state appropriation of wealth as a necessary means to achieve the anti-colonial objective of taking resources away from the foreign looters and restoring them to the people of Africa.”

The movie 2016 does a good job of informing the viewer that this "pain" the president was referring to has something to do with his father’s quest to restore the resources to the people of Africa and to other third world nations. To use Obama Sr. own words: "We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now… theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed."

And this is precisely where we can ask the second question. What "struggle" was the president’s birthright? And how might this be carried out? D’Souza concludes that it is the anti-colonialist struggle. This, no doubt, requires a mandate to make things right through the power of the State. Like father, like son. This is why it is a mistake to say that President Obama is fashioned in the likeness of a soft, benevolent European socialist. He is not. Obama is not inspired by the self-loathing of European secularism and socialism. Rather, his views are more closely akin to Latin American socialism, which is more heavy-handed and driven by a strong animus towards the West. In fact, one could say that he has been shaped and formed by the Marxism of Black Liberation Theology. Rev. Jeremiah Wright and theologian James Cone were two of his strongest influences.

What is easy to miss is that the drive that inspires this struggle is not propelled by a love for something as it is an aversion towards someone or some people. In this case, it would seem the aversion is directed towards the foreign “looters” of the West. And what better way to make necessary restitutions than through the instrumentation of political power. This is where socialism and communism come in. These ideologies are borne from both hatred and envy. It may explain the underlying motive of many of the Obama administration’s policy decisions. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said in his book, "Communism and the Conscience of the West:"

“Many follow communism not because they are convinced that it is right, but because they have a hidden hate against something or somebody. Those who feel individually impotent to vent their hate upon a person or a class or an institution feel that if they joined communism they could find a corporate expression for their pent-up animosities and their dammed-up hate.”

Probably the most important contribution of the movie, "2016: Obama’s America" is that it zeroes in on what many conservative commentators fail to mention; and that is, the importance the family has on our future leaders. Indeed, D'Souza's analysis transcends conventional political views by drawing attention to global and historic considerations (something that many Americans are not interested in) as well as the importance of a healthy father-son relationship.

The author of "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville, was quite familiar with the French Revolution and the godless revolutionary spirit which inspired it. With all of the wealth of insights he provides about democracy in his book, he, nevertheless, takes time to write about the importance of the family. He maintains that for any given individual, instability at home will inevitably overflow into society. He writes,

“To despise the natural bonds and legitimate pleasures of home, is to contract a taste for excesses, and the evil of fluctuating desires. Agitated by the tumultuous passions which frequently disturb his dwelling, the European is galled by the obedience which the legislative powers of the State exact...While the European endeavors to forget his domestic troubles by agitating society, the American derives from his own home that love of order he afterwards carries with him into public affairs.”

Barack Obama Jr., the current president of these United States, not only suffered from having to endure an absentee father, but his mother, at an early age, sent him away, forcing him to live with his grandmother. As indicated, Mr. Obama had to cope with feelings of anger and abandonment. To add insult to injury, his parents were greatly influenced by anti-colonial and communistic views. As such, it can be said that even before being left out in the cold by his parents, our president was exposed to their ideological hatred and anger against the so-called oppressors from the West. The apple does not fall far from the tree. In his childhood confusion, President Barack Obama failed to see the errors of his father. Instead, he had pledged to take up his cause. And if he should be re-elected, his father's cause will be more fully implemented.

The ultimate question, therefore, that the Dinesh D'Souza leaves us at the end of the movie "2016: Obama's America," is this: Which dreams will we pursue, the dreams of Obama's father or the dreams of our Founding Fathers? The choice is ours. But let there be no doubt: The two dreams that are held out before us could not be more diametrically opposite to one another!