A guest column by Robert Chapman, an "ex-spook" now retired from the U. S. Intelligence service.
A friend told me she knew little about Barak Obama’s early life and I realized neither did I. So I looked.
His mother, Ann Dunham, met Barak Hussein Obama (Sr.) in a Russian class at the University of Hawaii. In a short time, they went to Maui and when they returned, they said they’d married. “When Obama was in his early twenties, his mother would reveal to him that her parents were livid about the marriage.” However, in his autobiography Obama wrote that his grandfather, Stanley, viewed the interracial relationship with a sense of pride. It was not so with the grandmother.
There never was a sign of a marriage license, and later in life Ann told a friend “marriage is not essential.” Whether this might have had any effect on her son, Barak Obama Jr., born August 4, 1961, is not known; however, Obama Sr. left her and son, two years later, and it is said she divorced him.
Obama Sr. left Ann to pursue his education and later returned to Kenya with an American white woman he married and who bore him two children. One, a son, is reported to be a mathematician living in China. There is no verification of this. All in all, Obama Sr. fathered nine children.
Ann then married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student studying in Hawaii. This was her second bi-racial marriage which was extremely rare in the late ’50s and ’60s. In many ways she was an extremely unusual woman. Some report her as a communist but without verification. At that time she would be considered by most mainstream Americans as a left wing kook. That, however, might be as a reflection of her family and the “wildly romantic streak” she shared with her father.
I found little about Lolo Soetoro. I don’t know what he was like, where he worked, if he did. Previously, we’re told, he was a soldier in the Indonesian Army and projected the tough masculine image to his son. The most remarkable information is “After spending two years in Hawaii, he was forced by political upheaval in his native Indonesia to suddenly return to Jakarta.” What does this mean?
A year later, Ann and her son joined him. This begins a period of controversy whether Barak Jr. is or was a Muslim.
At times Ann and Barak Sr. are described as atheists; at other times they are said to be Muslims. For sure Lolo was Muslim. I’m inclined to think Barak Sr., by his wealth and marital style, was a Muslim. Ann? I don’t know; but according to Maya, her daughter by Lolo, “Ann pushed Barry and Maya to assimilate to Indonesian culture as much as possible....” And I’ve known Americans, living abroad, to get taken in by the culture. The only bearing is what role if any religion played in the Jakarta household.
As for Barak Jr., for his elementary schooling, he entered the Roman Catholic Franciscus Assisi Primary School in Jakarta on January 1, 1968 and was registered under the name Barry Soetoro, an Indonesian citizen, whose religion was listed as Islam. Catholic schools, worldwide, accept non-Catholics, who are exempt from religious instruction.
Three years later, in 1971, Barak enrolled as a Muslim in the Besuki Primary School, a government school. All Indonesian students are required to study religion in school and Barak would have been required to study Islam daily in school. He would have been taught to say his prayers, read and recite from the Koran and study the laws of Islam.
In his autobiography Dreams From My Father Barak Obama mentions studying the Koran and describes the school as Muslim.
Fitting into this, in Ann’s obituary in the New York Times it states in Jakarta she woke up her son at 4 a.m. each morning to take a correspondence course in English. It appears he must have been losing his English ability in school.
From the above I conclude Obama was raised a Muslim. What he is today I don’t know. The Trinity church, which he quit for political reasons, accepted all religions. He then joined another church.
Ann separated from Lolo and returned to Hawaii and began studying anthropology.
In the early ’70s Obama Sr. visited Ann and family. A strange incident occurred. Barak was watch the TV presentation of “Tthe Grinch who Stole Christmas.” Obama Sr. exploded. A given explanation was that he felt Barak was studying too hard and should have been resting rather than watching TV. But Obama Sr. knew little about his son’s studying. It’s possible the explosion was something he viewed as apostate in his son’s giving up Islam for another religion, Christmas. It is only my speculation.
In 1977 Ann told Barak she had to return to Indonesia to do field work for her university degree. She was going to study rural blacksmithing. Rural blacksmithing? She asked Barak to return with her and Maya but he didn’t want to.
This raised a question in my mind. What mother would leave her (bi-racial) teenage son in high school to go to a far off country? Wouldn’t most mothers wait until their son finished high school before going? What effect, I wondered, would this have on her son? There is a natural loneliness.
There was the question of arranging for the grandparents to take over raising Barak. The grandmother, Madelyn, didn’t like it. As we know, during the campaign, Barak “threw her under the truck” when, in defending Reverend Wright, he recalled her racial slurs.
In an incident, Madelyn was angry with her husband, Stanley. She had been accosted by a black man and did not want to take the bus to town. She wanted Stanley to drive her. He refused.
It was in this environment that Barak lived.
In another incident, sometimes contested by Obama supporters, Barak became pals with a boy he describes in his autobiography as “Ray.” Ray is Keith Kakugawa. He, too, was bi-racial, I believe black and Japanese, and had come to Hawaii from Los Angeles. He and Barak smoked pot and talked of their loneliness.
Ray later became addicted and served a prison term. On release, he hit upon Barak for money but was refused.
Barak’s time in Hawaii does not appear a happy one but a lonely one.
In his autobiography, he writes of a man “Frank.” He writes Frank was the man who had the most decisive influence in helping him find his identity.
Frank is Frank Marshall Davis who was a drinking buddy of Barak’s grandfather, Stanley. Frank, a black man, was a leading member of the Hawaiian segment of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA). Herbert Romerstein, whom I knew, was the Congressional investigator of the CPUSA. Romerstein wrote that the CPUSA sent Frank Davis from Chicago to Hawaii to organize the island’s Communist Party. Frank was also a journalist who wrote for the “Record,” the island’s Communist Party’s newspaper.
Frank was admittedly bi-sexual and by many was called a pervert. He was an author and wrote Sex Rebel: Black (Memoirs of a Gourmet Gash), which was hard core pornographic with explicit sex memoirs. It was published under the alias Bob Greene. Another of his books but unpublished is Mixed Sex Salad. He also wrote Livin’ the Blues.
This is the most influential man who helped Obama find his identity? When Obama wrote of “Frank,” didn’t he realize Frank’s identity would be tracked down?
And what of Stanley, the grandfather? A drinking buddy of Davis! Introducing him to his grandson!
Such was Obama’s youth.
In the early 1990s, Ann returned from Indonesia and had a job in New York City at the Women’s World Bank. The bank dealt with micro-financing with small loans to start and finance micro-businesses. She was stricken with cancer and returned to Hawaii where she died in 1995.
This happened before most of us knew of Obama. I wonder if they had contact after she returned. Did he go to New York to visit her? Did he know she was failing? Did she stop in Chicago en route to Hawaii? In his speeches Obama says she worried if she could pay her medical bills. He regrets not visiting her deathbed.
Good Lord! In a presidential election that affects all of us, the media has told us of a loving, caring childhood, not this. Unbelievable!
In my past life, I met, had contact with and knew people who were born poor and impoverished in the rural boondocks of Latin America. They had limited education, suffered a hard, hard life and joined the Communist Party. Recognizing their talent, the Party educated them and trained them into leadership roles in which they flourished. I conclude from Obama’s youth and experiences; it was the Alinsky machine that made Obama.