Jesus. So, in actual, for real existence, there is a movie called "Obama's America 2016." This is a "documentary" about Obama's search for personal identity and how it shaped his foreign and domestic policy. Using quotes from Dreams From My Father, "Obama's America" makes some heavy claims about the president's "third world, anti-American ideology," and how it is tied to his father's socialist beliefs from the 60s. Dinesh D'Souza builds his argument that Obama is an unfit leader because of his idolization of his father's anti-colonialism stance and fight for independence of Kenya through interviews and subtext from Obama's memoir. All of that is a nice way of saying that this movie is full of shit and half of the time makes no goddamn sense.
Before watching "Obama's America," I had watched a Koch brothers documentary (because I am a leftist/old man and this is how I spend my Halloween weekend. Party time!) which Emily and I found both interesting and easy to criticize. Sure, I agreed with most of the things they were talking about, but there were some reaches and misquotes, suppositions and straw men, you know, typical documentary stuff. The problem with entertaining documentaries is that they have to abide by their narrative, otherwise you just have a visual research paper and those don't sell ITunes downloads. Anyway, I was all fired up about money in politics and jonesing for the next hit of sweet, sweet political diatribes. At the behest of a friend of mine (whose opinion I will now forever disregard) I sat down with a bowl of vegetable medley and turned on my free copy of "Obama's America 2016" (how was it free, you ask? Good question).
First off, you have to sit through about 45 minutes of Dinesh just fucking talking about nothing. That, mixed in with a healthy dose of copyright-infringing audio from Dreams From My Father and I started to wonder if the complete backstory of Obama was necessary. Of COURSE it's is, says the filmmaker! Because Obama is an anti-colonialist from birth! Because his dad was an anti-colonialist! Because his friends were anti-colonialist! Because there are some people in Hawaii who are anti-colonialists! Because Dinesh D'Souza is an anti-colonialist because he's from India (I'm fairly certain he made that point. But at the same time I think he wants us to start colonizing the world again…)! Obama didn't know his dad while growing up, only meeting him once, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he was obsessed with his father.
Yeah, the first half of the movie is just a lot of "Obama had daddy issues." I started wishing this was a movie based off of The Audacity of Hope because I feel like that is probably a better book. Dreams From My Father has a lot of terrible imagery in it, like when Obama finds out his dad beat his wives and that his sister wasn't too keen on him, and he says "it was like my world was upside down, like I walked outside and the sun was blue in a yellow sky." Yawn. Alright. So Obama is a weak writer. I will jump on this train and say that he is unfit as a president because his book was bad. Roll credits.
But no! It goes on, finally getting to the point after we meet Obama's half-brother that he met once. "Don't you think Obama should help you?" asks Dinesh. Completely disinterested, George Obama takes a fairly straight forward position on the matter, saying "I think he has a family… I can take care of myself." and "Yeah, he’s taking care of the world. So he’s taking care of me. I’m part of the world." Yawn-a-thon 2012 is here.
53 Minutes into the film, and we learn about Obama Sr.'s socialist political stance. At that point, I turned, bored by the political views of someone that Obama had only met once, to look at the cats that were playing on my floor. They may have been fighting, I'm never really sure; they're not my cats. Suddenly, a direct quote:
"He's embracing his father's failed, third world, collectivism... How does a guy who possesses a third world, anti-American view, and an ideology as remote and unrecognizable as the capital of Kenya or Indonesia manage to get himself elected?"
So this is what it's about. Now, leaving behind the rest of the documentary (which is really something. "The United States of Islam," "Why is Obama strangely sympathetic to jihadi terrorists?," and "Obama's support for Occupy Wall Street," all happen. And of course, cameos from Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright) the theme that comes through the whole thing is Obama's otherness.
This isn't a new tactic of those begrudging the president. It's the same as the birtherism, the socialist red scare, and the overt racism that the president has dealt with over the past few years. It's ignoring any real criticism that can be placed on the president (not following through with promises like Guantanamo, bending to an uncompromising republican party, particularly on health care, a secret kill list and an increase in drone strikes that have killed hundreds of innocent people, empty rhetoric on the "reigning in of Wall Street," being the first billion dollar presidential candidate, NDAA, etc.) to use the fact that he is Kenyan and lived in Indonesia as a sign that he wants to shrink America's global footprint. This is a documentary on Obama being an anti-colonialist, which, in modern times, isn't a bad thing. But instead, we focus on the fact that Obama allegedly wants to level the playing field with the rest of the world, and stop being the only super power. It follows suppositions and hypotheticals to even draw these conclusions and presents false evidence to support them. It is a lie built on a lie built on a myth. It is playing to the rights basic fears and instincts that because this guy isn't like us, because he lived in weird places, because he was a big city type in Chicago, because he's black (they actually spend a total of about five minutes talking about the fact that white guilt is what elected Obama. Seriously.) then he's not like us and he won't represent us.
Which isn't the way to go about it. He's not like us or them, he's like the other politicians. He's no more radical than any politician, no more subversive of the American dream, no more socialist. People confuse the word socialism for being at a point that we were at before we were all hypnotized by Milton Freedman. And we're not even getting there with Obama. A free market capitalist who wants to lower corporate tax rates isn't a socialist.
This otherness, this idea that Obama's anti-colonialism will actually do damage to the United States is a farce. It's misleading, has nothing to do with anything, and is somehow how these claims are made:
No serious actions have been taken against Iran for trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The president has stopped supporting Israel and instead supports Palestine.
Obama was vocal about overthrowing Mubarak, a great ally.
Obama went into Libya, but refused to go into Syria because nothing he does makes sense.
Obama vocally supports giving Las Malvinas/Falklands back to Argentina.
Obama wants the United States to have 0 nuclear weapons while the rest of the world keeps theirs.
Half-truths and whole lies. D'Souza's movie is based on misleading information, anecdotal information, no information, or saying things that he doesn't back up with any quotes or evidence. This is being presented as fact to audiences around the country, audiences who are now going to go and vote while being totally misinformed. These kinds of documentaries (and I lump "Fahrenheit 9/11" in this category because seriously, fuck Michael Moore) are harmful to our democracy. It's telling people that they can just decide that things are true, that they can vote with their fears instead of information. It chokes the life from any sort of civil discourse and leaves us fighting and bickering over fallacies instead of over substance.
In conclusion: Everybody is wrong.