Menckens Ghost
Bashing “birthers,” Sheriff Arpaio, and Dinesh D’Souza  

Bashing “birthers,” Sheriff Arpaio, and Dinesh D’Souza


By Mencken’s Ghost

Oct. 1, 2012


First, a prefatory remark:  Barack Obama is a serious threat to the well-being of my family and should be voted out of office.


That sincere remark should keep conservatives at bay while I proceed to bash birthers, to bash Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and to bash author and director Dinesh D’Souza.


Why bash them?   Three reasons.


One, it is conservatives’ turn to be based, because liberals have been bashed extensively and well deservedly lately by this bipartisan basher.  Two, Arpaio is the sheriff of my home county of Maricopa County, Ariz., a fact that pains and embarrasses me given his buffoonery and grandstanding.  Three, most importantly, I’m reading Barack Obama, the excellent biography of the president by David Maraniss. 


The book shows the silliness of the birther belief that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, shows the silliness of Arpaio sending a posse to Hawaii to investigate Obama’s birth, and shows the silliniess of D’Souza’s movie, 2016, especially in its selective telling of Obama’s family history.  (I saw the documentary on its opening day in Phoenix.)


Making these people look silly wasn’t the purpose of the book’s author.  The purpose was to write an intelligent biography that tells, among many other fascinating facts, the remarkable story of Obama and his forebears and the amazing events and coincidences that brought his father and mother together in Hawaii. 


As the book details, it is indisputable that Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a U.S. citizen from a Methodist family that had moved from Kansas to Texas, then to Seattle, and then to Hawaii; that Stanley Ann was attending the University of Hawaii when she met and married Obama’s father, a Kenyan named Barack Obama, the same name of course that was later given to their son; that the two of them were married in Hawaii while attending the University of Hawaii; and that she gave birth to Barack Obama II in Hawaii.  (Following Kenyan custom, the Roman numerals I and II were used as suffixes to distinguish between father and son instead of the American custom of Sr. and Jr.) 


Barack Obama I was an alien in the U.S. on a student visa.  As such, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) tracked his student status and marriage.  Records and correspondence show that he and Stanley Ann were married and attending classes at the University of Hawaii at the time of their son’s birth. 


Stanley’s masculine name led to an interesting conversation and subsequent correspondence.  For example, a young woman from New York had moved to Hawaii and was told one day by a friend, a well-known and respected obstetrician-gynecologist in Honolulu, that something unusual had happened in the maternity ward of the hospital that week.  Playing a joke on the woman, the doctor made it seem that a man had given birth, by exclaiming that “Stanley had a baby!”  He then let her in on the joke that it was really a woman with a man’s name.  Subsequently, the woman wrote a letter to her father in Buffalo about the conversation, because his name was also Stanley.  


A few days after the birth, Barack Obama I had to complete immigration papers to extend his student visa.  And a week after the birth, a notice of the birth of Barack Obama II appeared in the Star-Bulletin along with other births for the week.  The parents were listed as Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama. 


Ignoring this evidence, birthers and Arpaio’s posse would have us believe that Barack Obama I and Stanley Ann dropped out of school and somehow managed to afford to travel to Kenya so that their son could be born there and be a Kenyan citizen.  But that’s the last thing that Barack Obama I would have wanted, because he didn’t want it known that he already had a wife and child in Kenya, where polygamy was customary. 


It seems that it would have been easier for Sheriff Arpaio to read the book in question than to send a posse to Hawaii.  Oh, that’s right:  The media hound would not have gotten any media coverage if he had quietly read the book in his Fountain Hills home.


Let’s now turn to Dinesh D’Souza. 


First, another prefatory remark to continue to keep conservatives at bay:  Judging by his pronouncements and policies, I believe that President Obama is a strange and dangerous mixture of neo-Marxism and neo-Mussolini-ism.  (I don’t use the word “fascism” because most people mistakenly equate it with Nazism.)  D’Souza got some of this right, but he sure did a hatchet job in pretending to document the Kenyan side of Obama’s family.


D’Souza’s 2016 showed a couple of interviews with Kenyan relatives of Barack Obama I, put a conspiratorial spin on another interview being canceled, kept showing a dramatized image of Barack Obama II standing in front of a grave, and completely glossed over the complexity of family histories in Kenya due to polygamy, tribal rivalries, and British colonial rule.


The biography Barack Obama is at the other end of the spectrum.  A scholarly work, it provides fascinating insights into Kenyan culture and politics, details the richness of Obama’s Kenyan lineage, and shows that Barack Obama I was not some sort of Muslim radical.


In fact, Barack Obama I was a very intelligent and charismatic man, albeit a lousy husband and father.  He was a Muslim “lite” who attended a Christian missionary school, didn’t have strong religious convictions, and, like his father, cozied up to, and worked for, the British. As a young man, he had some association with revolutionary leaders who wanted Kenyan independence (just as our Founders wanted independence), but he wasn’t seen by the British as a dangerous radical, as evidenced by the colonial administration allowing him and other “good” Kenyans to attend college in the U.S. 


The senior Obama was among one of the first groups of Kenyans to be funded, mostly with private money, to make the trip to America.  Subsequent groups were funded, interestingly enough, due to political competition between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.


As Eisenhower’s vice president, Nixon was planning to run for president against JFK.  He got wind of JFK being approached by one of the Kenyan independence leaders to fund the education of more Kenyans at American universities.  Supporting their cause, JFK had agreed to contribute $100,000 of family foundation money.  To show that he was just as supportive of the cause, Nixon pulled political levers to have the State Department provide the funding.  (You know, he was one of those small-government Republicans--wink, wink.)


Think of the irony if the senior Obama had come to America in the second wave of students.  Nixon would have funded him and thus been responsible for his son becoming president.


Coincidentally, the advisory committee that JFK had established to oversee the Kennedy foundation’s funding of the students included a former U.S. Information Service official who had served in Nairobi.  One of the official’s employees in Africa was none other than the father of Barack Obama I.


These examples are just a lick of the lollipop.  For the rest of the delectable lollipop, one would have to read the biography.  But the point is that the book is scholarly while D’Souza’s documentary is agitprop.


Oh-oh, I hear the snarling of rabid, mad-dog conservatives.  I guess I haven’t kept them at bay.



Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at ccan2@aol.com.