Saturday, November 29, 2008

Someone's Auto-biography

I just finished reading Barack Obama's first book, "Dreams From My Father." He wrote it shortly after his graduation from law school and with no discernible political aspirations. It was written well, and soulfully - we see both the the good and admirable as well as the darker and confusing facets of his character. As moving as his speeches are his writing is also commendable - the right amount of intellect and emotion to explain his unique background as both white and black, and some brown as well.

I'll remember his particularly poignant discussion on how, as a non-white in America or Europe, you'll always feel alienated and estranged. How it doesn't belong to you. Contrast this with a white person traveling or living in Asia or Africa, who does not need to put his or her best foot forward, is completely at ease, and whose only concern is protection against those who might want what he or she has. That particular insight definitely rings true, and is slightly astonishing - even African-Americans (even half white ones, like Obama), who are already born into it, felt it too.

There are many other insights, but towards the end of the book, just when I was deciding what to read next, Barack Obama describes the law:

"The study of the law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power - and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition. 

But that's not all the law is. The law is also a memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience."

It's good to know that many people in the world have read, or are reading, this book. Hopefully, they're not all fans like me.

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