PrestoPundit

IF YOU ARE AN WEALTHY MAN WITHOUT ROOTS

Posted by PrestoPundit on 06/09/2008

what sort of place do you end up living in?  Why, a place like Hyde Park:

In his own memoir, Obama depicts his mother fleeing the “smugness and
hypocrisy” of her small Midwestern town — a town that Obama visited for
the first time this year, campaigning [and a town & state his mother lived in for only a year of her conscious memory]. Only a lack of familiarity with
the benign flow of middle-class American life could inspire clichés
like these.

“I never had roots growing up,” Obama has often said. It’s the theme
of his life, as he himself tells the story. He even wrote a book, a
small masterpiece, about his tortured attempts to locate himself in the
larger world. From Hawaii to Indonesia and back to Hawaii, then to Los
Angeles and Manhattan and Cambridge, Mass., and finally to Hyde Park:
He’s never lived in a part of the country that’s like 90 percent of the
rest of the country.

This struck me one afternoon when I drove from
Obama’s house to Trinity United Church of Christ, the now-controversial
church where he worshipped for nearly 20 years. It’s a long drive, 30
minutes or more. Whether you take the freeway or the surface streets,
the route jolts you from the manicured quiet of Hyde Park through one
bombed-out neighborhood after another. Then you arrive at Trinity, hard
against the roaring freeway, at the edge of a district of blond-brick
bungalows, some tidy and trim, others obscured by weeds, the shutters
off their hinges. After services, Obama would get the family in the car
and go home.

Hyde Park’s the neighborhood he returned to, the place he’d chosen
to live, and its roots were torn out 50 years ago. A college town, it
has all the churning and transience the phrase implies. Everyone seems
from somewhere else. The Armours, Swifts, and the other first families
of Chicago left long ago. The working men and their families, who
replaced them, were driven out by the university. The poor were secured
at a safe distance. Inside, harmony reigned between white and black
residents, but the whites drawn by the university were often here only
temporarily, and the blacks who moved here have the same sense of
displacement, even if they arrived from another neighborhood nearby.

This is the perfect place for a man without an identity to make one of his own choosing.

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