obama’s identity

This is a good time to think about the identity of Barack Obama. Right now he’s a blank screen that many different groups are projecting their wishes on to. He’s not from any of their constituencies really, though it’s clear he has his proclivities. When he came to Chicago, he was more “mutt” than anything else, searching for a sense of belonging. He pretty much made a choice to join black culture, to inhabit the identity and the role, just like he chose to go to an elite school and become a community organizer. But he did all that while staying removed from the visceral nature of some of the old crappy American fights (race, class, culture), a remove that let him see those fights more clearly (as his speech on race in Philadelphia attests).
So he’s pretty much free of attachment to the old clashes, though he understands them. He can choose more intellectually what he wants to do. That could be dangerous (Robert McNamara was surely one of the smartest, most methodical people in the U.S. while he dragged the country into Viet Nam), but right now it is such a relief to have a president that doesn’t seem trapped in any one corner.

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