One Obama, Two Obama…

There was an article in the NY Times last week that caught my attention.  It seems that Barack Obama has a half-brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo who is currently living in China.  The President and Mr. Ndesandjo have the same father, a Kenyan goat herder who somehow or other wound up getting a graduate degree from Harvard.  They both had  American mothers who were white; in Mr. Ndesandjo’s case, a Jewish woman who is still alive and living in Nairobi.

I was up much of last night trying to figure out what the relationship between the President and this woman might be called.  There is a wonderful Yiddish word, machitanistah (I’ve thoroughly mangled the spelling, I’m sure) that is used to call the family that one inherits when one’s son or daughter gets married.  I was hoping  that there would be a similar Yiddish term that would apply to the connection between President Obama and this woman. But from everything I know, there isn’t one…..either in Yiddish or in English.  So this (Jewish) woman needs to be described simply as, the mother of the half-brother of the “leader of the free world”.  (Catchy acronym–MOHBOLOFW)

There was a  demonstration in Washington last Thursday by the so-called “tea baggers”  protesting the pending health care reform.  Some of the demonstrators were carrying placards that were, as Paul Krugman described them,  “grotesque”.   Some of the signs displayed  a Holocaust photo of bodies piled on top of one another with a caption drawing a parallel between the Obama Adminstration and the Nazis.  I find this appalling.  Of course, there’s not much that can be done  to control someone who acts in such a hateful, disproportionate way.  But still, I find it very upsetting.   What upsets me even more is the tacit approval of the alleged  responsible leaders of the Republican Party who were at the microphones and speaking to the assembled crowd.  One of those leaders was Eric Cantor, who as the  Minority Whip  is the second highest ranking GOP member in the House.  I’ve cited Mr. Cantor in a previous posting.  Mr. Cantor is Jewish.  I wonder how he feels, as a Jew, about the trivialization of the Holocaust  implicit in those signs.  I have an urge to call his mother and tattle on him.  For Mr. Cantor to be silent in the face of such behavior is a shonda. (Another wonderful Yiddish word.  Meant to convey an “embarrassment” but, and here’s part of the essence of the Jewish psychology, an uber “embarrassment” because it’s within viewing by gentiles.  For example, playing basketball on Yom Kippur is   frowned on, doing it in front of gentiles is a shonda.)

I don’t like writing about politics.  There are enough people doing that and doing it way better than I can.  But I do like writing about irony and statistical oddities.  Here is an example:  There are 217 Republicans in the House and Senate combined.  Of that group, Mr. Cantor is the only Jew.  In other words, there are as many Jews who are mothers of Barack Obama’s half siblings as there are  Jewish Republican members of the US Congress.

And by the way, of the 217  Republicans in Congress, there are no, that’s right… zero, African-Americans.  Put another way, there are more Kenyan goat herders who have fathered American Presidents than there are black Republicans in the United States of America’s greatest legislative institution.  Now, that’s a shonda.

Note:  Democrats in the House of Representatives include over 40 African-Americans  and over 30 Jews.  In the US Senate, there is only one black Senator, a Democrat.  There are 13  Democrat and Independent Senators who are Jewish.

eric cantor

"The Republican Party is in its root a party of inclusion......" Eric Cantor, Los Angeles Times, 11/6/09


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