Beliefnet
City of Brass

trpar2368102.jpgHaving just returned from my trip to Kenya, I saw firsthand how Obama’s Kenyan roots are a matter of national pride there. Obama’s face graced the papers almost every other day, and our taxi driver proudly told us he was of the Luo tribe and came from the village adjacent to Obama’s ancestral hamlet. Hearing him talk about how Obama inspired him was a moment of genuine patriotic pride for me – people worldwide are looking at America and saying, truly, it is the land of opportunity – and they are inspired, not to go there, but to bring America home and change their own nations by our example. Consider the opinion of students in Nairobi:

Like many young Kenyans, they said they identify more with Obama
than with their own political elders, whom they hoped Obama would shake
up by example.

“His election has already offered a great challenge to leaders here, through his values,” said Maranga, 27.

In particular, students said they hoped Obama would shame politicians into rising above tribalism.

“When people speak of Obama, we don’t say he’s Luo Obama,” said Ogega,
27, referring to Obama’s Kenyan ethnic group. “We say he’s Kenyan. We
hope he will help us see each other as Kenyans instead of certain
tribes.”

The “Obama fever” isn’t limited to Nairobi, either:

In the lakeside town of Kisumu in western
Kenya, the birthplace of President Obama’s father Barack Hussein Obama
Senior, a three-day “Obama Speaking” competition reached a climax with
youth who took part in the competition declaring the incoming US
president “Obama Tosha” – Kiswahili for “Obama Only.”

Never
before has the US presidential election been the subject of intense
interest in the East Africa nation, which Obama regularly visited
before he became an Illinois senator in 2004.

Kenyan
television stations interrupted normal programming to focus on history
in the making, as the man billed by Kenyans as one of their own reached
the climax of long and tortuous journey to the most coveted perch in
global politics.

Traders in Nairobi lined up Obama
memorabilia, while entertainment spots have lined up events to
celebrate the elevation of the first black man to the highest office in
the US.

Here’s another report in the Kenya Standard:

In Kogelo, villagers and visitors from all walks of life thronged the Kogelo Primary School grounds and danced the night away.

Others had their eyes glued to a giant TV screen mounted by Kenya’s premier television station, KTN.

The screen brought home images of ‘their son’s’ big day, thousands of miles away at Washington DC.

The compound bustled with activity all day, but suddenly went quiet as images of Obama being sworn-in as President rolled on the screen at dusk.

“Ling’uru Obama osechako wuoyo” (Be quiet, Obama is already talking), a male voice boomed from a loud speaker.

Photo caption: Kenyans gather to celebrate the inauguration of US president Barack
Obama on January 20, 2009 in Kisumu. Excitement continues to mount in
Kisumu the headquarter of Kenya’s Western province as the “Son of
Kenya,” a term increasingly used to refer to Obama due to his Kenyan
father, as Obama is about to be sworn in 44th US president and the
first black one. In his inaugural address, Obama said : “we have chosen
hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,”. AFP
PHOTO/ SIMON MAINA

The ACLU has obtained a copy of the draft order to close Gitmo. I am embedding the document (PDF) below.

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Other Academic Work obama Gitmo

The ACLU will have an analysis soon.

UPDATE: The Politico notes that Obama will likely issue the order today to close Gitmo, but the actual closing will take up to a year. They also have a nice overview of the various thorny legal issues involved, including just what you do with the detainees.

Blame this on Chief Justice Roberts – Obama had a do-over today:

WASHINGTON – After the flub heard around theworld, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again.Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesdaynight at the White House — a rare do-over.

Thesurprise moment came in response to Tuesday’s much-noticed stumble,when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which promptedObama to do so, too.

Don’t worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day.

Of course the White House says that. But we know the truth. President Joe Biden was our 43.5th President, for a day 🙂

Here’s video of the flub:

(I assume that Obama used his middle name again the second time as he did the first…)

My friend (and accomplished writer) G. Willow Wilson spent several years living in Cairo after converting to Islam. In her Journal at Talk Islam she relates her observations about the differences in how Islam is lived in breathed in Cairo versus in the convert community in Seattle where she presently resides. It’s a great piece about identity, which is pretty much the central tension in any muslim-American’s life. Here’s a teaser excerpt:

In Egypt Islam is like a natural extension of the body. It permeates
and is permeated by everyday life. People may be dishonest, angry,
ugly, crude, vicious, but all these things are artificial, like the
industrial waste spewed into the Nile and the sky until it warps babies
in the womb. They are all the result of a society squeezed until it
broke and bled. When God enters a conversation, the ugliness vanishes,
and the disgusting sinner who leers at girls on the subway becomes a
poet. The absurdity of that-the horror of it; the wonder of it; the
capacity of the divine to wheedle Its way into the grotesque-shaped my
relationship with God. For good or ill. I never lost sight of the fact
that when I prayed, it was not only to Al Rahman, but to Al Khafid. The
Debaser. I could look at His terrible Names without flinching or
rationalizing. He created beauty and filth side by side, like a hammer
and an anvil, and it is for us to break or bend.

That was Cairo.

When I came back to my own country, I had a naive idea that I could
go on being an American and a Muslim, and avoid learning to be an
American Muslim. That lasted about six months. What miserable and
laughable months.

You simply have to read the whole thing.

Related – my review of Mullahs on the Mainframe, an ethnography about my own community and how we have adapted the demands of tradition with the realities of modernity. Again, it boils down to identity, and reconciliation.