Please, Dinesh, analyze me!
By Joel Dreyfuss
Ever since I read his piece in Forbes, I keep thinking: I can't wait for Dinesh D'Souza to turn his eagle eye on me. After concluding that President Obama's Kenyan father magically transmitted his African socialist ideals to the son he barely knew, I can just imagine the field day D'Souza, the conservative writer and president of a Christian evangelical college, would have parsing my ancestral influences. Of course, I'll never be president of the United States, because I wasn't born here.
In fact, I was born in Haiti, something certain readers of The Root -- the Web site I edit -- don't hesitate to point out whenever I dare make any commentary about life in the United States. One avid reader (and prolific commentator) flatly declared I couldn't possibly know anything about America because I wasn't born here. The fact that I've spent three-fourths of my life -- and 35 years as a journalist -- working and living in the U.S. carries absolutely no weight with him.
I'm guessing my critic subscribes to D'Souza's theory of political views shaped by genetic transmission. Considering my typically-Caribbean multi-ethnic and multiracial origins, D'Souza would have several rich veins of ancestry to explore in explaining my world view. Both my parents were born in Haiti, and both traced their ancestry in Haiti back into the 1700s. Our family background includes Africans, Spaniards, Italians, French Jews and Catholics, Germans and possibly some Native Americans (Arawaks). This rich stew of ancestors includes slaves, slave-owners, conquistadors, plantation owners, laborers, revolutionaries, farmers, musicians, soldiers, politicians and academics.
If D'Souza were to focus on my dad (as he did Obama's), he would probably have much to say. Unlike the president, I knew my father for nearly 45 years. He was the son of a French Jewish merchant and a Haitian Creole. D'Souza would probably attribute my affinity for the underdog to my father's Jewish ancestry. After all, my Jewish grandfather left France because the name Dreyfuss (even with the extra "s") was not a good one to have in the 1890s when a certain Captain Dreyfus was being wrongly and repeatedly convicted of treason.
Of course, if D'Souza happened to be scrutinizing my background because he didn't like me, he might suggest that I have socialist tendencies, because France, well, is France.
It probably wouldn't matter if I pointed out that France until relatively recently had higher income inequality than the U.S. Since I was born in Haiti, I'm sure my black mother's DNA would get me lumped in with the president for having anti-colonial tendencies as well. After all, one of my mother's ancestors was a commander in Haiti's revolution -- which, by defeating Napoleon's troops and declaring all former slaves free -- became the epitome of anti-colonialism.
I don’t remember ever having a discussion about colonialism with my mom, but that shouldn't stop D'Souza, who has no proof that Obama, who was 10 when he last saw his father, ever had a deep discussion about colonialism with his dad. But D'Souza, whose name suggests some connection to the Portuguese who colonized Goa on the west coast of India, has a remarkable ability to reconstruct the transmission of knowledge and ideals from one generation to the next, even when the two generations barely knew each other. As I said, since I missed all those ancestral conversations, I'm hoping D'Souza will pick me for his next séance -- I mean article -- in Forbes.
I suppose I'll have to win higher office -- and then threaten to change the status quo -- to earn D'Souza's attention. I'd like to know what the influences on my personal values are, and apparently D'Souza has an uncanny ability to tell you what you don't know about yourself -- so I'm hoping he will bring his laser-like analytical tools to dissect my life. Do it, Dinesh, please.
| September 21, 2010; 5:39 PM ET
Categories: Dreyfuss | Tags: Joel Dreyfuss
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