By western standards, the half-brother of Barack Obama is dirt poor. By character standards, he may be richer than many of us. His name is George Obama and he said he has expected nothing from Barack. He's studying to become a car mechanic and wants his big brother to win the White House.
This photo was a shocker when I saw it. It was meant to be, and the Italian version of Vanity Fair magazine's insert of Obama's photo into it was designed to make George look down on Barack, as though for abandoning him. He's pictured standing outside of his modest wood home - a shack by American standards - in Kenya. George has not described himself as an unhappy man, and as I study the picture without the usual class prejudice, I'll bet he can shoot some hoops with those graceful, long arms and could give Barack a good workout on the basketball court.
The two brothers met for the first time in their adult lives in 2006. George is now 26 years old, proud, literate, and independent. He likes living where he is. The smell of fried goat and other foods are in the air. An interviewer noticed the "odor of rubbish wafting in the street"; if George did, he didn't mention it, no more than we'd think to mention the intrusive sound of city traffic that is so familiar to us.
George Obama described why he likes living where he is. He said, "Here I am surrounded by friends and family and feel safe and secure."
There has been political violence not far away from his community where a half-dozen people where hacked to death. Despite this, he said, "Life in Huruma is good. In other places you must lock yourself in to keep yourself safe."
Think about that. Can't keep your doors unlocked like that in my neighborhood or any large American city, where violence is senseless or alcohol/drug-related. We turn it on ourselves, and so far, it's virtually never a form of political protest.
Despite living in poverty by our standards and maybe Kenyan standards too, he's put in enough study hours or got enough education to read Barack's book, Dreams From My Father. This is a feat that a number of American adults - black, white, and Latino couldn't do if their lives depended on it.
This is how George learned about their mutual father, who died in a car crash when George was six months old. His mother, Jael, lives in the U.S. and has helped support him. This tells us that between his brother Barack, who he didn't ask for help, and his mother, he could have gotten a VISA to come live here if had wanted to, but he didn't.
Yet the media is judgmental as hell. The haters over at Vanity Fair who print the Italian version of the magazine hunted down his half-brother in hopes of getting evidence that Barack is a Muslim, not a Christian. Then they could use it as ammo to sabotage his chance to win the Presidency.
This alone is an indictment against the bigoted corporate-backed, media agenda and the American mindset, where we've been brainwashed to be prejudiced against someone for their religion in a nation founded on freedom of worship, and to suspect that any Muslim harbors secret terroristic leanings.
George Obama was appalled when he read the media spin by the Italian version of Vanity Fair magazine.
In the 8/22 and most comprehensive recent interview that I found published in the Irish Times, he said that he's furious at reports he had been abandoned by the Obama family or that he "was filled with shame about living in a slum."
He explained the shame part like this: "If people ask about my name I tell them we are not related. The problem here is that people have expectations and think I would look after them."
I understand that. Folks would worry him day and night for money, thinking he was getting paid by his famous brother across the ocean, and then look at him like he was a liar.
The racist Right wants to make him their poster child and send him money, not out of any kindness, but as part of another media lynching of Barack that will make their Rev. Wright spin look like a campfire.
I see this issue as potentially the most destructive one so far for Obama's campaign.
One can talk or write about the horror of Obama's vote for FISA, his changing position on drilling in Alaska, and moving center-right on some critical issues. One can do this until they're blue in the face and numb in the fingers, but still, most folks will get glassy-eyed and yawn.
What really eats at people is when one one family member has wealth to spare and another is living in a shack and seemingly abandoned. It hits on the core of our remaining decent values, that family should be there for one another, especially when it only costs them pennies.
Meeting a half-sibling for the first time when you're an adult is a weird experience for most people, even if they met for a fleeting moment as children. There's little or no connection there except the knowledge you two share the genes of a common parent. Some half-siblings have an instant or easy rapport, others never connect on a significant level.
Barack didn't grow up with any of his father's children in Africa. I wonder if George was too proud to ask, and Barack didn't want to embarrass him by offering, or maybe he did, and George politely refused it.
This issue is the one thing we can expect the McCain camp to exploit. I can't even say it would be racist if they did. Hell, if two men of the same race were running against each other for President, they'd target this juicy gossip and hope the voters, We the (Materialistic) People, would be incapable of believing that the impoverished sibling didn't want or ask for help.
George ain't stupid unless you consider pride and self-reliance to be proof of stupidity and can't believe he really likes where he lives. He just may, seeing as it's all he's ever known and values the people and the place. I won't rule out 100% that he's lying, but there are a lot of folks who enjoy a simple life and familiar surroundings.
He's also not illiterate as one might expect looking at the background in the photo. I can barely fathom what schools are like in his area. If he could read his brother's thick memoir, he could figure out how to milk this thing with a book deal, and undoubtedly has been approached.
He said, "It seems there are people who want to destroy me and my family. They say I live on a dollar a month but this is all lies by people who don't want my brother to win."
Obama's young half-brother isn't jealous or resentful of his brother's success. He doesn't live by the crabs in a barrel credo, where when one person does well or is looking too good, the others pull it back.
I've always wanted to meet Barack. I'd like to meet George too, because his spirit shows a generosity in addition to other admirable character traits.
Easy money is so tempting. I hope George Obama doesn't change his mind and take the bait that the hunters have set for him... and by extension, for us.