In Richard Wright's iconic work "Native Son" he tells the ill-fated story of the doomed from the start, Bigger Thomas, a young black man caught in a world of poverty, misery, misunderstandings and murder.
I was a child the first time I read the novel and didn't understand why the title was "Native Son." It wasn't until I was in college, re-reading the book with new eyes that I realized the title was about how Bigger was a "native son" of America, but America did not treat the Bigger Thomases of the world as such. I've always been stuck on the title, the true meaning of who a "native son" is and the typical pride and adoration that surrounds it.
It's been a mixed bag when it comes to native son pride in America for blacks who are exemplary and a lot of it has been confined to athletics. Do something self-determining or heroic and prepare yourself for a Congressional Medal of Honor that either A) never comes or B) shows up after everyone you love is dead or near death and you are knocking on heaven's door yourself. If you do something in academics, business, medicine, civic duty, law or in the military you better be doing it out of love for the craft or the people -- not widespread appreciation.
A lot of us don't get to be native sons, and that's fine. But for one man, he gets the full benefits of having a country who whole-heatedly claims him even though he lives almost half a world away and isn't technically from there.
Of course, I'm speaking of Sen. Barack Obama and his father's native country of Kenya.
This week controversial conservative author Jerome Corsi was kicked out of Kenya on a trumped up technicality because he was the author of an anti-Barack Obama book, "Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality."
It's one thing for the citizens of Kenya to feel proud of their American half-cousin. It's another for the government of Kenya to muscle their way into the fray and give the neighborhood bully the boot. They didn't appreciate Corsi hanging out in the ancestral homeland of their political prodigy, especially when he'd written what many saw as a tasteless screed.
You don't mess with Kenya's native son.
From The UK Times Online:
(Corsi) had been planning to launch his book, entitled The Obama Nation Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, before traveling to one of Nairobi’s slums to donate money to the Senator’s half-brother George, who was found living in squalid conditions two months ago.
Carlos Maluta, a senior immigration official in charge of investigations, said Dr Corsi did not have a work permit. "We still haven’t decided what to do with him," he told The Associated Press.
In the promotional literature for his book, Dr Corsi promised to reveal sinister links between Kenyan politicians and Mr Obama.
Mr Obama, whose father was a well-known Kenyan economist, is hugely popular across Africa.
In Kenya, his meteoric rise and subsequent fame have won him support across traditional tribal boundaries and left many ordinary people wondering why American right-wingers would wish him ill.
Hawkers in the city centre are selling badges and T-shirts bearing Obama’s image, and every twist of the US election campaign is being followed on television and radio.
The Kenyan press wasn't very kind either. Writer Mwenda wa Micheni wrote a piece explaining who Corsi is and his checkered past for Business Daily Africa, an east African publication. Other than mentioning he's been on the bestseller list numerous times in the United States, Micheni focuses more on just about every deplorable word Corsi has ever written, even going deep into the stacks to write that he was "an only child with few friends," then slap him down with some of his lesser known works.
Mr Corsi might be a bestseller today, but this has not always been the case. His first novella The Savage Lad did poorly in the market; managing to sell three copies only.
The second one Joe Bondo a series of four books on a horse trainer who worked as a government anti-communist spy did not do well either as he only sold 500 copies mostly to teachers.
And that's what being a native son is supposed to get you -- an almost parental degree of undying love from your country, even if it's not your country and you were born in America.
Obama obviously gets a lot of love from his supporters, potential voters, admirers and more than 90 percent of the black American community. But he also has to deal with the other side of America -- like being accused of being a terrorist via guilt by association and middle name. He's loved by his native Hawaii, babies and most college kids. But when it comes to America as a whole, as it has been for many aspirational black Americans, that love is often a touch divided.
But at least he has Kenya.