The Times of London finds the long-lost relatives Barack Obama could not, but does this really have anything to do with the election? Zeituni Onyango played a memorable role in Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father, but now lives in a public-housing project in Boston. The “Uncle Omar” that Obama called “lost” has also re-emerged in scruffier surroundings:
Barack Obama has lived one version of the American Dream that has taken him to the steps of the White House. But a few miles from where the Democratic presidential candidate studied at Harvard, his Kenyan aunt and uncle, immigrants living in modest circumstances in Boston, have a contrasting American story.
Zeituni Onyango, the aunt so affectionately described in Mr Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston.
A second relative believed to be the long-lost “Uncle Omar” described in the book was beaten by armed robbers with a “sawed-off rifle” while working in a corner shop in the Dorchester area of the city. He was later evicted from his one-bedroom flat for failing to pay $2,324.20 (£1,488) arrears, according to the Boston Housing Court. …
In his book Mr Obama writes that “Uncle Omar” had gone missing after moving to Boston in the 1960s – a quarter-century before Mr Obama first visited his family in Kenya. Aunt Zeituni is now also living in Boston, and recently made a $260 campaign contribution to her nephew’s presidential bid from a work address in the city.
Neither person proved particularly difficult to find. Ms. Onyango had been quoted in one or two articles in the Boston press. Omar, now going by his actual given name Obama Onyango, had been attacked in a robbery in the mid-90s, when Obama began writing his memoir. Certainly, Barack Obama has been easy to find if Aunt Zeituni and Uncle Omar wanted to find him.
Does this really mean much of anything in this election? If it means anything at all, it would only work as a rebuttal to Obama’s accusation about Americans in the Saddleback Forum, when he accused his fellow countrymen of being uncharitable:
“Americans’ greatest moral failure in my lifetime,” he said, “has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”
As with Obama’s half-brother George in Kenya, the financial plight of Obama’s relatives challenge the wealthy, successful Obama much more specifically than Obama challenged Americans in that forum. Matthew speaks of all men as brothers, but a failure to care for family speaks much louder than a failure to care for strangers. It makes Obama look a little hypocritical, especially after featuring Zeituni and Omar in one of the books that now provide a healthy income for the presidential candidate. Obama may want to recall the Gospel passages about motes, beams, and thine own eye before lecturing America on Matthew.
Otherwise, though, this seems unremarkable to me. Judging from my e-mail, it’s a popular link this morning, but most of us have extended family in various economic situations. Applying the same mote-beam-eye standard, how many of us send money to those less fortunate among distant cousins, or even relatively close family? And does this really say anything germane about the vote we all will cast in five days — or will we be more rightly focused on policies and experience?