David Maraniss' book, Barack Obama: The Story, makes for very interesting reading.
Much of the family history of the Obama/Dunham family is pretty straight American stuff. This relative joined the Army and fought in WWII. That relative worked at a Country Club and aspired for his boy to make something better of himself. The philandering of a Great-Grandfather led to the suicide of a Great-Grandmother.
Specifically, that is, Obama's grandfather, Stanley Dunham, watched as his father's affairs lead to his mother's suicide, which led to Obama's grandfather's life being uprooted, after which he and his siblings lived in another home, in a strange city.
All family histories are a mixture of hopes and dreams and tragedy.
But, there are some interesting tidbits/foreshadowings along the way.
For instance, what does the name "Obama" mean?
In the Dholuo language, the tongue of the Luo tribe of that region, the name Obama derived from a word that meant "bent". It could also connote "curved spine", and that likely was the origin of the name of these Obamas.Hmm. Bent. What do you know?
So Barack Obama's name means The Blessed Bent one. That sounds about right, doesn't it?
Another strange name in Obama's family history is the masculine nom de plume given to his mother; Stanley Ann Dunham.
Where did that come from? We know Obama's grandfather was named Stanley? Was it the case that Obama's Grandfather wanted a son so badly, that he felt compelled to adorn his daughter with his namesake social consequences be damned?
No, that is, apparently, not the case:
The naming of Stanley Ann had less to do with the dictates of a presumptuous father than with the longing for sophistication of a starstruck mother.
Since her teenage years as a moviegoer at the commodious Augusta Theater, Madelyn (Payne - Obama's grandmother) had devotedly followed the film career of Bette Davis, her favorite actress. A new picture starring Davis and Olivia de Havilland reached Kansas duriing the summer of 1942, while Madelyn was pregnant. In the movie, In This Our Life, Davis and de Havilland played the two Timberlake sisters, each with a man's name: Davis was Stanley and de Havilland was Roy.
A woman named Stanley: "Madelyn thought that was the height of sophistication!" recalled her brother Charles Payne, and the notion of giviing her baby girl that name took hold. The coincidence that her husband was also Stanley only deepened the association.And what was this oh, so sophisticated movie about?
Well, it turns out In This Our Life functions almost as an Allegory of the personal family tragedy of the Dunham family, and can also be viewed as a metaphor for the path of destruction Barack Obama has laid across the American landscape.
If Madelyn was drawn to the cosmopolitan essence of Bette Davis, she crtainly would not have wanted her daughter to mimic the traits of the character Davis played on-screen. Stanley Timberlake was an irredeemably horrid human being who stold her sister's husband, drove him to suicide, ruined the lives of the rest of her family, then killed a womn and her daughter in an automobile accident and lied about it, trying to place the blame on a black law student, the innocent son of the family maid, before meeting her own end in another crash.Stanley Ann Dunham's mother, apparently, loved this movie so much that she named her daughter after it's anti-heroine. While that may seem shocking, I think it is not at all surprising. Madelyn Payne was a young woman in love with, and pregnant by, a man, Stanley Dunham, whose personal story was as tragic and twisted as the story in the movie.
In fact, In This Our Life seemed to be made of the psychological building blocks of Stanley's young life; the adulterous affair which led to suicide which led to the destruction of the emotional lives of the rest of the family.
That, sadly, is, almost exactly the life story of the father of Barack Obama's mother.
It is interesting to note, however, the irony that the character who Stanley Ann Dunham's mother apparently admired, blamed her crime on a "black law student", whereas several generations down the road now we are saddled with a black law student who blames everything on American History and the American Constitution.
And, as I remarked earlier, In This Our Life can be seen as a metaphor for what Obama is doing to America. His consorting with the enemy is driving the American Idea to the brink of self-immolation. And, the entire citizenry, in turn, finds itself roiling in anger and pain at the destruction being wrought upon our national family.
What goes around comes around, in a painfully bent and destructive way, I guess. In this, our life, America, I'm afraid we will may soon witness the malevolent revenge of the young black law student.