Theres a new sherrif in town

There's a new sherrif in town

I still remember walking into Border’s books in Ann Arbor the summer of 1995, just after graduating college. Scanning the new arrivals as I routinely did, Dreams from my Father lept out at me as it perhaps it did to few others. Remote Kenyan father. Globe-trotting American mother. Skinny kid with a funny name. I could relate.

So could my extended family, who turned out to have known Barack Senior. Copies of the book passed eagerly around from aunt to cousin to grandfather. Uncanny aspects of the book haunted me, like the fact that his mother and I shared a favorite film. But since the path Obama was on, law school and probably politics, didn’t interest me personally, I shelved or gave away my copies, and didn’t think about him again until he showed up onstage at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

The rest is history. Today, as Barack Hussein Obama is inaugurated president, everyone is most interested in what this says about our country, with Kenya as an occasional, colorful backdrop, along with Indonesia, Hawai’i, and the other exotic locales that gave us our first post-nationalist president.

Having been raised partly in Kenya, partly in the mid-West, Kenya has always meant more to me than that, such that I can never help but see Obama as our first Kenyan-American president. Despite understanding that he is American, I see him also as an African, or at the very least, as a wise-cracking friend once described himself as, a Halfrican.

Today America now gets the opportunity it has said it has wanted to recast its image in the world of nations. That it chose a son of Luoland for this task no doubt escapes those for whom “Obama” is just a name that rhymes with Osama. But it means something different for us. Even after these two, long years, I’m not sure what that something is just yet.

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