Jacques Coulardeau & Barack Obama at Academia.edu (53)
OBAMA AT HEART FROM EVEN BEFORE 2008
I was asked to review Connie
Corcoran Wilson’s first volume of her OBAMA’S ODYSSEY. I accepted because it
was vastly entering my field of competence and my practice as a university
professor teaching US
politics, culture and history along with the English language.
This essay will provide the
readers with three reviews of books first.
from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
, by Barack Hussein Obama;
Of Thee I
Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
, by Barack Hussein Obama
Nairobi To Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East
byMark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo
Then I included my presentation
of November 2009 in
later published in Paris
BARACK OBAMA’S VIRTUAL STYLE IN HIS INTERNET MESSAGES TO HIS SUPPORTERS (11/05
– 02/02) by Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.
You will then finally find my
review of Connie Corcoran Wilson’s book: OBAMA’S
ODYSSEY: The 2008 Race for the White House
, 2015. You can of jump to it
directly, page 27.
The whole collection of articles,
presentation and reviews is built along a discourse on history and what a
historian can say about a present situation he or she is involved in. I also
assess the campaign of Donald Trump so far by the date of March 16, 2016.
That sets Connie Corcoran
Wilson’s book in perspective: it is a blog written and published on Yahoo in
2008 but republished in 2016
a situation where Hillary Clinton severely rejected
in 2008 is now the front running candidate of the Democratic Party with the
full support of President Barack Obama whose State Secretary she was from 2008
This 2008 rejection is typical of
a blog but the reuse of this blog 12 years later is hardly hiding an
ideological stance against the establishment of the Democratic Party, no matter
what it may stand for in 2016.
It may also appear as support for
the contending candidate against Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but it may
also turn out to be objective support for the contending candidate of Hillary
Clinton in the presidential election itself. Let’s say that the rather
sectarian rejection of Clinton
attitude at the time of the Lewinsky shady business because she did not asked
for divorce is of the same level as the barking Clinton Donald Trump depicts in
his March 16 hostile TV ad.
Enjoy the debate and the
confrontation of ideas, knowing that if there is no truth in history but only
points of view, there is no truth in real life but ideological and political
competition that may turn sour at times with the bigotry of some actors.
Constitutional Law, Constitutional
Theory, Barack Obama, Obama, Hillary Clinton, US constitution, Michelle Obama, U.S.
presidential primaries and elections, President Bill
Clinton, and Donald Trump
This research is based on a long experience of the USA,
directly in many states and indirectly in my teaching. In 2008 onward the role
of Barack Obama in the USA
opened a lot of eyes in Europe on the
constitutional reality of a country that has had only one constitution in spite
of all events, dramas and
The role of the Blacks, Afro-Americans if you prefer, was
and has been essential in US
history though over dramatic. I have spent a lot of research and teaching time
on PTSS, Slavery or Slave, and on the way American Indians have managed to
recuperate their own essence.
I wrote and published a lot in the last few years on
decolonialization in America,
USA and Mexico,
on post-colonial studies (recently James Baldwin and Marcus Garvey) and on
theater (both Black and Indian, including Chicano/a).
When Connie Corcoran Wilson asked me to review the first
volume of her "Obama's Odissey" I accepted at once and found quite a
lot of pleasure - and surprises - in doing so.
This research needs a lot of discussing, debating and
even maybe rebutting. All opinions are thus welcome. Please read the Abstract
that is not included in the paper itself.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE – THE SCARLET LETTER – 1850
This novel has become more than a
classic. It is a myth, a cult. To cover this romance properly we would have to
explore so many levels and details that thousands of pages would not be enough.
I will concentrate on the child, Pearl, and then widen the discourse to the
novel’s historical value.
We must keep in mind that the
twelve gates of the messianic Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation are twelve pearls
in a wall of jasper on twelve precious gem foundations:
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was
pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19 And the foundations
of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The
first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the
fourth, an emerald; 20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth,
sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the
tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21 And
the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and
the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. (King James
Bible, Book of Revelation 21:18-21, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+21&version=KJV,
accessed December 29, 2016)
Hence the child is the gate to
this messianic Jerusalem that the Puritans pretended they were building in New
England. Note the great pretention of these Puritans since this Jerusalem of
the future has to be Messianic, has to be revealed by the Messiah, by Jesus,
after his Second Coming and after the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment on
Doomsday. This gives the fundamental meaning of the child in the book: She is a
direct criticism of any puritan, moralistic, fundamentalist we would say today,
approach of religion. Especially since this Pearl will disappear at the end of
the book and will exist somewhere else that is not mentioned but we understand
is England since Roger Chillingworth gave her land in America and in England. Anyway
Boston was certainly not the Messianic Jerusalem the Puritans had in mind. And
that rejection is based on the blasphemous character of this pretention. They
made themselves a direct embodiment of Jesus Christ and God. They pretended
they were Jesus Christ and God.
This is fundamental. The book was
published in 1850 and when it appeared it was absolutely clear that there was
no separation between the state and the church in the USA. There was no
separation between the state and religion and this is still true. But at the
time there was no separation of the state and the church, not one particular
denominational church but the church in general: any one could be a member of
the church of their choice, well within the limits of the area where they were
living, residing and working, but the state was a direct emanation of the
church in general, an abstract omni-denominational church that excluded the
Jews and the Catholics. The exclusion of the Muslims was of course “natural.”
The end of the book is typical: the new governor on Election Day had to be
instated b y a sermon by the preacher and minister of the (only) local church.
We must understand clearly that this story may be situated one century before
or more, hence under English rule, but it is “revealed” to the public in 1850
and it is in phase with that public. That’s where the USA are coming from and
how they accepted to be depicted in 1850.
The second element is that Pearl
is seen as unchristian because she is born out of “fornication”, “adultery”,
though in fact out of passion and love. This is clearly shown by the rejection
this Pearl is forced to suffer along with her mother, as if this Pearl that
should open onto the Messianic Jerusalem and the trees of life that bear twelve
crops of fruit a year and whose leaves are the cure for the nations (which may
imply all nations, at least all Christian nations in their diversity):
2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river,
was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her
fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the
nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the
throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in
their foreheads. . (King James Bible, Book of Revelation 22:2-4, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+22&version=KJV,
accessed December 29, 2016)
But this Boston could not be seen
as such a Messianic Jerusalem since it was opening on the wilderness, or at
best the ocean since this Pearl gate lived on a peninsula. There is no cure in
Boston for those who are not perfect according to the decrees of the Puritans.
There is no forgiveness, no tolerance, no freedom either there. One essential
Christian value is missing and it is love. This story is a love story in
Puritan garb or under Puritan duress. It is the glorification of love that is
stronger than anything else, than any punishment, any estrangement, any
rejection. Note, and it is only hinted at a few times, Hester Prynne and Arthur
Dimmesdale did not commit any sin against Roger Chillingworth since he had
disappeared and had been “captured” by Indians and it was two years before he
reappeared on Hester Prynne’s public exposition on the scaffold. The sin is in
the fact they did not respect the proper rules like making their love public
and sanctified by some marital rite. But love it is and it is clearly explained
during the meeting of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale in the forest when
they decide to go away from Boston.
It is important here to
understand a common trick of the 19th
century and the play on names.
Chillingworth is simple: he is
bringing the chill of dying and death. He is worth the chilling experience of
mental torture. Dimmesdale is also simple since he is a dale of dimmer
existence and things, the dale of unpublicized love, the dale of secret penance
and punishment. But Hester Prynne is quite another story.
We could be satisfied with the
Biblical Book Esther and the Jewish character during the Babylonian exile who became
queen and saved the Jewish people. She thus becomes the savior of the community
of Boston, of the New Jerusalem, of the Puritans themselves. But that’s not
enough. Hester comes from Oistir in Welsh and Irish tradition and has a
Germanic origin where it is connected with a beech tree, and is a reduced
Anglicized form of a Gaelic word, Ó hOistir
‘descendant of Oistir.’
last element is complicated in Irish tradition: “** spl Ostuarii, doorkeeper to the monastery of Iona.
The first of the family came over from Ireland with "Colum Cille,"
but causing the displeasure of that saint, he invoked a curse on him, by which
it was decreed that never more than five of his clan should exist at the same
time. Accordingly, when a sixth was born one of the five was to look for death,
which always happened until the race was extinguished. A female who died about
the middle of the 18th. century, in Iona, was the last person who could trace a
lineage to the doorkeepers of this monastery.” http://www.cairnwater.co.uk/gaelicdictionary/?txtSearch=clann,
accessed December 29, 2016. Hester then would represent the end of an
exclusion, the final redemption beyond the curse. Hence the Puritan tradition
would be identified as a curse.
go back to the “beech” another connection has to be developed in the runic
tradition, the runes of Germanic and Scandinavian origin vastly present in the
Anglo-Saxon world, hence in the English heritage. Two runes refer to a beech
tree, both meaning black. “Nauthiz” carries a bunch of key concepts: “Need, resistance, constraint, conflict,
drama, effort, necessity, urgency, hard work, need-fire, life lessons, creative
friction, distress, force of growth, the consequence of past action, short term
pain for long term gain.” (http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/nauthiz,
accessed December 29, 2016) “Peorth” carries a very dense meaning. It is the “rune
of fate and the unmanifest. Rune of probability and the role of luck in the
evolutionary process of the all things. Universe at play.” (http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/perthro,
accessed December 29, 2016) This meaning gives Hester a tremendous power in the
story. She is fate and she is going to bring down the Puritan dictatorship in
the field of love, mental and sentimental freedom, and through her own daughter
she will bring salvation, at least escape.
And her surname “Prynne” is also
meaningful. The origin is Norman and the name was introduced by the Normans
after Hastings ‘1066). “'Prin' is a
'descendant' of the Latin 'primus' meaning 'first' and it was given as a
baptismal name to the first born male child of a family. Some learned academics
of the 20th century have suggested that the name may be a nickname for one with
'lordly airs', but this seems unlikely. The similarity with the surnames
'Prince' (originally the French 'prins'), and 'Prime', which is directly from
'primus' cannot be avoided.” (http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Prynne#ixzz4UDv5cNEZ
accessed December 29, 2016) Thus she is the person of first importance who is
going to lead this Puritan settlement to salvation.
To go back to Pearl, she is also
the symbol of what must go along with forgiveness and love, which is
repentance, but not the repentance that is imposed as a punishment onto the “sinner”,
but the repentance that comes from the soul, from God, from the heart. The book
clearly shows that public – though here imposed – repentance is torture but a
bearable torture that strengthens the victim of the punishment, whereas secret
repentance is an unbearable self-inflicted torture that gnaws at the heart, the
soul, and the body of the person who is refused the possibility of public
repentance. At the same time the book hints at the possibility that Roger
Chillingworth used his knowledge in plants to slowly poison Arthur Dimmesdale
to satisfy his own vengeance.
And this is because there is no
forgiveness in this society, no possibility for the sinner, no matter who he is
and what position he holds, to be forgiven if he repairs the harm he has done,
in this case if he marries the mother, since the husband of this mother had
disappeared two years before and re-appear under another name. Pearl becomes
the symbol of this forgiveness at the very end of the novel, the being who is
willing to forgive publicly in front of those who had refused to forgive for
more than seven years. That desire of hers to be held by the Minister in front
of everyone, and her desire to hold the Minister in front of everyone and
eventually to kiss him and let him kiss her was a constant demand from her to
In other words, Pearl becomes the
signpost on the road to love and also some kind of angel or even archangel who
shows the way to human salvation, and God's salvation is always on the side of
repentance, reparation, forgiveness and love, never on the side of permanent or
irreversible human punishment. In fact, the only judge is God, the only one who
has the power to judge, what's more to try, is God, and God has entrusted
humanity with the mission to enable sinners to repent and be forgiven, not to
punish, or even torture or execute. This religious meaning is absolutely
obvious all along and can only be the conclusion at the end. If Hester comes
back to Boston it is to prove that the redemption has worked, that they have
learned how to forgive the sins of others. Note it is never said or hinted that
by forgiving the sins of others you open the ^possibility of your own sins to
be forgiven by the same others. This egocentric way of forgiving is not
Christian and is not envisaged I this book.
Pearl is thus the symbol of an
open reading of the Gospels and in a way the signpost on the road to some
better future for human beings on earth. This better future is definitely
expressed by the post mortem contrition and repentance of Hester's first
husband who adopts Pearl as his heiress, hence his own child. His repentance
comes after seven years of vengeance, but it does come, and he is the only one
to repent among the hostile people in Boston. Though the lack of hostility
against Hester after her return seems to indicate the change has occurred, and
Hester is there to remind everyone of the “episode” since she will be wearing
her Scarlet Letter till death them does not part, in fact unites them forever.
If thus the sinners' child,
Pearl, is redeemed at the end of the book and escapes the punishing Puritans,
it is because she represents light, sunshine, God's illumination. She is the
star that should lead us on the way to the future on earth and beyond:
forgiveness and love, and we all must respect love as a divine and sacred value
that is stronger than any law, rule, habit or custom, and the lack if not the
refusal of respect for love is the direst and ugliest sin a human being, a
creature of God can commit.
Hawthorne is the author that illuminates
best the worst gothic context and produces a shiny romance with the darkest and
bleakest material. And this romance becomes the testimony that in the middle of
century a change was taking place in the USA: the
recognition of the freedom to love not as a simple Christian obligation but as
a human dimension. And this emphasis shows a debate at the time not only on
love and society but on the concept of God himself.
The concept of God is ever
present but never really expressed and specified in words. Not one single
sermon by Arthur Dimmesdale is ever given. The final Election Sermon is only
indirectly evoked. The concept of God obviously is that of the punishing God of
the Puritans founded on the vision of Him we can get in many biblical texts or
many Christian or non-Christian documents from the first century CE, after
Jesus' death, from the Dead Sea Scrolls for instance. This very strict respect
of the Law and its requirements has always survived in Christianity as a dark
background for many centuries and then as a reference when Puritanism emerged
as a religion per se.
One is pure or one isn't. If one
is pure, one must not in any way live with someone who is not pure and if
someone is not pure the community of the pure ones (that does not include the
non-pure ones who are expelled from the community itself) has to reject him or
her, and that rejection must become God's punishment, in no way human but
entirely divine. This punishment has to be both public and totally
interiorized. And here is one of the most important theme of the novel: Hester
can satisfy these two characteristics with the scarlet letter and her
interiorization of her « sin ». But her lover who is condemned by her (is it
only her or do they agree on that point?) to remain unknown can only be
punished inside his own self, hence he can only punish himself.
This excuses the « husband » who
will avenge himself on this lover because this « husband » will become the
punishing tool used by God, and yet the interiorization of the punishment by
the lover himself will enable him to evade and escape the vengeance of this “husband”
by making his sin, his contrition and his reparation public on the scaffold
with Hester and Pearl, and the “husband” will in the end be frustrated of his
vengeance and punished in his turn. Is that God's punishment?
Yet there is another concept of
God that is emerging and ever present in the novel. It is the concept of a God
of love. Love is threefold in this perspective. It is sensual first and it may
lead to sin when it is not controlled and when it breaks a moral rule. Then it
is love coming from human reason which may lead to insanity when a social
reasonable rule is broken and no repair can be found, and there is no repair
except through a social punishment that does not repair anything but is a
repayment for the unreasonable fault. Finally, it is also spiritual and in this
dimension love becomes Christian because it leads to forgiveness and love for
one's enemies and love beyond mistakes and faults.
This love calls for repentance
but not for punishment, at least not in the hands of men. Repentance is a great
privilege for someone who « sins » but repentance has to be public in order to
lead to forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness in society their God is not a
really Christian God. If there is no repentance on the side of the “sinner” he
or she is not Christian since she or he refuses to be forgiven or he or she
makes forgiveness impossible. We can see that Hester in her repentance leads
the whole community to forgiving her, whereas Arthur, her lover, not being able
to repent publicly, is forced to repent in silence in his own soul without any
possible forgiveness from anyone.
If there is no forgiveness there
is no salvation possible, there is no Christian solution.
This leads to the ending of this
book: Arthur is literally forced to live his repentance as a slow sacrifice in
the eyes of God: he has to die to redeem himself, his society, Hester and
Pearl, to « crucify » himself on the scaffold with his women at his feet.
But what about Hester who needs
in the novel Arthur's sacrifice to be fully redeemed?
And what about Pearl who can only
find the strength to kiss her father, hence to forgive him, hence to love him,
when the sacrifice comes to its end?
Is Hester vain and selfish in her
human love for Arthur by condemning him to suffer in silence?
Is Pearl beyond any Christian
definition in her incapability to love her father except when it is too late to
Is the romance a condemnation of
puritanism and a vindication of human sensuality and sensitivity as the only
way to redeem humanity?
Is the concept of God limited in
time and space? And then is the future godless?
These questions that you are free
to answer the way you want are showing a tremendous turning point has been
reached in American history and probably in human history. But the point that
has to be made is that hardly ten years later history will completely put this
perspective upside down. Indians are seen as marginal or rejected to the wild
forest in this book with the distant and undescribed exception of Apostle Eliot
and his Indian converts who live far away from Boston. But slaves are not even
mentioned, not even as indentured workers who were common in New England at the
time of the story. And history will come back on this emerging love concept
with the Civil War and one extra century of segregation and an unspecified
number of decades more of PTSS, and we have not reached the end of this
long-lasting hatred and un-forgiveness and lack of justice.
The freedom of love is maybe not
that simple to develop in any society, human society, meaning a society torn
between the two sides of man, or woman as for that, the loving nature of human
beings some call libido and the death instinct often articulated on the
survival instinct of the human species. But yet it is the first expression of
the freedom of love in modern society, and as such it is just as dramatic as Romeo and Juliet
, but it is also maybe
less tragic. There is hope somewhere in this story, whereas I don’t see any in Romeo and Juliet
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU