Sunday, March 29, 2009

America's Half-Blood Prince Review

I always enjoy Steve Sailer’s movie reviews in The American Conservative. Although some find his “reductionist” method of analyzing movies to be rather dull, I find it fascinating to deal with the topic of why things happen in movies the way that they do, and how an actor or director’s experiences and background affect the message they send. Certainly, a boring, confusing, or otherwise annoying movie can be made much more interesting in my opinion by describing why some of the annoying conventions exist, rather than simply looking at them as blemishes on the movie. In addition, this often allows Sailer to bring out facts about human nature and to connect everything to everything else, allowing for some beautiful explicatory analogies.

Another of Mr. Sailer’s talents is his mastery of the written deadpan snark. He will often shoot off a phrase in his blog that, when reading it, you can just hear the “aside” tone being used as he puts down some ridiculous pretension.

All of these things can be found in his recently published work, America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance”. In this book, he writes what is essentially an extended “Sailer-style” review of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

What Sailer lays out in AHBP (as it is now commonly abbreviated), is the thesis that Barack Obama, far from being a uniting postracial figure like Tiger Woods, has actually spent much of his life worrying about being “authentically black.” Moreover, he seems to aspire to all of the traits that have made it difficult for many black politicians to rise to prominence outside of the black community, namely, a desire to take from whitey and give to the black community, a resentment of the white community, and a failure to seriously consider that any of the problems of the black community are self-inflicted.

What makes this book a good read is that it continuously references back to its original thesis, and it keeps on topic with the terse efficiency that teachers ask for most written essays. Reading AHBP, one does not get lost in a lot of irrelevant tangents, and the biographical backbone moves forward in time relentlessly, allowing one to see Obama as he develops.

Surprisingly to those who do not know Sailer, and unsurprisingly to those who do, Sailer shows little animosity toward Obama, despite a great deal of skepticism about his claims. Saile even acknowledges the possibility that Obama has mellowed over the years, although he also points out Obama’s tendency to shy away from being too explicit about his philosophy and its obvious implication: that Obama is not being entirely forthright with his Presidential campaign rhetoric. Moreover, Sailer does not blame Obama’s issues on his race itself, rather, as much as anything they are the products of his white, racially self-loathing hippy mother.

Sailer also manages to bring in a lot of issues about which he has previously discussed in his blog, in much the same way that person writing his final paper for a class will refer back to various individual lessons from the class. This effect beautifully demonstrates the relevance of various social facts with which his readers are familiar. These include: African “big man” syndrome, the effects of welfare, white “anti-racist” pretensions, the social implications of interracial relationships, and much, much more.

Finally, here are two quotes, one demonstrating Sailer’s his ability to use analogies, and the other his deadpan sarcasm.

“In contrast to John McCain, who is at his best shooting the breeze off the top of his head with the reporters privileged enough to travel on his campaign bus, but whose formal speeches are strained affairs, Obama’s strong suit is delivering carefully rewritten and rehearsed orations. Obama is Daniel Day‐Lewis, making one monumental film every few years, to McCain‘s Regis Philbin, winging it on TV daily for decades.”

“Of course, ever since he left community organizing in the slums of Chicago for Harvard Law School, Obama’s solution to his failing to solve racial challenges he has set himself has been to get himself promoted.”

This book is excellent. Everyone should buy a copy.

That is all.

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