Vijay Prashad: The Waning of Obama

Barack Obama, Dinesh D’Souza and I went to college at almost the same time. Obama was at one end of Los Angeles (Occidental College), while I was at the other end (Pomona College). “We smoked cigarettes,” Obama wrote in Dreams From My Father, “and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.” My cigarettes didn’t have tobacco in them, and thanks to KSPC’s press pass I spent as much time outside the Roxy “discoursing” with such luminaries as Jello Biafra and Nina Hagen; I imagine if Obama had turned the corner, he might have joined us. We had Fanon and radical feminism in common. California über alles!

Dinesh was on the other coast, at Dartmouth, where I imagine him in an Oxford shirt and tie, smiling in his quiet way on the deck of some plutocrat’s house where his Dartmouth Review colleagues repaired for the weekend. When I first read his Illiberal Education (1991), I longed to reach out and hand him a joint. My best classes in college had us read the books that Dinesh excoriated: Fanon, for instance.

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