The global genealogy, biography and political persona of the first African-American president, whose father was from Kenya and mother from Kansas has inspired many followers. Yet they seem frustrated and somewhat disappointed with his prospects for the future. They all demanded to know what is going to happen in next year's United States presidential election.
Has he done enough to keep the progressive, younger and independent voters loyal to his party? Will his "cool" and compromising style of leadership endear him only to a shrinking pool of voters? Does he need to be more aggressive or "emotive" with the opposition to win the next election? These are some of the questions I have repeatedly encountered as I learned in the past three weeks while lecturing in European capitals.
Since Obama is "the first global president" of the US, he remains more popular abroad than at home, certainly compared to George W Bush and maybe even Bill Clinton. Based on the latest non-partisan polling data, his only consolation seems to be that the Republican opposition remains very fluid and uncertain about its nominee. While Mitt Romney remains the most viable candidate to take on Obama in November 2012 (both remain statistically tied), the Republicans seem to be "speed-dating" every other candidate in the primaries for approximately a month and then "dumping" them.
The landmark election of Obama in 2008, which was brought about by a strong coalition of ethnic voters to capture support from 54% of the voting public and coincided with the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, not only uplifted America, but it elevated the spirits of the world. For every citizen on the planet touched by American democracy and power, his re-election might have far-reaching implications.
As the 21st century progresses open questions resound about how America will adjust to an emerging multi-polar world where it may no longer be the sole policeman, and the role of Asia with China as the leading protagonist. There are concerns too over how the United States will respond as Pax-Americana, the geopolitical order that have kept European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization powers dominant for the past 50 years, diminishes.
It is within this global framework that Obama's landmark election in 2008 and potentially in 2012 represents a leading indicator of the sweeping changes that are already underway geopolitically. Obama's Pacific upbringing, globe-trotting childhood and adolescence, and coming of age after the fall of the Berlin Wall has a synergy with the changing times and in many ways prepared him to help America transition into the global age.
The economic center of gravity has shifted to the East, while economic malaise knows no end in European capitals. It is also within this "turn of the century" global gyration that India's emerging role as a leading Asian power and the largest populist democracy in the world comes into focus. As India has embraced Westernization anew through liberalization and market reforms begun 1991, the West is rediscovering the East through Chinese goods, outsourcing, yoga, vegetarianism, curry and chai latte.
As East becomes more materialistic, the West is becoming more spiritual. Rudyard Kipling's Victorian ballad seems to have new resonance:
OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,As Joseph Nye of Harvard said recently, "Asia's return to the center of world affairs is the great power shift of the twenty-first century ... By 2050, Asia will be well on its way back to where it was 300 years earlier."
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!
America's strategic turn towards India, hosting the first state dinner, the early presidential visit to India, and Obama's close relationship with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signals the rise of India as a major power. Obama said as much in his address to the Indian parliament in November 2010 when he declared, "And I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world."
India's relative growth is keeping pace with China's, and like the US, India is a thriving democracy. These factors provide a rationale for an alliance with India as a counterbalance to China's growing influence. During his visit to India, Aroon Purie, the senior editor of India Today told Obama, "I hope you get more credit for this trip than you get for all the good work you have done in America." To which Obama replied, "You know, you can never be a prophet in your own land."
As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently, America's foreign policy is pivoting towards Asia's growing influence in the world. This will likely become a campaign theme: America must innovate in order to keep pace with the growth in China and other emerging economies. Innovators at a recent technology summit in the US argued that the best thing America has going for it is the history of immigration and spirit of entrepreneurship.
Added to that advantage, multiculturalism seems to have hit a road block in Europe, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron said recently. It seems to be thriving in Silicon Valley, major technology hub in the US, heavily represented by Asian immigrants including many Indian Americans. Several prominent Indian Americans are fund-raising for Obama: Azita Raji, Shefali Razdan Duggal, Deven Parekh and Kavita Tankha. A record number of Indian Americans also ran for political office in 2010 with several key wins.
Vinod Khosla, an energy investor and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems said recently, he believes in the "black swan theory of innovation", where improbable rare events can change the marketplace like the development of Internet and search engines like Google. While Obama came into office as an Internet president because of the grassroots organization and fund raising he did online, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the next election.
However, there is no doubt that Obama is a landmark figure for the diverse genealogy, biography and family history he brought to the White House. He has tried to unleash several key progressive tools and technologies to renew the American dream, but ultimately Obama's re-election may hinge on key economic indicators heading into the general election: unemployment (8.6% and declining), consumer confidence (56% and rising), market uncertainty (however you define it), and the Republican Party's ability to select a viable candidate (seems fluid).
Hope is eternal, but change is gradual. It is likely that Obama will emerge as the cautious pragmatist and a populist in this election cycle, rather than the idealistic visionary who spoke of transforming the world....
Barack Obama is not a secret Muslim but he may be a secret Subud sect member....and very Jewish as well....
The right-wing and pro-Israel crowd is fond of calling President Obama a “secret Muslim.” However, given his Indonesian roots and their connections in Java, Obama may be a member of a small and secretive sect known as Subud. You say you’ve never heard of it? Neither had we until it came to our attention that Obama and his mother Ann Dunham Soetoro’s and his step-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng’s paths have crossed with the sect, some would call it a cult, numerous times.
Mysticism in Indonesia has manifested itself in the Javanese “Subud” movement, named for its founder Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, also known as “Bapak” or “Pak Subuh,” a charismatic religious figure who believed individuals can be uplifted by spiritual energy from a higher power in an exercise known as the latihan. Subud, which has an international following and became popular in Indonesia and internationally following World War II, attracted as adherents a few Western intelligence operatives assigned to Indonesia, including members of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service, Britain’s MI-6, and a few CIA operatives, as well. It is not known whether Ann Soetoro, an expert in Javanese culture and peoples, was an actual member of the Java-based sect but her connections to the sect are clear.
Ann Soetoro maintained close connections with Subud and her own religious beliefs match those of the Subud to a tee. Janny Scott’s book, A Singular Woman, provides a unique insight into Ann’s religious beliefs, which tend more to Subud beliefs than her own Unitarian upbringing. First, Ann Soetoro encountered Subuh members while working for the Institute for Management and Education and Development, while under a grant from the Ford Foundation, in 1971. She hired members of the Subud, who lived in the International Subud Center compound in the Jakarta suburb of Cilandak, to teach intensive courses in business English. Second, given her residence in the north coast Java port city of Semarang, Bapak’s hometown and base, from 1978 to 1980, it is inconceivable that Ann Soetoro was unaware of Bapak and his movement. Third, Bapak and his Subud followers were well-entrenched at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, where Ann Dunham Soetoro met her Kenyan and Indonesian husbands.
Even Kenya was not unknown to Subud missionaries. Subud conversion missions set out from Indonesia in the early 1960s to Kenya, Swaziland, and Northern and Southern Rhodesia.
Before he died in 1987, Bapak toured the world spreading his message of mystical spiritualism. The one goal Bapak wanted to achieve was to create a “Bank for Mankind.” Although Bapak died before he could achieve his goal, much of Ann Soetoro’s micro-financing programs achieved part of the goal of banking services for women and the poor. In fact, Subud counted a number of international aid workers and employees of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank – where Obama’s mother worked -- among its members, or “helper,” as the Subud prefers to call its international assistance workers. These Subud assistance workers were particularly found working in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand but more recently are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Latin America. Subud also attracted a number of Australians and New Zealanders to its ranks and Subud centers sprang up in the major cities of the two countries.
Bapak was not only interested in helping the poor but became a wealthy man himself in the process of bringing new adherents into the fold. Bapak owned a construction company that built a hotel and the S. Widjojo office building in Jakarta.
Some of its critics have labeled Subud a cult. The sect attracted a number of 60s-era “hippie generation” adherents, including Jim McGuinn, lead singer and guitarist for The Byrds. It was Bapak who told McGuinn to change his name from Jim to Roger because it would “vibrate” better with the universe.
Subud members often change their names while transitioning into full membership status. New names are assigned by Subud leaders. In Ann Dunham Soetoro’s 1968 U.S. passport renewal application, Barack H. Obama, Jr.’s name is listed as Barack Hussein Obama (Soebarkah). There is a possibility that if Ann Soetoro was a Subud member, she changed the name of her son in accordance with Subud teachings. Ann also changed the spelling of her own last name from Soetoro to Sutoro.
Is Bapak, Barack's spiritual guru?
Other critics have pointed to the connections between the Subud movement and CIA mind control operations, especially those directed at children and others that administer sodium pentothal to unwitting subjects. Subud maintains a religious compound known as Skymont on the banks of the Shenandoah River near Front Royal, Virginia. In the lead-up to the CIA coup in Indonesia, the PKI accused Subud of being a CIA front. The chairman of Subud Indonesia before the coup was Dr. Achmad Subardjo, the first Foreign Minister of Indonesia. One of those who distrusted Subud was Dr. Subandrio, Sukarno’s Foreign Minister, who banned Subud meetings in the weeks leading up to the coup.
Bapak issued orders to his non-Indonesian members to leave the country before the coup and told foreign members abroad not to enter the country. When Suharto ousted Sukarno and declared the PKI illegal, Bapak celebrated the change, proclaiming that Indonesia was free of the Communists.
Subandrio was sentenced to death after the coup but the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. He was released from prison in 1995 and died in 2004. Bapak’s followers believed that their religious icon could bring death upon his enemies. Not only was Subandrio sentenced to death after he quarreled with Bapak but in 1959, the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Solomon Bandaranaike, told Bapak he had to leave the island nation within 48-hours because he was thought to be a threat to the state religion of Buddhism. Shortly afterwards, Bandaranaike was shot to death by a Buddhist monk. Some suspected the CIA as being behind the assassination. Bandaranaike had steered Ceylon away from the West, ejecting Britain from its military bases in the country and forming a political pact with the Communist Party.
There were reports that some children members of the sect were also in the horrific sex abuse case at the McMartin pre-school day care center in Manhattan Beach, California in the 1980s. The McMartin pedophile ring was linked to members of the military, Los Angeles Police Department, and the U.S. intelligence community.
Ann Soetoro developed a close friendship with one of the Subud members she hired to teach English at the management institute. He was Mohammad Mansur Medeiros, originally from Fall River, Massachusetts and Harvard University, who immersed himself so deeply into Javanese culture and religion that he became known as “Mansur Java.” Mansur Java died in 2007.
Although there are only some 10,000 Subud members in the world, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, a friend of Ann Dunham at the University of Hawaii, appointed as the Hawaii Director of Health, sociologist and public health specialist Loretta Fuddy, a former chair of the Bellevue, Washington-based Subud USA from 2006 to 2008. In her position as Health Director, Fuddy had oversight over President Obama’s Hawaii birth records, which were the subject of intense controversy.