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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 20 common ancestor. None of us, Murchie in- sists, can be less closely related than fiftieth cousins. “Your own ancestors,” he wrote, “whoever you are, include not only some blacks, some Chinese, and some Arabs, but all the blacks, Chinese, Arabs, Malays, Latins, Eskimos, and every other possible ancestor who lived on Earth around CE 700 ... It is virtually certain therefore that you are a direct descendent of Muhammad and every fertile predecessor of his, including ... Confucius, Abraham, Buddha, Caesar, Ishmael, and Judas Iscariot.” Murchie’s observation is, for those with dharma-trained eyes, a statement of dependent origination (pratitya samut- pada), or what Thich Nhat Hahn calls our “inter-being.” My point, if it isn’t clear yet, is that race is maya, a chimera constructed for reasons of social, political, and eco- nomic domination, and for the comfort of fragile, insecure egos. It is easy to recognize in the biography of Barack Obama this interpenetration of backgrounds that transcends dualism. There is the white mother from that most iconic of states in pop culture (Kansas, for heaven’s sake, Toto), the Muslim father from Kenya (which makes him genuinely African-American), his formative years spent in Indonesia, his Indonesian half- sister, and Hawaii (a state of considerable multicultural diversity). Indeed, his clearly multiracial background, like that of Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, and, if we scratch our- selves deeply enough, all of us, indicates a demographic that will only vividly increase in the twenty-first century, with the generic and misleading terms “white” and “black” consigned to the dustbin of human history. In fact, it is primarily this subtext— his cosmopolitan, globe-spanning back- ground and sensitivity—that made the initial public response to Obama after the Iowa primary nothing short of primal, and he and his wife, Michelle, the stuff that dreams are made of, symbols for a new cen- tury and its desire to transcend tribalism and the barriers between people. With little political history or baggage to weigh him down (which to his opponents is an Achil- les heel), Obama is, as he himself has said, a kind of blank slate onto which Americans ■ ■ ■ Consortium Institute for Management and Business Analysis NOV 18-39.indd 20 NOV 18-39.indd 20 9/1/08 12:18:10 PM 9/1/08 12:18:10 PM