2016: Obama’s America is a movie that under normal circumstances wouldn’t exist. A documentary about race, the president’s past, his father’s Kenyan roots and Communist ties, and how it all shapes and guides Mr. Obama to this day would have your average filmmaker run out of town by pitchfork-wielding media. Thank goodness Dinesh D’Souza isn’t your average filmmaker.
The tagline for Dinesh’s movie is “Love him, hate him, you don’t know him.” People can have that debate about President Obama, but they can’t have that debate about D’Souza. A lot is known about him. He’s an immigrant from India. He’s an intellectual. He’s an excellent debater (watch old videos of him sparring with the late Christopher Hitchens and you won’t be disappointed). Two of his most impressive works that are not included on the movie’s website are The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values In An Age Of Techno-Affluence and Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. In short, he’s a very intelligent man, and his pigmentation and background make it impossible for cable news talking heads to distract attention away from his central arguments with charges of racism.
The thing that makes 2016: Obama’s America so piercing is that all of D’Souza’s conclusions are undergirded by Obama’s own words from Dreams From My Father. The central idea is that Obama, abandoned by his biological father, struggled for years to find his identity. His father’s ghost haunted him constantly, and it wasn’t until Obama went to Kenya to visit the grave that his identity was solidified:
“How to explain the emotions of that day. I can summon each moment in my mind almost frame by frame. It wasn’t simple joy that I felt in each of these moments, rather it was a sense that everything I was doing — every touch and breath and word carried the full weight of my life. That a circle was beginning to close so that I might recognize myself as I was — here, now, in one place. For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was and what I cared about was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America, the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I had witnessed in Chicago, all of it was connected with this small of plot of earth an ocean away. Connected by more than the accident of the name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brother’s questions. Their struggle, my birthright,” (Barack Obama).
D’Souza says that moment for Obama was were he determined “not to be like his father, but to take his dream. Where the father had failed, he will succeed. In doing so, perhaps he can become worthy of his father’s love. The love he never got.”
If one buys D’Souza’s premise, then his interviews with extended family, as well as friends and academics close to Obama’s father end up constructing a convincing psychological profile of our current president. Obama’s core values then appear to include a third-world anti-colonialism that is anathema to America’s founding.
The conclusions of 2016: Obama’s America are, frankly, disturbing. Given that so much of D’Souza’s documentary pulls from the president’s own words, it would be silly to dismiss his claims as the desperate fabrications of a “right wing” lunatic. In fact, one of D’Souza’s strengths is his ability to ask a very specific question that he knows will elicit valuable information, at which point he sits back and lets the subject metaphorically shoot himself in the foot.
There is a reason media outlets have not covered this film and reviewers have largely ignored it. Luckily, moviegoers have not. Love D’Souza or hate him, he’s attempting to do the job reporters have not. If you have the time, check out 2016: Obama’s America. It’s a thought-provoking film that’s well worth the price of admission.