The greatest influences on his life have been his peritatetic mother, wandering from Kansas to Hawaii to Indonesia, also trying to find herself; a missing father, whom he wonders about and later sought out and wrote about in his Dreams From My Father; the experiences working as a social facilatator in Chicago, helping the less fortunate, and as a student in New York, who found love with a white Australian ( love that he could not fully commit himself to "distance, distance. distance, and wariness", she wrote in her diary ) and friendship and the closest thing to siblings with a group of well-to do Pakistani students at Columbia. All the while clutching Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, reading and rereading it, finding himself in it. But he was not" invisible", not with the children he grew up with in the streets of Jakarta or those he went to high school with, playing basketball in Hawaii as Barry, or the needy whom he helped navigate the bureaucratic red tape in Chicago or his friends in New York/ Columbia discussing politics or at Harvard where he was the president of the Harvard Review or at University of Chicago where he taught constitutional law.
His identity remained elusive, at least to him. He was neither white nor black, the child of a white teenage, Christian Kansan and a black muslim Kenyan father, who named him Barack Hussein but he preferred to call himself (at least in his teeage years) Barry. He lived with a white Australian (1984-1985), but married a "no doubt it" black Chicagoan. His early years was spent in Hawaii and Indonseia but later found some permanrncy living with his white grand-parents (he had no relatives from his Kenyan father around).
All along he had to adapt and he did so quite well. He was accepted for who he was, but he was uncertain about himself. Thus his fixation with the Invisible Man.
He has always made compromises. It became second nature to him and his life will be one compromise after another. He became a facilitator in Chicago and has continued to be so. It is there in his presidency. Whether it was health care, Bush tax cuts, withdrawal from Iraq or draw down from Afghanistan, the killing of bin Ladin and other "terrorists", whether they be Americans or foreigners., the bail out, immigration reform, extending unemployment insurance etc. it has been one compromise after another. He has been the most non-partisan of president, but it has become an albatross around his positions. Why? The Republicans found out about his penchant for compromises and they found out about his willingness to facilitate and they saw it as a weakness which they could exploit and exploit it they did to the detriment of the country.
The Republicans turned a strength into a weakness and ran with it, refusing to budge or offering very rigid positions on any and all issues, waiting for Obama to compromise and demanding more when he did, so much so that his positions became so watered down that they were useless. Sometimes, as in the case of health care, he aws able to save something, but not much.
Compromise is the art of politics. Compromise is the means through democracy functions. It is democracy, but it takes
"two to tango", and the Republicans refuse to dance. They have made compromise a liability, denying Obama the abilty to get things done. They hope to capitalise on this in the upcoming election and they have a lot of money to sell themselves, forcing Obama to plyt defence. This is a lobster trap which he must avoid if he is to win a second term. October Surpruise??