Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday cheap shot: Roots of D'Souza's Rage

Update 9/24/2014:

I guess in the light of Dinesh D'Souza's sentencing (eight months in community confinement sounds like he's having a baby), this old piece has unexpectedly started getting a lot of hits, and I wanted to clarify what it is: a pretty strict parody of D'Souza's Washington Post piece on President Obama from October 2010, linked in the first line. Nice to see you all, come back soon!

D'Souza and onetime colonialist girlfriend Ann Coulter
If you want to understand what is going on in the conservative movement today, you have to begin with Dinesh D'Souza. No, not the Dinesh D'Souza who's just been indicted for laundering $20,000 in campaign funds to a senatorial candidate who had no chance whatever of winning; I mean Dinesh D'Souza, the postmodernist cultural critic noted for the memorable hypothesis that President Obama is in some sense genetically conditioned to act out the beliefs of the 1950s Mau Mau movement. Oh wait, they're the same person. Ironically, the forces that transformed a polite and earnest but clever Bombay boy into a low-rent American political criminal are virtually an exact mirror image of the Obama story that he imagined in his 2010 effusion in Forbes.

How do I know this? Because I use Google. I learned that he suffered from a fear of people knowing too much about his life

What the writer discloses, the person often keeps close to the vest. During the hours I spent with him, at his home in that gated and guarded warren of mansions called Fairbanks Ranch and on the road in Texas, I was interested less in his bluster and more in his avoidance of autobiography
—until he found the perfect frame for telling it in exact parallel with a fictional tale about Obama, in the film 2016: Obama's America. Notice that the title is not "2012", the year the film was released just before the Republican presidential nominating convention, but 2016, the year the Democratic president's second term would end. D'Souza isn't making a film in which cause and effect proceed in the conventional direction from before to after, but a retroactionary film in which his act of filmmaking is somehow brought about by events four years in the future.
Former D'Souza fiancée Laura Ingraham.
D'Souza was the child of Goanese Catholic parents who raised him in Bombay, now Mumbai (but D'Souza won't call it that—he prefers the Raj name) where his father served as an executive for Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals and sent him to a Jesuit school. America was never discussed in his family:
As a child he heard about America only through his grandfather, who, with Dinesh on his knee, would recount the fights of Muhammad Ali. D'Souza recalls the provinciality of his Indian youth with fondness. Extended family was nearby; no one traveled or had aspirations beyond Bombay.
Nevertheless his father had secretly joined forces with the U.S., becoming a member of the pro-colonial Rotary International, which sent young Dinesh on an exchange visit to finish high school in Arizona, and to apply to Dartmouth, from which he never looked back.

It may seem incredible to suggest that old Mr. D'Souza's colonialist ideology is espoused by his son, the former president of King's College, New York. That is what I am saying. While D'Souza claims to have known nothing of America as a boy, how likely is that, with his father working for a giant American company, going to Rotary meetings, and ultimately sending his son to the American southwest? Just as Obama learned from his father's academic papers (published in East Africa Journal in 1965, a must-read at Harvard Law in the 1980s) that America was bad, so little Dinesh learned from his baba that America was good, the successor to the lamented British Empire where people knew their places. Remarkably, D'Souza never mentions this.
Dixie Brubaker, the ex–Mrs. D.
"If I had remained in India," he writes in What's So Great About America, "I would probably have lived my entire existence within a one-mile radius of where I was born. I would undoubtedly have married a woman of my identical religious, socioeconomic, and cultural background. I would almost certainly have become a medical doctor, an engineer, or a software programmer.
But he didn't, did he? Instead, he found himself living the life of a professional literatus, moving from the Dartmouth Review through Policy Review, the Reagan Administration, the American Enterprise Institute, and so on, and dating a series of icy-blonde conservative heroines. He had become a real redneck, with a redneck's appreciation for the finesses of ethnic categorization:
He's a brown-skinned man, who by his admission is "neither white nor black. Typical African-Americans are no different in skin color from me; light-skinned people who are called black, from Whitney Houston to Jesse Jackson, have white ancestry." And though a Hindi accent may trickle in when he's morally animated, he says, "No one can tell on the phone where I'm from," and "My wife tells me, 'I never think of you as an Indian.' "
Denise Odie Joseph II (why not "junior"?), the homewrecker. Are we seeing a pattern here?
Note how he makes an indirect claim to "white ancestry" there. And he ended up heading an institution with an explicitly royalist name, King's College, at least until he got booted out by the Christianists bankrolling the place owing to his somewhat unconservative dating habits. I believe the most compelling explanation of D'Souza's actions is that he is is living out his father's babu dreams, a colonialist himself, someone who regrets the Portuguese desertion of Goa, the British move out of the rest of India, George III's loss of the North American colonies, someone whose rage at being born nonwhite has colored, or should I say bleached, everything he has ever done.
Johnson & Johnson product: coincidence? I don't think so.

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