Obama, The Post-Colonial President
With Obama’s election, and again with his reelection, an internalized threshold for subjugated people was breached.
BY Andrew Lam
SAN FRANCISCO—As a refugee from Vietnam, a country colonized by the French and then fought over by the Americans and the Soviet Union, I see the Obama presidency as spelling the end of a 500-year-old colonial curse.
Decades ago, English still unruly on my tongue, I read a spinoff of Daniel Defoe's The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, but I read it not as most of my American peers did. I saw myself, on one level or another, as Friday, his servant.
A British sailor participating in the slave trade, Crusoe was shipwrecked off the coast of Venezuela. He was alone for some years but managed with his guns to rescue a native prisoner who was about to be eaten by his captors. He named him Man Friday, taught him English and converted him to Christianity. He taught Friday to call him “master.”
James Joyce once noted that Defoe's sailor is the symbol of the imperial conquest, that “he is the true prototype of the British colonist. … The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity.” ...............(more)