Watching the Saddleback Forum on Saturday night, I was struck by what Barack Obama described as America’s greatest moral failing: our collective failure to “abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”
My first thought was the Down Syndrome baby who Jill Stanek, the nurse at Christ Hospital in suburban Chicago, cradled in her arms for 45 minutes after he’d survived an abortion. As is now becoming widely known, Obama had an opportunity to support legislation designed to treat such children (so “least” among all humanity that even their parents want them dead) with basic dignity and medical care. Even after impassioned testimony before his committee by Jill Stanek herself, Obama voted to kill the legislation. Twice. Even the version supported by Barbara Boxer at the national level.
Then came a remarkable story today: Turns out that Barack Obama has a long-lost half-brother living in squalor in Kenya. Not a metaphorical brother this time. A real one.
The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate’s half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.
“No-one knows who I am,” he told the magazine, before claiming: “I live here on less than a dollar a month.”
But he wasn’t entirely lost to the world, and not unknown to everyone: Senator Obama knew he existed, and visited him as recently as two years ago. He even merited a mention in Obama’s book:
He has only met his famous older brother twice – once when he was just five and the last time in 2006 when Senator Obama was on a tour of East Africa and visited Nairobi.
The Illinois senator mentions his brother in his autobiography, describing him in just one passing paragraph as a “beautiful boy with a rounded head”.
Of their second meeting, George Obama said: “It was very brief, we spoke for just a few minutes. It was like meeting a complete stranger.”
Assuming the story is true (and the source is Vanity Fair), the question I’m left with is this: What kind of a man lives in a mansion in Hyde Park and allows his brother to live in squalor half a world away? Did Barack offer to help George? Did George refuse the help, preferring to continue living in a six-foot-by-nine-foot shanty?
I don’t know the answers, but I couldn’t help thinking of the quiet choice made by a different family, also half a world away from home, when given an opportunity to help the least of those among us.