A confession: I am not a fan of February. Reading through my private journal (which goes back to late 2001), it is not clear that it has never been a good month for me, especially since I started living in Cambridge. In New Jersey, February is mild enough that it feels like the beginning of spring. In Massachusetts, February is when one begins to fear that the winter will last forever.

So I just sit, and I just sigh
And I pretend
That there's nothing wrong

My discontent this February is heightened by one of my Christmas presents, the novel The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi. Written by Dutch author Arthur Japin, this piece of historical fiction tells the tale of two Ashanti princes that were sent to the Netherlands during the 19th century. Despite the fact that the majority of the book is narrated as part of the memoirs of Prince Kwasi, Japin does an excellent job in portraying how the various people that the two young princes encounter view them - whether it be as noble savages, pawns of the Dutch national interest, or threats to their preconceived ideas about racial superiority.

More important to me, of course, were Japin's musings on the inner mental state of the two princes. Having been taken to the Netherlands at the age of 10, they soon become "assimilated," appropriating Dutch customs and language and forgetting those of their childhood. In this way, the princes remind me of myself. I know neither the Twi that the two princes learned in their youth nor Ga nor Ewe, the two languages of my parents. Even if I had learned to speak any or all of these languages, I am confident that I would have forgotten them.[1] I lived in the United States for my entire life (except for a short but formative sojourn in Canada), so my behavior is thoroughly American, or so I have always thought -- I have always assumed that my values and beliefs were a normal example of those held by liberal American intellectuals.[2]
Oh, has the world changed, or have I changed?

Despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections, I have been increasingly doubting these convictions. Every day, it becomes more clear to me that my political views are those of a minority. While it is clear that on single issues (like the war in Iraq, or North Korea) most of the American people have similar opinions to me, there are other arenas (like copyright or homosexual marriage) where I worry that the majority of people in this country disagree with me. Even if this is because of ignorance, it does not make me feel better. It is not that I am no longer convinced that what I believe in is right, but that I worry that I, the son of immigrants, am somewhat forcing my beliefs on some homogeneous stereotypical Caucasian American population. That because there are certain elements of the country that will never accept me (be it because of my last name, or the color of my skin, or any other immutable aspect of my life), I am doomed to some kind of permanent second class citizenship.
Our point of view not listened to
Different worlds and different rules
A question of allegiance

Thinking more deeply, it is possible that this train of thought is partially caused by the Presidental candidateship of Barack Obama. As is usual in politics, too much discussion has radiated around whether he is black enough to win as opposed to whether his positions on issues are properly aligned with Democratic and moderate voters. On one hand, this is slightly humorous; if his father had been white and born in England instead of Kenya, this would have been a non-issue. On the other hand, it annoys me to no end. If a senator with one black father from Kenya can encounter this much opposition, what hope have I, with two parents from Ghana?[3]

Title and lyrics from Bloc Party's Where is Home? and The Smiths' The Queen is Dead
[1] If I had only one wish, it would be to the ability to easily learn any language I wished. Every time I stop taking French classes, I find myself struggling to express myself. Since I run into at least one Francophone a week, the disappearance of my vocabulaire français could be alleviated by speaking in French; unfortunately, I am too ashamed of my absolutely dreadful pronunciation to try most of the time.

[2] I would hold Adlai Stevenson to be an example of what I am trying to elucidate here: a clear commitment to pacifism, but a willingness to use military force in the face of evil - true Wilsonianism, in a sense.

[3] I have no political aspirations, but am still ill at ease. How could I not be?