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The Six Degrees Of Barack Obama

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July 28, 2008

Back in 1993, John Guare’s play, Six Degrees of Separation, made it to the big screen.   Shortly into the story, Stockard Channing’s character, Ouisa Kittredge, explained the following to her daughter:

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people —  six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet — the President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice.  … Just fill in the name.   I am bound — you are bound — to everyone else on this planet by a trail of six people.

Not long afterward, three students at Albright College:  Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli, were watching the movie, Footloose, on television.  The next movie to come on the television that night after Footloose was Quicksilver.   This led the trio to recall all the movies Kevin Bacon had been in, as well as all the people with whom Bacon had worked.   They developed their own party game called “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”.   Their next step was to write a letter to Jon Stewart, expressing their theory that Kevin Bacon was “the center of the entertainment universe”.   This led to their appearances on Stewart’s TV show, as well as The Howard Stern Show and an article in Spy magazine.  Under the game’s rules, the number of degrees by which an actor is removed from Kevin Bacon, is referred to as that actor’s “Bacon Number”.   Although he was initially annoyed by all of this, Kevin Bacon (whose Bacon Number is  O) went on to from a charity called SixDegrees.org.

At this point in the Presidential campaign, the McCain camp must believe that their next attack strategy should be to connect Barack Obama to some Islamic terrorist and make him look more like that cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker.   McCain had tightened up the race for a while but his stupid “cost of gasoline” campaign ad, his desperate attacks on Obama’s patriotism and Obama’s successful world tour have put McCain behind by as much as 9 percent (Gallup, July 27).   As a result, the game is now on to find someone (some terrorist – hopefully Islamic) who can be connected to Barack Obama.   Since everyone in the world is connected by six degrees (as we learned from John Guare’s movie) McCain’s people are probably looking for the most menacing individual out there, with the lowest “Obama Number” possible.

This past weekend brought some publicity to a couple of men with an “Obama Number” of 1.   The first was Barack’s half-brother, Bernard, who was found by the British Sun tabloid.  Their article published on Saturday, July 26, referred to him as “Muslim Bernard”.   Bernard, a convert to Islam, runs a car parts firm in Nairobi, Kenya and is not a terrorist.  Nevertheless, McCain’s people must have been energized by the identification of someone who is a Muslim with an “Obama Number” of 1.   Who knows?   They might find that sought-after “Islamist terrorist” with an Obama Number as low as 2.

Not to be outdone, Sunday’s Times of London found another half-brother of Barack Obama, living in southern China.   The Times reported:

Mark Ndesandjo is the son of Barack Obama’s late father and his third wife, an American woman named Ruth Nidesand who runs the up-market Maduri kindergarten in Nairobi.

The Times article described Mr. Ndesandjo as someone who “has been helping to promote cheap Chinese exports in a low-profile business career”.  McCain’s people must have been delighted by the term “cheap Chinese exports”.   Now they have someone with an “Obama Number” of 1, a half-brother, whom they might try to link to the lead-painted toy scandal.  Nevertheless, this still isn’t juicy enough.   They need a terrorist with a nice, low Obama Number.   The McCain camp must have been encouraged by the statement in the Times piece that said “Barack Obama senior fathered eight children by four different women.”   Now, if only one of those eight could be connected by one degree to a terrorist   .   .   .