Misreading Obama

Right-wing nutter Spengler defends the idea that Obama hates America. It is Obama's appreciation of the customs and culture of Indonesia that set him off:

... For an American presidential candidate to refer to traditional society as the model for the solution to American problems has no precedent. It is one thing to denounce American errors while upholding American principles. Never before has America considered electing a president who prefers the alternative, and that might just be the most dangerous thing to happen to the United States since its Civil War.

Now here's the passage in Dreams Form My Father that Spengler objected to:

The scene took me back to my childhood, back to the markets of Indonesia: the hawkers, the leather workers, the old women chewing betel nut and swatting flies off their fruit with whisk brooms ...

I saw those Djakarta markets for what they were: fragile, precious things. The people who sold their goods there might have been poor, poorer even than folks out in Altgeld [the Chicago housing project where Obama engaged in community organizing]. They hauled fifty pounds of firewood on their backs every day, they ate little, they died young. And yet for all that poverty, there remained in their lives a discernible order, a tapestry of trading routes and middlemen, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust. It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself.

What strikes me about this passage is its cultural conservatism - its awareness of how human societies can mysteriously work even in conditions of poverty and that building meaningful community in wealthy, modern, atomised democracies can be difficult. The social breakdown of the urban ghetto in America is a cultural and social failure compared with some more traditional societies - and how to "fix the broken society" is as much a conservative challenge as a liberal one. I don't see how this is anti-American. It seeks to keep our wealth and freedom while mitigating its problems. The notion that a sense of this is "just be the most dangerous thing to happen to the United States since its Civil War" is deranged.