Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[politics] Obama’s middle name

There’s a lot of idiocy already floating around about Barack Obama, especially with respect to his alleged terrorist connections. E.D. Hill’s “terrorist fist jab” comment, for example. Even some of the moron wing of the Democratic party are saying things like “…he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be.”

This is racism, barely bothering with a veil. “Terrorist” is a much safer word than, say, “black”, because it’s just fine in America today to revile both Muslims and Arabs (who are not synonymous, any more than white people and Christians are) with the sort of venom once found on the steps of Central High School in Little Rock, or on the streets of Selma. Public discourse in America won’t easily sustain naked white-on-black racism these days, not even on FOX, but white-on-Arab/Islamic racism is just fine and dandy and even quite patriotic.

Obama is ready made for that kind of whispering. He attended Muslim schools in his youth, and his middle name is Hussein. That’s what people like E.D. Hill1 and Fred Hobbs will ensure that millions of Republican voters will be focused on this summer and fall. The nuttier elements on the right don’t even want to believe the circumstances of his birth.

Let’s compare me to Senator Obama.

Jay Lake Barack Obama
Name on Birth Certificate Joseph Edward Lake II Barack Hussein Obama II
Childhood Religious Schooling 3 years in Southern Baptist missionary schools in Taiwan and Nigeria Several years in Islamic school in Indonesia

So we were both named after our fathers. Oddly, so was the current president, albeit with a different middle name. Obama’s middle name is of religious and political significance in the Islamic world. My middle name is the same as one of England’s most recent male monarchs, Edward VIII2, clearly of royalist significance.

Does anyone not on a thorazine drip imagine that I might be a British royalist secretly angling to overthrow the Constitution and restore the Crown to the Americas? The idea is profoundly laughable. Being suspicious of Obama because of the middle name he inherited from his Kenyan father at birth is just as laughable.

We both went to religious schools run by a faith neither of us has ever proclaimed for ourselves. Does anyone who’s every spent ten minutes talking to me or reading my blog somehow imagine that I might be a crypto-Baptist working to bring about the Christian Millenium? That’s even more laughable that imagining me a British royalist. Yet similar choices made by Obama’s parents for him when he was a minor are being held up as evidence that he is secretly a Muslim.

This is conservative red meat stuff, victimization and conspiracy and innuendo. The American Right has not been a culture of ideas since Goldwater, if not before — they need something to react against in order to be viable. This kind of thinking drove the Red Scare. It drove the Nixon White House. It hounded the Clintons for the eight years of Bill’s presidency. (Remember the Clinton White House Christmas tree allegedly decorated with crack pipes and condoms?) It would have dogged a Hillary candidacy, and it will dog the Obama candidacy.

Except for Obama, making him out to be a crypto-Muslim legitimizes the racism inherent in a vast swathe of the Republican electorate, while also prying apart the Democratic electorate along similar lines. Naked white-on-black racism is difficult to pull off these days with a straight face in mainline public discourse, but lashing Obama to the terrorist mast will be the sport of kings for months to come, giving millions of people who won’t quite say the N-word in public a good, warm-hearted patriotic reason to vote against the brown man. (And I say this as a suspected Southern Baptist Royalist.)

More shame on all of us as Americans that this can be true.

1. Yes, I am aware E.D. Hill’s show has since been cancelled, and that Hobbs is a Democrat. I’m pretty sure this sort of innuendo isn’t going to go away because of that. Note also the common thread between the two of them was FOX News, the fair-and-balanced network whose “news” director was one of Ronald Reagan’s key political strategists.

2. Yes, I am aware that Edward VIII abdicated without being formally crowned.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Tags: personal, politics
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