HuffPo: We Should Embrace Obama’s Middle Name


We Should Embrace Obama’s Middle Name

Jewish history is rife with name changes. Outside of the ancient Judaic superstition of “change your name, change your luck,” we’ve renamed ourselves in order to avoid being captured or killed, discriminated against, or set apart. Many of our grandparents, arriving here after the terrors of the Holocaust, anglicized their names hoping to blend more easily into the melting pot.

We live in a different world today, but not that much different. Instead of Jews being gassed in Auschwitz, Africans and Arabs are being slaughtered in Darfur. Instead of a name like Cohen causing dissent, its a name like Hussein.

Last February, conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham, no doubt wanting to play up the Obama-as-foreign-terrorist angle, repeated Barack Obama’s middle name three times prior to an interview with John McCain. When McCain was informed, he released a statement saying that it was inappropriate to invoke Obama’s middle name. “I absolutely repudiate such comments,” McCain said. “It will never happen again.” Of course it happened again, most recently when a Florida sheriffintroduced Governor Palin at a rally. Palin’s campaign spokesperson Tracey Schmitt later called the sheriff’s use of Obama’s middle name “inappropriate rhetoric.”

The left has cried foul over the use of Obama’s full name, while the right has attempted to use it as a fear-inducer. My question is, when are we — as progressives and liberals — going to stop pandering to the obvious racism of others and stand up in defense of our candidate’s full name? When are we going to feel strong enough in numbers, and fortified enough in our own anti-racist beliefs, to say that there is nothing wrong with the name Hussein, or any name, of any origin? When are we going to be able to say Barack Obama’s full name with pride, and not with trepidation?


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