I urge you to follow the link; it is a much better read in its entirety.
Why It's "I, Barack Hussein Obama...."
By Jim Sleeper - January 20, 2009, 8:43AM
Hussein is a title of honor applied to metaphorical descendants of the prophet Mohammed. An American president bearing that name, even only residually, enacts what philosophers call a transvaluation of values. He gives a wicked case of cognitive dissonance to millions of people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but also to millions in the Muslim world who are not like them at all.
Islamicists, confronted with a Hussein in the White House, will rage that the Great Satan has stolen and polluted a holy name. But where were they when Saddam Hussein, an admirer more of Stalin than Mohammed, was butchering millions?
. . . . Still other ironies in Obama's name are rich beyond measure. Barack is one variation of the Arabic for the Hebrew Baruch, meaning "blessed" in both tongues -- another of the many achingly poignant intimacies between the two languages and religions. The most famous Jew to bear the name was the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who crossed Christian and Jewish lines, blurring them in order to transcend them.
Obama's story draws all three lines of Abrahamic religion -- Christian, Muslim, and Jewish - into a convergence more promising than that drawn more than a century ago by the Rev. George Bush, a Presbyterian scholar, brother of our president's fifth-generation lineal antecedent, and the first teacher of Hebrew, Arabic, and other Semitic and ancient languages at New York University in the 1830s.
. . . . That's two additional reasons why America's Christian, Jewish, and Muslim prospects are brighter with Barack Hussein Obama than with any of the George Bushes we've known, not to mention with Karl Christian Rove.
Obama may be no more a messenger of God than Rove or "W" were, yet at moments his campaign did flash intimations of the awful sublimity of the Hebrew God's thundering in history; of the Christian pilgrim's exalted, arduous journey; and of the Muslim ummah's bonds of communal faith.
And he does understand -- as did an Abraham who was called Lincoln -- that this republic should keep on weaving into its tough, liberal tapestry the threads of intrepid Abrahamic faith that have figured so strongly in its beginnings and triumphs. That Obama draws this understanding from intimacies with Ezekiel and Indonesia and the South Side makes him providential enough.
For people who are unfamiliar with Jim Sleeper, I count him among the most learned and talented writers and insightful observers in our country. A great Sleeper classic, from Janaury 2006, is Behind the Deluge of Porn, a Conservative Sea-Change, in which Sleeper observes,
In fact, though, conservative moralists won't begin to seriously address what is happening in our society until they take on the very market capitalism and consumerist culture they uphold and promote.
I offer this longer and more difficult read on this day to help fellow citizens of our republic to begin engaging in the deep, thoughtful deliberation of public issues, including culture, that is required to understand and overcome the challenges we face.
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