Friday, February 5, 2010

Barry, Barack and Barak

On February 4, 2010, on his radio show, Glenn Beck went after the President for abandoning the first name he had been using, Barry, for the more formal Barack:
"He chose to use his name, Barack, for a reason. To identify, not with America -- you don't take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Is -- really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion."
I remember many of my male friends changing their names when they entered college.  Bobby became Bob, Billy became Bill, Jeffy became Jeff, Andy became Andrew, another Billy became Will, and another Bobby became Robert.  I am sure President Obama had a more sophisticated explanation, but I think he was simply participating in a male rite of passage that had no sinister overtones.  President Obama was simply exchanging what he viewed as a child's name for an adult's name.

Did Glenn Beck have so few friends that he never encountered these name changes?  I doubt that.  No, Mr. Beck found another way to make our President one of "them," where "they" are not like us.  That is the key he uses to feed his audience's fears.  Our instinct is to fear the unknown.  Characterize the President as an unknown, a different, make people fear him.  Glenn Beck is an expert at fear-mongering.

But is Barack that strange a name?

Not to anyone who has read the Old Testament.  In the book of Judges,  we meet Deborah, a married woman, a judge and prophetess, and Barak, a military leader.  Barak hesitated to lead his army against the Canaanites. Deborah challenged him to follow God's will. With her by his side, Barak led his army against the Canaanites and conquered.  In time, Barak became a judge, too.

I am happy to have a man named Barack (Barak) as President of the United States.  Perhaps, this Barack has been chosen by God to lead just as the Barak of Judges was chosen to lead in war and in peace.

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