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Saturday, May 25, 2013
Politics ... Religion ...

I recently read something about the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, including the story of the judge and prophetess Deborah. The feisty Deborah (wife of Lappidoth, meaning “wife of fire”) partnered up with a fellow from Kedesh named Barak, so as to defeat the forces of Canaan that were holding the Israelites in submission (Judges ch. 4-5). Barak became the military tactical commander, and Deborah was more or less his boss, the lady who mapped out the overall strategy. They had a good run together and managed to defeat the forces of Sisera, the Canaanite commander; but not without the help of a Kenite woman named Jael, who finally did Sisera in by giving him shelter after his army was routed and then forcing a peg into his brain while he was sleeping. Ah yes, the Old Testament — a real action film!

Barak, whose name meant “lightening”, seemed to be a fairly competent battle commander (so long as the Lord was there to throw Sisera’s iron chariot squadron into a panic, Judges 4:15). But he was denied the ultimate glory of dispatching Sisera, and he also came across as a bit wimpy up front, as he told Deborah that he would only go into battle if she tagged along (Judges 4:8). Hard to say if Barak would have shown any lightening on the battlefield without Deborah, Jael and the Lord on his side.

So, is Barack Obama’s first name related to the Biblical general from Kedesh? Given the way that Obama came on the national scene in 2007 and swept the Democratic Presidential nomination away from Hillary Clinton in 2008, you might think that “lightening” would be an appropriate way to describe Mr. Obama. And given Mr. Obama’s sometimes wimpy, mixed-at-best record in the White House since then, the comparison with General Barak could be extended even further.

But no, Barack is a Swahili name having its roots in Arabic / Islamic etymology. In a nutshell, Barack means blessing or blessed one. OK, well, that’s not far off either. Obama’s amazing success in 2008 did appear to be divinely blessed, and his ability to crack the racial barrier to the White House surely was a blessing to many (hopefully most) Americans. But as to whether he will be looked back at in history as an effective President is still way up in the air. The current scandal phase that his Presidency is going through certainly is eating up precious time and energy, and casts doubt on the notion that he possesses a “mandate” to enforce his visions regarding the role of the national government in our modern society and economy.

I’m basically thinking that we’re in for a political war of attrition from now to 2016, something akin to the first 4 years of WW1. The American public just doesn’t seem ready to commit itself to either a big-government system or the “everyone for themselves” world of incentive and painful failure that the GOP envisions. I see the nation just muddling through, with continued slow economic growth and no definitive resolution to the many fiscal and social crises that we face. Much energy will be spent just trying to figure out how to implement the health insurance reform initiative.

Obama came on the national political scene by opposing a powerful woman, totally at odds with the Israelite general Barak and his submission to Deborah’s will. But as to the second half of the Biblical story of Barak and women, it’s not impossible that an ultimate victory over the GOP’s vision for American will be denied to Obama and usurped by a woman. And yes, it could (quite ironically) be the woman that he at first defeated. If Hillary Clinton feels better and runs for the Presidency in 2016, I would opine that she has a good chance of winning. And even more important, I would say that Ms. Clinton might be able to use some of her husband’s “third way” creativity to re-package and sell the Democrat’s “government up front” philosophy and finally close the deal with the American public.

Obama has shown a lack of creativity in that regard. He defends big government without admitting the need to change what big government needs to become in order to be worth the cost. He just can’t bring himself to say yes, the federal government does have to change and become more directly accountable and more directly responsive to public concerns; not to mention more efficient, and more willing to cut jobs and regulations where its efforts are no longer needed or relevant. Even with Bengazi and the IRS tea-party targeting situation, Obama can’t seem to go much further than blaming the Republicans for intransigence and replacing a few high-level bureaucrats. And yes, as to social entitlements, someone is going to need the guts to tell us what the government can and can’t do for us in the future without rending the economy and the standards of living that we have come to expect (or weakening our military to the point that we forfeit world-wide leadership — which too would have an impact on our standard of living).

If Hillary has the good sense to consult her husband and integrate his thinking about what needs changing, and if she can get over her own potentially harmful bureaucratic intransigence (displayed in her “what does it matter” speech at the Bengazi Congressional hearings), then perhaps the Democrats can deliver a vision in 2016 for the future of American government, one that will win a final victory over the harsh (to all but multi-millionaires and billionaires) Republican laissez-faire prescriptions.

Perhaps Hillary can yet live to become the Jael to our modern Barack, despite once being the victim of his lightening.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:02 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I’m not quite sure if I follow your logic here. You say that Obama’s name of Barak is a Swahili name meaning “blessing or blessed one”; thus it would seem to me that the emphasis would be on what blessings Obama can bring our nation.

    Yet, it seems you keep coming back to the Book of Judges and the connection to the prophet Deborah. (You are 100% right about the “Book of Judges” being an “action film”.) You also seem to see Hillary (the woman) as in opposition to the leader, which, if I read the Book of Judges correctly, was not the case with Deborah the prophet and Jael the Kenite woman. If I read the Book of Judges correctly, these women cooperated with Barak the military commander; they did not oppose him.

    What I do not understand is why people insist that Obama is “wimpy”, “has a mixed-at-best record”, etc. Is he a dictator who simply says what he wants and it becomes law? We certainly do not want that. (Think of the uproar when he tries to issue an executive order!)

    It seems to me that the culprits in the lack of getting any business done in Washington are Congress, and more specifically, the conservative members of the GOP. While there are many Republicans I like very much, a lot of them have been pushed out by the current crop of hardliners. It seems to me that making Obama look ineffective is exactly what this hardliner group is about. In addition I find myself wondering if some of the lack of cooperation Obama gets from the conservatives is not directly related to his race. As I see it, much of the country, while not overtly professing to do so, is still very prejudiced and not about to let a Black man actually be an equal to a white man.

    As to Hillary Clinton running for president, I think it’s extremely early to start discussion on that topic. We will get enough of that closer to the 2016 campaign; I can’t bear to deal with so soon.

    (And while this seems unrelated to the topic, I cannot help but mention that Deborah was a prophet; yet she is not even named as such; the men get all the credit while it was the women who “guided” them, set their strategy, etc.; if the men had to do “it” without the women, would they have failed miserably? Yet the women get no credit for their important contribution.) And again, when it comes to Hillary, the prejudice against women, so blatant in the Book of Judges, will again rear its head as it did once before when she ran for president.

    A Black man will get no cooperation from the conservative right; and a woman running for president will get even less cooperation from anybody.

    What I find strange, and here I am off topic but I cannot help myself, is considering that the conservative right, especially as depicted in the NRA (and I must add something even further afield: the strange gun regulation the NRA is attempting in the state of Illinois) is actually a small group, a minority, as I understand the NRA (and the conservative right). I find it strange that the majority, who seem not to agree with them are either so afraid of them or so intimidated by this minority that they are unable to oppose them in any real way. I find myself asking: What is so intimidating about the NRA and the very conservative GOP that the country cannot simply vote the group down?

    But back to the topic: I prefer to consider Barak Obama as a blessing to our country. MCS

    [MARY — first off, Obama’s first name is “Barack”, not “Barak”. As I point out, Barak is Jewish lightening while Barack is an Islamic blessing. For better and for worse, Obama’s first name is more rooted in the latter. You seem to think that he is a blessing to the nation — so the “c” version is especially appropriate for you. I myself think that Obama came on like lightening, but has turned out to be more of a mixed-blessing. Once again, we can agree to disagree.

    Second, my blog here, and the Book of Judges, both attribute prophecy to Deborah. But we use the term “prophetess”. Sorry for the “-ess” sexism, I guess that’s no longer politically correct. So, if Hostess Cupcakes make a come-back, will they need to change the name to “Host Cupcakes” ??? I’m just saying . . . ]

    Comment by Mary — May 26, 2013 @ 9:04 am

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