March 01, 2008

Oh, For Crying Out Loud.

It isn't that there's anything wrong with someone having the middle name "Hussein." It's just that it happens to be the same last name of a freakin' dictator that we just freakin' displaced from power, and who was executed by his own people.

It's not racist exactly, though there are certainly Islamic parts of Africa, and there's a relationship in this country between black people and Islam that makes some people jittery—and did long before 9/11. (Many of these people are Jewish, and some of them in turn have fears about how black people feel, as a group, toward Jews. Fortunately, they are mistaken: no one feels anything as a group any more. Thank goodness.)

Normally, I'm very anti-taboo. Make that anti-fuckin' taboo, Nigga. But I truly have been suspicious about some of those who throw the name "Hussein" out there as if it were not a loaded name, and then look at one rather innocently and announce that, hey—it is his real name, so how could they possibly have darker motives for uttering it? (Or writing it?)

Well, some of them could, and some of them do.

Though I do like (most of) Nathan Thornburgh's analysis in Time:

The real problem is that if the right wants to start a whispering campaign about the name Hussein, Obama is only helping them. By cutting short the discussion, Obama is banishing his name to the voters' subconscious, where the dark opposites of hope — bigotry and fear — can turn the word over and over again in their minds until November.

The same day that Cunningham was dropping H-bombs on Cincinnati, Obama was at the Democratic debate in Cleveland, hastily accepting Hillary Clinton's assertion that she didn't order the leak of a picture of Obama wearing a turban in Kenya. "I think that's something we can set aside," he said.

It was a missed opportunity. He could have explained that he has nothing to hide. Explained why there's nothing wrong with him dressing in ceremonial clothes on official visits — like batik Bill in Indonesia in 1994 or headscarf Hillary in Eritrea in 1997. Maybe even explained why his middle name is Hussein — what his heritage means, and what it doesn't mean. In short, to reintroduce himself to those general election voters who are just starting to pay closer attention.

No matter what his advisers say, Obama wins nothing by shying away from his differences.

If I were Obama, I'd start saying the full name myself: Barack Hussein Obama, Barack Hussein Obama. But because I do know that there are some bigots out there who use the middle name to score free points while maintaining plausible deniability, I'll pass on doing so myself, and I'd encourage other center-right writers to analyze what, exactly, they are trying to accomplish when they use Obama's full name.

Byron York at NRO's The Corner has it exactly right:

Now, it is one thing to report Obama's full name — that's completely fair. In addition, it seems illustrative of the Obama phenomenon that so many Democrats have gotten so excited about him and don't even know his name. On the other hand, it's another thing to regularly refer to him by his full name when you would not otherwise do so — that is, were it not "Hussein."

Hopefully that won't catch on.

After all, who among us chooses our middle names?

—Joy Mary May W. McCann,
younger sister to Tiger Allyn [Whitebread], and
overprotective/well-armed older sister to the lovely A. Sedika [+ Whitebread maiden name + Irish married name]; they sometimes come across the bleached bones of people who've called young A. a "towel head," but you're encouraged to try . . . after all, I need the target practice.

Posted by Attila Girl at March 1, 2008 02:30 PM | TrackBack

Well said.

Next Week: Part II. "Why we mustn't mention that his initials are BO."

Posted by: Darrell at March 1, 2008 05:23 PM

young A. a "towel head," but you're encouraged to try . . . after all, I need the target practice

Would you really try shooting me if I happen to note that you've washed your hair and currently have your head wrapped in a towel?

Posted by: I R A Darth Aggie at March 1, 2008 06:24 PM

No. But anything you say about my Syrian sister must be accompanied by a) a smile, and b) unassuming body language.

She's ten years my junior, so I get to be feisty about this!

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 1, 2008 06:30 PM

Someone who gets to see first hand what it means to be discriminated because of your name, what surprises me are those times when I am treated with dignity and respect despite my name.
Now forget about the Darrell's of the world, these are the followers and have difficulty thinking for themselves, and I expect them to be intolerant and ignorant. What I have learnt is that it is difficult to make eye contact and discriminate, and just the nature of this medium the Darrell's and I will never see eye to eye. It is a lot easier to be intolerant if you don't know the person. For that reason Asian's start using "white- sounding names" to avoid employment discrimination.
My philosophy is simple, if I am discriminated on the basis of a name and my contribution to society is denied then WE all lose. It is also interesting to note that religious intolerance or ethnic discrimination is more prevalent on the net, and Attila some of the other bloggers that you promote, openly practice that intolerance. You know who they are, its that six degrees of separation, or political alliance? Now I don't expect you to denounce or reject these Bloggers, but don't tell me about your Syrian sister please! As if that is going to wipe off your guilt in this matter. We are all responsible for the kind of society that we create, and your words and posts are not reflective of a commitment towards a pluralistic society. My wish is that you set a higher standard in this area.

Posted by: Azmat hussain at March 1, 2008 10:07 PM

Azmat, write me privately and tell me whom I should be distancing myself from in the blogosphere--and why.

miss --DOT-- attila --AT--gmail --DOT -- COM

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 2, 2008 01:09 AM

Of course Azmat knows full well that the only problems I have with him is that he is a Leftist and wrong. And when a person knows one thing and says another he is a liar as well.

The archives serve as a permanent record for all our encounters and I welcome all to check them out. Azmat first showed up during the Danish cartoon wars intending to lure unsuspecting Muslims to the dark side of the Left. He used Desert Cat as his exemplar of intolerance then. About as convincingly, too.

We are still the same race, Azmat, however much you don't want that to be true. I know you'd like to play the race card, Leftists always do. They seek to divide people into smaller and smaller groups hoping that they will never be able to find common ground. And threaten their power.

Posted by: Darrell at March 2, 2008 08:18 AM

Back on topic, most people probably don't think about the fact that his first name is also Arabic. Barack means "blessed".

So perhaps our only option is to refer to him as B.O. then?

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 3, 2008 04:24 PM

I changed my middle name to Taxi, so if anyone calls me by it I can always make a clean get away.

Posted by: Sejanus at March 4, 2008 12:43 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
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