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Obama vs Obama and parallels

by Nalin de Silva

(November 12, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A friend of mine informs me that in Arabic Barack means who is blessed or simply blessed. Also it is equivalent to Benedict. According to my friend who has been able to do some "research" on the word, it appears in Hebrew also, and the name is popular in Israel. Though there is an equivalent of this Hebrew Barack in Arabic it has a different meaning "lightening" as the word is etymologically not connected due to different root consonants. In any event Barack that could be Anglicized as Barry is closer to the hearts of the Americans whether black or white than Hussein which reminds of Sadam and various other Husseins. Obama is undoubtedly blessed, and is blessed by Yahweh, rather than by Allah.

There are many people who would claim that Barack Obama is the first African American to become the President of the United States of America. In Sri Lanka there are people who would remind the "Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists" that a Tamil Hindu would not be allowed to become the President or the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka drawing so called parallels and also mentioning that an Italian Catholic by the name of Sonia Gandhi has become the leader of the Congress Party of India and Manmohan Singh, a Sikh has become the Prime Minister of India.

It is true that a black and an African American has been elected as the next President of USA. However, he is different from most of the other African Americans as he is not the descendant of a slave. His father was from Kenya, and would have come from a family that could afford to give Obama Sr. a "good" education, though it is questionable whether the education was relevant to Kenya. The senior unlike the junior did not get married to a descendant of a slave, and as a result the junior has a mother who could be called a descendant of slave owners. In spite of all that the President elect is an African American in the American consciousness. Hence we will forget his Kenyan father who has been described as an intellectual (it is a different matter altogether that the so called intellectuals in the so called third world are mental slaves. Thank God - Yahweh, Allah or any other for not creating an intellectual in me) and the white American mother, and describe him as an African American according to the trend these days.

Now what is this parallel the intellectuals in Sri Lanka are talking about? According to them an African American who belongs to a minority community in the USA has been elected as the President and therefore parallely a Tamil Hindu or a Muslim belonging to a minority community in Sri Lanka should be elected as the President or the Prime Minister. In India Sonia Gandhi, I suppose as an Italian born lady or let us say an Italian Indian, belonging to a minority community of less than ten people, has become the leader of the Congress Party.

Unfortunately for the intellectuals, before discussing parallels the space (geometry) has to be specified first as parallels have different properties in different spaces. The concept of space is now widely used as in the case of cyber space, media space etc., and the intellectuals must be familiar with it. Axiomatically the parallels do not meet in Euclidean space but there are non Euclidean spaces where the parallels meet. Now how about the "parallel" that the Nayakkar kings who belonged to a minority community were crowned as Kings during the Kandy or Mahanuwara period? There are some Tamil intellectuals taken up by this "parallel" who claim that the Tamils were the rulers of the Sinhalas and that there was a Tamil kingdom in Mahanuwara. Now according to the "parallel" after twentieth of January next year the African Americans will be the rulers of the Caucasian Americans and there will be a kingdom of African America with Washington as the capital.

What these intellectuals forget or seem to forget is that Barack Obama is not only African American but Christian as well. He ended up his acceptance speech by saying God bless America, and there is no doubt in mind that he referred to the Christian God and not to Allah. Of course he would have never thought of "Theruvan Saranay" unlike in the case of "sarva agamika" (all religions) leaders in Sri Lanka who have a long list to repeat at the end of a speech. It is also known that the Republicans sometimes referred to Obama as Hussein Obama in order to remind the electorate that he had Muslim connections as well. Though Barack also has Arabic origins it did not register as a Muslim name among the Christian majority. The Democratic Party on the other hand attempted to play down the Hussein part whenever the Republicans tried to raise the issue, and they were able to defeat Hussein Obama on their own. Barack Obama may have won handsomely at the end but during the election campaign he had to defeat Hussein Obama in order to get elected.

It is said that sometime ago Barack Obama became a Christian and since then he has been more Christian than many white Christians. When he stands for the family values etc., it is not the Buddhist values he has in mind and the electorate got the message that he wanted to deliver. Since 1865, when Lincoln who came from the same state as Obama, died, the so called African Americans have been transformed and there is a substantial section of them who speak American English the way it is spoken by the sophisticated in the society and who are immersed in the American Christian culture. It is not only the African Americans who have voted for Barack Obama and the Caucasian Americans have no problem in accepting Barack Obama as the man to represent their country and the culture. The western Christian modernity is in the "blood" of a group of African Americans and especially those who have been to the universities have been transformed from the slave state to ruler/administrator state. The western universities whether in USA, UK or Sri Lanka have another role in addition to creating and disseminating knowledge. Even when creating knowledge it is done in a Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya, and furthermore the western universities function also as the propagating centres of Judaic Christian culture. The Ivy League universities that Barack Obama has attended have made him a good Christian in the Judaic Christian culture and the name Barack would have appealed to the Jews and the Christians very much more than the name Hussein.

What has happened in USA is nothing new and the Nayakkar kings who became Buddhists knew it even before the Lincoln era in USA. A country or a nation has a significant culture and very often a dominating culture as in the west, and would have leaders who represent that culture rather than others of different culture unless of course the others of different cultures occupy the country by force. It is not the race or the colour that matters finally but whether the leaders represent and stand for the significant (dominant) culture at least in public. In 1865 when Lincoln died there was no African American who could represent the American nation dominated now and then by the American Christian culture, speaking American English the way it "should" be spoken. Since then two processes have taken place. On one hand a section of the African Americans as a result of the "education" they received not only in schools and colleges, but non formally as well, ended up as Caucasian Americans with a black skin or in other words kalu suddas. On the other hand the Caucasian Americans accepted the new African Americans as "true" Americans. People such as Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice belong to this category. As long as they speak and stand for America and American values they will be accepted by the American culture to represent that culture.

In India Sonia Gandhi is recognized as a Hindi speaking Sari wearing Hindu lady who represents the Hindu culture. In spite of the self proclaimed secularity India is a Hindu country and Sonia Gandhi, in the eyes of the middle class Indians who matter in these matters, does not represent Italy or Catholic culture. Manmohan Singh may be a Sikh but he represents the Hindu culture in spite of his turban and moreover he does not try to go beyond the all important Hindu lady Sonia Gandhi. It has to be mentioned that the Hinduness of the former President Kalam was not enough and the Congress replaced him with a Hindu lady. In Sri Lanka many so called minority leaders wanted to challenge the significance of the Sinhala Buddhist culture and sometimes wanted to be leaders of the country while representing other cultures. They were originally instigated by the British, but even after the British departed nominally these leaders continued with their anti Sinhala Buddhist propaganda. Would Barack Obama be accepted if he speaks against the American Christian culture? What would have happened if Sonia Gandhi spoke against the Hindu culture? The Sinhala Buddhists who accepted the Nayakkar kings as kings long before Lincoln abolished slavery would have had no difficulty in electing a Tamil or a Muslim as the Prime Minister or even the President, provided of course he/she recognized the significance of the Sinhala Buddhist culture in this country, he/she stood and spoke for the values based on that culture and also represented that culture. The so called parallels have to be found not in the race or the skin colour but elsewhere.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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