Who Are We?

Today is the last day of Hanukkah, and since this is a place where both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” can still be spoken side by side, I thought it was a good time to share an interesting bit of trivia that I found in a book I read a while ago. On each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah, a candle is lit and prayers are recited. One prayer is a blessing, which begins with the phrase, “Barukh atah Adonai”, which means, “Blessed are you, Lord our God”. Then it went on to explain the word “barukh” means “blessed”, and the Hebrew word it comes from is “barakh” (“to kneel to bless or to kneel to make rich”).

If these ancient words look vaguely familiar, it’s where the African language got its word for “blessed”…”Barack”. This may make you want to scoff and I wouldn’t blame you a bit. Oh, the irony that we should have a president who has a name that means, not only “blessed” but one who kneels down to bless or to make rich. This implies an intentional action to bless.

I would say our president doesn’t live up to his name. The average household has less expendable income than before he was elected. More people are on food stamps. Race relations are worse than they’ve been in many decades, and his idea of “leading from behind” has led to a leadership vacuum here and especially in the Middle East.

Since nature hates a void, it left the door open for the true believers of political Islam such as ISIS to take hold of large swaths of that part of the world, and it remains to be seen how our own lack of real leadership will unfold here in the U.S. Whenever a tragedy strikes, such as the terrorist attack in California, Obama takes that opportunity to lecture us on “who we are”, usually by using the phrase, “That’s not who we are”. Pay attention, and you’ll notice: he says that A LOT.

The truth is, he really has no idea who we are. A married couple, who are now believed to have been part of a terrorist cell, shoot up an office Christmas party and somehow it’s the fault of the guns, or the lack of gun laws…or it’s the internet’s fault. The media and political gymnastics that have occurred in the days since the shooting have been amazing and disgusting to watch. Blaming anything other than the two people and those supporting their attack makes them into victims themselves rather than vicious jihadi Islamists fighting infidels for allah.

So we are told we have to have more gun laws or government restrictions on the internet because “it’s not who we are” to allow mass shootings to keep happening. We’re told we have to open our borders wide to let in more people, even though terrorists have admitted that they have planned to infiltrate the refugee program in order to get here to do us harm. But we can’t ask them too many questions, especially about their religion because that too, is “not who we are”.

Who we are, if the president or any other ideologue cared to ask, is a people who are the first ones to help whenever there is a man-made or natural disaster anywhere in the world. Americans give more than any nation, and have done more than any nation in the history of the world to reach out to poor and oppressed people all over the world. We’re not racist, bigoted people who need lecturing from a person who doesn’t live up to his own name to serve and bless other people. It might be wise for all of us, as we prepare to go into an election year, to remember who we are, where we’ve been, and where we want to go. American exceptionalism isn’t just a platitude used by conservative talk show hosts or an idea denied by liberals—it’s a fact supported by history.

Later this week, I’ll share an example of what every day Americans are doing to go beyond words to action when it comes to saving lives in the Middle East—-and they’re doing it without a lot of fanfare. (check back Thursday afternoon…)

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