aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interlude ש: Obama

In 2008 Dick Cheney declined to pursue a third term due to his failing health. A delegation of the nation’s civic and religious leaders entered the National Archives after several days’ fasting and purification and, after lifting the Shroud upon the Constitution, declared that the proper thing to do in this sort of situation was to hold an election.

Genesis 4:5 says that “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” The situation is kabbalistically reenacted every four years, when a candidate named some variant of “Cain” must lose at some stage in a US Presidential election. In 2016 it was Tim Kaine. In 2012 it was Herman Cain. In 2008 the unlucky role fell to war hero John McCain, who ran a strong race based on a platform of campaign finance reform and military leadership.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton originally looked set to sweep the national vote based on her connections and name recognition. Then things got interesting. People all around the country started talking about “hope” and “change” and “yes we can”. New political phenomenon Barack Obama inspired huge crowds wherever he went. The older, stodgier candidates were swept aside in the wave of enthusiasm at the revolution he promised.

Me, I figured he was probably a demon.

I mean, I’ve read enough folktales to recognize the basic arc. A mysterious tall dark stranger arrives in the capital and quickly gains the ears of the court. There’s no particular reason why anyone should like him, but everyone who listens to him can’t shake the feeling that he’s a trustworthy, intelligent figure. When he’s out of earshot, the nobles of the land plot against him, wondering how such a relative lightweight could dream of usurping their power – but as soon as he speaks to them in his smooth, calming voice, they immediately forget what they were going to do and join in the universal chorus of praise.

And in every one of those folktales, the stranger turns out to be a demon.

Obama laughed off people’s fears. But when his detractors asked him to produce a birth certificate, to prove that he had in fact been born, he expressed outrage and declined as a matter of principle. He said that his father had been a goat-herd from rural Kenya but was now dead – a claim which was suspiciously convenient, even ignoring the symbolic connotations of goats. He tried to prove he was a family man by showing off his daugher Malia, then categorically refused to answer questions about what kind of person would name their firstborn after the abstract concept of evil.

Luke 10:18 says “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” “Lightning” in Hebrew is “barak”. Isaiah 14:14 describes Satan’s fall from “the height of the clouds”; the word for “height” in this passage, referring to Heaven, is “bama”. Thus “lightning and heaven” would be “barak o’bama”. Sure, all of the bigshot Bible scholars point out that Jesus would have been speaking in Aramaic rather than Hebrew, and that there are many terms for Heaven more common than Isaiah’s idiom, and that you would have to be a raving lunatic conspiracy theorist to make the connection. But did not Jesus say only three verses later, that “You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children”? And that “I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it”?

On the other hand, the previous president had been Dick Cheney, so all of this sort of paled in comparison and Obama was elected in a landslide. Some people vaguely remembered that before it was Shrouded the Constitution had received an amendment saying something about a medical examination to make sure the president was human. But everyone agreed this would be extremely racist under the circumstances and could be skipped.

Only a handful of scholars and kabbalists remembered the words of the poet, who had prophecied almost eighty years before:

And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark One to whom the fellahs bowed;
Silent and lean and cryptically proud,
And wrapped in fabrics Red as sunset flame.
Throngs pressed around, frantic for his commands,
But leaving, could not tell what they had heard:
While through the nations spread the awestruck word
That wild beasts followed him and licked his hands…

Or that the same prophecy ended:

…then, crushing what he had chanced to mould in play,
The idiot Chaos blew Earth’s dust away.

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