One of the more interesting bits of political news this weekend is that Obama supporters, especially young Obama supporters, have adopted his middle name as their own. Not formally, of course, but people are changing their names on social networking sites, email services, and so forth. I happen to think it’s a rather interesting act of protest and consciousness-raising. I’m not quite sure what it will accomplish, but it’s pretty neat.
The Times article I linked to above references 1960′s Spartacus, a movie loosely based on the life (and rebellion) of a slave of the same name. I think even people who haven’t seen the film are familiar with the scene where authorities are trying to out Spartacus, and when he prepares to give himself up, shouting “I am Spartacus,” others in the crowd chime in “no, I am Spartacus,” so that it is impossible to identify the real Spartacus. It’s a theme which has been used in other movies; the idea of using the collective to render an idea or an identity less scary, and less persecutable.
And I can think of a few times when the technique has been used in real life, as re: certain adventures I won’t discuss because the statue of limitations isn’t up yet. But let’s just say that it’s harder to arrest 200 people for something than it is to arrest one person.
After all, if everyone had the middle name “Hussein,” it couldn’t really be used as an effective bludgeon, and I think it’s pretty excellent to see so many people taking it on, because they care so passionately about their candidate. I am, as admitted elsewhere, not a huge Obama fan, although I stand behind him as the best choice in a sea of not so great choices, but it’s rather inspiring to see that other people really are into him, so into him that they will embark on zany protest schemes.
The Times suggests that the Obama campaign must be less than thrilled with this protest campaign, because they don’t want to draw attention to the Hussein in the room. But I think that’s the wrong attitude to take. I think they should be open about it, frank and up front, because by putting it out there in the open, in a way they expose it to less criticism and ridicule.
Frankly, the whole idea that people are using Mr. Obama’s middle name against him is ludicrous to begin with, so why not highlight the craziness with a mass-name changing campaign? Sometimes, when a situation is blown out of proportion, people start to realize just how silly is really is.
So, for a little while, at least, I’ll be s.h. smith.