He took the oath twice, what about that speech?


President Barack Obama took the oath again this evening, after John Roberts, the Supreme Court’s chief justice, flubbed his delivery yesterday.

That’s not all that was wrong about yesterday, according to the Zionist Organization of America. It picked at the part of Obama’s speech where he described the United States as a "nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers."

What is the reason President Obama chose this sequence when listing these four religions?

Throughout its history, the United States has always been known as a nation based on Judeo-Christian values and heritage.

Moreover, surveys show that there are some 5 – 7 million Jews living in the United States. Most surveys show that there are 1.8 – 2.8 million Muslims living in the United States.

In contrast, in President George W. Bush’s Inauguration Speech on January 20, 2001, he said the following, "Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws."

Okay, where to start? A Wikipedia article sympathetic to the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" (itself controversal) cites the OED as noting its first published appearance in 1899, 123 years after Americans launched this enterprise. That kind of mitigates the "always been known" stretch – known by whom? And as I said, it’s a controversial definition, in any case; Does this posit that the Hindus Obama also mentions are less entitled to full cultural integration? Does the ZOA – does any Jewish group really want to go there? What next? Is the ZOA going to wade into the "Latter Day Saints – Christian or not?" fight?

And that Muslim population business – what "most" experts agree is that it’s fairly impossible to pin down; The U.S. Census does’t ask religion, and it’s kind of a tetchy issue anyway post 9/11. Estimates vary between 2 and 7 million.

And what’s with the question? The reason for the sequence? I dunno, what about cadence? You’re thinking about Muslims because of that outreach part of the speech? You were distracted because the Buddhists were on the phone saying that if you wanted to include them, you had to count past lives? You were too busy color coordinating your felt pens to worry about something silly like "sequence"? I see new possibilities here for the "wicked question."

But this is what really gets me: Zionism is predicated on, you know, the return of the Jews to … Israel! That’s right. Not Yonkers. And this is not an old fashioned notion. Israeli leaders still routinely tell American Jewish supporters that, while they appreciate all the hard work in Washington, they’d really prefer greeting them on the tarmac at Ben Gurion.

So, am I wrong? Is this crazy? But isn’t the last group you’d expect to kvell about all those Jews in America … the Zionist Organization of America?

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