Is That A Monkey In Your Pocket?

by Amy Zidell
06.25.08 - Part I

I followed headline links from the Drudge Report Wednesday, to stories from two online Indian newspapers about a 30 lb, 21 inch tall, gold-plated statue of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman being sanctified and sent to American Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

This is either more disturbing or more fun that a barrel of monkeys. Now that I think about it, what a disturbing toy product for children. I don't recall the 'barrel o' monkeys' barrel featuring embossed representations of vents or windows, only oak planks bound together with metal bands. How were the poor plastic monkeys supposed to breathe?

Back on topic, beginning with this disclaimer: I intend no offense or disrespect to people of the Hindu, Christian, or Jewish faiths. There's not much mention of other faiths in this piece, so if someone of a faith other than Hindu, Christian, or Jewish finds them self offended, they would be reading something that's not there. If you are upset that your particular faith is not mentioned enough, it's nothing personal, it just didn't fit with the article - even though I divided it into sections. If you are a person of no-faith that finds offense in reference to specific religions, I'm sure you'll be no more offended than you are on a daily basis living amongst people practicing particular religions.

Now, a micro introduced to Hanuman. Based on Wikipedia Hanuman is, "One of the most popular Gods in Hinduism." In the Indian epic the Ramayan, Hanuman leads, "a monkey army to fight the demon King Ravana and rescue a kidnapped princess." Hanuman's appearance is tied to symbolism, "The monkey symbolism of Lord Hanuman is related to the notion that a human being's mind is ever active and never restful, hence the depiction of a human being with the face of a monkey."

According to June 24, 2008 The Times of India: "The idol is being presented to Obama as he is reported to be a Lord Hanuman devotee and carries with him a locket of the monkey god along with other good luck charms." That's right,
a monkey locket in his pocket. Say it slow; savor it. Not as catchy as Suess's, "One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish," but amusing analysis fodder for sure. Due to my detailed analysis, this posting is divided into sections.

Aside from raising the pressing, "Is that a monkey in your pocket?" question, this story touches on numerous serious campaign issues [this list may grow]:
  1. Religion
  2. Monkeys
  3. Special Interests
  4. Judgment
  5. Demographics
  6. Silliness

  1. Religion
    Obama has spent much energy describing himself as Christian. It could be my Jewish background, or the riveting image of in-his-prime Charlton Heston portraying Moses angrily smashing the Ten Commandment tablets upon seeing the, wayward yet now free, Israelites cavorting around a golden calf idol, but I understand idolatry as a big no no in Judaism. Between various Jewish and Christian teachings, there is debate on the precise order of the commandments and their exact wording. However, universally, the top commandments address monotheism essentially stating, "I'm your G'd, don't have any other gods besides me including graven images (i.e. idols), so don't make those." It's almost redundant.

    Furthermore, historically, differences within and establishment of varying branches of Christianity came up regarding the very treatment and use of statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary under the whole no praying to statue/idol issue. At times these differences turned violent.

    While not equating the biblically referenced golden calf to this gold-plated 30 pound representation of Hanuman, a glistening idol just doesn't seem Christian, which is one way Obama describes himself. If Obama were Hindu, this god gift would make more sense. Not counting dual citizens, if Indian nationals could vote in the American Presidential Election, it would make more sense still. It would be less curious if Bobby Jindal were in the presidential campaign mix and he was sent god Hanuman because, as reported in an October 21, 2007 Washington Post piece by Peter Whoriskey, Jindal WAS Hindu before converting to Christianity when in high school. Even Emily Post might be uncertain how one politely declines a gift that, at best, may suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of ones stated religion. Here's an analogy: As a rule, don't bring a ham to a Passover dinner.

    Respect for different religions is important, unless your religion espouses the destruction of others. Respect for your own religion is important also. If you are going to claim it, own it. So I wonder, does Obama have a monkey locket in his pocket when he goes to church? What would Jesus say about that?
[ Continued in Part II | Part III | Part IV  ]
A couple public domain depictions of Hindu God, Hanuman:

[Content disclaimer: As Almost Coherent covers a range of topics including politics, religion, relationships, sex, weather - chances of a reader finding offense is not unlikely. Unless it's real obvious, I don't set out to offend. I look to inform, amuse, and provoke but only in the best way. I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for reading.]

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