Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Obama and Bahasa

lysana got me to thinking about this in a discussion over on fierynotes journal. The discussion was on using Christian epithets in a Christian society even though one is not a Christian. Doing the intuitive leap thing, my mind skipped from there to something I read in Obama's first book to something he has not said in any of his speeches, at least none I have heard. Please send me links if you know of an instance:

Barry Obama, as he was known as a child, lived in Indonesia for a while, and he says in his book he learned to speak Indonesian. The word for language in Indonesian is "bahasa" and most folks who speak it call it "bahasa Indonesia". I learned this when I was taking frequent trips into Malaysia, where their language is an offshoot of Indonesian, and they simply call it  "bahasa".

I know if I was running for office, I would find a way to say a few words in the non-English languages I speak, but I have never heard Barak say word one in bahasa.  And I'll posit you a possible reason. Indonesia is a Muslim country (yeah, I know they have all kinds of other religions there, but Islam is the state religion). The language has a strong Muslim influence. Before the Dutch came along and Romanized their alphabet, bahasa was written in Arabic script. It still is in some parts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. When the followers of Mohammed invaded Indonesia, they introduced Islamic forms of greeting. To say hello, you say "peaceful xxx" where xxx is the time of day, or some other appropriate word. "Peaceful" in bahasa is the Arabic-inspired "selamat". Some phrases:

Good morning: selamat pagi
Good afternoon: selamat siang, selamat sore
Good night:  selamat tidur 

and my personal favorite:
Goodbye:  selamat jalan (literally "peaceful roads" it always makes me sing "happy trails" to myself)

A candidate who is trying to divorce himself from his Islamic background and assert his conversion to Christianity probably doesn't want to be caught saying "selamet" anything, at least not in public. Aloha is so much safer...

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