October 8, 2009
Obama and AkhenatenBy Pamela Meister
Ever since I was a child I've been fascinated by history, including ancient Egypt. I've read about it, taken college courses, and enjoy watching documentaries -- even though the most current documentaries often feature the annoying, self-promoting Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Recently, my husband (an even bigger history buff than I am) made a connection between ancient Egypt and what's happening in America today -- a connection I found most intriguing.
Change -- it's what we were promised and what we're getting under President Obama. I have a feeling, though, that many voters -- swept up in the excitement of "hope" -- didn't realize the change we ended up with would threaten to turn our very way of life upside down. As Robin of Berkeley noted, "[M]ost liberals still want their houses, jobs, Hondas and iPods. When they voted for Obama, they weren't giving a thumbs up for the country to go the way of Ché." Indeed. But if you were listening -- and too many Americans weren't -- you'll know that Obama promised fundamental change. And fundamental change goes straight to the heart of what we are as a society and a nation.
Fundamental change also came to ancient Egypt under the rule of Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy. During his 17-year rule, he radically transformed Egyptian religion by elevating the Aten, or sun disc, as the supreme god above all others. It didn't start out that way. Initially, he presented Aten as a variant of the sun god Amun-Re, keeping things within the Egyptian religious context. Eventually, however, Akhenaten not only elevated Aten to the number one spot, but claimed Aten was the only god and he was Aten's intermediary on earth. He even changed his name within his fifth year as pharaoh from Amenhotep IV to Akhentaten, which means "he who is of service to Aten."
The seat of government was moved from Thebes to a location some 200 miles north. Named Akhetaten (now known as el-Amarna), its primary purpose was dedicated to the worship of Aten. Eventually, Akhenaten ordered the closing of all temples to gods other than Aten, and the obliteration of their names from the public square.
Suddenly, Egyptians went from worshiping many gods to worshiping one. To the average Egyptian, not to mention powerful priests and government officials, it had to be a shock.
During this time, the artistic portrayals of the royal family also changed radically. Instead of using the formalized Egyptian style, where everyone pretty much looked alike, Akhenaten, his main queen Nefertiti and their children were portrayed more naturally. Interestingly, Akhenaten looked somewhat freakish -- slender arms and legs, a protruding belly and wide hips, as well as an elongated face with large lips. There is speculation as to whether he really looked like this, but regardless, it was a severe deviation from the norm of literally thousands of years.
During Akhenaten's reign, there wasn't much that could be done about these changes. The pharaoh had absolute power, even one who was more of a thinker and philosopher than his predecessors (read: beta male). But after his death?
After his death, temples to Aten and the capital city of Akhetaten were dismantled. Monuments and other artistic portrayals of Akhenaten and his family were either defaced or destroyed. His name did not appear on the king lists compiled in later years. In fact, his existence was not rediscovered until the late 19th century. His heir -- widely believed to be the famous boy king, Tutankhamen -- did what he could to help to restore the old order (likely guided by "helpful" advisors), although due to his connection to Akhenaten, his name was also left off of the king lists, consigned to the dustbin of history until Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922. All traces of the "heretic pharaoh" and his religion were obliterated.
Back to the connection between Akhenaten and Barack Obama. The obvious, of course, is the radical transformation of society Akhenaten achieved and Obama is working toward. Just as Akhenaten didn't make radical changes right away, Obama played the moderate during the election, leaning more to the center-right than his Republican opponent. But how things have changed since the election! Taking over large sectors of the free market (banking, the auto industry and, if they're lucky and we're not, health care); deciding who can earn what, threatening economic growth with "green" energy policy and sucking up to the UN by selling out free speech - all of these are anathema to the traditional way of American life as set forth by our founders.
But as I was researching facts about Akhenaten for this article, I came across this quote (emphasis added):
Just as the elevation of Aten over all other gods was the climax of a long term religious quest, so is the presidency of Obama the climax of a long term political quest by liberal Democrats. The prime example of this is, of course, what they are billing as "health care reform." How did they manage to produce a 1,000-plus page bill in such a short amount of time? You can't tell me that boondoggle was written in just a few months. No, I believe that these bills were crafted over time and languished in desk drawers until the time was ripe. And Mr. Hope and Change, along with a healthy majority in both houses of Congress, provided the magical moment.
The far left wing of the Democratic Party is all about control, and having control of health care will give the government control over many aspects of our lives. Think about it: what you eat and how you live can impact your health. And if the government is footing the bill, who's to say they won't tell you what you can eat and how you can live in order to keep those costs down? In the UK, certain operations are denied to patients on the basis of their weight and status as smokers. Why?
And it won't end with health care. Trust me.
But there is hope. Unlike the ancient Egyptians under Akhenaten, we can still stop this thing. The American president is not all-powerful like the Egyptian pharaoh -- at least, not yet. We don't have to wait until the Obama administration is a thing of the past before acting -- in the Egyptians' case, to obliterate the record of a pharaoh who tried to radically change the fabric of Egyptian society. If nothing else, the Obama administration should serve as a reminder to all that, as Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."
We have the power. Will we use it?