Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Birthers"

The groups of people and individual people who persist in perpetuating the absolute myth that President Barack Obama is not a U.S.-born citizen is troubling. What is even more troubling than the people who fervently believe this, to me, is the group of people whom I believe to NOT believe it, yet are doing everything they can to keep the rumor mill going, or to avoid stating outright that Barack Obama is, indeed, a U.S.-born citizen, in order to pander to these people for votes or other support. NPR did an excellent article on the subject, which you can listen to here.

One of those people who I believe knows better but is peddling in hate is Lou Dobbs of CNN. CNN is one of the many reputable news sources that has proven satisfactorily that Barack Obama is, indeed, a citizen of the U.S. born in the U.S. in Hawaii. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called for Dobbs' dismissal. Rush Limbaugh is another one peddling this story who I think really does know better:



Other hate peddlers on this issue seem to be just about every Republican that could be cornered, as seen on Rachel Maddow:

and more:
Maddow points at the end of the first part to the fact that Republicans used a similar tactic to the ones Democrats used in putting forth a proclamation on celebrating Hawaii's statehood in order to dispel rumors that they were in favor of the draft. So certainly both sides of the aisle are good at using rumors against the other side that they stand for an issue that they don't stand for, or are going to do something they have no intention of doing.

But this one, I think, is so much worse in a couple of ways. First, the Republicans themselves are not denouncing the birther nonsense as the nonsense that it is. Afraid for losing those extremist votes, they are pandering to it by pretending that there is, indeed a question where there is not one. It's akin to a member of congress saying, "If the Holocaust really existed, why don't the people who say they survived it just produce evidence?" It's complete flat-out denial of the facts. There is evidence for the Holocaust, and there is evidence for Barack Obama's birth in Hawaii. And they, the representatives saying this sort of thing, absolutely know that this is true. It's despicable. It is a fundamental lacking of any real integrity on their part to not call it the outright nonsense that it is.

Second, the birther "he's not a citizen" stance is a obvious stand-in for outright racism. There's no more argument for Obama not being a citizen because he later moved to other countries and had a father who was Kenyan than there is for John McCain not being a citizen because he was born in Panama. On the other hand, Barack Obama is black, and John McCain is not. In the NPR program, there's a bit where they play this clip from a town hall meeting of Republican Congressman from Deleware Mike Castle (who I give total props to for his integrity in saying Obama is a citizen) where a woman who is absolutely fuming about this issue says, "I want my country back!"



This "I want my country back" which seems to come so spontaneously out of this woman, seems to me to be so meaningful. And it's something that was said a lot by Democrats during the Bush years, granted. But Barack Obama's presence in the White House does seem to inspire in some people a deep uneasiness and feeling that this country has become something other than the country they've known and loved. In addition to the racism, I think there's something going on here about what it means to be American, what America means at its heart. America as represented by Barack Obama is a postmodern, multicultural place. You are equally American if you are black or white, if your first language is Spanish or English, if you are Christian or Buddhist. And that's very scary to a lot of people. It's very scary to think that within a few generations America may no longer be a majority white, or a majority Christian, or a majority English-speaking. It provokes a deep fear, a fear that is definitely racist, but more than racist--a fear that is xenophobic, a fear of all outsiders from this America-that-was-in-myth-only of a land of white, Christian, English-speaking citizens. This fear of Obama is partly because he's black, absolutely, but for some, the fact that he had a father from another country and lived in other parts of the world may be even scarier. America is taking a new place as a part of the world rather than oblivious to the rest of the world, and that is frightening to many, too.

I, for one, am excited to see where we are coming to be in America, how we can relate to the world in the future, what the multicultural America that we've always been but are now acknowledging can look like when we more and more fully embrace this reality.

2 comments:

Bill Baar said...

Well, Obama would rather debunk birthers than talk about the War in Afghanistan, or Health Care Reform.

The best suggestion I've heard is the birthers should invite Obama over for a beer, and make him show his birth cert to prove he's old enough for a drink.

...makes sense to me.

Bill Baar said...

The Real Barack Obama has a pretty sensible post.. http://therealbarackobama.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/president-obama-its-time-to-end-the-madness/