Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Birthers, Grow Up

As much as I am loathe to address this nonsense at all, as the editors did at the Charlotte Observer today, I am also reluctantly entering the fray.

For months now, there has been a group of faux-conservatives claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, that he is not an American citizen, and therefore he is ineligible under the Constitution to hold the office of President.

I was first exposed to this claim just after the North Carolina Democratic Primary last year. I started to receive emails and phone calls from people who either believed this to be true or had heard the claim somewhere and wanted to be sure. I immediately started doing my own research both of the law and the facts involved in the matter. I quickly came across Mr. Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate here.

The argument originally was based on the idea that Hawaii was not a state when Obama was born. This is nothing more than bad math. Hawaii became a state in 1959. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.

Then an argument was advanced that because his father was not an American citizen and his mother had not resided in the United States long enough prior to his birth that he could not be an American citizen. That point is of course moot if he was born in the United States. That would automatically confer upon him citizenship status.

Now the conspiracy theory is that there is some great cover-up involving Hawaiian officials and doctors. It is less believable and more convoluted than the "We never landed on the moon" and "9/11 was an inside job" conspiracy theories. You can see the full background here. Now lawyers are filing frivolous lawsuits about it and even members of Congress are joining the fight.

Some Republicans fear that the negative publicity brought on by the "birthers" will hurt the GOP's chances in the next election. I don't think that is the main issue. The main issue is getting at the truth and having a discussion about the important issues that are facing our country.

We all know what is really behind the fear tactics and ominous claims of the "birthers." ("Barack Obama is not an American." "He's not qualified to be President." "Obama is a secret Muslim.") It's all the same. Barack Obama is a black man who spent time in a foreign culture and so therefore he cannot be a true American and cannot be President.

Let me say this. I could hardly disagree more with the vision that the President has for where he wants to take the country. From a philosophical standpoint, I am opposed to the President's agenda on just about every issue facing our country and commanding the news today.

But that doesn't mean that we can't both be Americans.

Though Obama may not have been my choice for President, there is no denying that the fact that a story like his is even possible is evidence of what a great country we really live in. That a boy born to a single mother without the advantages of wealth or status, without really ever knowing his father, could apply himself, end up at Harvard, win elected office, and eventually rise to the highest office in the land says something really profound about the enduring hope of opportunity we can find here.

It is past time to put racism and hatred aside, to reject the misinformation campaigns and fearmongering of faux-conservatives, and start focusing on the important discussions that we need to have to move this country in the right direction.

We can disagree on matters of great importance and not resort to name-calling and spewing race-fueled venom.

We can disagree on the subject of the fundamental underpinnings of what makes this country great and yet we can all still be Americans.

In fact, that's the very thing that makes this country great in the first place. Birthers, grow up. Stop trying to take that away.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What to Do When the Bad Guys Win

If you've been following my Facebook or Twitter updates in the past 24 hours, you probably learned something about a pretty inconsequential election happening among the Young Republican National Federation.

If you don't know the story. All you really need to know is that a 38 year-old woman named Audra Shay was in the running for today's YRNF chair election. It was found out that she had publicly condoned some racist comments and even made some racially insensitive remarks in the past herself. After this discovery, many decent people asked her to step aside for the good of the GOP. She refused.

She was elected chair today.

Her entire team of candidates were elected to support her.

You can read the whole story here.

Now people want me to move on for the sake of GOP unity and support the new chair.


I don't make alliances with hate. I don't pretend that racism is a legitimate ideology. There is a truth that has to be recognized here. Although today's election was of little consequence to the GOP or the conservative movement as a whole, make no mistake. We are in the midst of a culture war within the GOP. The battle lines are not drawn over abortion or same-sex marriage. It isn't a war between young and old or educated and uneducated. It is a battle pitting racism and intolerance against acceptance and outreach. It is a battle of good guys versus bad guys.

We're the good guys and we don't make treaties.

To our opponents. When you lay down the weapons of hatred, we will accept you back with acceptance and forgiveness. We will gladly move forward with you as a part of our team. Until then, we will oppose you tirelessly at every turn. We will never join your team.

Hatred is an unsustainable ideology. Hate will not last into eternity. Love will. Hatred will only plunge you deeper into an abyss of darkness that will blot out your view of truth and goodness and beauty. As your minds are poisoned by intolerance and your circle continues to grow smaller and smaller, eventually you will turn on each other. Alliances will dissolve. You hatred will be directed inward. You will obliterate each other and fade into obscurity like all other failed ideologies.

And we will be there to advance the party. You will not steal our party or our movement.

Because conservativism isn't about hate. It's about ideals. It's about the timeless values of truth and beauty and goodness. It's about the sustaining convictions of human experience.

So you go ahead and spew hatred as far and wide as you see fit, but you don't get to take the word "conservative" with you. That's our word and you don't get to sully and dirty and cheapen it with narrowmindedness. It's our movement. And we will wear the label "conservative" with pride no matter your attempts to change it. We'll continue to teach people what conservative principles really are and how most of us live our lives by them.

But mostly, we will continue to oppose you. And we will win.

The steady drumbeat of history produces the rhythm of progress. Old, backwards views fade into the past to history books, the blights of human experience. Truth and goodness and beauty endure.

Love abides.

What to do when the bad guys win. Keep fighting.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jefferson Lives!

July 4, 1826

The celebration of our Nation's 50th birthday was saddened this day in history by the death of our second president, John Adams. It was the eloquent Adams who had so persuasively defended Thomas Jefferson's DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE before the Continental Congress in 1776, ultimately leading to the birth of this new Nation. It may have been the last time Adams and Jefferson agreed on anything.

Jefferson's Declaration was born on June 7, 1776 when Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee laid before the Congress a resolution calling for the 13 colonies to be "free and independent states, absolved of all allegiance to the British crown." Moderates argued against the historic resolution, pointing out that the middle colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware were undecided about complete separation of the colonies from crown rule. By day's end there was little consensus, but members of the delegation appointed a five-man committee to draft a declaration of independence for consideration at the July 1st meeting.

The task of drafting the declaration should have fallen to elder statesman Benjamin Franklin, but his illness precluded a timely completion of the task. The task then should have fallen to Adams, who argued instead that Jefferson should write it. Jefferson at first attempted to defer to Adams until, in frustration, the Massachusetts delegate grudgingly stated, "You are 10 times the writer I am." Thus Jefferson prepared the draft with suggestions for revisions coming from both Franklin and Adams. The finished document was presented to the Second Continental Congress on June 28th. A poor speaker, Jefferson's written work impressed the Assembly, despite some reservations. The more eloquent Adams vigorously defended the work, which was adopted on July 2nd. That evening Adams wrote his thoughts on the new declaration to his wife, stating in part: "The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival."

Actually Adams was two days off. Editing of the document continued until it was formally approved by 12 of the 13 colonies on July 4th. (The New York delegation abstained from the vote, but approved the Declaration five days later.) On August 2nd the 53 delegates present signed the document, and the 3 absent members subsequently added their names. Among the 56 signers were both of the men most responsible for the Declaration's existence, Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

From that point forward the clashes between Adams and Jefferson were widely known. During Adam's two terms as vice president under George Washington, more than one conflict arose between him and Secretary of State Jefferson. As a Federalist, Adams found his political views quite at odds with the man who would become the leader of the rival Democratic-Republicans. When Washington left the Presidency the battle for a successor was bitterly fought between Vice President Adams and Secretary Jefferson. Adams defeated Jefferson by a 3 vote margin (71-68 electoral votes), becoming our second president. That bitter campaign was renewed in 1800 when Jefferson defeated Adams to become our third President. So intense was their rivalry that, on the day of Jefferson's inauguration Adams was carriage-bound out of the new Capitol City when the new president assumed office. (The recent death of his son in New York provided a convenient excuse not to attend the inauguration of the incoming president.)

Jefferson served two terms as President after defeating the incumbent Adams, then retired to his home in Monticello. Meanwhile from his retirement farm in Quincy, Massachusetts Adams began to write long and elaborate letters to his old adversary. A grudging admiration for each other may have developed in their later years. Nonetheless, Adams always proclaimed that, though Jefferson was 7 years younger than himself...

"I will out live Jefferson."

On his death bed on Independence Day, 1826 John Adams uttered his last words. They were "Thomas Jefferson survives."

It is rumored that upon Adam's death the messenger dispatched to carry the news to Jefferson's Virginia home actually passed a messenger dispatched from THAT site to Adam's home, also bearing sad tidings.

Just a few hours earlier Thomas Jefferson had passed away….both architects of the document that gave birth to this new Nation dead, 50 years to the day from the birth of the country they founded.