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.

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