Friday, July 24, 2009

Birther Defects

The whole health care debate, with the Democrats once again willingly playing their own opposition, has been the frustrating main act playing out on the Washington stage this week, but it's the political sideshow stuff that's been just as fascinating to observe.

Just when you think the Republicans can't find a way to come across as more ignorant and bigoted then last week's Jeff Sessions/Jon Kyl/Orrin Hatch triple-threat during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, this week saw the "birther" meme wending its way through the right wing achieve a kind of mainstream critical mass, further marginalizing the already-marginal GOP as the party of the extremely rich and/or the extemely racist.

For those who might not be in the know, the conceit here, propagated by the increasingly crazed fringe that the Republican party increasingly considers its base, is that Barack Obama isn't legally the president because he was actually born in Kenya, not America, and his rise to the presidency is actually the end result of a multi-tiered, multi-party, multi-decade conspiracy spanning several states, several government officials, and the willing acquiescence of the American people.


Of course, this is laughable on its face, and all easily disproved, but it crystallizes for us once again just where the GOP is at these days that instead of its leaders tamping down this kind of nonsense, they're encouraging it, either explicitly when asked about it head-on, or tacitly through their sponsorship of wink-wink-nudge-nudge bills in congress.

Witness first this embarrasing exchange between Hardball host Chris Matthews and rightie talker/birther supporter/convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy as he makes an ass of himself trying to defend his position. Next, watch as Jon Stewart (a.k.a. The Most Trusted Man in News...yikes!) takes the wrecking ball to these nuts as well as the media giving them a forum.

What's so repugnant about this so-called movement is the underlying racism it traffics in. Every single one of the assertions being peddled by these people can be laid to rest with a single LexisNexis search. And yet, rather than accept the frightening reality that we live in a country where it is indeed possible to elect a *gasp* black man named *gasp* Barack *gasp* Hussein *gasp* Obama, it's easier to concoct a scenario where they simply don't have to.

The cognitive dissonance at work goes something like this: "I support the president. I hate Obama. Therefore, Obama isn't legally the president." Circle takes the square.

We saw the lefties pull some of this same stuff during the bygone Bush II era: "GW lost the popular vote, the Supreme Court intervened on his behalf, therefore we'll never know the real truth." And so it went for several years. Still, leave it to the Republicans to add in a nice little cocktail of xenophobia, racism, and ignorance to their "He's not my president!" riff.

One thing I emphasize repeatedly in my communication classes is the idea that true progress can emerge only when reasonable people can find a way to disagree reasonably. The birthers, not reasonable and barely people, put the period on that thought, aptly proving this Confucius-like chestnut from noted social critic and former veep Dan Quayle nearly twenty years ago: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

Hmm. Indeed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not because he is black AND white or have a Muslim name, it is the fact that he is usurping rights and shredding the Constitution he swore to uphold, hand on bible, as he professes to be a Christian.