August 06, 2009

The Credulity of the Birther Morons

Why won't Barack Obama release his "long form" birth certificate from Hawaii? I've been thinking about that, and I've come up with two reasons, equally plausible. Indeed, they may both be in play.

First, authorizing the release of the LF certificate dignifies an entirely specious and racist "controversy" with no basis in fact. The President has a right to privacy, a right which George W. Bush certainly took to heart when he did everything possible to protect his AWOL records from disclosure, and I'm almost certain none of this "birther" stuff would be happening if Obama's name were Adam Smith and if he were completely Caucasian.

The second thing is that there may be something in the long form version which Barack would simply prefer to keep under wraps. Not his citizenship, of course, but something else, probably about his parents. He comes out of an unusual, very difficult background, and it's possible that for political reasons Barack sanitized or sanded off some of the rough edges in one of his two books about himself, things that might be somewhat contradicted by the long form cert. That's just surmise on my part; I don't care, really, not at all. The circumstances of my birth in rural Alabama were not exactly regal, and I instinctively empathize with an individual who can, through amazing diligence and persistence, rise to the heights he has achieved against very formidable odds. His election speaks well of a certain slim majority of the American populace. They looked past his exotic name, his unusual background, his race and numerous other things which are not in the "mainstream" of American politics.

The "birther" movement (and the Tea Baggers as well) remind us that a return to modernity and prosperity is not going to be easy here in the USA, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Booboisie. According to a Pew poll recently, 28% of Americans believe there's been "too little coverage" by the mainstream media concerning Obama's "foreign birth." 39% of self-identified Republicans hold this view. I don't think it's a huge leap of faith to surmise that when people complain there's been "too little coverage," what they're really saying is that the media are covering up Obama's Kenyan birth. I mean, that's what I'm talking about: my utterly crackpot country, right or wrong. It goes right up there with the Gallup finding that only 39% of adult Americans "subscribe" to the theory of evolution (figures on subscription to the theory of gravity were not immediately available at press time.)

Which is probably another reason Obama does not release the long form cert: what's the frigging use? Despite his sunny affability, Barack has traveled this country more than most people and I doubt the Pew or Gallup findings would surprise him. No doubt he has internalized a pretty accurate sense of the dimness of the wits of his not-so-loyal subjects. We just ain't the brightest people in the world, when all is said and done. Barack Obama is trying to lead a technological revolution in a country where only 39% of the populace actually believe in the most basic tenets of modern science. Good luck with all that. Can that actually work?

I suppose the lingering viability of the Republican Party is that they never make the mistake of overestimating the intelligence of their cadres. The Tea Bag Movement, as it applies to health care reform, attempts to convince its drooling foot soldiers that Medicare is not a government program, or that the Veterans Administration does not provide socialized medicine. And they get away with this stuff, easily. How much easier to "prove" to these people that a guy named Barack was actually a Muslim born in Kenya. True, he has a Hawaiian birth certificate, which the state of Hawaii stands behind. The Honolulu Advertiser and Bulletin published a notice of his birth in 1961 and stated that his parents lived on Kalanianaole Highway, which I can not only pronounce but know the exact location of. As Vincent Bugliosi wrote in describing the overwhelming evidence against O.J. Simpson, this is the sort of corroborating evidence that just doesn't happen "in the real world" unless it's true.

Doesn't matter. The Birthers can refute all that. The Obama family, the State of Hawaii, the Advertiser and Bulletin are all in on the same conspiracy. Trying to convince them otherwise is actually proof they're right - otherwise, why would you be arguing so strenuously on the basis of such "old" evidence (you know, the original, true stuff)? They will outlast you every time. You might have all the facts, the evidence, the plain common sense, but they have something more sustaining - their rabid hatred. One of my favorite writers, Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things, puts it this way:
"There’s no amount of evidence or data that will change somebody’s mind,” says Michael Shermer, who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, and who holds an undergraduate and a master’s degree in psychology. “The more data you present a person, the more they doubt it … Once you’re committed, especially behaviorally committed or financially committed, the more impossible it becomes to change your mind.”


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