The subject of Obama’s birth is one that I have mostly been successful at avoiding in the media. The very fact that people ever took the question of whether Obama is a natural born citizen of the USA seriously is something that I always found ridiculous. I had assumed that by now, it would be obvious to most people that this was a silly line of inquiry and that the birthers, as they are called, were up to no good. That was until Donald Trump came along and breathed new life into this ‘supposed controversy’.
Until recently, Donald Trump was just the businessman on the Apprentice TV show and author of books on how to be rich. Then he decided to run for presidency of the USA on the republican platform and positioned himself in the public eye by taking shots at the ‘imposter/foreigner’ currently occupying the White House. First, the idea that people would so easily accept Trump’s opinions on politics is kind of shocking to me. As far as I know, he has no track record in public service or political leadership. Of course he has every right to hold whatever opinions he likes but I would expect a more critical reception for someone who is basically a novice. But I guess he is only following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin before him.
Even worse though is the revelation that a significant chunk of Americans, when polled, stated that they do not believe that Obama was born in the USA and so is not entitled to be president¹. This problem of people casting doubt on his identity has dogged Obama since he began his presidential race and rumours of him being a Muslim started to surface. To this day, there are still a good number of people who either believe he is secretly a Muslim or not really a Christian according to their standards.
Now the same nonsense about his place of birth has spread from the fringes to the mainstream. I was disappointed when I saw that Obama ended up releasing the long form copy of his birth certificate. I was disappointed, not in him, but that the situation has degenerated so much. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what people believe the truth to be². It doesn’t even matter that they have the evidence they have loudly demanded. As we can see with Donald Trump himself, they just shift their attention to questioning something else about him.
What matters is this persistent insistence on making him out to be someone that is not a real American; someone that is not entitled to the position of power he holds. There’s nothing Obama could say or do to convince them. He could walk on water, raise a man from the dead, completely eliminate the US debt load, create a million new jobs and resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict all in one day and someone would insist that there was some trickery involved. For some people, this man will never be good enough and the fact that he is black plays a big part in that. There’s no point pretending otherwise.
What moved me to remark about this foolishness was an interview with Pastor Franklin Graham that I happened to read this morning. This is a man that has previously implied that Obama is not a real Christian. I should not have been surprised to find that he would also be sympathetic to people making an issue of his birth. He has no problem identifying the people he likes politically as Christians but with the man he doesn’t like, he says that church membership is not enough. He then goes on to give this astonishing quote: “Maybe God is giving us what we deserve because we as a nation have turned our backs on God”³. I can understand not liking the man but to go as far as suggesting that his presidency is a punishment from God to the United States is beyond appalling to me.
This spectacle is disgusting to witness. African-American bloggers have long written about the racist fits people have been throwing since Obama won the election in 2008. Since the rise of the Tea Party and the birthers, it has been clear that many people have a problem with Obama that goes much deeper than his economic policies or political affiliation*. I don’t know how he handles it with so much grace and calmness but I admire him for it. I prefer to keep my eyes on such a person than on those who insist on doing their best to tarnish his image. Too bad they haven’t realised they’re only showing themselves up by participating in this nonsense.
2. Though there is no version of this I’ve come across that does not sound loony – e.g. he was born in Kenya and his mother, in collusion, with the state of Hawaii faked his birth certificate to ensure that at some unspecified time in the future, he would be eligible to run for president of the USA.
3. The quote was taken from page 3 of this article: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/aprilweb-only/qa-franklingraham.html
*I’m not saying that all the people that belong to those groups are racist or racially motivated but there are many within their ranks that rely on racist ideas and language to smear Obama.