Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Lie of the Birthers

Friday the 13th, Birthers in Action

"When a man lies he murders some part of the world" – Merlin, Excalibur

Birtherism – being the serious doubt that President Obama is a Natural Born Citizen – is not the only political movement based on a lie. It is, however, like its estranged cousin 9/11 Truth, one of the most infamous current ones.

It is also one that we have the “pleasure” of seeing active within our time. We can watch it grow, develop, and mutate before our eyes like some demented lab experiment.

But can we not merely observe in horror, but destroy it utterly with the reality of its untruthful origins, like sunlight dispatching Nosferatu?

Sadly, no. Much like The Monster That Would Not Die, from some grade-D late-night horror movie on television (or maybe Jason from the Friday the 13th sequels) Birtherism stumbles forth, seemingly invincible to all attempts to lay it to rest.

This may say something about the power of human credulity. It may also indicate how pathological Birthers (like their cousins in the 9/11 Truth movement) truly are.

A recent poll proves that 51% of Republicans believe that the President was not born in the United States. 21% of them are not sure. Only 28% correctly believe he was brought into this world on American soil.

This is up from a previous effort by the same pollsters, in 2009, which had the nay-sayers at only 44%. It is prima facie evidence that lies, when seriously unchallenged, become stronger.

There is also proof that, left unchecked, lies also gain weight and geometry, sometimes spawning other lies in their wake.

Case in point: first the President isn’t a natural born citizen, because he cannot provide a “long form birth certificate,” merely an “inferior” Certification of Live Birth. Then he’s spending a million dollars to keep people from getting hold of his “long form birth certificate.” Then it’s two million dollars.

The truth? The million dollar claim is as false as his not being an NBC, and the COLB being inferior. But because people refused to recognize the truth about the first lie, the second lie was formed from it, and then allowed to grow like sugar crystals around a string.

Only this rock candy kills brain cells.

Another example, stemming out from the argument about the Birth Certificate: it doesn’t matter if the COLB is legitimate or not, because Barack Hussein Obama (1) lost his citizenship when he was in Indonesia (2) is a dual citizen by way of his father’s nationality, and therefore ineligible (3) was born to one citizen parent, and not two, thus making his ineligible according to Vattel.

The truth? He couldn’t have, that doesn’t matter, and that’s right but wrong and irrelevant. But these separate lies have sprouted up in order to provide more cover for the big, initial lie, itself.

Like a child caught in a bad lie who has to keep making up (or believing) new lies to cover the first one, Birthers are tied up in a self-made labyrinth of untruth. If they’d only admit, once and for all, that maybe they were mistaken (or, yes, lying) about the first, primal lie in the chain, the key would appear and they could exit this nightmare.

But that’s too easy, and no one likes to admit defeat. To some, defeat seems like death, and we fight it with every fiber of our being – even when the victor clearly deserves to win, or we’re clearly not correct in our views.

Movie monsters that cannot be defeated are fun. Their rampages harm no one in reality. We experience vicarious thrills and then be about our way, bellies stuffed full of overpriced popcorn and soda, dreaming of the next brilliant and bloody sequel.

Lies that cannot be defeated are no fun. The rampages of their proponents make our country look ill-advised, uneducated, and shockingly stupid. We shudder in fear at the fact that just above half of the voting bloc of the Republican Party is too stupid to tell fact from fantasy, or too stubborn to admit they were wrong, and will be voting accordingly.

Jason, Michael, and Freddy never caused any real harm. Birtherism has made mockeries of people’s lives and livelihoods. It has turned an immigrant dentist turned lawyer into an international laughing stock. It has made a somewhat-obsessed far-shot Presidential candidate become a somewhat-unhinged no-shot testimonial to the destructive power of self-delusion.

It has taken the otherwise-exemplary career of a Lieutenant Colonel and turned it into a sad reminder that if you stand for anything, you’ll fall for nothing, and suddenly your “friends” will be far, far away.

It has enriched hack journalists, questionable web sites, and supermarket tabloids. It has provided fodder for late night humor, and a barometer for just how gullible someone actually is. It’s given me something new and interesting to rant about.

But it remains, at its core, a lie. And very little good ever came out of lying.

That said, there is a certain warmth and security in a lie. The truth is sometimes cold and unforgiving, and the little lies we tell help save us from its uncomfortable, sharp edges.

And big lies? They save us from having to make decisions. They animate us in anger, or lead us to acquiescence. They color our perceptions of the world and make certain positions and policies easier to swallow.

They also make it a lot easier to hate, as certain proponents of another big lie discovered to their unbridled – if genocidal – delight.

And that’s basically what Birtherism is: a permission slip for hate.

Birtherism says it’s okay to hate this black man with big ears that’s become the President of the United States of America. It’s not okay to hate him because he’s black, or because he has a funny-sounding last name, or because his father was a Muslim (however estranged from the religion), and he lived in a Muslim country.

It is, however, okay to hate him because he’s ineligible to be President. He’s a usurper. He’s hiding something. He’s not being square with the American people about some big secret, and I wonder what that could be…?

Of course, not every Birther is a hater. I’m sure there are some Birthers who are honestly just concerned about whether the President is eligible or not, and think there is some room for doubt. I would not begrudge them their stubborn insistence that, at the kernel of the issue, their lack of omniscience prevents them from being 100% satisfied that the facts of the case, as screamed from the offices of various state officials in Hawai’i, are indeed facts.

I would, however, gladly tell them that that same stubborn insistence essentially says that every person in Hawai’i who has had cause to request a COLB for some official purpose is using an inferior, inauthentic, and therefore useless “official” document, and wonder how popular that opinion makes them with the Oahu DMV, the people who read I-9s, and US Passport control.

Or did they stop to think about that? Did they ever stop to think at all?

Why do Birthers, most of whom must be intelligent enough to realize there’s something fishy about their own position, hang onto that lie? How can they claim to be on the side of the angels, yet ignore the devils dancing by their fire?

Are they really that lacking in self-awareness, or do they think the truth will be created from the lie if they only believe?

I wish I could tell you. I like to think people are decent enough to shun lies and embrace truth. But then I also like to think people are basically decent, all evidence to the contrary.

So maybe I have more in common with the Birthers than I’d care to admit?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read your article, I felt sad about all the people struggling against facts and corrupting themselves in the process.

9:10 AM  

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