It’s doubtful that “birthers” are wallowing in embarassment today over the president’s release of his long-form birth certificate. They never really cared about the piece of paper. It was the man they were after. And the man, to their dismay, remains our president, our first black president.
This controversy reminds me of the naked racism that I grew up with. In my home state of Virginia, non-whites were regularly asked to prove themselves more competent than whites in order to gain the vote. It was called a literacy test, and it was nothing more than an obstacle designed to minimize minority voting. The nonsense of a so-called literacy test is a near identical twin to the nonsense of birth certificate mania among some fringe voters and pandering politicians. A number of southern and midwestern states are hammering out provisions that would put onerous new requirements on candidates for president to reveal unnecessary private information to prove something that most people need only show a driver’s license, social security number or passport to prove. Can you imagine the Kennedy, Bush or Roosevelt families being put through such nonsense? For most Americans, the verity of your word and the word of your friends and family is enough to believe that you were born in the good ol’ USA.
So let’s add an official state birth certificate (or certificate of live birth, or whatever the state releases as public proof of a legitimate birth in the confines of that state). Then let’s also add a birth notice in the newspaper that came directly from the records of the local hospital. But that has not been good enough for the likes of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and a number of Fox News anchors as well as some members of the general public who are sworn to a right wing mantra of delegitimizing President Obama. And the long form birth certificate is unlikely to satisfy them either.
I wish I felt better about the president’s release of this additional information. But rather than add clarity to an already clear matter, it has only served to muddy the waters. Now comes the questioning of the provenance of this new document, along with an expectation that the president will need to respond to each of the new charges with yet another release of additional information. Perhaps we should begin a Congressional inquiry in which officials of the State of Hawaii could face off against talk show hosts and political candidates to call each other liars.
To the president’s credit, he said that his decision to put the additional documentation out there is so that we can move on to more important matters in terms of politics and governance. “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” Mr. Obama said during a Wednesday morning press conference. It was clear that he was referring primarily to potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has made the birther issue his political calling card.
I felt prouder of my nation before the long-form birth certificate was made public. The dignity of the presidency has been tarnished by this whole ugly chapter. My hope for our nation is that “birthers” acknowledge their error and move on to substantive matters. My fear is that nothing will change and the president will have lowered himself to the level of a small cadre of mindless partisans.