Birtherism’s real anxiety

Birtherism’s real anxiety

The Carletonian
Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota
2011 Spring Issue 4 (2011-04-29)

David Heifetz

Can we put this issue to rest now? On Wednesday morning, President Obama surprised a lot of people by suddenly releasing his long-form birth certificate, which, of course, showed that he was born in Hawaii. In explaining why he had decided to release it now, Obama explained that the issue had simply become too much of a distraction. There are more important things to do, and it is a waste of everyone’s time to be dwelling on this, he said.

But will facts make this go away? Doubtful. And the reason is because this conspiracy theory always had less to do with doubting the physical place where Obama was born and more to do with a deep discomfort about who he is and what he represents. Whether it is a dislike of his policies and party, racism, or a combination of the two, the birther idea is just the manifestation of a deeper dislike of Obama….

…In addition to the plain dislike of having a black man as president, what doubts about Obama’s birthplace also signify is a deep xenophobia in parts of this country. It is the attitude that goes deeper than just believing in American exceptionalism; it is the belief that America has nothing to learn from anyone else, that we have all the answers, and that it is un-America to suggest that there is value in other ways of life.

President Obama’s upbringing was unique in that he was constantly immersed in different cultures and surrounded by different perspectives. Whether it was reconciling his biracial identity, spending years of his childhood in Indonesia, or visiting his family in Kenya later in his life, Obama has grown up with a distinct sense that there is not one right way to do things. He has learned that although Judeo-Christian America is beautiful for all of its many strengths, there are peoples in the world who come from different traditions that have things to offer as well…

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