"If a majority of our conservative population and much of its elected leadership think that even some of this "birther" stuff is remotely possible, some very dark times may be heading to this country." Truth!
In a two part series for Esquire, writer John H. Richardson goes where few of us dare to tread - deep into the stronghold of the birthers, that group of people who are convinced that Hawaii is a foreign country and that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president. (Where these people were when Bush 43 was installed, I have no idea...)
But more frightening than their fractured logic is the not-quite-hidden undertone of the movement. As Richardson writes:
By focusing on the "news hook" about our president's birth certificate, we are ignoring the broader mixture of paranoid apocalyptic fantasies that feed this troubling - and growing, perhaps into the tens of millions - group of people. People who told me they're not just looking for the president's birth certificate. They're looking for his death certificate.
Richardson provides a list of scary events leading up to these events, including this now-notorious gem:
4. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said she wanted her constituents "armed and dangerous" because Obama was planning "re-education camps for young people." She also said that "Thomas Jefferson told us having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.
These are the words of an elected official.
And of course, there's our buddy Glenn Beck, Mr. Healthcare-is-Secretly-Reparations:
But nobody vibrated with the new sense of alarm more vividly than Fox's new talk-show host, Glenn Beck. "The year is 2014. All the banks have been nationalized," he began one show. "Unemployment is about between 12 percent and 20 percent. Dow is trading at 2,800. The real-estate market has collapsed. Government and unions control most of business, and America's credit rating has been downgraded."
In another, he sounded exactly like a militia member from the backwoods of Montana: "They'll take away guns, they'll take way our sovereignty, they'll take away our currency, our money. They're already starting to put all the global framework in with this bullcrap called global warming. This is an effort to globalize, to tie together everybody on the planet!"
So, in review - suddenly, the banks are nationalized instead of pissing away money, unemployment for the nation is on par with unemployment for the black community, global warming is "bullcrap" even though I'm wondering why LA was colder than DC when I visited last week; and the fact that most of our goods come from other areas around the globe and most of the internet is a multi-national space is not tying people together. No, it's all a commie plot!
Glenn, it's time to stop watching Falling Down on repeat in your 1984-era VCR (which is made in the US, dammit!).
Richardson also peers into the under currents of racism that ebb and flow around the movement:
In the first open tent, I heard an air-gun salesman named Sam Kravets selling toy monkeys that reminded him of the president. "They even sound like him," he said, urging his customers to give them a squeeze.
"Everyone who voted for him ought to leave the country," a customer said.
Because nothing's more patriotic than racism and stifling dissent!
But even worse is the blatant celebration of racist tropes:
An hour later, I found the "birther" booth behind the cafeteria. A big sign loomed above it:
URGENT: CALLING ALL PATRIOTS
Barry Soetoro AKA Barack Obama is SHREDDING THE CONSTITUTION
Behind the table, a man named Carl Swensson passed out flyers that were still warm from running through the photocopier. "If you agree with this," he called out, "we need you to sign up."
"String him up," said a man passing by.
I'm waiting for someone to try to play this off as a joke, as they did with all those noose incidents in 2007.
"Do you know his mother did pornography?" said a woman sitting on the bleachers.
Okay, I'm going to break this one down. Now, on the surface, this seems like a strange comment to make. What would make someone think Obama's mother did porn? Regular Crappy Hour readers might remember one chat where I told Megan we had some heightened white supremacist activity on Racialicious in reference to the pictures we posted of Gisele Bunchden posing with ripped black models.
Many of the comments there asked how Gisele would "lower" or "defile" herself by placing herself in a sexual position with a black man. In white supremacist thinking, there is nothing worse than a white woman who would lay with a black man. She is the lowest of the low, asking to be disrespected, a whore. The same references to being a whore or acting in pornography were aimed at Gisele by these people based on the view of some photos done for her modeling portfolio. Imagine what they think of Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, for having the nerve to sire children with a black man!
But back to the birthers.
Another man stopped to look over the flyer. "What are you demanding?"
"We're just looking for his birth certificate."
"Or his death certificate," said a third man.
"The media's not going to report it."
"That's why you got to listen to Rush Limbaugh."
Swensson chuckled. "If you cut off the head of the snake, the rest of the serpent is pretty much gon' die."
The thinly veiled death threats take on a more sinister tone when you consider that there were two people outside of the town halls yesterday packing heat. Richardson agrees:
Let me be clear: I have no problem with guns (that's me with the M-4), and I love blowing stuff up - as long as we agree to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and crazies. And Jesus is just fine with me - as long as you keep the Morality Police out of my bedroom.
But that night, back at my motel, the TV news was all about a man named Richard Poplawski, a gun collector who had just killed three police officers because he believed that the cops were no longer able to protect society as a result of the economic collapse. Later it came out that he was also a regular visitor to the Stormfront white-power site, where he posted a clip of Glenn Beck raving about the "FEMA camps" that Obama was supposedly building to lock up patriots come the revolution.
This drove home a scary truth: Ideas can have a body count.
Ideas can and do have body counts. That's why we may mock those calls for revolution from pampered folks who can afford their own healthcare, but we should not lose sight of the fact that many of these people are not necessarily rational. Check out this exchange, when the Birthers (led by Orly Taitz, grand poobah of cray-cray) decide to confront the state attorney general about opening an investigation.
Finally Wilding held up a hand. "Let me just stop you right there. What applies to Kentucky?"
One of the citizens starts showing him documents. "This is clearly his school record that shows that he was a citizen of Indonesia..."
"I don't understand what that has to do with the Kentucky attorney general's office," Wilding repeated.
"He was on the ballot here in Kentucky," Taitz said.
"That was a federal election. There are federal-election laws. The FBI investigates those. So I believe that your best venue and jurisdiction lies with the U.S. district court and the FBI."
That's when Taitz lost it. "I can see that you are hell-bent on doing absolutely nothing," she said, eyes flaring. "You want to pass the buck."
"No ma'am. I'm trying to follow the law."
"I'm going to the FBI and not only reporting Obama, I'm going to report you for refusing to investigate crimes. You have a duty to investigate those crimes! Why are people paying salary for this whole office of attorney general of Kentucky? To do nothing?"
"I think we're finished," Foster said.
I think we're all finished with Birther shenanigans.
But as Richardson's articles report, the fanatical fringe is out in full effect. As they are being stoked by the Republicans looking for political relevancy, and cultural bombasts like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, it is up to us to make sure their declarations of hatred and intolerence don't turn deadly.
When Did Americans Turn Into A Bunch Of Raving Lunatics? [Esquire]
What Really Happens When You Demand The President Produce His Birth Certificate? [Esquire]
Related: The Destruction Of The Black Middle Class [Barbara's Blog]
Falling Down [Wikipedia]
Nooses Are Racial Threats, Not Pranks [Racialicious]Gisele Bündchen's Photo Shoot Is A Study In Interpreting Racially Charged Images [Racialicious]
Man Arrested Outside Obama Event Had Loaded Gun [Raw Story]